Just Want To Vent

gillie(z6NJ)July 13, 2005

I just wanted to vent about customers who complain about

prices. We decided this year to raise some of our prices

on the produce we grow on our farm. We all know about the

increased cost of production this year and somehow we have

to maintain a decent return for our labor and product. We

haven't raised our prices in years and years. Why does

the consumer expect their food prices to never change? We

try and joke and tell them at least they are getting the

same amount of produce for more money rather than paying

more for a product that is now made smaller than before.

Hats off the customer who does appreciate what we are trying to do for our community which is provide them with

the freshest produce daily. Thanks to this forum for letting me vent.

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You have a legitamite complaint.
One way I've seen people combat the negetivity is by offering
a little info on growing methods and practices.
One couple here sells thier produce at fairly good profit
but they do well because they have little signs and brocures with pictures of their farm, explaining thier farming practices and all the hard work they have poured into making an excellent product. By doing this, they have also established a returning clientel.



    Bookmark   July 13, 2005 at 10:43PM
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I'll join your vent! I think folks that complain have always complained and will continue to complain forever - it's just their nature. They feel that offering their opinion is an important part of doing business, it is why they are shopping in an environment where they are face to face with the vendor instead of a large grocery store with a clueless teenager running the cash register.

I also think that the consumer today expects to get everything at wholesale prices. I blame this on big box retailing. Quality means little to people that only have so much money. The way a person feels about money and the way they spend their money is completely different between the "have's" and the "have not's". Vendors at markets with a big $$$ clients can sell at higher prices. But you usually pay more to participate in those markets - its a catch 22.

Where I sell, the crowds are mostly bargain hunters. Some of the shoppers want to comment on every little thing, whether they are going to buy it or not. The ones that irk me the most are the mothers that send their kids over to beg for some large item, wanting it at a "little girl discount price" at least this is what mom says to me when she swoops in to close the deal. I never give in. I usually get so irritated at the mother that I simply walk away and let her explain to the child why they aren't getting the item. I never cave. I don't need their business. (I don't sell food, I sell plants and garden decor)

You don't have to kiss anybodies you-know-what! Conduct business in the style that is most comfortable for YOU. At any market there are some very sour people selling and selling out every weekend - they sorta break the rules about selling. They have their customer base. They have built their reputation. They make money without following all the rules. If you feel like apologizing for the price increase, go ahead. But sometimes the customer is just wanting to comment about something with no intention of really buying or really listening.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 9:53AM
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jayreynolds(zone 6/7)

It's important to let the customers know why prices have to be increased. For the most part the cost increase will be due to inflationary pressures of supplies, fuel, and other costs of doing business. Most people will understand this because it happens to every business and product.

Secondly, make sure that you get a handle on what sort of wages you are making, then let them know that you expect a raise once in awhile like most of them do, while if they expect you to lower prices, they are actually asking you to take a wage cut. This is, of course, if you are indeed a producer and not just buying and selling, or if they are genuinely asking for a wholesale deal.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 3:23PM
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Thanks for the suggestions. It was just a trying day yesterday, having been up since 4am and then having to deal
with customers when they learned of our price increases. We
do try and explain to them about our increased cost of
production. They understand about the gas increase, but we
also inform them of the increased cost of fertilizer, seed, etc. We have found that in our area if you lower the cost
of a particular veggie, they don't buy more because its
cheaper. They still buy their normal amount but they just
get it at a lower cost. We thought this year we might
have sale weeks on certain vegetables just so the customer
feels like we understand that they also have had increases
in their cost of living. Ah the joys of being in retail.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 3:49PM
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Hi Gillie,

I feel for you. Yes I do. I was in the same boat.

What I did was the same thing I did with my farm. I focused on the 90% that was living and not the 10% that was dieing or getting eaten by gophers, ground squirrel etc.

There is just a group of people that want everything for free, but then they complain cuz they didn't get enough. Forget about em. You will never please them. Stick to ur guns and sell a good product and a good price and just enjoy urself.

Before I focused on the 90% I was always in a bad mood but then I focused on the good and forgot all about the other part.

Good luck and God bless,

    Bookmark   July 23, 2005 at 4:55PM
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Cheer up, Gillie -- the laborer is worthy of his hire (Luke 10). If your prices are fair, you need not apologize. Actually, I don't even think you need to explain unless you want to do so to the REASONABLE request.

Should you go out of business for lack of profit and/or job satisfaction, the folks will be scrambling to find somewhere to buy nice fresh stuff.

My response to the comment, "bread used to be 5¢", is, "Yes, and wages were 50¢ an hour."

    Bookmark   July 24, 2005 at 3:46PM
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Where are you in central NJ. I'm a small grower in South Brunswick, selling to a couple of restaurants.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 5:45AM
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geraldo(Cent. WA z6b)

"We have found that in our area if you lower the cost
of a particular veggie, they don't buy more because its
cheaper. They still buy their normal amount but they just
get it at a lower cost." Gillie
That is exactly what I have found over the years. Some people think that a Farmer's Market is supposed to be piled high with penny cheap produce. Well, you are already giving them fresher produce and often better varieties than what the trade handles and also they can see and talk with the person that grew their food. They are getting a bargain at the same prices that Wal-Mart (TRADEMARKED, RIGHTS RESERVED) sells for and they are gettin' it better.
I have thought of including a fuel surcharge on my sales. Only half in jest.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 6:50PM
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Have to chime in:

As a consumer, at my local farmers market, I expect to pay higher prices, but I also expect (and usually get) a superior product that is fresher.

i.e. I won't touch a peach except one from a farmers market or a farmstand or right from the orchard. The ones in the local stores are consistently terrible and mealy and have no taste.

I feel the consumers in my area feel the same way... good luck all!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 4:43PM
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I had the audacity to raise my fresh egg prices from one dollar a dozen to $1.25. One woman just shoved a dollar in my hand and said "this is the going price". Excuse me? I bought farm eggs twenty years ago at a dollar a dozen. What other food has remained the same price for twenty years? My feed prices have tripled in ten years. Tripled. I checked out the prices for brown, cage-free eggs in the supermarkets and the going rate is around $3.49 and they complain because I'm charging about 1/3 a market's price?

I understand where you are coming from.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2005 at 9:31PM
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pngrower(z4 WI)

Yep people are the same everywhere! If they are your loyal customer and want what you sell they will buy it. Otherwise tell them to go somewhere else. You have legitimate paying customers to deal wuth and don't have the time to explain why tomatoes are $2/lb and not $1.50 when gas has nearly doubled in the past year. Seriously. I have told many people to go to another vendor if they don't like my prices or product. I don't need to hear their complaining when I have ten other people in line with cash in hand! As for the people who complain every week their stuff was no good...well here's your $ back go someplace else. Now obviosly this doesn't work if you are at a roadside stand and not a farmers market! That is a little different!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2005 at 10:24PM
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i have 2 prices. take it or leave it.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2005 at 5:19AM
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sandy0225(z5 Indiana)

And what if you're new? I can't get any customers at all at our organic market. There are two guys that have been there for years, they know everyone, and no one will buy off me unless I practically give my stuff away. The funny part is, those two guys invited me to set up and now they are practically snubbing me every week. I've been selling organically grown heirloom tomatoes that look good for $1 a pound, which is giving them away....

    Bookmark   August 26, 2005 at 6:45PM
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PonderGuy(PA - Eastern)

How many vendors are at this market? Is it producer only? Are they also selling heirlooms? Is their price higher or lower?

I guess there are a number of reasons the customers are not yet flocking to your stand. I sell at two different markets(Sat/Sun). They are worlds apart as far as customers and other vendors. The Saturday market is in a small city with a "depressed" downtown. Most customers here are looking for the bargain..."a tomato is a tomato so where can I get the cheapest". We have a number of hobby growers/backyard growers that show up in the summer and "give their stuff away!!!" (.25 for a tomato, quart basket for $1.50) These sellers usually have a box or two to sell, sell out in a couple hours and pack up and leave. I refuse to change my prices to compete since they will only lower prices further. One vendor's only goal is to "sell out" each day. They laugh at how they were able to undercut a produce reseller who was at the market before it went producer-only.

My sales this summer have gone down since these people have started selling, but I captured the early market and established a loyal following of customers who come directly for my tomatoes. I am sure my sales will pick up again in a couple weeks.

The other market is a very "vibrant" farmers market. There are 15-20 farmers there selling a wide variety of produce in a fairly upscale small town. These customers show up with baskets/carts/bags and really shop the market...often making a couple of trips to their car to unload. Right now pretty much every vendor has tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, etc. The key at this market is to have something a little different than everyone else. Heirlooms go very well at this market as do unique varieties of veggies.

Don't give up yet...try another market...raise prices...add some signs explaining the heirlooms...add some photos of the farm/garden...sample if allowed...

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2005 at 3:33PM
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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)


Realize it takes time to develop your business and the people at your markets that are doing well have been at it for a lot longer than you. Go to some ag conferences this coming winter and do all the workshops you can find that are dealing with marketing direct to the customer. Figure out what your weaknesses were this season and improve on those for next season.

No one has a ready made customer base and few people are good at marketing themselves and their produce at first and almost no one makes a profit the first couple of years they grow for market. But if you keep at it and keep learning how to grow and sell what you grow in a few years you will be making money and someday you may even be able to make a living.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2005 at 11:20AM
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Bob_Piper(NE Oklahoma)

I was born into and raised up in the family retail furniture store which my grandad established in 1919.
My grandad and my dad and, eventually I myself were always good, responsible, honest retailers. Our prices always reflected a legitimate price with a reasonable profit built in. There was always someone in town who was selling their stuff cheaper than us. According to the 1920 city directory there were 12 furniture stores in town including ours and by 1970 we were the only one of the original 12 still in business. Why? Because we consistently offered good quality merchandise at a fair price, stood behind what we sold and took care of our customers. And we made a good living at it.
I apply those same principles to my farmer's market biz and it still works just like it always has.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2005 at 9:48AM
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sandy0225(z5 Indiana)

Thanks for the encouragement and ideas, folks. It just gets frustrating when you know you have good tomatoes and everyone goes to the other people because they know them. I guess if I hang in there long enough, they'll know me too. I think I'll raise my prices back up to $2.50 a lb like they were and try to put up some signs explaining the heirloom tomatoes. We are allowed to sample, and since I did that last week with the heirloom cherry rainbow mix, I did sell out the 16 pints that I brought with me. It's a small market, just started a couple of years ago and most people don't seem to know about it yet. Those that do know have been buying from the other vendors since the market opened.
I actually am making money at it because I'm a stay at home mom and I really already paid for these plants,and my greenhouse heat bill, by selling tomato plants this spring. These were just extra plants that I put out, and then had too many tomatoes to possibly think about using here at home. So basically they were already paid for anyway. I have made between $50-100 a week this summer selling the tomatoes, and met a lot of nice people, so I'll quit whining now....lol...thanks!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2005 at 8:54PM
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Americans are spoiled by low cost food just as we are by low cost gasoline. Compared to the rest of the world, we eat and drive cheaply. Also, Americans benefit by government policies that keep prices low. And, look at the couponing done by grocery chains. Farmers have to be properly compensated for their work. Explain your price increases, your costs of production, etc. Educate your customers ... as best you can.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rural Life 2.0

    Bookmark   September 24, 2005 at 12:53PM
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jumpinjuniper(6A Nova Scotia)

The price of everything eventually increases. If they're complaining explain that your giving them top quality product. But other than that don't sell for less and don't cater to those who keep complaining, especially those who expect to get something for nothing. There is no free lunch. If they don't want to pay for top quality let them suffer the ills of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. How cheap

    Bookmark   September 29, 2005 at 10:07PM
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Colorado_west(z5 W Co)

I only had one guy come and say tomatoes were high. One woman wanting red hot peppers want to come and pick my peppers when I quit picking. I told her I pick the red for stringing. FREE of course. Another guy wanted to know what I would charge for tomatoes for canning if he came and picked his own. This has not been a tomato year as late and won't ripen what there is. Slugs, and tomato fruit worms. Rain rotted and cracked a lot and the holes from the bugs you toss more. And I am not the only one with late tomatoes and it frosted 3 times last week and we have had two nights with out frost and due to have hard freeze any time. Had a guy come tell me the other guy was cheap on the melons and he was doing this to the other guy I was cheaper and so on. I planned to tell him if he tried it again to go buy from the other guy then. I have found most people are nice.

People here make the rounds to see the prices and so on what there is, Very small market. This my second year and even with few tomatoes not selling good. I could sell more canning tomatoes. But not a lot more. Not as many people coming to market as last year. People are not buying at least from me. Earlier when so hot they want tomatoes and fruit. I feel I am getting fair share of sales and I may not make as much but not as much stuff either. Market was trying this year to get in more people, entertainment and ads. Economy here, or what? Some people just like to complain and others just don't have the money. More tried to have small gardens too I think. One lady wanting canning tomatoes said she put in 45 plants and could pick enough for couple jars every few days. Would not ripen. She asked around and was told they had canning tomatoes at $22 a bushel and she told me she could not afford that. I heard this from lots their tomatoes no good or not ripening or Curly top got them. This is tomato growing area too. Cannery use to have acres and acres of them here. I have never seen tomatoes do like this year. I swear I have tossed out at least half and then put the other poor in to canning to sell cheap. Mine venting is just rotten weather this year. I do find most people nice and they sack up their stuff and tell me what and pay for it. I did raise my prices a little this year from last but keep to same price for the season. Although I have boxes and bags of anaheim peppers and this will be my last week to sell I think and they had gone slow this year. I am debating to put them on special . But I doubt I would sell any more as not many coming. Is it going to get worst or better next year????? Do I do a market garden again or quit. ????? I know this area they will not pay high prices. I have been very discourage this year overthese tomatoes and that was what sold last year.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2005 at 12:07PM
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