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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.  www.barberosophy.com