Bad business decisions: Part I

by karlhenk

This is Part I in a running installment of “Bad Business Decisions.”

Youngstown, Ohio — Here are three key words for any establishments selling craft, import or microbrews.

Give. Courtesy. Samples.

Part of going to a bar or restaurant that serves craft beer as a consumer is the ability to be open-minded; customers, smart ones, don’t go because they want a Coors or Bud. They go because they want to try unique beverages.

Businesses that refuse free courtesy samples aren't making a smart business decision.

At a new establishment in the Mahoning Valley, I witnessed a man sitting at the bar who had spent about $20 on an appetizer, entree and a pint of beer.

He noticed I was drinking a Kentucky Bourbon Ale and wanted to try one himself.

“Can I get a taste of that?” he asked the waiter, pointing at my glass.

The bartender told him there was a rule forbidding courtesy samples.

The customer was clearly peeved because he had spent $20 and wasn’t offered an ounce of free beer (and not 10 minutes earlier, a co-owner had presented me with a free sample.)

It’s perplexing why a business wouldn’t offer a customer a courtesy sample. In this example, there was — at worst — a 50-50 chance of the sample resulting in a $5.50 purchase. Had the customer hated the sample, the business still appeased him for an incredibly minimal cost.

This business strategy isn’t a foreign idea.

Costco, the membership warehouse chain, is probably the most well-known business that employs the courtesy sample strategy on a full-time basis. Its sales rose 14.2 percent during the last year.

Other courtesy sample business plans are notoriously successful and often a commonplace among small businesses.

As a new business, this restaurant may have lost a customer on its first day, and all over a stinkin’ ounce of beer.

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