Last week, I read a very nicely restrained rant by my friend John Bottom at the Beyond blog. I wanted to leave a comment, but my computer was having a tiff with John’s blogging software so, I thought I’d respond here at the Savvy blog. John used the story of a local coffee shop that has recently begun charging for formerly free WiFi to illustrate the short-sighted trap that many service companies fail to see until it’s too late and they’ve lost customers.

Rather than re-tell his story, you can go read it here. I’ll wait.

So – crazy, right? How could the coffee shop manager not realize that the WiFi surcharge just gave the clientele the perfect excuse to “cheat” the first chance they get?

I have my own example to share:

There’s a great little sandwich shop in my town that serves up a wide variety of freshly prepared and super tasty treats. My whole family was addicted to this place until the day my dad asked for an extra coffee cup (so he could share his Diet Coke with my daughter) and was told he’d have to pay $0.35 … for the empty cup.



It’s a classic case of being nickel and dimed to death. The Coffee Cup Incident took place over a year ago, but my dad still resolutely refuses to patronize the offending establishment and has since found a new place he prefers. Talk about an anti-marketing decision. Sure – the guy covered the cost of his stinkin’ coffee cup, but he probably lost $60 or more in annual income from my dad’s lunch orders.

Is the math really that hard?

Whether you’re selling coffee, sandwiches, printer cartridges, farm equipment, high tech software solutions, or cell phone services never lose sight of the long term relationship you’re trying to build. What may at first seem like a smart, bottom-line move (charging for WiFi, extra coffee cups, tech help calls, or whatever) may turn out to be the thing that puts a wedge between you and your customers – giving them an easy out when someone more attentive comes along. Is it really worth having them walk out on you to save the $0.35 coffee cup or the $1.35 tech help call? Really?

Have you encountered similarly small-minded companies that lack Big Picture vision, choosing to focus instead on every single nickel and dime? Do you still do business with them?