“When you ship an order of cookies, do you ship extras?” That was the question I posed a few nights ago to cookie business owners on my Facebook page.
Granted, this was hardly a Quinnipiac poll, but I did get a lot of answers rather quickly. In a nutshell, the preponderance of responders (or is it respondents?) said ‘yes’ to the extra cookie shipping. Isn’t that interesting?
You KNOW I have an opinion on this. And, let me preface this entire post by saying it’s ONLY MY OPINION! I’m not judging, preaching or telling you how to run your business by any stretch of the imagination. This is just a platform for discussion because, well, it’s an interesting discussion. Okay?
May I ask you another question? When ordering something fragile from Tiffany’s, Neiman Marcus, Sears, Walmart, Target, Amazon, Williams-Sonoma, or any other big retailer, do you get an extra bowl, wine glass, vase or dish? Do these merchants ship extras because they know the product is fragile and that breaks are inevitable? No, of course not.
So, why are you shipping free extras?
You told me you’re doing this in case some cookies break, like an insurance policy. But, you’re still giving away product and there’s no guarantee that they all won’t break. Want insurance? Then check off the little box on the shipping form that asks if you’d like your package insured. If there are breaks, your client can document them and you can claim the damages from Fedex, UPS, or even the Post Office, if I’m not mistaken, provided you’ve paid to have the package insured. Returning money or redoing the cookies (time permitting) shows great customer service on your part. Your clients will be grateful and are bound to use you again for another occasion.
Then there’s the ‘engendering good’ will reason. Think about it. Let’s say you charge $48 for 12 cookies. That’s $4 per cookie, right? Add two extra free cookies and you’ve just brought your cost down to $3.43 each. A difference of $.57 per cookie. Now, let’s say you have orders for 12 orders of 1 dozen cookies per month. If my math skills are correct (and notice I’m using easy numbers so I don’t get myself screwed up) you’ve given away 24 cookies and roughly $13.68. Multiply that by 12 months a year and bingo: you’re up to $165.00! And, that’s if you only make 144 cookies per month!!! I understand including a few bonus cookies to a client who orders frequently and hypes you to friends. But, new customers? I think you’re subliminally telling your clients that the price you’ve quoted isn’t the real price at all.
Which brings me to the next subject: the importance of proper packing. Bridget shares her packing expertise over here. I ship alot of cookies, but I agree with Dani Fiori who wrote that she only ships certain styles. I will not ship a champagne glass cookie. Even with a piece of cardboard slipped into the bag to shore up a structurally unstable design, I won’t do it. BUT, I do use a lot of bubble wrap, foam sheets, crumpled newspaper and FRAGILE stickers in and on every box I ship. And, when faced with a cookie disaster, I file the appropriate paperwork with the shipper, and then quickly return money or credit the customer. Thankfully, this hasn’t happened often. But, it’s happened.
It’s becoming more apparent to me that this cookie business has a split personality. It’s a business/it’s cookies. You and your cookies nurture and cuddle your clients/friends. You probably have a never-ending supply of taste-testers and reject-acceptors ready and willing to ‘help’ you out day and night. It’s complimentary, I realize that. But that’s not a business where goods are sold in exchange for money. I can’t imagine saying to a banker “hey, if you have any reject 100 dollar bills, I’ll take ‘em off your hands.” You wouldn’t dream of it, right? But, that never stops anyone from making mindless remarks like that to us.
If you have a retail shop and inventory is mounting up, slashing the price at the end of the day to move product is how spent money is salvaged. Donating to a food bank is a great way to get a tax deduction and build strong community relationships. But, as owners of small, custom order businesses, we don’t have inventory waiting to ship. We create new product for each and every order that comes in. And that can make it even harder to eke out a living, especially when clients don’t realize that labor is the major component of the price structure. Add to that the skyrocketing cost of ingredients! So, to me, I might as well tape dollar bills to my boxes, sooner than including the extra cookies.
Your clients have chosen to place an order with you because you’ve enticed them with the offerings on your website, and/or prior experience with your product. Many of you said you include the extras as a ‘thank you’. Does your butcher give you an extra steak to say thank you? How about the gas station owner; is he offering up a gallon or two to be nice? I thank clients, new and old, by sending a short email after their event asking if everything went well and thanking them for choosing me to create something special for their celebration.
So many of us open our businesses with wide-eyed optimism, only to be broken by the harsh reality of 15-16 hour days and very hard physical labor involved to sustain the work we love. It takes time and patience to keep the love in the cookies. And the money in the till.
What do you think? I’ll be right here waiting for your response.
I think I’ll have a cup of tea and an extra cookie while I wait.