Passing designer discounts to clients or friends...
Boy, who wouldn’t love that!
A designer discount. No matter how small it may be.
It is a hot commodity.
I’ve done it. But whenever I have, I ended up regretting it.
It’s never so simple as just letting someone have the discount.
Inevitably, there’s more time (time = money) that has to be spent to make sure that the friend or client gets that product and discount. And then, I have to intervene if there are any problems or issues; which would involve more time. Time I could spend making my hourly rate; time spent working for my other clients who are anxiously waiting.
So, it actually costs me money to hand over my discount.
This is something a lot of people tell me that their designer friends do and I think a lot of clients expect it. They think that if they pay an hourly rate for design, they should get the product for free. I understand how they could think that, but selling a product is actually quite time-consuming and involves risk.
When clients pay hourly, they are paying for design time and time for quoting products. In my studio, after their deposits for the product have been made, I no longer charge for time spent.
So, a lot of time is spent on managing the purchasing and receipt of goods and that is factored into the cost of the item. That’s why I can’t give away discounts to clients. I have to charge for that time somewhere.
Having a discount also means that you have a relationship with vendors.
Those vendors expect repeat business and will tend to your needs based on the business you bring them.
Most vendors do not want designers to give away their discounts.
Vendors make more money if they sell retail. So, when they try to get repeat business from someone like a designer who has an ongoing need for their products or services by extending discounts to them, it could be that they don’t want the designer to take liberties and just hand over that privilege to anyone.
I once gave away a discount to a client/friend who is a real estate agent...
It was for shutters for her house. I told my client that she could deal direct with the supplier; and if she paid them and she dealt with all of it herself, she could have the discount. I thought that even the supplier might find this was a good idea, seeing as how this real estate agent sold a lot of houses in the area and many of her clients might want shutters.
Boy, was I wrong.
I got a heated phone call from that supplier, and was told NOT to give away my discount again. That everything had to come through my studio and this: “What do you think we’re here to do, anyway? We need to make money. This is a business!”
“Okay. I’m sorry”, I said sheepishly.
So, are you getting the picture? It’s kind of risky for the designer in terms of their relationship with their vendor.
Let’s talk about discounts from online sources:
I know you all know that certain online retailers that have more exclusive products -- retailers like Restoration Hardware, West Elm, Ballard Design, etc. -- do give shopping cards to designers. The discounts are small and, frankly, you get a much better deal by shopping their sales. The designer discounts they provide are not available on sale items either.
Borrowing your designer friend’s card to shop won’t really work. Now, with some of these retailers, the designer has to buy the item(s) you want with their own credit card and has to, sometimes, call it in with a special account. So, it’s not easy to pass that discount off to someone. If a designer purchases something with their credit card, then it’s going to show up in their accounting and that requires... accounting ...something we all hate because it takes way too much time. And you know what time equals ... right?
How about discounts from the local brick and mortar stores?
The discounts designers receive from local furniture or lighting stores or other retail outlets are usually small, somewhere around 10-20%. - there's not much of a discount there. The designer must buy the product for you and put it through their accounting (more time) and, again, retailers don’t really like a designer giving away their discount. It’s there for the designer to make money and to give them motivation to do business with them again. So it risks that designer’s relationship with her vendor.
I know, it doesn’t seem fair.
Most designers keep this privilege for family members and very-very close personal friends.
I know, however, that some designers do this. It would seem so easy just looking at it at face value. But, it’s more complicated than you think. There’s a reason that designers get discounts. Because this is just how our business works.