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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Saving Face

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Happy Valentines Day
Some vendors write contracts with stores which basically agree that if you sell a particular amount of their product in a particular way you will get rebates or get the merchandise at discounted prices.

Our Western Auto Store in Iva, South Carolina sold cigarettes at exactly what we paid for them. When we started out, we were selling three packs of premium brands, like Winston and Marlboro, for only 80¢. So, we sold a lot of them.

One day the representative from a cigarette company informed my father that they had raised the number of cartons we had to sell in order to receive a rebate check. We more than satisfied this minimum, yet the idea that the bar had been raised ticked my father off. He kicked a hole through the wooden checkout stand we had. He then hauled everything that mentioned their products to the back of the store. On things he could not move easily, he spray painted over the names.

Later, when he calmed down, he realized that this change really meant nothing as far as we were concerned and he decided he would talk to the representative the next time he came around. He told me this so when I ran into the representative at another store and he asked me how things were, I told him that Bruce had calmed down and maybe he could talk with him.

I did not know it, but the representative’s supervisor was with him that day. When they showed up at the store and the representative introduced his supervisor to my father, my father got all upset. I could not understand why he was mad again over something that really did not change anything as far as we were concerned. I asked my father about this later and he explained that if he signed back up with the company while the supervisor was there, then forever the supervisor would hold it over the representative’s head that he had saved the biggest account. However, if he waited until the representative came back alone and signed up then, the representative could claim the victory as his own.

Bruce, my father, had a unique read on people and, in this case, he was right. You have to help people save face whenever you can. This, too, is part of being a truly good merchant.

The opinions or advice listed in this blog or website should be used as a place to start only. It is not a substitute for the use of a professional.
Please be sure to consult your attorney and/or accountant with any specific questions.
There is no one right answer to any business question that will cover all circumstances.
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