Thursday, May 17, 2012

Handling Criticism with Grace: Pricing

This blog post got very lengthy, so I am dividing it into at least 2 parts. Part 2 will be next week. 

Let's just get it out there. Criticism hurts. But when it's something you've created with your own two hands and it's something you're proud of...the criticism not only results in hurt feelings, but is a real blow to self confidence.

What to say to a customer if they take a verbal crap all over your creations? You could be rude right back. However, that only makes them angry and angry people like to talk to whoever will listen. So I recommend against that technique. If you have a plan of how to deal with criticism in advance, more than likely you will handle it professionally and without the chance of negative word of mouth testimonials.

First, assess what they are criticizing to determine how you will handle it. Today I'm going to chat about pricing criticism...especially because I got that a LOT at the last show I did. It's entirely possible my work has outgrown that particular venue.

Someone comes to your booth and complains about your pricing or maybe say they can get it cheaper at XYZ Mart of Cheap Crap. It helps to tell yourself that not everyone can or will pay for high quality handmade, and that's fine. To them a "disposable" pair of $5 earrings may be a treat. We cannot judge others for how they choose to spend their money, especially on things they don't "need". But we can educate them so hopefully they will appreciate the craftsmanship and the artistry, rather than simply stick their nose up at the price.

At my last show, a woman was admiring my chainmaille bracelet pictured below. She looked at the price and made a high pitched loud squeaking noise and dropped the bracelet back on the tray. She then (loudly) says "I wasn't expecting it to be that much!"

What I wanted to say was "Really?!? Was that necessary to be so dramatic? I thought that bracelet bit you."

However, due to my pricing self talk beforehand, I was able to calmly and professionally say "The pricing reflects the fact that every single ring in that bracelet is opened, closed, and woven into that pattern with my two hands and 2 pairs of pliers. It also takes into account the time I spend making sure every single ring is closed so perfectly you can barely find the seam. I also spent time antiquing it, polishing, then tumbling it. It also reflects the current cost of sterling silver and what I spent on the materials to create that bracelet."

At this point people are generally much more understanding about the price because they really had no clue about the lengthy process and high cost of quality materials. They can appreciate the price. This does not mean they are suddenly willing to spend their money on it. That's their choice. Expecting them to change suddenly after a quick lesson about your prices is like Mormons knocking on the door of a Baptist and expecting to suddenly convert them to their faith. People have very personal and deep beliefs about money and the value of things.

And yes, that's frustrating on a slow sales day. But maybe this person will buy something else. Or keep thinking about that piece and email you after the show. You never know. However, the right person who loves that specific piece will buy it and not bat an eye at the price. It's happened to me more times than I can count.

About saying they can get it cheaper at XYZ Mart of Cheap Crap...there are a couple problems with that. IF that's really true, and please don't be offended by what I'm about to say...but if that really is true, it's time to change your designs. The best way to make sure that doesn't happen it to use handmade components. The big box stores aren't purchasing pieces made using art components, which is what really sets someone's work apart from others.

More than likely it isn't true and the shopper is just upset they can't buy that gorgeous bangle for $5. Again, in a NON-JUDGEMENTAL tone, you explain the difference between you and the box store down the street...the difference in workmanship, that each piece was made by you and not someone in China, the difference in materials, that they can be assured your pieces do not contain lead. It's important to compare and contrast without using inflammatory words like cheap, garbage, sweatshops, etc. The fact is it is incredibly difficult to resist the lure of getting things as inexpensively as possible and every one of us is guilty. It's also impossible to not buy things made in China. So again, do not pass judgement while educating shoppers.

Next week we'll talk about what to do when people criticize the aesthetics of your work.


  1. Great post - it's so hard not to be ...blunt, sometimes

  2. Good stuff Jen, great tips to prepare for this inevitable situation!

  3. Thank you for that post. Usually everyone is very nice and don't flip out about the prices. Though we usually talk to the customers and let them know that all the pieces are handmade by us - sawed out, enameled or the beads are handmade. We have had a few customers who have dropped our glass necklaces and freaked out when they saw the prices but those are few and far between (and like you said a lot of bad words go through your mind when they drop you glass pieces, but you be nice and explain why it is priced the way it is).
    I look forward to your post next week! Thanks again for this post!

  4. Replies
    1. Chainmaille must be particularly hard to price. Since a machine made chain is so much less expensive. People often look at that and just don't understand what hand made really entails.

      I used to paint T shirts and sell them at craft shows. Each shirt was hand painted with my own unique design. But then people would come by and say so and so has silk screened t shirts for much less. I would try and explain the difference but it wasn't always easy.

      Great post.

  5. Good article and good comments too! thanks and looking forward to the next installment.

  6. good article, can't wait for the next segment! good comments too.

  7. Great advice to prepare responses ahead of time. I look forward to the next installment.

  8. I just finished making one of those as an ankle bracelet for my neice out of sterling.. I'm sure she won't appreciate what it's worth!


  9. What a great post Jen! You wrote it with just the right touch of humor, which I love!

  10. I love it. I had someone tell me I should ask them how they would feel if their boss walked into their office one day and said, "Hey, Myrtle, keep doing the great job you're doing, but we're going to pay you less, m'k?" and see how they feel about that. But I don't have the guts.

    What I hate is when they do the shriek and THROW it on the table. Please. Get a hold of yourself, woman! Respect the goods!

  11. This is my first time at your blog. Amazing advice! Thank you, I will return for more.

  12. Great article - and yes, people seem to love drama, especially when they have some public :)
    I totally understand your feelings about the bracelet - I made myself a Romanov bracelet once and I decided I could never sell chainmaille and not feel resentfull :) Who would pay the real price of the time it goes into opening and closing those few hundreds of jumprings?!

  13. Very helpful information, thanks! I am looking forward to the next installment.

  14. Your comment in the 4th paragraph, where you refer to choosing venues appropriate for the nature and value of one's creations, really piqued my interest. What a sublime mystery THAT is! LOL

    I am eagerly awaiting further installment(s) in the hope that you will elaborate on that particular piece of the puzzle. Love this topic; so much can be discussed about the subtleties of pricing/valuation. Thank you for addressing this!

  15. Great post! Lots of wonderful info - can't wait for the second part! Thanks!!

  16. This is great advise and a reminder for me as I have a show tomorrow and then again next weekend. Thanks for examples of how to respond respectfully.

  17. Valuable input =)
    *thanks Jennifer*

  18. That is an awesome strategy Miss Jen! I just came up against that with a potential customer on my Etsy shop for a component. She found it in a treasury listed for $9. Not only do I not make that particular one anymore, my supplier raised their prices on the bezel and I couldn't justify charging more. Plus this item sold out over a year ago when I was just starting out and still firming up my pricing. I expressed that I would make a custom piece in a larger size since I didn't carry that bezel again, or that I would be willing to make something smaller closer to that price range, but I didn't have the same. I thanked her for inquiring and left the door open with "if your needs should change" talk. One thing I will not do is feel bad for pricing my items the way they are. I have had that experience in the gallery where I show my work. Someone actually told me they found the same design at Target. Um, really? I don't think so! I had to realize early on that not everyone will get what I am doing, and it is not priced for everyone, and that includes me! I don't know that I could afford some of the jewelry designs I have created! That is okay. I would rather the right person find this one special piece than to have to work so hard for 1/10 of that sale for someone who is not at all appreciative of what I do, how I make it, what I use for materials or the artistry that I impart to it. Finding the right audience is key to this I think. Lots to chew on with this topic Miss Jen! Thanks for sharing it. Enjoy the day.


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