Generosity is smart business.

I was recently dismayed to discover that my favourite art supply store was no longer offering free cookies. My first stop in the store was always the cookie plate intended for the pleasure of customers, art class attendees, and staff. Now, sadly, it has disappeared.

Obviously I made inquiries and discovered that the owner had canned the cookie plate because she felt that the store staff were overdoing it a bit. Now, I should point out that these were not gourmet cookies. At about $3.00 for a pack of 44 cookies they were among the cheapest on the shelf at the close-by grocery store. But that’s not the point – we liked them anyway. I think I can speak for the customers, art students, and staff alike when I say that it is the gesture we miss, not just the cookies. Something for free (doesn’t matter what it is or how small it is) gives pleasure and creates a feeling of well-being. It reflects well on the giver, in this case, the art store.

Buying goodwill for very little cost.

I think the art store owner has made a mistake. For a mere $90 a month (less than a dinner out for her and her husband) she has forgone the opportunity to generate goodwill among her customers, students, and staff. If she put out just one pack a day and reminded the staff that, while they were invited to help themselves, it was not intended as a meal substitute and was for the pleasure of customers and students too, I bet they’d govern themselves. And for anyone arriving after the cookies for the day were all gone, an empty plate still speaks to generosity whereas, no plate at all, does the opposite.

So how can I be so sure of this? Well, for about twenty years my business included cookies and chocolate bars with every shipment. Among other derived benefits, it differentiated us from the competition and created a lot of goodwill. People are quirky, and part of that quirkiness is the pleasure of receiving something for nothing, particularly something that can be eaten.

What do you do in your screen shop to take advantage of this quirkiness? If you’re not, for what you perceive to be economic reasons, you may be missing an opportunity by committing false economy.