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6 Times it’s OK to say “NO” to a Customer

Post Date: May 21, 2018

As a vendor selling at the Shipshewana Flea Market (or any flea market), you come into contact with a lot of people. On average the weekly attendance at the Shipshewana Flea market is anywhere from 10,000-15,000 people! That’s a lot of customers to accommodate, and the difficulty level of accommodating those customers increase as the customer volume increases.

I’m a big advocate for great customer service. Customers are the reason you’re in business in the first place, but bending over backwards and going the extreme mile isn’t always necessary (especially when it could potentially hurt your business).

Sometimes you have to say no… and that’s okay! Saying no to a customer might be the best thing for your business. But most times it’s hard to say no… especially when you’re first starting out and building your customer base.

Yes, going that extra mile is an amazing way to show your dedication and create a base of loyal customers. But sometimes saying yes can jeopardize your business. Giving your best yes and saying no on occasion keeps the delicate balance for a well-maintained business.

Here are 6 perfectly acceptable occasions when it’s okay as a flea market vendor to say NO to a customer’s request.

1. When a customer asks for something custom.

Unless you are a custom-featured vendor, customizing items is a challenge. Your handmade business might not be set-up to handle custom orders… and that’s okay! Customizing costs money and time, something that is difficult to justify when trying to maintain a business.

Possible Responses:

“At this time our company is not taking custom orders. Please follow us on Facebook (or any other social media/website) for all of our updates and list of products.”

“We have more available products online. Perhaps you’ll find what you’re looking for on our website along with other products we don’t currently have here today.”

2. When a customer asks you to copy someone else’s work.

Your business ethics are at stake when a customer walks up and asks you to copy another vendors' work. Live by the Golden Rule, you wouldn’t want someone to copy your work, so don’t copy others. Everybody works hard, don’t undermine somebody else’s integrity by agreeing to copy their work.

Possible Responses:

“Thank you for considering me, currently I am not taking custom orders” (short and sweet!).

“I would be happy to make you something of my own design!”

3. When a customer asks to take a picture.

Going along with #2, taking pictures could mean one of two things; the customer is simply trying to show someone back home what it looks like, or they are looking to have someone duplicate it for less money. Use your best judgement, if you feel like it’s the latter of the two, it’s fine to say no.

Possible Responses:

Hang a notice in your booth stating, “No Pictures, Please”.

“We have pictures of all of our products online, feel free to visit our website for a large photo gallery of our entire product line.”

4.When a customer asks for a discount or tries to bargain.

At a flea market, customers are always going to try to bargain. For some vendors, that’s what your whole business is based on… buying, selling, and moving stock. For others, making items by hand or selling retail, there’s an entirely different method to selling. Again, there’s a delicate balance and you know what you need to sell your items for in order to make a profit.

Possible Responses:

“We are firm on our prices since we have priced fairly according to time and costs. We work hard at keeping lower prices for customers while still allowing our company to grow and expand.”   

“I’m not able to reduce the price, but here is a coupon of 10% off your next purchase!”

5. When a customer asks how something is made.

Again, this might be an instance where they are just curious how something is made, or they are searching for a little bit more information to have someone else make the same item. It’s important to protect your designs and business. Use caution and discretion when judging the motivation behind the question.

Possible Responses:

“It’s a family secret, I wouldn’t want it to get out on my account!” ☺️

“Lots of hard work and dedication!”

6. When a customer asks for something in an unreasonable time frame.

The competition for customers can be high. In knowing that, the demand for instant gratification can be even higher. With Amazon and online sales taking over the preference of shoppers, it can be difficult to keep up. Some customers may ask for something to be made, but want it the next day. Putting your entire business on hold to fill one order is a difficult task. If it’s not feasible for you, don’t do it.

Possible Responses:

“The earliest I can have it available is by __________.”

“I have this stock for cash and carry available now, if you’re wanting to order something, I have a wait period

of _________.”

Making customer-based decisions is a daily task. Keeping the balance of proactively growing your business and giving excellent customer service along with making decisions that will benefit your business is a lot of work. Know your business, set boundaries and stick with your decisions.

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