steve duross - craftsman. artisan. entrepreneur. musings on running and growing a small business

the rules of reciprocation

me and my big mouth. i should learn to control my need for joining in the conversation. cory was handling the request for a donation like a champ. then, upon hearing "well maybe if you have a bunch of sample sizes that you're not using", i blurted out a tiny bit of information that eventually led to the woman's ire.

"it costs us almost as much to produce a 2oz size as it does to produce a full size." i said. it was not snotty or dismissive or curt. i was merely offering a factoid. she retorted something about the price of the 2oz size being so high but i had already moved on to a ringing phone and a client checking-in for the salon. needless to say she returned the purchased goods 15 minutes later. i wasn't trying to be a dick. i simply wanted to be informative. unfortunately, like everyone else, there are moments when i can be thoughtless and obtuse.

the rules of reciprocation are pretty set. when one person does another a favor, there is an unwritten rule that at some point in time the favor will be returned. you shoveled my walk during a storm, i'll buy your candy bars to support new team uniforms. you help me secure a loan, put me up for retailer of the year, write a great review, send in your friends... "much obliged" my gratitude is assured. somewhere along the line, i may be asked for a favor in return. never specifically asked in return mind you, but that's how most societies across the globe for thousands of years have operated. not actually quid pro quo so much as being a good neighbor. a good friend. a kind person. an active member in our society. sure we will donate a basket to your kid's school fundraiser. this is what we do. community. relationships.

the store itself is an enterprise, not a relationship. we often have relationships with our customers but if we gave to everyone who asked, i would be forced to work for no pay. seriously. we are delighted that many people think so highly of our products that they want to include us in whatever is going on in their life. we are touched that there are so many people who are working to make the world a better place. to support kids, feed and shelter the homeless, offer low or no income women healthcare, fight for their fathers/mothers/kids/families who have suffered from disease. like you, when it gets personal, we roll up our sleeves and join in. give until it hurts.

rarely does anyone ever assume this is the case. we do not have nor do we wish to create a foundation. often money gets diverted to the bureaucracy of any organization. we believe charity begins at home. those in the house who wish us to support their charitable work are first up at bat. then our personal relationships with friends and clients. then a pool of requests that we choose from each year that vary according to emailed requests from the prior year.

but sometimes i say something or do something or simply stand in the wrong place at the wrong time and poof! away goes any feeling of goodwill i might have enjoyed from our giving because inevitably, someone gets disappointed or offended (or quite literally), they expect something specific in return. the following is our template for saying no to most of the average 15 requests per week:

Dear Whomever,

Thank you for thinking of us for your event/charity/organization/request.

At duross & langel, we receive over a dozen requests each week for donations. Having raised money for silent auctions and raffle events, I respect how difficult it can be to not only procure donations, but to have to ask.

Each year we focus our contributions to a list of charities we personally hold dear. In most cases we do this privately and quietly.

In the store we often raise funds for various charities through our business by apportioning a percentage of the sale of our own products. It has become our company policy that contributions should flow directly to those most in need rather than through events, and we prefer to limit our donations to smaller direct impact charities rather than large foundations.

We do not offer our goods for swag bags. Though the perception of greater exposure through charity is often suggested as an incentive for our participation, at duross & langel we believe that giving becomes it’s own reward. We wish you the best of luck with your fundraising event and thank you again.

Warm Regards,

Steve Duross

though the rules of reciprocation do not apply to commerce, we hope people never stop asking for our support. and we promise to do our best to support all communities. directly.