Cash, please!

We have one of those signs at the check out area in our store asking people to pay with cash on purchases under $8. Most people don’t even notice it. And truth be told, we don’t even say anything unless it’s a ridiculously low dollar amount where the customer wants to use a card.  I’ve seen people pull out a card for a $1 purchase.

In an electronic world, few people carry cash anymore, and even fewer people carry a checkbook!

But in actuality, we’re only asking people to accommodate us by paying with cash. That’s because we can’t require it. The credit card companies have seen to that. We’re not allowed to refuse a card in any instance. Nor can we charge an additional fee for a credit card/debit card purchase, though I’ve had that happen to me on numerous occasions.

But part of the reason we have the sign there is to educate our customers. See, most people are unaware that banks and card companies charge retailers fees to accept credit and debit cards.  In an amazingly convoluted manner, there are different percentages for different types of cards (personal, business, rewards, debit, credit) and for different companies (MC/VISA, Discover, AX). Then there’s the fee just to “call in” the charge. This doesn’t even cover all the charges associated with internet purchases. It’s so complicated that, even though I have to deal with it, I couldn’t accurately explain it to you.

What I can explain though, is that at the end of the month, those card companies take a big chunk of my sales right out of my account. Ouch.

But what most people don’t realize is that the smaller the sale, the relatively larger the portion that goes out the window. Say for a $2.95 card, on average, about $.35 goes to the banks, or 12%.  On a $1000 wedding order, it’s more like 3.5%. While that’s still a very large amount, it’s the nickels and dimes that kill us.  Every time someone pulls out a credit or debit card for a $3 purchase, I cringe. And I wonder if they know what they’re doing to the cost of items they purchase.

Because it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that retailers have to recover those fees in some way, and that typically means that prices have to go up. They have to recover their lost earnings in some way. Credit card companies are also looking for ways to recover their lost earnings, all the while offering miles, money back and anything else they can think of. It’s not out of the goodness of their heart. The money comes from retailers, which ultimately means it comes from you and me, the consumer.


Wedding Etiquette - doesn't anybody care anymore?

I love owning a stationery store.  I realize just how much I love it when I think of giving it up. That’s when it hits home.  But one thing I don’t love is feeling like the ‘keeper of etiquette.’  Afterall, why is that my job?  Well, I guess it is part of my job. And part of what sets Sarah B. Fine Stationery (and other professional stationers with a brick and mortar shop) apart from the others is our knowledge of etiquette.

Much of our business stems from weddings. And a lot of our business has gone away. Either it’s the internet, where customers get no assistance, or just friends or “graphic designers” or other shops where they make your invitations for you (high-end or cheap), I have seen or heard every faux pas imaginable. That includes minor things such as the beginning of each line being capitalized (you know, Word does that when you’re typing on the computer) to mis-spelled words (I guess the “designer” didn’t know how to spell hors d’oeuvres) to really big things like, no where on the invitation was there a last name! (This was an invitation my husband and I received and couldn’t figure out who it was from! A bit of detective work – the return address was the parent’s address, luckily, but that was the only hint of who these people were!) All the way to the granddaddy of no-no’s, the dreaded gift registry on an invitation.  I can’t tell you how many people ask me about that, wanting to add it to the invitation. There are a lot of grey areas where I tell the customer “it’s up to you” but this isn’t one of them.

Stickers are another one. You’ve just spent hundreds (thousands?) of dollars on beautiful invitations. This is one of the biggest events of your lifetime, and perhaps one of the most expensive of yours and/or your parents. Everything is just so. From the flowers to the dress to the venue and food.  Now you’re not going to even bother to write out your guests names and addresses, you’re going to print them off on a label? Well, it’s a clear one with a pretty font, you say. I’d be rich if I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that. For an event this important, take the time, make the effort to use your best handwriting to address the envelopes! It makes it so much nicer and so personal! This becomes YOUR invitation, not just a bunch of envelopes you dumped in the mail.

Probably the invitation that upset me the most was written so that the bride’s parents invited people to the wedding where the groom was listed before the bride. So it went:

Parents of the bride
request the honor of your presence at the marriage of
John Smith
Susan Doe… etc.
I’ve NEVER seen that done on an American wedding invitation. The bride is always first. Always. We stressed how that was incorrect, to no avail. They liked the way it ‘flowed.’ I still feel sick over that one. I feel it reflects badly on the groom and his family. I feel it reflects badly on the bride and her family. I also feel it reflected horribly on our store. But the customer insisted.

At Sarah B., I feel it is our obligation to teach people about etiquette. Ultimately, if they choose to go a different way, and they do, it’s up to them. But at least they have done so knowingly, not through ignorance.

But why do I get so worked up about it? Why is it so important to me for people to do it “right”? I guess part of it is that it’s a reflection on me, personally, and my store. But it goes way beyond that. I often feel like I’m trying to hold the line, no, floodgates, against all the people who just don’t care. Some people just don’t know, and are so happy when we tell them the proper etiquette. But others just don’t care, and they will openly, proudly admit that. I don’t get it. Why not care? Why isn't it important to make things nice, to do things correctly or politely, to hold on to some semblance of tradition? Why is the attitude that “this is good enough” good enough?  It really saddens me.