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Wheeling Dealing Marketing, by Terry Sumerlin

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Straight North is pleased to welcome Terry Sumerlin, “The Barber-osopher,” to our blog. Terry has graciously given us permission to reprint this chapter from his latest book, Leadership: It Takes More Than a Great Haircut!, which he has modified slightly for our marketing-minded readers. Thanks, Terry! Your story contains valuable lessons about pricing and customer relations.

Sleazy salesman wearing sunglasses

Don't Be a Wheeler Dealer

Wheeling Dealing Marketing

“How much I owe you for the haircut?

“Well, let’s see, what day of the week is it?”

This bit of foolishness often goes on between a customer and me, and usually produces the desired effect. A chuckle. This type of approach, though, has become an  increasingly popular way of doing business and is not funny at all. It’s irritating!

I once took Mom’s car to have some minor service done. Her bill was $20. About a week later I took my car for what I thought was the same thing.  It cost me $30.

The difference? Well, I was not alert enough to say “no” to all the subtle add-ons.

Similarly, Sherry and I had lunch at a place that had an all-you-can-eat buffet and a discount plate. She was hungrier than I. So, she had the buffet. When we got to the table and looked at the ticket we discovered my discount plate cost about a dollar more than hers.

Why? I had tea. She had water.

Having gotten a bit out of character at the car place by telling them I didn’t appreciate their let’s-make-a-deal-flea-market way of doing business, I decided not to embarrass Sherry at lunch. And, I didn’t want to appear cheap. I still didn’t appreciate that way of doing business.  Who wants to always have to keep their guard up and a pocket calculator handy every time they go in a business?

Such seems to be the new wave of businesses of all sizes. Have you gotten a cell phone  lately? Or tried to figure out charges on a phone bill? It takes a cadre of Philadelphia lawyers.

Many years ago my father, who liked to bargain, was in the market for old wagon wheels that he could use as trellises for his climbing roses. He pulled off the highway one day, where he spotted just what he’d been looking for. When the old timer walked up, Dad asked him his price.

“Wow, that’s a little steep,” Dad said.

“Then drive on,” was the reply.

I have more respect for that kind of straightforward approach  than for a lot of the wheeling-dealing (deceiving) that takes place. There’s something to be said for the customer being able to easily understand the deal.

At J.B.’s Barber Shop haircuts are $15 every day for everyone. Sometimes we get one who thinks that’s too much. That’s okay. At least he knows the deal. And, if we don’t irritate him before he gets out the door, maybe someday we’ll get the opportunity to fix the discounted haircut he got somewhere else.

MARKETING PRINCIPLE:  Treat people in the same honest, straightforward manner in which you wish to be treated.
©Terry Sumerlin

Terry Sumerlin, The Barber-osopher, owns a 54-year-old barbershop in San Antonio, TX; he  has traveled over the U.S. and abroad to deliver his entertaining, common-sense message to customer contact and sales personnel, managers, executives and educators.  He’s the author of the popular Barber-osophy books, and his most recent book is Leadership: It Takes More Than a Great Haircut! He writes a monthly column on leadership for American City Business Journal. As a speaker his clients include the U.S. Census Bureau, TxDot, the Air Force Audit Agency, Princess Cruise Line, Hilton and Marriott Hotels.

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9 Responses to Wheeling Dealing Marketing, by Terry Sumerlin

  1. Hi Terry, Thanks again for letting us feature your new book here. This story resonates with me because I’m one of those people who doesn’t enjoy negotiating. It tends to make me uncomfortable and even when I “win” a concession it somehow interferes with my enjoyment of completing a transaction. Many years ago when the Japanese automakers introduced no-dicker sales prices, I was all over it. All of the sudden car buying became more fun!

    • Thank YOU, Brad, for the invitation and for the wonderful Amazon review. I completely understand your feelings regarding negotiating price. I’ve never enjoyed buying cars for that reason. It cheapens the experience and tends to make me feel cheap for taking part in the process. Your blog looks great!!!

  2. Terry, thanks for the words of wisdom.
    Brad, thanks for sharing Terry’s book with your readers.
    I’m glad I introduced two great guys to each other!

  3. Eddie Callender Jr

    Great thoughts, Terry! Reminds me of new homes. “From the $220,000′s” often means from about $229,500; doors, windows, cabinets and light switches extra.

  4. I’m not too fond of that kind of negotiating. Just tell me the price so I can either give you my money or walk on. This post resonated with me as well, because I have been hit from left field with those price changes quite often, and I’m always left wondering how come my friends find all these great deals but when I go to those same places, they’re nowhere in sight? For the same things, even!

    Frustrating. No hassle, no mystery, no song and dance. Just give it to me straight. I’m a big girl. =)

  5. Delena, thanks for your comments. I especially like the last line – well said!

  6. Hidden price increases aren’t my cup of tea, either, if you’ll excuse the expression. The “healthy food” market we shop at recently restructured their take out meal deals, It had been quite simple: one entree and two sides, $9.99. Easy to understand. Now it’s confusing with 12 different prices depending on what entree you choose or if you want a meal consisting entirely of side dishes.

    I took the time yesterday to analyze the new menu board and realized that the new meal deals were actually a 20 to 30% price increase across the board!

    I think the old saying “Baffle ‘em with BS” applies here.

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