We have a tradition at Founder's Co-op. Every Tuesday, we have lunch together at our offices. For the past year of existence the predominant lunch offering was Pho. We get the pho from Eastlake Terriyaki on Eastlake Ave East. The owner of the store is nice and she boxes our lunches up. As the number of pho has increased to around 20 per week, we started asking for a discount on the $7+ soups. We weren't looking for much but we were spending about $600 per month on soup at the same restaurant and at least wanted to be appreciated. Various members of Founder's Co-op asked for a discount. We told her that we liked the soup but the cost of the soup in aggregate was going to force us to look elsewhere. Her response to our repeated requests for some discount was to say, "I give you a good portion". I'd say, yes, we know but we'd like a discount or a buy 10 get 1 free given the regularity of our business.
Along came Hamlin deli. The high end convenience store next door. It's closer to us. Their sandwiches are great. I told the manager there that we ordered about 20 lunches on Tuesdays and would appreciate a discount. She response was warm, affirming, and decisive. I'll give you 1$ off every sandwich when you order 10 or more sandwiches. That's about a $20 savings per week and $80 per month.
Granted this is small dollars...and tribal to talk about. However, in the land of bootstrap businesses and frugal start up living, $80 per month is $80 dollars per month! And more important than the money is the emotional acknowledgment that our business matters to the business. So for now -- goodbye to pho and hello to BLT.
My advice to start up companies --pay attention to customers desire to have their business appreciated! It doesnt' take much to get customers to switch when the competition doesn't show appreciation.