The Polar Bears have had it…

Recently I was on the street in a downtown area, and I came across a group of young people with clipboards.

One of them engaged me to share the plight of the polar bears, and all the bad things that are happening to them because of global warming.

My policy on donating to charities is twofold:
1. I have a group of organizations that align closely with my values to which I donate the bulk of my charitable contributions, and
2.  If someone has a good pitch, I’ll usually give them something — 10 or 20 or 50 dollars, because I respect the work they are doing.

OK.  So I want to help the Polar Bears…

I didn’t need to hear a long story about the Polar Bears. I understood the issue.
I cared.

This young woman was selling her heart out so I said, I’ll give you $50.  She said, “I can’t take cash”, what you need to do is sign up here for an ongoing monthly contribution.  Your credit card will be billed each month for the amount you choose. (The lowest monthly contribution on the form was $20.)

I understand you can’t take cash, I said, but I am not going to sign up for a monthly donation.  Can’t you check off somewhere on your form that this donation is a 1-time payment?  NO.  And then she proceeded to tell me why I was wrong to ask.

How to prevent your customers from giving you money

So let me get this straight.  Here is a chance to get my name, my email, and my credit card information – and $50.  And the opportunity to remind me forever after about the polar bears, or other related causes, and ask me for another contribution.  And the answer is NO, we can’t do that…

So I started thinking about all the things businesses do to prevent their customers from giving them money.

The root of it is that buying is an emotional decision at any level for any product or service.

In the mood…

I thought it was very well put by a shop owner I know in Carmel which is a fairly wealthy town.  Earlier in the year he was telling me, “It’s really hard.  Clearly, my customers have money, that’s not the issue.  The issue is that they are not in the mood to spend it right now”.

Think about that.  The opportunity of having a customer who is in the mood to buy.  Wouldn’t you want to do everything possible to tip them over the edge to buy from you, right now, while they are in the mood?

I was in the mood to help the polar bears.  I was turned away.

If you have a customer who is in the mood to give you money right now.  Take it!

More income-prevention techniques

Here are some additional things I have seen businesses do to “break the mood”, and fail to close the deal.

1. We don’t offer this as a product, only as a service.  Or, we don’t offer this as a service, only as a product.  Know how your customers want to buy what you offer, and offer it the right way.  Yes, it’s hard for you, but that’s why you get the profits — from dealing with the hard parts and making it easy for the customers to get what they want.

2. “Please call us to order”. No online purchase option. Then staff the call center with incompetent, annoying people, who can’t help, or answer questions, let alone sell.

3. We don’t’ take American Express. Get over it.  It’s a little more expensive to you as a merchant.  But people like using their Amex card, and often have business reasons to do so.  You are just demonstrating that you are not a real business.

4. This product isn’t available yet
– well sell something that IS, now, and include an upgrade to the thing they want later.

5. Continuing to sell
after the person is ready to buy.  There’s almost nothing more annoying.  Once the customer wants to buy – STOP selling!!

6. Or the ego play. The big executive likes to be the one to officially close the deal and do the smiling and handshaking.  So the working rep gets everything done for the close, but then has to wait for the exec’s calendar to free up to put on the big show.  Just close the deal!  The customer is in the mood to buy NOW.

Dear Charity Organizations,
In my humble opinion, you should give this army of enthusiastic young people (not to mention the polar bears) a chance, and let them close the deal on one-time contributions and get email addresses of actual donors that you can upsell later.  They are working their hearts out for you,  and you have tied their hands.  I’ve since, been similarly approached in two more cities, and my one-time donation refused.  PS. Because i wrote the blog post, I have made a donation to help the endangered polar bears.  But in general, by the time I get back to my computer and have the chance to go to your website, find the program I was interested in, to make a one-time donation, I am no longer in the mood.

Remember, Your product and your value proposition are only part of the reason people buy. If all of that is great, getting them to part with their money is still a personal, human, emotional action.

Whether you are selling shoes, subscriptions, or enterprise technology, make sure you don’t miss the mood.

Related Articles on Customer Care:

Customer Cost or Care?
Customer Value and the P&L
Service or Torture?

You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her books RISE and MOVE.

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