Or, This Is NOT a Garage Sale
Every now and then someone visiting my bookstore wants a lower price and offers me “cash,” thinking I’ll jump at the offer. Well, guess what: all my sales for 18 years have been cash or check. No credit or debit cards accepted. But I do not keep two sets of books and make deals under the counter to cheat the State of Michigan out of the sales tax, and I’m not running a garage sale or a yard sale or, please note, a going-out-of-business sale.
The cost of almost every consumer product and service is going up. Why should my prices—fair to begin with and hardly making me rich—come down? If you want something and can afford it and think it’s worth the price asked, buy it. If you can’t afford it or think the price too steep, walk away.
I can’t negotiate what I pay at grocery stores or restaurants. My dentist doesn’t cut me a special deal. The set price of our local newspaper is 50 cents. Aye, there’s the rub! Recently the paper published an article about a woman calling herself an “art consultant,” photographing her with a piece of art originally priced at $700 but which she bought for $400. Her advice to readers was not to be afraid to “negotiate” price, to figure out what they want to pay and start from there.
Don’t try that in my bookstore or in the gallery where I make sales, please! You want to price the goods--open your own business! Artists, like booksellers, put their lives into their work. We are not amateurs or interns or students. We are adults working hard to make a living.
If value is partially in the eye of the beholder, it’s also a function of the seller’s belief in the worth of what’s being sold. As a bookseller, my obligations to my customers are to be cordial to all, to price my stock fairly, and to stay in business. In the gallery, my obligations are to be cordial to all, to represent the work honestly, and to serve both artists and clients by not cheapening the market for the work.
Once I visited a bookstore that had signs plastered throughout proclaiming, “Everything 50% off!” I picked up one book after another, looking at the prices (these were all used books), and finally said to my husband, “It’s everything 50% off because he marked everything double what he should have in the first place.” Is that what book and art buyers expect? To find products and work initially overpriced to give the dealer room to “negotiate”? Or do they expect to give less than the value of the work and/or product? Neither way makes sense to me.
When those of us in business buy advertising, we don’t get to name our price—the paper tells us what the rates are. It’s pretty discouraging, though, to pay for advertising and then see feature writers cutting the ground out from under us. Hey, it’s their show. I’m beginning to think, though, that the price is more than I want to pay, given the shabby return.