It hit me like a thunderbolt today while I was at lunch. An epiphany about the silliness of paying a professed professional a percentage of the sales price when there were other far more logical alternatives – flat rates, for instance. Or even better, since the professional represents the seller on my purchase and they are being paid by that seller, the possibility of asking the professional for a rebate of what they earn to help offset the costs that I incurred.
Why hadn’t I thought of this before? Usually I simply added the tip to my restaurant bill without giving it a second thought. But does this methodology make sense? Should my server really earn more simply because I ordered the $19 steak and not the $9 hamburger? Was there that much extra service really involved? Is the bottle of steak sauce that much heavier than a bottle of ketchup?
What have I been thinking all of this time?
Give Me a Menu of Services
What should have happened is I ought to have been provided a detailed guide to the service this particular server was going to provide me. Then I ought to have had the opportunity to pick and choose what service I really wanted so that I was paying only for what I truly wanted and needed. Refills of my iced tea? At that price?
(Quick aside … I will not mention a particular percentage because even the hint that there’s a standard 20% tip rate might cause the Department of Justice to look carefully at the restaurant industry.)
(Second quick aside … if all of the restaurants in my area charge an automatic 18% gratuity on parties of 8 or more, doesn’t than in itself constitute price fixing and an anti-trust violation?)
Nay, I say. I will not pay you to pour my iced tea, Mr. Server. Simply point me toward the pitchers of iced tea and I’ll take care of that myself.
Bring on the National MLS
And now that I think of it, why am I relying on you to hand me a menu of what you have available? There ought to be a public, online depository of all of the meals available in all of the restaurants in the land so that I can decide for myself whether I want the steak tartar or the gnocchi.
It will be a national MLS – Menu Listing Service – and all restaurants will be required to participate even if they’re not offering their food for sale to those across the country. Logic isn’t important. It’s the principal involved! I’m not a neophyte when it comes to food! Have you not seen the picture of me blogging?
Just a Middle Man
Let’s just face the facts. The server only is a middle man. She doesn’t make the food. All she does is write down what the buyer wants and relay it back to the kitchen where the supply exists. Then she delivers the finished product back to the buyer. Where’s the value to justify that tip? What have they done that I couldn’t have done myself?
Sure, a good server may recommend a certain menu item. Just as in several restaurants around Glendale, my order is known before I say a word because the servers in these establishments have taken the time to listen to my needs, to my wants, to pierce through my debate between a Caesar salad and a quesadilla and realize what I really am looking for is a nice juicy breast of chicken.
Paying for Service
And now that I think about it, I have no qualms about paying the people in those restaurants the full rate that they are asking (percentage based or not) because they have saved me time by knowing what I want without me having to explain it over and over again. They have made it clear that I am special, and isn’t that the point of service in the first place?
In those instances it doesn’t much matter to me that I’m paying a little more at the end of my meal than I would have had I not ordered the full plate of garlic toast to go with my wings and pizza. That what I’m paying comes as a percentage as a flat rate doesn’t really matter. I receive the service I expected and I paid accordingly.
It’s just a good thing I didn’t enter the restaurant as a party of six. Things could have gotten ugly had I told the manager what he could do with his “mandatory” 18% commission and instead told him I’ll pay $4 tip per person, no more, regardless of what we order.
Hell, he might even make it apparent to me that I get what I pay for. Better watch the cooks closely.
AG Editor’s note: this article was originally published on September 2, 2008.
In comments, please feel free to discuss but please avoid mentioning specific rates you charge so as not to violate any anti-trust laws.
7 Low-budget marketing ideas for small businesses [sponsored]
(MARKETING) Marketing ideas are often expensive or ultra time consuming, but let’s talk about some proven tactics that won’t break the bank.
The following marketing ideas are provided to you buy Threadsy:
No matter the size of your business, marketing matters! It’s important for small and big businesses alike to attract new customers, establish brand awareness, and to create buzz around products and services. But we know that not every business owner has tons of funds to devote to their marketing strategy. The good news? There are some highly effective marketing tactics that are also budget-friendly!
Here are seven low-budget marketing strategies for small business owners and side hustlers to grow their reach:
1. Sponsor Local Events
One of the best ways to get to know potential customers? Actually meet and talk to them! When you sponsor local events, you can be on-site to help people put a face with your business’s name. Sponsoring events is also a fantastic way to offer branded merchandise that can help you get your name and your logo out there.
Besides branded materials like signs, banners, or fliers, think about offering some fun items like wine bags to give away to attendees. Goody bags also make fantastic take-home options for local events. A branded canvas tote can be repurposed as an environmentally-friendly grocery bag, lunch bag for work, or a carry-all accessory for conventions and tradeshows. Print your logo on the outside and fill your goody bags with customized items like water bottles, notebooks, pens, and towels.
2. Let Your Colors Fly
Make some cool t-shirts featuring your logo! Wear them to the sponsored events mentioned above, out in the community, or anywhere you may encounter potential customers and can strike up a conversation. You can also offer t-shirts at a discount in-store or online, and turn your loyal customers into advertisers.
Quick tip: Purchase wholesale shirts to reduce manufacturing costs.
3. Social Media
If you’re not already leveraging social media to promote your business, it’s time to start! Think your customers aren’t using social networks? While certain demographics use various platforms more than others, according to fundera, 74% of consumers rely on social media to guide purchasing decisions. Plus, 96% of small businesses say they use social media in their marketing strategy.
So use your social media channels to level the playing field. To maximize your time and effort, determine where your audience members spend their time. Which platforms are they using? If you have a dedicated social media strategist on staff, they can perform audience research to tailor your approach to your existing and potential customers. If you’re running your own social strategy, spend some time digging into the demographics to determine which platforms make the most sense for your brand. From there, you’ll need to decide on the types of content you want to post, how to interact with your customers online, and create a social media calendar to plan your strategy.
4. Host a Giveaway
Once you’ve got your social media strategy up and running, why not host an online giveaway/sweepstakes to build some buzz, boost engagement, and attract followers? Pick a social media platform where you already engage with your customers. You’ll want to offer an item as the prize. This can be anything from a free product, a discount on an expensive product or service, or inexpensive swag like hats to help you promote your brand.
Once you’ve chosen the prize(s), decide on the terms for your giveaway. For example, an Instagram sweepstakes might look like this:
- Create posts about the giveaway and explain the rules (multiple stories and 1 or 2 posts depending on the length of the contest)
- These posts should specify the terms, for example:
– In order to enter, potential winners must follow you
– Encourage your followers to tag other people who may be interested. Each “tag” gets them another entry into the contest
– You can also specify that contest applicants must share your post on their own profile
- Once the contest has ended, pick a winner. Tag them in a post and story announcing what they’ve won and ask them to also share these posts to their own profile
Quick tip: You can also offer smaller or less-expensive items as consolation prizes. People love free swag and it’s an easy way to get your name out there!
5. Referral Discounts
Offering friends and family discounts on your products or services can help you establish loyalty and promote exclusivity. Offer discount codes or create a refer-a-friend program. You can also offer small incentives for customers who share about your brand on social media. Referral discounts are a great marketing strategy whether you use them in-store, online, or both.
6. Create or Update Your Blog
If you already have a website, you can put it to use to help build brand awareness and attract high-funnel customers. Blogging is a low-cost way to generate organic traffic (website visitors via Google or other search engines). If you don’t already have a blog, there are a number of free and inexpensive blog platforms you can use including Wix and WordPress.
You’ll want to write about topics that are related to your product or service and are of interest to your customers. For example, if you offer graphic design, you might want to create content about how to find an effective graphic designer online, or which projects you can do with an online platform like Canva vs. more complex projects where you should hire a professional designer.
Your website and blog are also great places to post “about us” content to offer website visitors an opportunity to learn more about you, your business, and your mission and values.
7. Update Your Google My Business Profile
Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that allows you to share important information about your business like your address, hours of operation, and contact information. When your listing is optimized with this information, it’s displayed in Google Search and will also appear in Google Maps, which can help you attract local customers.
To get started, you need to create a GMB profile and verify your business information. This is a relatively simple but important step to ensure customers are able to find your business or service online. Make sure to keep your listing updated if you change any information like your website URL, address, or hours.
When creating your marketing strategy, remember to stay true to your brand. Not every tactic will be the most effective for every business. Choose the tactics that make sense for your brand or product offering. Another way to prioritize is to consider the perceived impact and effort of each marketing strategy. Use the strategies that require the lowest effort but will potentially drive the highest return.
Once you have those in place, decide which of the other strategies make sense for your customers and your business goals. Also, make sure to keep track of all of your marketing expenditures and the sales from these tactics so you can assess which ones were successful and which ones you may need to re-evaluate or alter.
Remember, when it comes to marketing, it’s an ever-evolving system. Trust the process and try to have some fun with your marketing strategy!
Yelp listings now show companies’ COVID-19 policies
(BUSINESS) Yelp has updated their settings to allow business owners to make their COVID-19 policies public, so consumers are aware in advance.
Yelp recently added tools to help businesses share their COVID-19 restrictions and policies with consumers, focusing for now on vaccinations. This is the latest in a series of attempts to combat misinformation and illegitimate reviews plaguing the platform.
Yelp has rolled out two new attributes for businesses to add to their profiles last week.
One option, a tag that reads “Proof of vaccination required,” communicates clearly the need to carry one’s vaccination card (or, presumably, wear a face covering) to gain entry. The other – ”Staff fully vaccinated” – speaks for itself.
These attributes stand to increase customer awareness of the circumstances facing them before visiting a business, thereby cutting down on frustrations – at least in theory.
The general public’s dearth in understanding regarding social distancing protocols and business restrictions certainly wasn’t helped by the fact that different states had different responses to COVID-19 – and that’s not even taking into account the microcosmic changes cities found themselves making.
For example, while the state of New York may not require proof of vaccinations to enter restaurants, New York City certainly does.
Rumors are that San Francisco may be implementing similar legislation, positing that other cities may very well go in the same direction.
To compound on this lack of uniform response, small businesses are finding themselves having to make their own policies as the cities around them ease up on restrictions. It isn’t out of the norm for a restaurant staffed by at-risk employees to ask customers to wear masks, so as Delta surges in places with low vaccination rates, it isn’t terribly surprising that those same establishments would ask to see proof of vaccination.
Yelp looks to make this process as transparent as possible with their profile attributes, but they’re aware that there was a general uptick in frustrated customers leaving poor reviews for restaurants that required masking or other social distancing actions.
“Yelp says the practice [of review bombing] has gotten worse in recent months,” reports TechCrunch.
In response, Yelp will be employing both automated and human moderation measures to ensure that businesses aren’t unfairly targeted for their protocols. This is actually something the company did after adding the “Black-owned” attribute (and subsequent identity attributes) last summer as well.
If you’re interested in adding either of the new attributes to your business profile, you can find them on the “Yelp for Business” page.
As the pandemic continues to develop, we may see additional COVID-19 attributes from Yelp.
Society has changed – no one wants help in a store anymore
(CUSTOMER SERVICE) Times are changing in the retail environment: a once customer-service driven experience is evolving into a minimalistic customer service approach.
Once upon a time, good retail management meant good customer service skills – asking customers if they needed assistance, helping them decide what looked best on them, and politely stalking customers to insure a sale was completed.
As technology evolves and become more prevalent and pervasive in our lives, these skills are no longer needed or wanted. A new study suggest that shoppers want to be left alone while browsing in stores, rather than be stalked, questioned, and coaxed into buying items they may not explicitly want due to persistent pressure from sales associates.
An HRC survey found that a whopping 95% of shoppers would prefer to be left completely alone while navigating the retail environment, rather than shopping under a constant barrage of questions: “Can I help you find anything?” “How are you today?” “What brought you in?” and the seemingly endless stream of inquiries, not to mention the sales pressure from those employees working on commission, can simply be too much for consumers looking to relax, browse in peace, or simply get in and out of a store quickly.
While the greater majority of shoppers may prefer to be left alone, this should not come as too much of a surprise, considering how much technology has supplemented the shopping experience. With enhanced apps and self-checkout lines it’s not hard to understand why most shoppers prefer to browse solo.
Smartphones have given us the ability to check prices, order goods, and check stock all without interacting with another human.
For many shoppers, this is an efficient way to save both time and money while shopping. For other shoppers, like myself, smartphones offer another way to shop without triggering my anxiety. Asking for help, or a price is nearly impossible – I’d rather go without an item than have to ask someone for help.
Sounds ridiculous? Believe me, it feels ridiculous too, but nevertheless, having alternative ways to shop without interacting, is a blessing for many people, for a variety of reasons.
What does this mean for stores? It’s time to take another look at your apps and/or mobile presence (and in-store wifi availability). Since customers are shying away from human interaction, is your app allowing people to scan for prices? Can your customers check stock and order things online to be picked up in store? Can customers use your app to enhance their shopping experience in-store? If not, you may lose customers to stores that offer these enhanced apps.
Times are changing.
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