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Ask Molly: How to Handle Requests for Discounts


By May 6,2016  0

How to handle requests for discounts

Dear Molly,

“Hi! I’m a big fan! Can you waive your fees?”

I know this isn’t an apples to apples question but I’m just running this by you because as a small business owner in a resort town (I’m a chef and own a restaurant and hotel) I’m constantly getting requests for discounts, charity contributions, and the “Hey I’m a friend of the owner, can I have a free chocolate stout mousse?” I’m just wondering how you handle those requests? Service is everything in my business but margins are thin and I need some good ways to handle the constant requests without upsetting possible customers or breaking the bank.


James, Summer Kitchen Café

Dear James,

This is a very timely question because I’ve been refining my own language to help my potential customers understand which of my services come with a price tag and which services I might do gratis. I have been very clear about what I am and am not willing to discount with my consulting work, but not with my recruiting services, referral services, or coaching. If I’m not clear, how can I expect my clients to be clear?

For example, I do offer discounts to my consulting clients for pre-paying or for being non-profit, but that’s it. And if a prospective client really pushes back on my rate, I recommend a few other consultants with lower rates so they don’t feel like they hit a hard “no”. The prospective client has options and thus, I have delivered a service.

It will help you to have a clear plan for how much and under what circumstances you’re willing to offer discounts, complimentary items, or charitable donations. For example, some organizations will pick only one or two charities to support each year or have a set amount that they give to charities. That way when they are approached to support other organizations they can clearly explain their own guidelines and offer the possibility of support in the future.

With regards to your customers, you could have a few options to let them feel special that doesn’t involve busting out your best bottle of wine. Know what you’re willing to give and then focus on the language—“Ah! Well then you have to sit at the best seat in the house! You need to come back on a Monday when we have the special chef menu! Of course we have this delicious cookie (rather than the chocolate stout mousse) for you…”

I know you know your business better than I do but the key is being clear for yourself about what you’re willing to give and then being ready to present those options to your customers.


Ask Molly is my weekly column where I answer your questions about the things that are keeping you from truly enjoying your work. I can’t help you with your personal life or your love life, but if you have questions about your work life, I’ve got you covered. Drop me a line below and ask me a question! – Molly

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