Thanksgiving – A Time to be Thankful for Mistakes

Thanksgiving is a time for us to slow down and focus on those things for which we are grateful – family, friends, health, the fact that the ugly dog belongs to someone else.  It is a reflection on what has gone right for us.

However, in the convenience retailing business this is the time of year for us to be thankful for those things that have not gone exactly as planned for our customers.  This the time of the year to give thanks for forgetting to get enough milk at the store, having more people show up for dinner than you were expecting, the game going into overtime when you only have enough snacks for regulation time, and realizing that Uncle George is a lot thirstier than you had anticipated and has already finished off half a case of your beer.  These are all things that prompt emergency trips to the c-store to restock.

As retailers let us be thankful for having ordered slightly more snacks, chips, and beer than we would in a normal week.  Let us rejoice in having fresh milk and eggs available.  Let us praise our staff who handle agitated customers who are stressed and in a hurry.  And let us not forget to appreciate the opportunity to have our stores clean and opened for slightly longer hours during the main holidays.

For these are the things that will win you loyal and regular customers in the coming weeks and months.

But there is a dark side to the holiday spirit – greed.

As we all know, the laws of supply and demand play an important part in our retail life.  The more someone wants something the more they are willing to pay for it.  Time and need are two important components of the price elasticity model.  However, this is a very dangerous trap to fall in to.  I would stress that it is when our customer is in a state of agitation that we should be the most careful to not raise prices.  If the price is your everyday price you should maintain it every day.  A stressed customer may pay an inflated price for a gallon of milk while they are in the middle of making Thanksgiving dinner but they will remember that they paid over the odds and will not darken your doorway in the future.  Is an extra dollar made in a crisis worth losing hundreds of dollars from a customer’s business (and their friends who, I guarantee you, they will tell) over the rest of the year?  I think not.

A stressed customer turned into a happy customer is a long-term customer.  Truly, that is something to be thankful for.