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Volume Discounts?

A woman was walking by the booth on Sunday and saw a mug that she liked so she showed the mug to her mother, the mother liked it and picked up one with a similar, but very different glaze pattern.  I told them about the mugs and they seemed very happy and ready to buy.  Then it came, the question we all love to hear, "would you give me a discount if I buy two?"

Please understand that this show was in an affluent area of the city which normally means that a lot of people who go to the festival are looking for a deal and ask for a discount.  Truly the majority of people were out enjoying the nice weather and the really great art.  They were looking for gifts for themselves or a loved one, and they were glad to support local artists.  But their were an awful lot of bargain hunters in the mix and I was tired of them.  Frankly, I put a lot of thought into my pricing and it's insulting when someone thinks that buying 2 items gives them the right to ask for a volume discount.

Striped Mugs

I should have explained to her the extra time that goes into creating a striped mug.  This was not striped with layering but with tape and wax resists.  $25 was really a low price considering the time I'd put into them.  I don't know if it would have mattered but instead I asked why she thought they were overpriced.  Naturally she got mad and told me that she never pays more than $20 for a mug before she stormed off.  A few minutes later another couple of women came over, quickly found a mug they liked and were happy to give me the $35 I was asking for it.

I know this is a long and well discussed topic amongst people who do art festivals.  Someone once told me that people feel good when they find a sale or negotiate a deal so I should price accordingly.  Well, doesn't that hurt the people that are respectful of my prices and don't haggle?  They really are the vast majority of people who by my pots and I don't want to take advantage of them or scare them off with prices that are too high because I'm building in a sale price (that's what some department stores tend to do).

I'm considering making a sign that reads "$5 off if you don't ask for a discount."

Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff


  1. You were so right in standing your ground. I agree with you about someone's suggestion to price your work knowing people want to haggle. All that does is promote more haggling. Then there are the people that are shocked when they realize that you have to add in sales tax. Thankfully these types of people are the minority at most shows.

  2. Don't offer any discount unless you are willing to give up 5$ per sale.
    I am always amazed.
    I know I shouldn't be, but I am.
    Does this person ask her insurances, electric, gas, doctors, lawyers, property tax, I could go on, for a discount?
    We pay the same bills as anyone else, why should we give money out of our pocket back to someone.
    It ruins what starts out to be a nice relationship.
    The way I figure it is, if they walk away, they are not your customer.

    1. Hi Meredith, I have a friend that works in customer service for the power company, yes, people do ask for discounts but it tends to be the one's that can't afford it.
      You are right on both accounts, it ruins the start of something nice and it shows that they are not my customer.

  3. This is really too bad.

    Did you mean to say that “a lot of people who go to the festival “AREN’T” looking for a deal and DON’T ask for a discount”? I will assume that, but could be wrong in my logic.

    I will proceed with that assumption (sorrry if I assume wrongly)

    A few years ago I heard the phrase, "the bigger the bankroll, the tighter the rubberband”. Everyone likes a good deal. So, we shouldn’t be shocked (but we always are), when our affluent clients try to strike a bargain.

    So what are we to do?

    I think that it is up to us as artists to educate our clients about the choices we have made to produce our work. it's probably a good idea to anticipate these kinds of scenarios, esp. in this economy and be willing to justify our prices.

    What is apparent to us (because we know the time it takes to make something) isn't always apparent to our clients. To some, there is value in the handmade object because they are looking forward to years of enjoyment and the price will soon be forgotten when it is eclipsed by the day to day joy that an object can give. To others the experience is more of the moment and the bargain hunter is on the prowl. Their prize is of the moment. It’s all about the “find” not so much about the object and the experience that may follow. This could be because either they don’t value living with beautiful handmade objects or they don't yet have the experience of an object that truly gives them joy. Again, i apologize for my speculation.

    A possibly random economic note, I have found that there are some pieces that I make that are, as Mark Shapiro coined, "on scholarship”. Those pieces can't be sold for enough money to cover the time and attention one gives, yet are valid to bring to the marketplace. Their “scholarship” is funded in a great part by the quintessential "bread and butter" piece. This is a piece that is made without effort, sells easily, and profits because of some sort of combination of economy in its production and/or it’s popularity. I think that mugs are certainly bread and butter pieces. I think your $35 is still very accessible.

    Yet another possibly related thought. Sometimes the difference in price/quality ratio is not significant enough to convince some to pay $10-20 more for a similar item.

    maybe i’m beating a dead horse with these thoughts, but all in all, pricing/valuation is really my most challenging activity and I'm sure I'm not alone.

    great post.

    1. Hi Michael,
      It's funny, I do a lot of shows where nobody asks for a discount but people are still buying my pots. So they may be looking for a deal but maybe they feel like they have gotten it.
      It's true what Mark Shapiro calls "on scholarship" (I love that term). I actually just had a conversation about that at this same show. Look for a blog post about that subject.
      I agree (and said so in the post) I could have handled the situation better by educating her and most likely I would have if she was not one of many who asked and I was simply over it.
      I think pricing is something we all struggle with doing well, you are definitely not alone.

  4. To keep things simple, you could have a volume discount policy card that states you give volume discounts to A) stores intending to purchase for resale with a minimum initial order of say $500 retail with a 50% discount plus shipping and B) Individuals who purchase $500 pottery for 20% discount or whatever % you are comfortable with. All other sales are retail. You don't owe anyone any explanations about your business or lifestyle.

    By the way, I often ask in clothing or home furnishings stores for a discount though not in craft/art galleries. Many stores have a schedule of price reductions and you may be 2 days before something is scheduled to be put onto a sale rack. Antique stores will often make a deal. You'd be surprised at how often you can get a few dollars off.

    It's the sense of entitlement that people have regarding arts/crafts that is galling.

    1. Hi Christine,
      Welcome to the blog, I appreciate your comments.
      Posting a discount policy is a really good idea. I don't mind at all explaining how I make my work. I think doing so sometimes helps the purchaser appreciate it more. But yes, a clearly posted policy might stop the questions and might even help some people increase their purchase size in order to get the discount.

      It's true that many stores have a built in sale policy (and prices to match). Clothing goes out of style or out of season so they want it moved. The antique dealers that I know about tend to buy pieces at a really low rate then clean/fix them up and resell at an amount that reflects the time and effort they put into locating, transporting, the store expenses. So they have some room to move on prices if they are willing to take a cut in hourly rate.


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