“And you know, I’ll be home, sitting with my friends, we’ll be sitting around and someone will say, ‘Hey, let’s get small…....’ “
– Steve Martin
Venturing deeper into the new year, I have noticed price increases popping up in my normal routine. Not unusual at all for people to be pricing for profits. Most have been the typical “keeping up with inflation” variety. One of our regular home service providers passed on a 10% increase. I raised an eyebrow at that one. I had been a bit uncomfortable that we had been under-priced from the start, so I think we will stick with them. I do believe in profits. Yet sometimes companies handle their profit needs so poorly that I feel disrespected as a customer and cease doing business with them. I had one of those experiences the other night.
My family loves ice cream. it is rare when we do not have ice cream in our house. We usually have than one flavor. When we go out for ice cream, we are going for something beyond store grade. Inventive flavors, a density that makes you want to hang on a little bit longer before swallowing, or just something intangible that convinces us it was worth the trip to transcend our family freezer experience.
We have grown to love Jeni’s, for all the reasons listed above. I would like to acknowledge their “intangible” as the tasty waffle cones and wedges made on the premises – admittedly not intangible, but not the core offering either. The fresh, buttery experience is a bit of a palate cleanser in addition to being simply toothsome in its own right. We enjoy scanning the menu for new flavors as we wait, and it was new flavors that brought us to Jeni’s this week. A new Outlander flavor named “Claire’s Cabinet” in honor of our beloved strong woman, Claire Fraser. Our hopes were high as we ventured out after dinner.
I was the last of our family in line. Already disappointed that “Claire’s Cabinet” had not yet arrived at our local Jeni’s outlet, I looked down the way to my wife standing at the register, staring into her cup – looking bewildered. I pulled my focus back to my daughter, just in front of me in line and watched as her Jeni’s scooper worked her flavors into her bowl. Everything seemed grotesquely out of proportion. The scoops looked lonely in the bowl, like candy bar minis that you might pass out on Halloween because it is just too darn expensive to give the kids full size. My daughter, likely our most zealous ice cream lover, spoke up…. ”Have your scoops gotten smaller?” The scooper grimaced and shook her head in apology, “Yes, they came in and did a study of our calorie guidance (posted on the big board by each flavor) and discovered we had way more calories in each scoop, so we had to cut the portion size back.” I readily admit that my ice cream yearnings border on addiction, so it’s kind of hard for me to process people making tough calorie decisions after waiting in line for 15-20 minutes. Maybe there ARE some food disclosure regulations that could come into play. Maybe the payoff would be at the register. Wishful thinking. Same price. Easily a 50% quantity reduction. As my family regrouped around a table, we laughed so hard at the entirety of the situation…. the bizarre explanation magnified by the chalkboard menu…how hard is it to change the calorie count? The sad little butter ball scoops sitting in the same old bowl, peeking sheepishly up at us, knowing full well the injustice that just went down, and finally, the parade of other customers exiting the line with the same bewildered looks, some staring down into full waffle CONES like they were looking hard for the scoop. “Hey, are you in there somewhere, Mr. Scoop?”
Again, I respect pricing for profits, and I believe that consistent self–respect is the key to charging more . When doing a great job for your clients, they will respect your need to price for profits. We have been paying $5 for a standard at Jeni’s for at least a few years, maybe longer. They could have hit me with a 5% increase each year and I still would have gladly paid the compounded price, for the same portion. Waiting until you cannot live without it and making up for lost time can shock the client out of routines and prompt shopping and experimenting with alternatives. My least favorite option is this one of keeping the price the same and reducing what you deliver to the consumer. It quickly erodes trust and fractures the client connection for which every business should strive.
The flavors at Publix look pretty darn good at this point. We love Outlander, but we may just never experience what is in “Claire’s Cabinet”.
Looking for additional resources on your pricing for profits strategy? Take a look at the Bizzics infographic on profit engines, and test out our profit calculator, which helps test a number of variables at once.