I love your yarn, but can I trust you?

I love your yarn, but can I trust you?

Over the holiday I visited a girlfriend out of town. While there, I dropped into a music store and bought a few things for my daughter who plays violin.  On a whim, I asked the owner if he had any 1/2 size violins for sale as my daughter is about ready for an upgrade in size– he DID, I was excited.

kids violin

kids violin

He then proceeded down a perilous path of small violations of my trust which ultimately killed a potentially large sale.

Are you doing these kinds of things in your yarn shop?

We are on the cusp of a new era of commerce where TRUST becomes just as important as price, as quality, as availability and if you are unknowingly compromising that trust with your customers, you’re on the road to peril.

Let me tell you more about his small transgressions and I’ll extrapolate those instances to the yarn shop experience:

“Little Lies”

In showing me the instrument, the owner of the shop says to me that renting a violin is MUCH better than buying one because I’d “never recoup the investment in an outright purchase.”  But when I did the math on his theory, I calculated that his rental would cost me $300 per year. I’d likely have the violin at least two or three. I know I can get a decent instrument between $300-$600, and I know that they can appreciate with time.  So I’m not happy with what seems like he’s just steering me to the higher revenue rental option.

My mind registers the first betrayal of trust here….  

Little Lies in your shop? Now yarn is a much smaller investment, but sometimes you have a customer contemplating a sweater quantity of wool which can easily become a large sale. When your customers are asking questions about the yarn, the durability, the washability, the best match for a pattern they want…. are you giving the whole and truthful answer?

If the expensive cashmere in the customer’s one hand is not really the best choice for the kitchen washcloth project in their other hand– then you need to do the thing that BUILDS trust here

Which is:

a) steer them toward a fantastic pattern for the said cashmere
b) steer them toward the fantastic (but less costly) kitchen cotton
*earn their trust here and you’ll likely sell both?

“Bait and switch?”

 The second transgression came when the owner says…. “It’s only $18 per month, so just take it home and try it out.” When I get to the register however, the rental agreement says there is an additional $7 for an insurance and maintenance fee–

so really the rental is $25 per month– that’s a difference of $84 per year. I know many of you are doing the same math when you shop and thinking, “well, that’s actually 4 skeins of handpainted sock yarn I could buy instead.”

And you know what? It WASN’T about the violin rental being $25… which I still might have paid…

it was about the fact it felt like he misrepresented the true cost which was another degradation of trust…

Bait and switch in your store? Now bait and switch may be too strong of a term here because a yarn shop owner is not likely doing anything like this— but I have experienced outdated price tags. It’s your job to update prices, or honor the one that is printed. If I pick up 5 balls that are $5.95 and 5 that are marked $5.50 (or anything lower)– what is the right thing to do?

“A matter of interpretation”

So, I’m still not listening to my gut instinct in the store, and begin filling out paperwork to rent this violin and I see at the bottom of the form, “two months free with 1 month paid rental”  So, I’m thinking, great– I can see if this instrument is the one I want, and I save a little money!  I ask the register clerk about that offer and he tells me, “Oh, yeah, sorry….. we’re not honoring that anymore”

Here registers my third infraction– Um, so why  is it screaming at me from your rental agreement??

A matter of interpretation in your shop?  I actually witnessed a yarn shop experience like this over the pre-holiday sale season. I was in a yarn shop offering a 20% sale on red and green yarns. My girlfriend picked up a teal skein of yarn– similar to the others…. and when she got to the register, the owner says, “Oh, the sale is only green and red yarns, this is actually kinda bluish.”

*wrong answer*
If she had understood the value of cultivating trust in every transaction,  she would have realized here– that this is not about whether teal is technically blue –but something larger, and more subtle going on between buyers and sellers in these times….
If I could have pulled her aside, I would have said, “Girlfriend…. there is a trust transaction happening here…. … it’s only going to cost you $2.00 to assure this customer you appreciate her patronage”
What happened instead, however, is similar to my experience, and my friend registered a small transgression that will likely stay with her and when the next sale rolls around, she may not beat a path to the door (or she’ll go to the other shop up the road that will call this color green!)
Interesting side note: Did you know that most men see teal as green and most women see it as blue? Clearly if my friend were knitting for her man, she should have gotten the discount right??


After the third small erosion of my trust, I decided I had to muster the courage and walk away from the sale. I say that this guy lost $600 because I would seriously consider buying a good quality instrument outright instead of renting it– and that was the price on the one I was looking at.
Now, I’m on the Ravelry LYSO board enough to realize there are some really outrageous yarn shop customers– and I’m not saying that you need to go overboard or give away all your margins to retain your customers– but I really and truly believe that those businesses who can build trust– even on the most minute level, will be the ones to forge ahead to greater success in 2010.
Let me know what your experiences are with building trust in your yarnie business? I’d love to hear your ideas…
OH, and if anyone has a 1/2 size violin for sale? I’ve got $600 for you– but only if I trust you!
Stitchcraft Marketing
1 Comment
  • Cindy (Maxfun)
    Posted at 23:30h, 22 February Reply

    I so totally agree! The LYS where I work part-time often has older items with outdated price tags on them. I’m really not sure what my co-workers or the owner do with these when they ring up sales, but if I see one, I ring it up at the marked price. It only seems fair to me.

    The owner would like us to insist that all students (I teach, too) use only products purchased in the store. But our classes stress that you can work on anything you want — they’re not project-specific — and students tend to keep coming for quite few sessions, some staying indefinitely. They often want to try something on old yarn they have in their stash and I let them. If I don’t trust that they’ll buy something later on (they always do), then it’s not much of a relationship — either student/teacher or customer/shop.

    Same thing goes with helping fix problems that walk-in customers present. I never turn my nose up at something in Red Heart or other yarns we don’t sell. I help them out and inevitably they come back and buy from us.

    It’s so true that one customer experience gets passed along to at least 10 other people — and I want that experience to be positive, even though it’s not my store. And with today’s online communities, it’s highly likely that a lot more than 10 people are hearing the story!

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