What to do when people complain that your prices are too high

WHAT TO DO WHEN PEOPLE COMPLAIN THAT YOUR PRICES ARE TOO HIGH

Did you just get yet another angry email from someone complaining that your prices are too high?

Or you just got back from a craft show where you overheard passersby commenting about your high prices.

You’re hurt, disappointed, confused and upset.

But you’re not alone.

Here’s a screenshot of an email I got from someone really pissed off:

I don't get pricing

This brought up all sorts of emotions.

Fear.

Shock.

Anger.

The sender didn’t leave a legitimate email for me to write back so all I could really do was shrug it off.

Hate-mail like this proves that your target market and pricing really go hand in hand.

More hate-mail…

I received a lengthy email asking me why one of my bracelets was $135.

She seemed pretty upset and accused me of making her spend $135 on a handmade polymer clay bracelet when she could have bought gold or silver jewelry for the same price.

She wasn’t a paying customer, and I wasn’t even sure what point she was trying to make with her email.

Do I feel pressured to lower my pricing, after getting feedback like this?

Definitely!

But what the layman doesn’t understand is that a lot goes into pricing handmade items.

As business owners, we do have mortgages, bills and basic human needs to pay for.

Not to mention business expenses like website hosting, advertising, supplies, craft show fees and more.

How to respond

People who can’t afford or refuse to pay your items are just frustrated that they can’t have what they want.

I start by addressing that frustration and explain that I understand and know how it feels.

Next, I explain how I make my jewelry and how long each piece takes to make.

When you break it down for them, it starts to make more sense.

Instead of apologizing, I empathize. 

Because people just want to be heard and understood, I finish by thanking them for their email.

Premium pricing has a lot more to do with your business than you think:

You weed out all your prospects that don’t and won’t appreciate you and your contribution to the world.

It helps sustain what you do and allow you to give so much more.

When you price correctly, you set the foundation of growth for your company.

When you get complaints about your pricing and you know you’ve done your homework, trust your gut and stick to your guns.

What you can do to stop the complaints

  1. Consider rebranding
    • People complain about your prices because they’re not your ideal customer
    • You’re attracting the wrong people to your brand
    • Simple changes in your colors, font and logo can appeal to a different crowd of people
    • Photograph your products on models (if possible) and style the photoshoot to match your new branding
    • I personally rebranded the look of my shop and the complaints have gone away!
  2. Be explicit about your process
    • Explain why your products are priced the way they are
    • Show a video of you making your product so people can see how much time it takes to make and how detailed you get
    • Talk about your materials (in layman terms) and why they’re awesome
  3. Improve your website
    • Talk about the benefits that your product offers (What problems do your product solve? How will it make your customer feel?)
    • Have lots of beautiful product photography that will wow your customers
    • Create a smooth, seamless and positive shopping experience on your website for your customers
  4. Build credibility and trust
    • Get featured in magazines and popular publications so you raise your clout
    • Include a phone number on your website so customers can talk to a human being before placing their order (this makes them more comfortable buying from you)
    • Showcase testimonials from past happy customers

How do you react?

Have you gotten a similar email before?

Have your customers complained about your pricing?

How do you deal with it?

Let me know in the comments below!

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Comments

  1. says

    Wow, Mei… that’s *quite* the email!

    It’s really interesting to figure out what the business owner’s thought process/POV on pricing things is. Personally, if the price is a huge barrier, I wait it out for coupon codes or sales if I like it that much.

    I’m curious though. I appreciate that creative businesses appreciate themselves, but how does one tell when it goes beyond well-priced into over-priced territory?

    • says

      Hey Cathie!

      I think a good indication for when you’ve overpriced something is if NO ONE buys it.
      For example, I have a blueberry pie necklace that I initially priced at $33 because it was so time consuming to make compared to my other items priced at $28. No one bought it.

      I changed the price to $28 and found a way to streamline the production of the pies, and it sells really well!

      However that opens up another question:
      What if I raised all my prices in general – regular items $33, blueberry pie $38? I believe the effect would be different and would be a story for another day.

      The market you’re in can only take so much and we need to monitor what our competitors are doing for prices. Then we can position ourselves to be higher, the same, or lower than them.

      Sometimes it just comes down to value vs cost and trying to strike the perfect balance. And value can come in different forms – branding, customer service, benefits (how it makes your life better), community, experience.

  2. says

    Hi Mei, I’m still going along slowly after the course but have been asked to be a part of a local miniatures show (well the only and so big) so hopefully will get seen more there. Some people just don’ appreciate how much time has gone into R&D to get to a point of selling an item and that time is money. It not only takes time but also expertise in developing the product and I think that is what some people don’t get! Those who do never complain! G

    • says

      Hey Glynnis!

      You’re completely right! So much more goes into pricing that most people forget, that includes marketing costs! We also need to pay ourselves ;)

      Good luck with your miniatures show. It sounds like a really niche event which will be good for you!

  3. says

    Hi Mei.. thank you for sharing this kind of problem.. I just started this handmade business and after do some homework, I know my previous price is very very low.. so I have change the price already.. but after I change my price, my friend who bought some product from me before(at a very very low price), is surprise when she know my new items price.. And she told me that “you sell to other people that high price but don’t sell to me with that price ya..” which means she want me to sell her items at the previous price.. I didn’t say anything because I don’t know what to say.. And I will go to join a craft fair on next Saturday.. Actually I am not so sure will I make any sales on that day.. but I will still stick on using my new price formula… Sometimes I really need some article to support me just like your article.. Thank you very much.. Mei..

    • says

      Hey Rachel!

      Thanks for stopping by again. I really appreciate your comments!

      You bring up a good point. Sometimes friends and long time followers of your shop will notice your price hike and may complain or may even understand.
      I know your friend means well, but maybe she’s just not who you want as your customer. If you agree to charging her cheaper prices, she might be taking your precious time away from serving your better-paying customers. Saying no is hard but in exchange you are free from a promise to your friend that you might regret later. Don’t forget the 80/20 rule: 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers!

      Craft shows are really tricky and take a lot of work! But they are great for you to learn more about your target market. Best of luck and don’t worry if you don’t make a sale. At least then you’ll know not to do that craft fair again!

    • says

      I often charge my friends/family the wholesale price of the item so they feel special, but I still end up making what I need since that’s the price I would sell the product at in bulk to a store.

  4. says

    Thank you so much for your reply… I am really happy to see your reply.. I feel unbelievable that I can see your reply.. So so happy and thank you for your advice.. I am really glad that can meet someone like you.. Thank you so much.. Mei.. I always look forward on your next post.. Your posts are really help me a lot on managing a handmade business.. Thank you again to you.. Mei.. :)

  5. says

    Hi Mei,
    I recently happened upon your blog, maybe from Twitter? And I’ve really been enjoying your material. I also have had customers question my prices (more online than in person). Usually I’ve been lucky and have been able to nicely explain that the products that I create are handmade and completely custom, and that is the reason that customers pay more than what they would get through an online “warehouse” type of company. Most customers have understood this, but I definitely agree that the first few times, it makes you wonder if your pricing is correct. Great post!
    Thanks,
    Kathy

  6. says

    I agree with another commenter; if no one buys it.. its overpriced. I own BONFIM Jewelry, and I try to make my prices affordable. I look at a lot of similar jewelry companies who mark their stuff up incredibly.. and it definitely bothers me. I’m not talking about true handmade stuff – I’m talking about buying an arrowhead already plated for x amount of dollars, and attaching it to chain. Then, marking it up many many times over. That’s great for people who can afford it, but I don’t think its necessary to make it THAT expensive and most people can’t spend $150-$200 on a pendant necklace. If its handmade and involves hours and hours of work, then that’s a totally different story. The mark-up is to cover the artist’s time and talent.. when its not something someone else could easily make or buy and assemble.

    My prices are actually a little low right now, and I consider them introductory prices. I want people to love my jewelry and get my name out there. Even when I raise them, there won’t be a billion percent mark-up. As a consumer I appreciate FAIR prices, so as a business owner I want to OFFER fair prices. When I overhear people talking about my prices, its that they’re reasonable.

    • Mei says

      Hi Dana,

      I completely understand. Some jewelers are able to upcharge multiple times over because their market can afford to pay for them. Even if it’s just assembling pieces together.

      Your pieces are beautiful! And I agree, they are priced low for what they are. As long as you’re making a healthy profit and you’re paying yourself well, you’re in a good place!

  7. says

    I can’t believe how rude that first email is! I think the points you make though are good advice even for service based businesses. Pricing can be hard, but something I always try and remember is, when value is clear, decisions are easy.

  8. says

    Thank you so much for this valuable info! I’m just launching my new site, slowly moving away from Etsy, and this has helped a lot.
    There is so much to absorb!
    Anne

  9. says

    That email is inappropriate! I thought I received a bad one but it isn’t nearly as bad as that. My email said; “I will buy a set of dolls from you when you use reason to price them!” I could feel his frustration, yet looking back, perhaps I could have lowered the price. I have also learned that no matter how much I lowered my price, I will never be able to please everyone.
    Thank you for your encouraging words of wisdom Mei!

    • Mei says

      Oy vey, that’s definitely a hurtful comment to get. People can be so abrasive, especially online where there are no consequences.
      I’ve gotten fewer of these kinds of comments after I rebranded my business to appeal more to grown ups and less to children.

  10. says

    Thanks for your experience.

    It’s interesting. I have never had someone say my prices were too high, and I have unapologetically used a premium pricing level on all my business ventures. However, I always set up the businesses with premium branding. I think some small business owners try to impart their personal personality in their branding and…well, if you are a “nice” and demure woman in personality, that may come off in your branding. I see it frequently – sellers almost apologizing that they can’t just give the goods they love to make away.

  11. says

    Thank you for selling your bracelets for $135. I can’t afford a bracelet that expensive because I am on a small budget, BUT when I used to make polymer clay jewellery, people like you made it easier for people like me who were newer to the game and a little lacking in confidence, to sell their own items at a better price.
    You set the bar and when the bar is set low, everyone suffers. Now I make greeting cards and do wildly creative papercraft ( Chronic Fatigue and a torn muscle in my hand put an end to my polymer clay career) and I find that there are many people who UNDERsell their products and creativity- and often price things WAY too cheaply. This has several different outcomes- firstly, there is always someone who says, “If SHE can sell HER cards at that price, why can’t you?”, and then it also changes the perception of the buying market. They then see handmade cards as CHEAP, rather than special, unique, quality, one of a kind items.
    Sure, I sell my cards at a higher price that Suzy down the road does, but I use quality materials, each one of my cards is unique, I give my customers a little free gift with every order (and don’t tell them in advance) so they get a little special surprise- it might be a matching gift tag or some other small handmade paper goody….AND I try to beautifully package my cards in crisp cellophane with some butterfly confetti or something like that and a short handwritten note every now and again- so that buying a card becomes a special experience rather than a chore.
    So that my buyer feels special, feels valued.
    So that HAND MADE has a meaning.
    I know what it’s like not to be able to afford things- I’ve had that most of my life- so I also try to produce some cheaper items so that everyone can purchase something.
    So you have to ask yourself if the person is jealous (“Oh, I could make THAT..”. Well, what are you doing standing here with me at my craft show booth then, go make your own. Don’t let me hold you up.) Or just poor (in which case you can explain your pricing and that buying handmade is an experience not just a purchase- that one special item that makes you feel good every time you wear it, or each time you see it, or use it etc), or just cheap (just let that roll off like water off a duck’s back). Why are they saying whatever it is that they are saying? If you can get beyond taking it personally, you might even be able to make a friend, or grab a new customer.
    I also at one point used to make hand painted silk scarves that were really, really beautiful, I was quite stunned myself at how well they turned out, and I massively underpriced them because I thought it would be nice for the average person to have a luxury item, something special at a price they could afford- and yet still I got complaints about the price. My silk scarves were prettier than the ones being sold in the fancy stores and much cheaper, so it stung at first, and then I decided that I needed to sell them and promote them as a luxury item and increase the price. I still had people making comments, but I sold more at the better price- go figure THAT out. When you make something SPECIAL you are putting just a little of yourself into everything you do. You are giving someone your creativity and your time and your energy- don’t sell that too cheaply. Raise the bar so that people start to see that handmade is something precious to be valued. Help your buyers understand that it’s not just a purchase it’s a personal experience- and make sure it is, that;s how I feel :)
    I felt offended for you about that email, How could someone be so rude? I have had people be almost that rude with me. Sometimes you can get something positive from it, other times you just have to go and buy a nice bar of chocolate and grab a nice hot cup of coffee and immerse yourself in the next project and forget all about them. I like the fact that people sell handmade things at an expensive price sometimes (not the over the top stuff of course) because we need to change the public perception of handmade so that when they buy something special it makes THEM feel special. That old fashioned feel that you get from really good service when you shop somewhere that makes you want to go back there again and again. We live in an instant microwave world but somethings things that are worth having aren’t made in an instant and aren’t cheap- but they can be an investment in your happiness :) Maybe I should paint t-shirts for my next craft career, I’m not bad with these slogans….yes, I know, I know. Don’t give up your day job.

    • Mei says

      Thank you again for your thoughtful comments, Robin!

      Absolutely; people who don’t price their products accordingly only keep reinforcing the low perceived worth of a product in the market. It doesn’t help anyone and it’s very short term thinking.

      I’ve come to realize that the kinds of people who are offended by higher price points for something they believe shouldn’t be so expensive, are the same people who have no business sense at all. They have no experience or knowledge as to what it takes to run a business. The price of a product includes MORE than the cost of supplies, materials and labor. That’s a concept that’s very hard for the layman to understand.

  12. Mirena says

    Hi Mei and all and thank you for your post and beautiful comments! I am going to tell you a story: a customer wanted to buy a handmade dress but she thought that the price set by the artist was too high. So the artist asked the customer how much she would be willing to pay for the dress. The customer said:”I have calculated everything: the fabric, the thread, the ribbon, even the scissors and I would pay X $.”. The artist said “ok, you will have it in a week”. The next week the customer got a big box. When she opened it she found fabric, thread, ribbon… even a pair of scissors. Of course she got very upset and called the artist. To her complaints the artist replied :”I sent you what you paid for.” The story is to stress the fact that, like Mei said, a handmade item is more than the price of the materials, the artist will put a little bit of their soul in there and their love. If you don’t like my prices, it’s ok, don’t buy it, no hard feelings. But don’t insult me, my items and my creativity.

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