Having grown up in a family of makers and small-business owners, I’m no stranger to the ups and downs of customer service. As a rule, I really try to abide by the old maxim “the customer is always right” …but I do have one tiny gripe I want to address.
In recent years I’ve witnessed a small but vocal group of visitors in the shop with a common complaint: “I could get that cheaper online.” Sadly, this attitude isn’t exclusive to customers in the shop— recently, in a conversation with a potential stockist, after explaining my wholesale terms, I was told that they loved my product, but would only pay half of what they were quoted.
As an independent maker, I already *really* struggle with fairly pricing my work, both to reflect cost of the materials and ingredients I use, as well as the time spent researching, testing, and hand-making products, designing materials, labeling and photographing products, maintaining an online presence, etc. (Spoiler: It’s the time and expertise involved that’s more of a struggle for me when it comes to assigning value.)
Now there are a bunch of things to unpack in this conversation— neoliberalism’s valuing of profits over people and the abundant failures of late-stage capitalism; the ripple effects of a certain monopoly’s strangelehold on online retail which is absolutely ~crushing~ small businesses, etc.— but I want to address one wee element: manners.
There seems to be a persistent assumption that what I do— what indie makers in general do— is not necessarily “real work,” that if we’re not punching the clock and doing a traditional 9 to 5 in an office, our labor is of nebulous value and our pricing is arbitrary (and flexible). Now, I am fully aware of the fact that I am not a pediatric oncologist or a political diplomat and that a soap-making witch in Upstate New York might rank pretty low on your list of influential people… but I think that we need a refresher on the very basic childhood adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
I understand that a $7.95 bar of soap is an extravagance for folks dealing with the very real experience of financial insecurity, but if my work resonates with you, if you appreciate natural products consciously made in small batches, and you’re financially able, please don’t try to haggle with me.