Why I stopped giving discounts

Devaluation of crafts in a world of cheap, non-durable goods

Stuffed Toys Hospital

I run a small business together with my mother. This is our 4th year of being in the toy repair business, and it’s also the same year my smart brain decided to say, “Hey, let’s have a website!”

 

Like how most businesses first started, everything was done manually.

And after 3 years of being in the toy repair business, here are 3 main reasons why I wanted to start a website:

  1. Customers asked the same questions time and again. I wanted to provide customers with a page where all the information/FAQ was present.
  2. We always have queries about how our price is like, whether we’re adjusting the prices all the time and “scamming” customers… which of course, we don’t! Prices are usually not fixed and depends heavily on the condition of the toy. You can think of us like a legit hospital — cost depends on how severe a patient’s condition is. Still, I wanted to provide transparency on our price points.
  3. I wanted to give back to our customers, by providing discounts and rewards for coming back to us time and again. Also, the provision of subscription services (i.e. monthly cleaning), thereby lowering the price of each wash for return customers.

And so, our very first website was birthed.

To which, we have definitely achieved all 3 of our goals:

  1. Ever since the launch of the website, we have seen higher turnover rates. By which I mean we used to have just 2 customers confirm services out of 10 enquiring. Now, we can have 3/3 engage in our services! I would like to think that all the credit goes to the website for providing the relevant information.
  2. We had to fix prices to fulfill the goal of “being transparent with our price points”. #2 goes hand-in-hand with #1, where the turnover rates were higher. And again, I’d like to think that pricing is definitely one of the key relevant information passed on to the customers efficiently.
  3. People were signing up for our discounts alright! The pop-up for “$5 off your first order” was just too good to pass on.

Discount code for first-time customers.

“Things don’t always go according to plan”, it’s sad but it’s true.

And I found out why power should never be given. Because people started to abuse this system we have put in place.

Different emails, same person.

The same customer who used multiple emails just to sign up for that $5 discount.

We know it, but chose not to call you out.

Because "the customer is always right", right?

Instead, customers called us out.

Our current fixed prices depend heavily on the size of each toy. At a height of < 35cm, cleaning can cost just $30. Once the toy hits 35cm, cost of cleaning jumps up to $50. And honestly, this is not something new — we have always provided quotations this way.

Yet, when given a choice, some customers choose to cheat. We’d have an 80cm toy turn up at our doorstep, when we were only expecting a 60cm toy. It’s all good when customers are willing to pay the extra charges. What about those who aren’t?

“Why are you being so calculative?”

“It’s just a few cm, why should I pay extra?”

We run a business, not charity work.

The average pay in Singapore is $25/h (after CPF deduction). We only charge an average of $10/h (before CPF deduction). That’s an absolute steal!

Trying to argue that you studied hard in school and have a degree in computer science, hence your pay should be much higher compared to a seamstress?

People don’t seem to understand.

What about all the hours a seamstress has put in to perfect her craft? All the needle pricks to her fingers, hours spent training the eye for detail for fabrics to know what is suitable, lost sleep stressing over a repair — literally blood, sweat and tears.

It’s absolutely degrading to our craft when people start to haggle for prices. Completely disrespectful to our maker who spends so much time and effort to do all these repair works.

Think about it: does your boss haggle with your wages once it’s fixed? Does your $25/h wage come with a $5 discount code too?

What we do is not mass manufacturing of toys using machines.

What we do is to use our bare hands to gently wash your toys — without gloves because we’re afraid that friction from rubber surfaces can damage your toys.

What we do is to use our bare hands to stitch every small tear on your toy.

What we do is to rush to various parts of the island on our feet to look for the most suitable fabric for your toys.

What we do is strain our eyes to look into the details of the stitches and fabric.

Is our work not equally valued to yours?

This made me realize how ecommerce has pampered us way too much.

Discounts. Flash sales. Slashed prices. Cheap. Instant delivery.

And we keep asking for more.

But no, one should never equate crafts to something that is machine-manufactured.

Today, cheap and non-durable goods are mass manufactured by machines.

We’re different. We’re not machines. What we do is durable work — every single process, every single stitch, by hand.

In a world of discounts and flash sales, we choose to not concur.

Because the value of our craft cannot be seen the same as mass manufacturing.

Food for thought.

At Stuffed Toys Hospital, you pay for the quality workmanship and service. Maybe the next time you approach a small business like us, be kind and understand that services are priced like that for a good reason.

Leave a comment