It’s been said that it’s a mark of greatness to create a legacy that leaves something wonderful behind you for future generations.
Years before I began working there, at one HiFi store an enterprising general manager had brokered deals with two professional organizations to extend to them a corporate discount program.
What that meant was that members of those two professional organizations could identify themselves and receive a standard discount off Manufacturer’s Suggested List Price on a cost-plus basis.
Keep in mind that back when this occurred the margins in electronics were still livable: even on video there was money to be made, and in audio the margins where entirely splendid.
Over the years those two organizational programs were a huge boon, in terms of bringing potential customers into the store, and giving salespeople the opportunity to secure new business from clients who might otherwise have gone elsewhere.
Not that it was entirely seamless or ever without issue.
From my own personal experience, dealing with members of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists was painless. Engineers by and large were pleasant to deal with, and, because they’re good at math they always seemed to have reasonable expectations about what constituted a fair package discount.
Where organizational discount programs can be problematic is that by leading with a discount it sets an expectation that your store is ALL DISCOUNT, ALL THE TIME.
Which leads in to the program we had with the other professional organization:
The teacher’s union.
I don’t wish to tar all teachers with the same brush, yet at the same time I can’t deny that some of my most bizarre retail experiences involved doing business with teachers.
More than one teacher, rather than having a real discussion about their AV needs and wants insisted on wanting to wander around the store, pointing at this TV or that stereo and asking “What’s my discount on this? What’s my discount on that?”
It happened often enough that eventually I got better at short-circuiting their expectation and better engaging them in a meaningful discussion.
Except in one case.
One prospective customer, a teacher, of course, was like a hummingbird who’d drank a Red Bull: flitting around the store at high speed, never really stopping to hear the answer to her repeated question: “What’s my discount on this?”
She eventually stopped in front of a 24-inch Sony flat CRT computer monitor that we had marked down on demo clearance.
We had it marked at a deep discount because it was damaged.
If I recall correctly it had originally been $2499.99, but because it had a big scratch in the glass it had been priced to clear at below cost: $1479.
“What’s my discount on this?” she asked me.
“$2249” I told her.
She looked at me like I had three heads. “But it’s $1479!” she pointed out.
“I know. But your teacher discount is a percentage above cost. This damaged demo is being blown out at $500 under cost. Because it’s damaged.”
I could tell that my words made no sense to her. She fluttered around a little longer, then left, never to return again.