Saying Goodbye to the Bargain Hunters

I have a confession to make. It’s a pretty major business decision that I made early on, and I am embarrassed of it now. I read plenty of good advice and chose to do the exact opposite of its instructions. I was stubborn and too sure of myself when I shouldn’t have been, and even a little offended by the advice. I purposefully ignored what all of the handmade business experts were recommending me, and strut off in the other direction.

The good advice I shunned so fiercely: Don’t use price to attract the bargain hunters. You don’t want these people to be your customers.

My initial reaction to this advice was, of course, what’s wrong with bargain hunters?! Everybody loves a good deal, and most of us don’t have money growing on trees in our back yards. Of course we want a good price! I wanted my stuff to sell, so I went low. And by low, I mean, LOW.

beaded bracelet

Here’s where my logic was flawed: a good deal is not the same as a cheap deal.

I was offended by the notion that bargain hunters are lousy customers. This was because I thought of myself as one, being the thrift-store-shopper and coupon-code-googler that I am.

When I first started selling my beaded goodies, I stubbornly set my prices as low as they could go, and in some cases, even lower than that. I was able to get some sales, but wasn’t really making money after supply costs and payment fees were taken into consideration. So, after a few months, I raised my prices a little bit (just a little) so I wouldn’t be recording yet another loss come tax time.

It was after I raised my prices (again, this was only marginally) that I realized I had been attracting some of the wrong customers in the beginning. One particular customer, for example, had me create a gigantic custom order for her. As with all of my custom orders, I only ask for payment upon completion if the customer is satisfied with how the product turns out. This particular customer ended up having me remake several pieces before she purchased. This part was fine with me, I pride myself in the costumer service I offer for my custom items along with everything else I create.

blue necklace

Here’s the thing though: I thought, that after all of that work and the raving feedback this customer had left for her finished pieces, she would be more than happy to purchase from me again–even after my prices had been (only slightly) raised. BUT, a few months down the road, she contacted me regarding yet another custom order, and asked for a price quote. I sent her a quick response, letting her know how much the price would be and that I would love to be able to work with her again. I never heard back.

A few weeks after that, I was casually browsing through Etsy (Christmas shopping, actually, you guise all know how much I adore getting handmade gifts for my peeps), and I spotted a reserved listing, and my previous customer’s name was in the title. I am a guilty snoop: I had to check it out. The listing was for the exact custom order she had asked me to do for her, but from another seller who was willing to go cheaper.

Even though I had worked so hard and gone above and beyond for this customer, a minor increase in price was enough to make her go somewhere else. That is the real crux of the bargain hunters: they are not loyal. Bargain hunters will look for the lowest possible price. You can do the best job in the world for them, but if they can find it lower somewhere else, off they go.

Being thrifty on how much you will pay for a factory-manufactured blouse is not bargain hunting. Bargain hunting is trying to convince an artist to lose money on something they hand craft especially for you. Bargain hunters hurt the handmade community as a whole, and from now on, they can find their cheap deals somewhere else.

If you are a handmade seller, I hope you can learn from my mistake. We all put too much love and work into the creation and design of our pieces to have anyone scoff at the value we’ve placed on them. You are worth so much more than what the bargain hunters will give you, and so am I.

How to run a successful handmade business and keep your day job

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19 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye to the Bargain Hunters

  1. pcourneya March 25, 2013 at 7:21 am Reply

    I enjoyed reading your post. Very well written. We should all be wary of pricing too low.

  2. Laura Coe March 25, 2013 at 7:33 am Reply

    Good one Megan – just wondered, tho – you can’t really find a price on a sold reserved item (can you?) hmmm but you can if it;s just reserved,right?

  3. Heather Everson Design March 25, 2013 at 8:45 am Reply

    I can’t agree with you more! I’m sure most everyone makes this same mistake. When I first started out I insisted on making my items affordable because I felt that “if I wouldn’t pay that much who else would”. WRONG! The only way I could keep my prices dirt cheap was to lower my quality (not even an option!) or lose money. I learned that lesson fast. I now cater to loyal customers who are willing to pay more than I am for a wire wrapped necklace and that’s perfectly fine with me. Once you get past that “I can’t afford the retail price on my own items” mentality, you can actually move up in the world. Basically if want Walmart prices, shop at Walmart. I am NOT Walmart :) Because of this valuable lesson learned, I can expand and continue to improve my designs and buy even better supplies instead of worrying how to just stay afloat.

    • MegansBeadedDesigns March 25, 2013 at 12:24 pm Reply

      Exactly Heather! Department stores like Wal Mart and Target have the advantage of mass-manufacturing when it comes to their jewelry products. Our items, on the other hand, are especially hand-crafted, with hard-to-find unique results. It’s only logical that we command a higher price for them!

  4. Sherri March 25, 2013 at 11:49 am Reply

    So true!! I too like to have something everyone can afford and really struggled with this. I am ashamed to say that I often did not include my time in my prices even though I have been known to get up on a soapbox about that. I recently increased my prices as well and I am still able to come up with retail under $20.00 on some things while still using quality or unusual materials and paying myself for my time. I have also found that the less people pay the more demanding and difficult they can be. Like you, Megan – I am all about customer service and do everything I can so that my customers are not just satisfied but very pleased with their purchases but I am glad when the bargain hunters do not come back. I have not made a lot from my previous price points so have no where to go but up. I bought your book and that is what really tipped me over into taking action on my prices. It is still a work in progress but I am making progress. Thank you for taking the time to write your book. I am finding it very, very helpful!

    • MegansBeadedDesigns March 25, 2013 at 12:20 pm Reply

      Great job Sherri! I am so glad I could help, and it sounds like you are doing some awesome work and making the right strides in your business. Thank you for sharing!

      • Sherri March 25, 2013 at 12:25 pm Reply

        Thanks, Megan!

  5. Ki'ihele West March 25, 2013 at 12:29 pm Reply

    I started out, like you, with rock-bottom prices but was barely breaking even. When I finally raised my prices to a competitive level, my sales increase quite dramatically and I’ve had return customers who appreciate my “above and beyond” service and quality. Whodathought?

    • MegansBeadedDesigns March 25, 2013 at 12:46 pm Reply

      I’ve been reading this experience consistently! Turns out, lots of people look at low prices and think, “What’s wrong with it?” and are more likely to respect and appreciate you work if it’s priced at a more premium level!

  6. sueswordfitlyspoken March 26, 2013 at 5:22 am Reply

    Excellent advice, Megan! It is all too easy for us to sell ourselves short – literally! Good luck with your E-book, too. What a great idea!

  7. Rachel Baron March 26, 2013 at 5:12 pm Reply

    Great post! I see so many people undervalue themselves when they price their work…and it doesn’t benefit anyone except the “bargain hunters” you described…everyone else gets hurts, including other artists!

  8. 2SistersAnytownUSA March 27, 2013 at 3:05 pm Reply

    Megan~ I’m so glad you posted this! We sisters have run into the same type of customer. They have not a care in the world that our art and handbags/clutches are custom made by us! We refuse to be punished by people like this, especially after seeing them in action at various shows or on etsy. In general, our American culture doesn’t value the artisan and what they offer. It’s sad when you see arts and humanities education budgets being cut in school districts. We are raising generations to believe that there isn’t value in original art and design. I guess it’s easier to buy your art at box stores and your jewelry from TJ Maxx…

    • MegansBeadedDesigns March 27, 2013 at 3:36 pm Reply

      Fortunately, and I really do believe this is true, the age of producing for the masses for less and less is turning around. More and more people are looking for unique, custom, niche products that the world of handmade is able to produce where the factory cannot. The bargain hunters are just the stragglers that haven’t made it out of the mass-industrial age yet, and continue to cling on for as long as they can, unaware of what they are missing.

  9. […] during some shopping experience or another, so don’t assume that all complainers are evil bargain-hunters. Instead, take the time to explain your product and the reasons why its priced at the level it […]

  10. […] bracelet as at least 12 other Sellers on Etsy, then you are competing on price. (That’s a race to the bottom you really don’t want to be a part of.) Being unique and different is the easiest and most […]

  11. […] bracelet as at least 12 other Sellers on Etsy, then you are competing on price. (That’s a race to the bottom you really don’t want to be a part of.) Being unique and different is the easiest and most […]

  12. November March 1, 2016 at 1:25 am Reply

    I feel so sad for you, and I am learning a lot from you. Thank you for sharing your experience. You just reminded me that my time and effort is worth it. I had met many bargain hunters and I have to admit, they really are not the nicest people. Not only they mimic me (when I said that I could not go lower), they even give me hurtful comments and insisted that I lower y items by HALF!
    I need to stay strong like you. Thank you.

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