How do you respond when shoppers ask you to discount merchandise?

MRA Vice President, Communications and Marketing

One of the favorite parts of my job is talking to retailers. I hear plenty of bizarre stories, interesting observations – and yes, a little outrage at times – from those who have been through the retail wars and back.

I want to use this space to let you vent, and maybe we’ll all learn from each other’s ideas on how to handle the more annoying circumstances that retailers face.

Let’s face it – working retail is not easy. Customers can get on your last nerve. Employees can be irresponsible with your beloved store. Suppliers may not come through for you.

How do you deal with it? I’d love to hear your observations on the examples and questions I’ll be throwing out in this space. Email me at with your thoughts, and feel free to let me know if you disagree or have a better way to handle situations.

Here goes with the first example:

Customer, after “showrooming” – i.e., price-comparing on her smartphone: “Can you take 20 percent off this item?”

Your possible responses:

What you want to say:
My price is what it is. You want to pay it, I’m there.

What you could say:
When I opened my shop, I decided I was going to be a quality retailer and I wanted to be known for my store’s quality service and products. I hope you can support that.
We want to offer quality customer service and that means our price may not be quite as competitive as others. But I hope you find that the experience we offer when you walk in our shop is worth the slight markup.

What Barb Stein, of Great Northern Trading Company, says:
If the request is reasonable, I match it and follow up with: ‘Isn’t this great? You’re walking out with it today. You don’t have to wait for it.’
If I can’t match it, I’m honest with the customer:
‘I would love to do that for you, but I just can’t.’

I want your feedback! Email me at, and your suggestions may be in the next Retailer! Please include your name, store and city.

For the next issue, help me answer this question:

What do you do when someone comes in asking you to donate an item to their charity?