glass earrings

why not discount?

by Lyn Foley on February 25, 2008

I made a mistake a few days ago, and lost a sale. Actually, I made the  original mistake last year at a show when I gave a first time customer a  15% discount on the price of a necklace.

I am a full time working artist. I am not a crafter, a hobbyist, a part time artist,  or a dabbler. I do not have another job, nor another source of income. Any of those states of being are fine, but I am in a different situation. My art is my livelihood, and I must make a profit from my business.

In everything I make there is an investment – of time and money. The investment of time is multi-layered. Its not simply “How long did it take you to make that bead?”  It’s the time I spent tossing the idea around in my brain before I ever picked up the tools – in fact its a compendium of all the time it took me to arrive at being able to visualize the final product. But lets say I’m ready to make the bead – as I wrote the other day , there is more to it than just the time making the bead – there’s prepping the kiln, the mandrels, the ordering of the glass rods, checking in the glass rods, cleaning the beads the next day, then the time making the beads into a necklace or earrings. Then if I’m selling them on the Internet, the time to photograph, list the item, monitor the listing, and then when they sell the time to pack them and take them to the post office for shipping. If selling at a show, there’s the time it takes me to get to the show, time to set up,  time spent in the booth sell for two or three days, then time to break down the booth, drive home, and do it again. So, “How long did it take you to make that bead?” is relative.

Then, there’s the investment of money to make  the beads that I turn into jewelry. The cost of the glass is relatively low – but what about everything else? The electricity to run my kiln and oxygen concentrator, the propane I buy, my torch itself, the other tools I use, sometimes silver foil, enamels, copper wire, silver wire, silver findings I buy or the raw silver Jim uses to make settings, stringing supplies like wire or silk or leather – the list  continues…..

There are price tags,  business cards, my digital camera, batteries for the camera, tissue and packing boxes, mailing labels, pliers, nippers, hammers,……

If selling over the Internet, there are fees paid to etsy, paypal, my web site host, the cost of my dsl account – ….

If selling at a show, the jury fee, the advertising postcard I mail, the gas to get there, the motel room bill, the food bill, the cost of the booth,  the cases to show the jewelry, the displays, necklace stands, the carpet, the booth itself with the drapes, the lights, the show electric bill, …..

There’s the fee I pay to the credit card services,the cost of the sales slips, the paper bags, the tissue, the silk pouches in which I package each item…….

Did I forget something? Maybe. I’m sure you get the idea.

I’ve taken all of the above into account when pricing my artwork, because it took all of that  time and money for me to bring my artwork into being and hand it over to you, my valued customer. I think that I’ve reached a balance in my pricing. I use a formula taking my time and costs into account. But in the end, some items are more than the sum of my formula, some are less, because I want to keep my work affordable, and not only that, I want my work to sell so I can support my self and continue my artistic journey.

By the time a potential customer sees my jewelry, it is priced. And that price is fixed,  for all of the above reasons. Therefore, I have a policy of not discounting my items. A discount is not fair to me. Is is not fair to give one customer a discount, and not another. If I discounted everything I wouldn’t be in business. So I create what I have calculated to be fair prices, and don’t discount.

Not everyone can afford my work. I can appreciate all the reasons why they can’t – I can’t afford to purchase everything I would like to have either. But my money situation doesn’t give me the right to demand that someone lower the price on what they are selling. Luckily, thankfully,not very many people ask me for a discount.

But some do, and that’s where I made my mistake  last year – I sold a necklace for a discount. I felt uneasy about it, but justified my decision: The necklace really looked terrific on the customer who wanted the discount, – and more than that I had driven hundreds of miles to get to the show, spent astronomical fees on gas, on hotels, on expensive food, and I was having a lousy show sales wise. When the “I want a discount” customer showed up I had not even made my booth fee. So I kowtowed – no other customer was in the booth to overhear – I gave her a discount.

The show went on, and in the end I made something of a profit. A few weeks after the show the customer with a discount e-mailed me, asking for some matching earrings. I made three pairs of earrings in different colors for her to choose from, and sent  photos of them to her, along with the earring prices. Her reply: “Was a little taken aback with the price of the earrings compared to the necklace and wondered,(since I make silver pieces) if I could just buy the beads or, if there might be a discount since I bought the necklace?   Hope so

My mistake had come back to haunt me – Bruce Baker warned me – if you give a customer a discount once, you’ll always have to give them a discount. I forgot that though, and when I read her e-mail, I just couldn’t do it. In fact, the earrings were priced lower than I would sell them for at a show, since this would have been a direct home sale. Hmm.. That part  saying “a discount since I bought the necklace” — Let’s see, I’ll just call the electric company and say “Since I paid my bill last month, and the month before that,  how about a discount this month?” Or, tell the filling station owner, “Since I just bought gas last week, how about a discount for me this week?”……..

I declined her offer, and steered her to some other glassworkers that offer loose beads. Perhaps she’ll find her beads  or earrings at a price that works for her.  She decided not to buy mine.

Jim thinks I sacrificed good will in order to keep the  profit I would have made had she paid my set price. I didn’t loose money – but didn’t make any either.  I got  just desserts for breaking my rule in the first place,  and should my lost customer perchance read this, maybe she’ll understand why I don’t discount.


glass earrings glass earrings

glass earrings


Hey, the good news.

I’ve got three pairs of extra earrings for sale. They’re beautiful hollows, set with sterling silver findings:

$45 for either of the pairs on french wires, $50 for the pair on posts.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jackie Mixon March 5, 2008 at 12:59 pm

I like your comments regarding discounting and totally agree. I’ve done the same thing for the same reasons and then just kicked myself. I mostly do bead shows so I do have wholesale pricing with a minimum $500 purchase. And hopefully have learned my lesson – no discounts!

Jackie Mixon

Lyn Foley March 5, 2008 at 2:36 pm

Thanks Jackie – I seem to keep re-learning the same old lesson.

Amy K March 9, 2008 at 6:00 am

You hit the nail on the head, Lyn- so much more goes into jewelry and loose beads than many buyers know. I’m tempted to bookmark this post and send any buyers who request a discount for one reason or another to the blog to help them understand! Thanks for laying it out so thoroughly!

Kandice Seeber March 17, 2008 at 4:52 am

Lyn – amen! I have often grappled with the idea of giving discounts. Your post echos my feelings. Gorgeous earrings, by the way! ~Kandice

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