The Bake Sale (Issue 1059)

In which we are reminded not to open discussions by offering or hinting at price discount.

I teach an entry-level sailboat rigging class on Wednesday nights at a community sailing organization. Last Wednesday, as I walked to class, I felt hungry. I’d eaten only a few tidbits for lunch and dinner was a couple of hours away so, when I saw the sign, “Bake Sale” in front of the boat house, I veered off course to explore.

The sign was neatly hand-drawn, taped to the front edge of a table shaded by a small canopy. Half-a-dozen middle-schoolers, participants in the Juniors sailing program, were behind the table on which they presented chilled lemonade, chocolate cookies (individually and very neatly wrapped), and an assortment of other baked goods.

As I looked them over, a voice said, “Hello, what would you like?” I looked up to see a boy, maybe 12 years old, slight statured, broad smiled, high energy, who seemed to be in charge.

“A couple of chocolate cookies, please.”

The Junior next to him said, “I baked them and wrapped them myself.”

“The look great!”, I replied, reaching out for two of the cookies.

“We have a lot of them”, offered the Junior in charge. “They’re $1.00 apiece and we’ll offer you a good price.”

I laughed. He laughed. And I said, “Thanks for doing the bake sale, this looks wonderful, and don’t open with a price discount. Don’t start there. I’m hungry. I’d be willing to pay $2 for each of these cookies. Tell me how great they’ll taste.”

“OK,” he said. “These are terrific chocolate cookies, we baked them, and they’re $1 each.”

“Great!” I confirmed, picking two of the cookies, handing him a $10 bill and stepping away “Thank you.”

“Wait, there’s change!”, he called out.

“No change,” I said. “I’m happy to pay $5 a cookie.”

Well, wouldn’t you know, 30 minutes later, as I was leading my class, he tracked down our Executive Director and said, “You know, we’re doing well with cookies, I think I want to raise the price.”

Two decades ahead, one of our future sustaining donors, I think.

Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to generate more and more profitable relationships, faster, with business clients, their owners, and their employees through better sales strategies and execution. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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