Now, in case my previous columns haven’t made it abundantly clear:
My shop is not a place to pick up the necessities.
Certain of the things we sell might technically be considered “needs” – things like soap, basic kitchen utensils and vintage Bowie records – but the far greater proportion of the store is made up of indisputable “wants.” You may have a very good use for the picture frame with the equestrian theme, the perfect spot for the hand-painted Peruvian glass mirror cluster or a wedding this weekend that makes that tie or vintage dress purchase immediately applicable, but just because you use the word “need” in a sentence – as in “I need to get some better art on the walls” – doesn’t mean that you are talking about a real, honest-to-goodness human need.
And besides, even our “needs” are unnecessary – you can get just as serviceable a wooden spoon at Target for a tenth of the price if you’re willing to forgo the awesome drum-stick handles for rockin’ out in your kitchen, dude! In fact, functionally speaking, the spoon from Target will probably be better.
So basically, none of our customers are ever in the proverbial gun-to-the-head situation when they come in to buy from us. I’d argue that’s true of any customer at any store ever, but in our case, it’s doubly, triply, even quad-thousandth-ly true.
So for fuck’s sake, please stop complaining to me about our prices.
The fact of the matter is that the items people complain about most often – certain imported beauty goods, artisanal baby toys, handmade ceramics – are almost universally the items where our margins are slimmest. It’s just like the oft-repeated advice to buy the best bottle of wine you can afford at a restaurant, because the markup there is the lowest.
If you go around our store, or a store like ours, and see a price tag that seems completely out of proportion to your perceived value for the item in front of you, chances are you’re getting a reasonably good deal.
Or at least that we’re not making all that much money off of you. For the rest of the stuff, it’s a fair assumption that you’ll pay more when you come across it in Anthropologie, anyway.
But even if we pulled every one of those surprisingly-expensive items off our shelves, or sold them at a loss, we’d still get complaints. Some of them are whispered to a friend or spouse – “Sure it’s cute, honey, but did you see that price?” – some are broadcast to the rest of the visitor’s party in a loud tone of disbelief, possibly used just to make sure I’ll overhear, and many are spoken directly to my face, in a tone of accusation, as though the girl behind the counter has any control over what the higher powers are asking you to pay for the imported-French teething ring.
As a matter of fact I do have that control, but I promise you, hearing from a customer that you “saw it $3 cheaper at Marshall’s just this week” makes me want nothing more than to tell you to get your fat ass to Marshall’s, then. And maybe upjump the price after you leave, just for spite.
Here’s what people fail to understand:
Even when our prices ARE high – higher than you’ve seen somewhere else, or simply more than you’re willing to pay for your 100% organic all-soy aesthetically pleasing scented candles – the prices simply reflect the cost of doing (small, locally-owned) business. If Marshall’s carries something we have, I promise you, they will ALWAYS have a better deal. And not just because of the should-be-obvious, ECON 101 explanation of economies of scale, whereby Marshall’s can afford to make less profit on each item because they sell a shitload of items, but because of the even-more-obvious, elementary-school-math explanation: those stores pay less for these things than we do. WAY less.
Technically, that also boils down to economies of scale, but since that never occurred to anyone before they asked me if I was “really charging $12 per glass? Really?,” I’m assuming the concept that huge buying power equates to huge discounts per item might be a bit too complicated. We’ll stay simple, instead: we price things based on what we pay for them. Period.
But at the end of the day, all my explanations for WHY our prices land where they do are likely to go unheard, and shouldn’t be necessary, anyway.
Why? Because no one is forcing you to pay them.
None of this stuff is necessary for your life. Not even for a happy, well-decorated version of your life. If you’re worried about the prices here, or at any other small, locally-owned business, just remember one golden rule:
Leaving is always 100% free.