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How soft is too soft for charitable discounts?
dpd1




msg:4046291
 12:45 am on Dec 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

So I'm sure everybody has gotten this... The non profit org asking for free merchandise or a big discount... The person on disability or low fixed income that keeps saying they're saving up to buy your product across months, but can't afford it yet... The kid who wants to buy their parent a present, but can't afford what they really want.

Being the softy I am, I admit I have fallen for these... After verifying them to some extent of course. I'm not a sucker. But I recently get an email from a guy who is on a strict income, disability... and he's been talking about getting one of our products for the whole year. He doesn't even have his own computer, he has to go to the library. So I gave in and threw in some free stuff.

But today I had to ask myself... How soft is too soft? I mean I'm sitting here, way under where we should be at this time of year. Thousands off my goal for the year. I've been working non stop 7 days a week for longer than I can remember... No vacation for years... And I can't even buy a few of the things I wanted to buy for MYSELF this year! I don't really believe in the whole karma thing, so that is pointless to even think about. At some point, I do wonder if I'm being too soft.

 

bmcgee




msg:4046339
 4:53 am on Dec 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

My opinion is that every single sob-story request like that is a farce. Way too soft if you ask me...

MrHard




msg:4046346
 5:17 am on Dec 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

What are you selling? Medicine to help a dying relative, or a luxury items that people want but don't need.

Needs deserve compromise on the price, wants don't. Big difference.

dickbaker




msg:4046365
 6:33 am on Dec 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

Are you sure you're not really me? That story sounds familiar.

My sales aren't where I'd like them, but they're not as bad as I was expecting for this economy. Still, my margins are a slim as I can make them, as competition is fierce. I make about 10% on most of my items.

I get law enforcement and members of the military calling, wanting to know if I give discounts. At first I did, but I realized that I'm making so little profit that I can't afford to be generous. Now I tell them that my margins are so slim that any discount I would offer would be an insult. Some of them hang up. They probably go somewhere else, get a discount, and pay as much or more than I charge.

I played the doormat role in my last business, and all it got me was a failed business.

Swanny007




msg:4046480
 3:54 pm on Dec 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

I don't know what you're selling or giving away but it does sound like you're being too soft. A non-profit is one thing (it's more reasonable to give to them), getting sob stories from individuals is a totally other thing (stop it).

Rosalind




msg:4046596
 8:42 pm on Dec 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

I'm sitting here, way under where we should be at this time of year. Thousands off my goal for the year. I've been working non stop 7 days a week for longer than I can remember... No vacation for years...

That sounds like a good sob story to try out. Ring round a few businesses and ask for free stuff yourself. Then grab a notepad and jot down all the best responses, so you have something pithy to say to the next cheapskate.

Seriously, you're too soft.

rocknbil




msg:4046622
 9:37 pm on Dec 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

If I were to share a single part of my life with any of you, I swear I'd have some of you in tears. I share some, but only the good stuff, and for a reason.

It's not pride that keeps me silent, it's just common sense. Anyone who contacts a company with this sort of request just deserves the A train straight to H*** or whatever you call it. Even if their story is true, it is a sorry ploy.

Wife has several groups of these people come in. They whine that their unemployment is low; they whine their house has no insulation; they whine they don't have a car; they **always** ask for a discount. On the rare occasion I manage to save up enough to take my wife out to dinner at a NICE restaurant - who do we see there chowing down, paying for it with FOOD STAMPS? This makes me sick, and I am a compassionate person, but for people like this I only feel disgust.

You're not soft. You're a victim, one that has a shred of humanity left. And by the way, you should believe in the whole "karma" thing, even if you call it something else. Let the realists crack all they want, as you give, so shall you get.

I would handle these kind of requests with the same intent they are solicited: you want something, but what do you offer me in return? Platitudes that wil never materialize, like "I'll bring you sales" or "I'll tell everyone about you" (yeah, sure, 'hey guys, sucker on aisle 7') or "I'll pray for you" are not acceptable. Give me something that costs you, something that means something, and I'll consider it. But no one will do that.

You will be amazed at how resourceful the most pitiful person can be if they are motivated. If they whine "I am poor, I have nothing" it tells you all you need to know. Everyone has something good they can offer. They just never do . . . because your problems are not their priority.

dpd1




msg:4046642
 10:23 pm on Dec 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

I don't want to give the impression that I'm just selling the farm to every Tom, Dick and Harry with a sad story. I've turned down way more than I bought into. But every so often I get one which is verifiable, that I do make some sort of effort to help out on. A few actually have tried to return the favor by plugging our stuff. But still, it's just one of those things that I scratch my head on sometimes. It's funny, because I rarely hand out money or anything.

But DickBaker... If you politely tell someone that you simply can't afford to offer discounts and they just hang up... I wouldn't worry about those, because they obviously had no intention of buying anyway. So it's not like you're losing a valuable customer or anything... They're just fishing for a deal. Plus... While I respect people in jobs that serve the public, I don't exactly put that in the same category as someone who is ill or something like that. Nobody put a gun to somebody's head to join up or become a cop. That's two totally different things. And honestly, I think the guys that go around asking everybody for a discount because of what they do for a living, is a little low class. If I did that and somebody wanted to offer, that's great. But I wouldn't go around demanding it.

rachel123




msg:4046644
 10:35 pm on Dec 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

"Oh dear, that sounds terrible. Tell you what, we don't give discounts to individuals based on need but we do make a sizeable donation to the {insert social service here - Toys for Tots, Salvation Army, county social services, community food bank} every year. Here, let me give you their information...if you give them a call I'm sure they can help you out..."

Which is true. We do donate routinely and generously to community services...so I just refer people there.

Of course it's harder over the web since you don't know the local organizations, but usually a quick google search or just refer people to the salvation army website. I've got a generous spirit but listening to the sob stories of people I've never met, the main point of which is sometimes to screw me over, Bah Humbug. :)

HRoth




msg:4046900
 12:58 pm on Dec 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

I am actually a total sucker for homeless people who ask me for money, but when it comes to widgets online, then I am a harda$$.

I often get requests for free widgets because "it's for teaching" or "it's a public widget display place for educational purposes." I am honest and just say I can't afford to give widgets away. Often these are public school teachers. As far as I am concerned, school supply money has to come from taxpayers, not teachers and not random merchants.

Then there are the people who rip off my content to teach "classes." I can't tell you how many times I have been lectured by these thieves what's the matter with me that I don't want to "share" for educational purposes and the advancement of the cause of widgetry? Gosh, I am so, like, negative and a bad example to widgetworkers everywhere. Just call me Dr. Evil.

Along the same lines, I get regular requests from people who want me to teach them how to make my unique widgets. They usually say they can't afford to buy as much of my widgets as they want so they want to make them(!). I just tell them that these are trade secrets.

OTOH, I do give away several hundred dollars worth of widgets every year to someone who distributes them to many people and teaches them how to use them. These are not widgets I sell, though. They are widgets I buy for myself and then can't use all of them.

I have never heard of a restaurant that takes food stamps.

jsinger




msg:4047046
 4:41 pm on Dec 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

We too get lots of freebie requests from teachers. Mostly really annoying requests.

Had a wrestling coach in Florida ask for a donation for his team Just a few days before I witnessed a local high school fund raising car wash for a similar purpose. What a gold mine! I'm sure they took in a few thousand dollars. (high school girls in bikinis sufficed for advertising)

Apparently doing a car wash would have been too strenuous for those Florida wrestlers!

--------
I'm following the blog of a weird guy who decided to sell iced bottled water at a Texas highway intersection favored by homeless panhandlers. He paid about $1 per bottle and sold for about $2. He wanted to test how much money could be made peddling to passers-by. That also was amazingly successful. (note the seller was a pretty brainy 26 year old kid)

rocknbil




msg:4047215
 9:00 pm on Dec 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

I am actually a total sucker for homeless people who ask me for money

Here we have businesses offering gift card for food, and some hotels you can buy a night's stay gift card. Try giving them a meal or a shower and sleep in the form of a gift card, see what reaction you get. Or take them up on the sign offer: "Will work for food" - give them an address, tell them you have a lawn needing to be mowed. Easy money that they will never show up.

There **are** people who are homeless due to fate, or disability, or other reasons, but most of them choose to be who and what they are. And many of them are flat out scammers, we have several in town that live in half million dollar homes, drive SUV's, and being a small town, we know their story. It's sick.

I have never heard of a restaurant that takes food stamps.

They do here. They don't even call it "food stamps" any more. It's like a "credit card" with a politically correct, spirit-lifting name. Call it what you want, it's still my tax dollars going to lazy b*****s working the system (not all . . . but around here . . . . a majority.) This card can be used for **any** purchase of food items, doesn't matter what it is, as long as the business displays "[card name] accepted here." Yay.

dpd1




msg:4047232
 9:46 pm on Dec 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

They seriously put the teenage girls in swimsuits? That's kind of... weird.

So I guess what I'm getting from all this... Most people don't ever give away anything. ha ha

rocknbil




msg:4047233
 9:49 pm on Dec 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Not true at all . . . as said I am way more compassionate than my words here describe. I am just very cautious and know all, or most of, the tricks.

The person you want to help will be the one who will never ask. If you can see beyond the end of your nose, you will be able to spot them . . . and help. The best ones are the ones where you help, change their lives, and they don't even know it, or if they do, they never know it's you. :-)

jsinger




msg:4047310
 12:11 am on Dec 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

"They seriously put the teenage girls in swimsuits? That's kind of... weird. "

It was hot and a sudsy car wash and after school hours and lots of jock guys around. Doubt the girls had to be told to wear bikinis.

dpd1




msg:4047317
 12:27 am on Dec 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

Man, wish girls aimed to please like that when I was a kid.

I see what most of your guys are saying though... There's business, and then there's charity. And the two should not be mixed. The one guy that touched all this off was a guy I just gave a pretty good break to. He's been emailing back and forth ever since, talking about getting it and everything. I don't know if that's bad or good, but he seems to appreciate it. A lot of the stuff I sell is related to indoor hobbyists, where it can be used in sort of a daytime past-time. So you get some people who are kind of shut-ins, and maybe that's all they have to do all day for entertainment... Especially this time of year.

HRoth




msg:4047318
 12:34 am on Dec 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

"Try giving them a meal or a shower and sleep in the form of a gift card, see what reaction you get." etc.

I consider that anyone who spends their time asking strangers for money has problems, whether those problems arise from a lack of money or not. I don't care what people do with the money I give them. Once I give it, it is theirs. It is a gift, not payment for a job. Nor do they have to "deserve" it. There is a guy whom I know is junkie who regularly hangs out in the parking lot of a nearby food store begging for money with some story about how he's stranded and just needs x amount to get the bus back to Waverly blah blah blah. I usually give him some, even though I know exactly where it will go. It is my way of thanking the divine that I don't have to live that way, not today anyhow.

However, if he asked for some of my widgets, I would tell him to go chase his tail.:) Widgets are widgets; money is my pleasure to spend as I will.

rocknbil




msg:4047845
 9:07 pm on Dec 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

I consider that anyone who spends their time asking strangers for money has problems,

Among those problems are ego, and IMO there is absolutely no excuse for this. I'm too good to work for a living, why should I work when I can get everyone else to do it for me.

I know I sound like a hard a**, but not. We do lots of community things here, we give even though we can't afford to give, help when we can't spare the time, but laziness, can't get past your own ego to {i]help yourself[/i] - I have zero patience for that. And I see it a lot.

HRoth




msg:4048268
 1:10 pm on Dec 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

Yes, I see it too. It's called Wall Street.:)

vik_c




msg:4050958
 6:51 pm on Dec 29, 2009 (gmt 0)

You can turn such situations into opportunities to get rid of old and slow moving stock. I don't know which industry you're in but jeans from last season/older editions of books/an MP3 player that doesn't sell instead of an iPod can be offered at a knocked down price. If your prospective customers really mean business they'll be glad to take you up and you'll clear some shelf space/ inventory storage. If not, they're probably fibbing about their financial troubles.

I've found that people who offer a sob story and get a huge discount often turn out to be the most demanding customers. They're often less polite, more impatient and far more trouble than the average customer. Many of them cost more than they're worth - the 20 % who take up 80% of your time. Of course, there are always the genuine ones too. Most of us have been broke at some point. Sometimes selling to someone at such a time can create invaluable goodwill. In better times, they could come back to you with a much larger order.

wheel




msg:4050973
 7:29 pm on Dec 29, 2009 (gmt 0)

If you're not selling a necessity, then no discount. If times are that tough, then why exactly should you get a discount on a luxury/non-necessity? Why not instead just cut back a bit? If you're selling a necessity, then IMO you've got to make your own call.

I used to discount all over the place. No longer. And yes, I do handle hard luck cases. Here's what I do.

If you are not a current client, no discount. If you are a current client and are just moaning, no discount. If you're a current client and I think you're actually having a hard time then I will discount right down to cost (which in my case is a service, so I'll provide it for free for a year). My clients stuck by my as I built this business, when things are tough for them I'm going to bend - and they'll be the most fiercely loyal customers later on when things get better.

(coincidentally, I'm right now writing an email to a client that's had free service for the last three months who's asked for a further extension - and I'm giving him another three months for free. But! shortly we're going to start negotiating links :) ).

gpilling




msg:4051069
 11:56 pm on Dec 29, 2009 (gmt 0)

I've found that people who offer a sob story and get a huge discount often turn out to be the most demanding customers. They're often less polite, more impatient and far more trouble than the average customer. Many of them cost more than they're worth - the 20 % who take up 80% of your time.

That would be the "No good deed goes unpunished" menu item. I used to have homeless people walking in the backdoor of my warehouse begging for money (we were near a soup kitchen). When offered a broom and $20 to sweep the back lot, they declined every single time.

albo




msg:4051099
 1:11 am on Dec 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

Ditto that, @gpilling. I made (or am still making) the mistake of keeping up a relative's non-profit's website. Leads to: computer installs, calls from members, and on, and on. Don't.

incrediBILL




msg:4051100
 1:15 am on Dec 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

I would consider a discount for a school or verifiable charity like Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. but probably not for individuals.

I hate to sound harsh here but if they can't afford it, and it's not food and clothing, they probably don't need it.

Huge difference between NEED and WANT, I'll help people in NEED.

explorador




msg:4051121
 1:52 am on Dec 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

We can't save them all!, if you want to help them, DO SO, but don't give anything free. Make them work (nicely). I agree with what rocknbil said, but I could add something to avoid you being a victim:

I would handle these kind of requests with the same intent they are solicited: you want something, but what do you offer me in return?

I worked in some programs to help "poor people" and people with needs. I learned NOT TO give free stuff, make them work.

Sure most of us have more than one website. We can understand some people won't have a computer on their own but you could ask them to write something about their city, town or country and SEND IT to you as content for your website. Even if someone is very poor can write on paper and send a letter or after finish it send it by mail, no pictures needed (or perhaps you could ask for some). The thing is to make them do something.

So, one "client" might want a huge discount on one of your DVD'S about Widgets or perhaps they want it free. OK, then ask him to write about his town (poor-land-with-no-widgets) with some related point of view to any of your websites (widgetland, how widget works, you can figure something out.)

I tell you, some won't EVER appear again, some will send you copy paste, and some will trully, trully cooperate and do some work for you. So they earn the "free" gift.

rise2it




msg:4051220
 5:47 am on Dec 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

A few scattered thoughts of mine...

--------------------------

I have ZERO use for any national 'charity' which has people sitting at the top making six and seven figure salaries.

I will give to local charities/groups - the ones I know where the people running it are actually working for free because they believe in their cause and are actually trying to improve their community.

----------------

I once gave thousands of dollars in merchandise to a local school/head start program. Some of these products - in order to keep them going - require some supplies/replacement parts.

Don't know who they are buying those from - but it's obviously not me....so either (1) they aren't very grateful and decided to save a few cents buying elsewhere, or (2) they are too lazy to use/fix/maintain those products they 'so desperately needed' at the time.

Either way, I would never help them again. If I need to clear out inventory space again, I'd probably just trash the products.

---------------

I know someone that has a sign up on their window (which usually happens about mid January) that reads something like, "We're sorry, but our charitable donation budget for (fill in they year) has now been depleted."

---------------

When they come to me, I ask myself one question..."Are you my customer?"

If yes, I'm probably going to help you, your children, etc.

If not, then you need to go and seek help from the merchants you have chosen to spend your money with over the years.

graeme_p




msg:4051241
 6:51 am on Dec 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

I have ZERO use for any national 'charity' which has people sitting at the top making six and seven figure salaries.

I will give to local charities/groups - the ones I know where the people running it are actually working for free because they believe in their cause and are actually trying to improve their community.

Very true. I live in a developing (hopefully!) country and I give to two charities I know well: a home for the destitute (now also an orphanage etc.) and to my church (which has many very poor people in its congregation while most of the affluent have moved away).

Some of the global charities are even worse. Some are good, but unless you see what they do on the ground you do not know which are which.

The very poor are let down by everyone who should help them. Some people who came here to help after the tsunami spent a lot of time sitting by the pool in resort hotels. Others were volunteers being paid expenses that were more than it would cost to hire a local to do the work. Others were faking their expenses. The government efforts were no better - slow, bureaucratic, and (you can take this for granted) corrupt .

The biggest waste is hiring people at Western expat rates. For example, I once met a European (I cannot remember which country) graphic designer working for the Red Cross (I cannot remember WHICH Red Cross though) here. There are LOTS of good graphic designers here (I have worked with some) who would be MUCH cheaper. There are plenty more like that (IT admins, managers, accountants, management).

Of course the hire of people with unavailable technical expertise, or whose job benefits from being a foreigners (travelling in a war zone) is good, and an organisation might want one or two key managers to be drawn from a global pool.

I would consider a discount for a school or verifiable charity like Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. but probably not for individuals.

I think helping individuals whose story you can verify is good - but I could find more than I could possibly help.

I hate to sound harsh here but if they can't afford it, and it's not food and clothing, they probably don't need it.

I half agree. I think helping education is also good, as is help that will help people get on their feet. A Jesuit priest I know loaned a fisherman the money to buy new nets. Mirco credit organisations do that kind of lending on a systematic basis.

Donating a computer or books might help a child learn, which might keep them out of poverty later.

Also, an inexpensive (to anyone here) treat makes a huge difference to people to have very little. One meal that is actually nice, rather than adequate, a school bag that is not a hand-me-down, a toy....

Huge difference between NEED and WANT

Not to an economist!

beebware




msg:4051246
 7:05 am on Dec 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

This actually reminds me of an incident a few weeks ago when a well known UK celebrity (top ten single, presents a TV show) had her stylist contacting me for around 200GBP/$300USD worth of stock. They wanted them "as quickly as possible", but weren't willing to pay for them at all (not even shipping). I suspect this celebrity makes more in a week than myself, my partner and our parents have made in their entire working lives - so why should I give my product away to you free?

dpd1




msg:4051803
 1:39 am on Dec 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

Famous people are use to getting stuff free, because in some cases... depending on the product, it really can help sales for the business. Then obviously in other cases, it won't amount to a hill of beans. If you sell what it sounds like, I'm guessing there's an extremely good chance the actual celebrity knew nothing about it. If it was for the show in general, production companies are notoriously cheap and will try and scam a freebie from anywhere they can. I also wouldn't put it past people to use celebrity's names just to get stuff for themselves. When it comes to the whole celebrity thing, there's usually a bunch of people attached to them, like those little fish that stick themselves to the sides of the big fish, waiting for a free meal.

tangor




msg:4052455
 3:31 am on Jan 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

When I get these requests, I request something in return... after all, we are all up against the wall these days.

I'll give you this, if you give me that and I'll give you that discount you're looking for. When I receive it, I'll ship. What? You can't? Guess what, I can't either.

Your costs are what they are. Your margins are what they are. Do your charity at home, your town, with people you know. Where you can see the benefit of your good works.

Else you might be dealing with a clever scam.

This 46 message thread spans 2 pages: 46 ( [1] 2 > >
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