How Ethical Is Your Behavior as a Customer?

While I was getting ready for a now rare date to go see a movie with my husband the other night (Thanks for twin-sitting, dad!), I was tempted to grab a nice cold Diet Pepsi out of my fridge and throw it into a purse, but I stopped myself. I knew that a beverage at the movies would set me back about $5 or so, and that the cans of soda I’d just bought at CostCo cost me around $.27 each. This is not fuzzy math.

But then I stopped and thought for a moment. The business model of the movie theater is such that it makes the vast majority of its profits on concessions. In fact, theaters rarely make any money on ticket sales themselves, or at least not nearly what they make on soda, popcorn and candy. So, I reasoned, if everyone took the action I was contemplating, in the long run, how would any theater stay afloat? And did I care?

Well, the answer is, “Yes, I care!!” And as business people and owners, we should all spend some time reflecting on how we behave as consumers. We expect our customers to appreciate the service that we give them and understand that we are in business to make profit, employ people, and provide goods and services to companies and individuals in need of such services and goods. But do we treat other businesses the same way?

What I am getting at is, “Do you give as good as you get?”

I hear a lot of print shop owners and sales people grouse about eroding margins, price battles, and the daily struggles to stay afloat. Believe me, I understand that position. For years, I was in the trenches fighting those same battles to maintain business and capture new customers in an in a contracting market and increasingly competitive world.

Now working as a consultant, Kelly sold digital printing for 15 years so she understands the challenges, frustrations and pitfalls of building a successful sales practice. Her mission is to help printers of all sizes sell more stuff. Kelly's areas of focus include client recovery, retention and acquisition, and marketing communications projects.
Kelly graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science and, among other notable accomplishments, co-founded the Windy City Rollers, a professional women's roller derby league.

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  • Linda S

    Good information to keep in mind! I live in a small community and it is important to me to support the local businesses in my town. Just like I want them to support me. I want them around! Unfortunately there are now some things that can only be purchased at my local big box. Sorry I can’t share any pricing ideas / secrets – I don’t do that anymore!

  • Brent Clarke

    Great blog Kelly. As a solution provider we frequently find ourselves having to explain that it’s the time, training and support that is so expensive often laying out the road map to completion for them and the time we invest in each stage. For all intensive purposes we stopped charging for the actual solution itself a few years ago. Unfortunately, the old cliche that time is money is still true as it is in any business including a print shop or print management organization but most don’t want to hear this.
    One last question, just for clarification, the Diet Pepsi is really a metaphor for customer supplied paper and the movie theater is a metaphor for printing press and operator right? Just wondering.

  • Brian Rothschild

    Dear Kelly,

    It’s too easy to agree with you, so I won’t, for arguments sake (nothing more). I to am a "solution provider" and yes there are some things I can and will do as such. First, my customers come before anything, and they depend on me to provide solutions that are within their means. I always try to offer a low – medium – and a top end choice monetarily and work with them. I may reduce my support fee(s), or, diplomatically explain the triangle of death(?)

    I will draw a triangle and at each point I will write the words "Good", "Fast", "Cheap", then I simply ask the customer to please select 2 of the 3 because I can’t offer all three. It’s a plain, no nonsense approach but must be done with tact. So, I understand the point you are making and here is mine. As a Digital Prepress & Technical Support Specialist, I’m not the only one who is "special". If I have to cut my rate so that the deadlines are met, I still make money, but first and foremost, my clients needs, be they tech, train, or pick up and deliver will be met. And as a result I get many WOM referrals. Some good, some no so much but that works for me. It’s possible, that in this economy, a chain like Muvico or anyone could offer "Family Night" once a week and offer a somewhat reasonable discount on certain shows at certain times so that a man or woman can get out with the family without wondering if they will have money for gas. I try to be as objective as I can and I do like your articles. NAPCO made a good choice when they hired you.

    Kindest Regards,