Will Your Customers Cheat?

Will Your Customers Cheat?
Jamie Lee Wallace - Tue Apr 27, 2010 @ 02:40AM
Comments: 13

Last week, I read a very nicely restrained rant by my friend John Bottom at the Beyond blog. I wanted to leave a comment, but my computer was having a tiff with John's blogging software so, I thought I'd respond here at the Savvy blog. John used the story of a local coffee shop that has recently begun charging for formerly free WiFi to illustrate the short-sighted trap that many service companies fail to see until it's too late and they've lost customers.

Rather than re-tell his story, you can go read it here. I'll wait.

So - crazy, right? How could the coffee shop manager not realize that the WiFi surcharge just gave the clientele the perfect excuse to "cheat" the first chance they get?

I have my own example to share:

There's a great little sandwich shop in my town that serves up a wide variety of freshly prepared and super tasty treats. My whole family was addicted to this place until the day my dad asked for an extra coffee cup (so he could share his Diet Coke with my daughter) and was told he'd have to pay $0.35 ... for the empty cup.



It's a classic case of being nickel and dimed to death. The Coffee Cup Incident took place over a year ago, but my dad still resolutely refuses to patronize the offending establishment and has since found a new place he prefers. Talk about an anti-marketing decision. Sure - the guy covered the cost of his stinkin' coffee cup, but he probably lost $60 or more in annual income from my dad's lunch orders.

Is the math really that hard?

Whether you're selling coffee, sandwiches, printer cartridges, farm equipment, high tech software solutions, or cell phone services never lose sight of the long term relationship you're trying to build. What may at first seem like a smart, bottom-line move (charging for WiFi, extra coffee cups, tech help calls, or whatever) may turn out to be the thing that puts a wedge between you and your customers - giving them an easy out when someone more attentive comes along. Is it really worth having them walk out on you to save the $0.35 coffee cup or the $1.35 tech help call? Really?

Have you encountered similarly small-minded companies that lack Big Picture vision, choosing to focus instead on every single nickel and dime? Do you still do business with them?


More posts by Jamie.

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Comments: 13


1. John Bottom  |  my website   |   Wed May 05, 2010 @ 02:53AM

Delighted to have inspired you Jamie. And I do empathise with your dad.

I suppose there is a flipside here [because there always is] in that there is a growing expectation that everything should be free, especially on the web. At some point, the cost of the support call, the refill or whatever will exceed the long-term value of the customer. And at that point, businesses will be right to say enough's enough.

But we're a long way off that yet, especially at my coffee shop and your deli!

BTW - I have switched allegiance to Starbucks anyway. Great wi-fi and free whipped cream for card customers!

2. Jamie Wallace  |  my website   |   Wed May 05, 2010 @ 06:00AM

@John - Free whipped cream? Really? I don't even drink coffee, but I might have to sign up ... "Nope, no coffee - just give me the whipped cream straight up."

It really is the little things.


3. Frank Johnson   |   Fri May 07, 2010 @ 04:14AM

I worked at a movie theater many years ago with a "charge for an empty cup" policy. The rationale was inventory. You have 20 candy bars at the start of the night, you have 15 at the end of the night, you've sold 5 candy bars. You have 100 empty large cups at the start of the night, you have 80 at the end, you've sold 20 large drinks. Which means the till should match the number of drinks (and everything else) sold. In that case, rather than a nominal amount (e.g., $0.35), they literally charged the same for small, medium, and large empty cups as they did for drinks of the same size.

4. Jamie Wallace  |  my website   |   Mon May 10, 2010 @ 04:09AM

@Frank - Wow. That's an inside peek into how the "logic" behind these policies works. I still think there are better ways to deal with things like inventory - ways that won't alienate customers or leave them feeling like "customers" instead of "guests." Big difference. Thanks for sharing!

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