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How my publisher got $5,000 of goodwill with $100

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It’s about that time where we start getting tons of invitations to weddings, birthday parties, and family reunions. Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed my friends mentioning how expensive these are. For example, one of my friends will end up paying about $1,000 to attend her friend’s wedding, with airfare, hotel, and gift. And we spent an average of $859 on Christmas gifts last year (that means you spend an average of $71 each month on Christmas gifts…did you factor that in when you guessed how much you spend in an average week?).

So last week, it occurred to me that there’s a way to cut down on the out-of-pocket expenses for some of these events. I was in New York meeting my publisher and had a GREAT time.

In fact, if I had to put a monetary number on it, I’d say my experience was worth the equivalent of $5,000 in my book advance. Why?

1. When my editor saw me looking at the books on the bookshelf, she said, “Take whatever books you want! In fact, just let us know and we’ll ship them to you.” This isn’t the case at all publishers: My friend, who published a book at another publisher, told me that his publisher offered 30% off their books. The fact that they were so willing to give me free books was such a remarkable attitude. So remarkable that I’m telling thousands of people about it today.

2. I got my photo taken, and I accidentally left a pair of jeans at the publisher. When I sent an email to one of my editors, she sent this back:

You did indeed leave your jeans here and I just got them from downstairs. If you want to swing by, I can leave them at our reception desk for you. Or, if someone (either someone in the apt. or a doorman) is around [where you’re staying], I can messenger them there. Or, if you prefer not to drag them home with you, I can just FedEx them back to you in SF.

This is top-notch service from a publisher, or anyone for that matter. She didn’t have to go above and beyond, but she did. It might cost $100 to ship those jeans and a few books, but it’s worth many times more to the recipient.

There are ways to apply this to your own life. If you’re trying to build a business relationship with someone, send them a book. It costs $15 (even cheaper than lunch! Which you should do, too) and is one of the easiest ways to show that you’re thinking about someone else.

If you can’t afford a $100 gift for your friend’s wedding, send something home-made or dig up old photos from high school.

At PBwiki, beyond some of the other perks we offer, we recently rolled out a new perk: If you want to have lunch with someone at the company, we’ll pay for it. It might cost $20 or $30, but the value of letting us all meet others in the company is much, much higher than that.

I’m curious if you’ve found ways of saving money but offering something of higher value. Do you have any examples? Share them in the forums.

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  1. What a great attitude to working with employees, co-workers, and clients. I recently resigned due to a blatant lack of respect at my job. It was so bad, I had rather resign with no job offers than wait. (I did have a cushion saved up before I left though.)

    As I’m searching, I’m not going to be superficial; I’m going to see if a job would be a good match. Thanks Ramit for sharing this!

  2. Companies have an awesome opportunity to add value for their customers here. There are a bunch of online shoe companies, but I always check Zappos first because of their great customer service. They give their customer service representatives the leeway to do what it takes to make a customer really happy. It seems in my opinion that most of the time, the actual cost of doing something like free overnight shipping or free returns, is less than the value to the customer, and the value in word-of-mouth marketing that customer can give to the company.

    Seth Godin wrote about this recently after an online company called Custom Ink he was using to get t-shirts printed noticed (without any prompting) that the shirts were for a non-profit and offered to make a donation to the charity. Maybe they didn’t even know who he was, but he then plugged them on his blog, which is obviously worth way more than what it cost them in a small tax-deductible donation. You can read Seth’s blog entry here:

  3. One idea thats worked wonders in our office is we recently started subsidizing the baked goods cost (think flour, eggs, etc) for any employee who did home-baked cooking and brought in food. This made the person who was constantly doing it very happy – she loves to cook and now we have an endless supply of baked goods to eat at the office which the company pays for!

  4. Customer service goes a longgggggg way with me and I’m sure many other customers feel the same. If someone is willing to go way above and beyond just being nice and helping me, this will make me a customer for life of the company.

    Paying for your employees lunch to entice them to meet other employees is an awesome idea. What a great way to encourage teamwork!

  5. This is fantastic advice. Recently I have started a financial blog myself and I have wondered wy my readership hasn’t grown much. I have now decided to shift my focus to create content that generates value and will benefit my audience.
    This is how I am going above and beyond for my readers. Great tips, keep writing

  6. $71 a month on Christmas gifts, wow… I believe that breaks down to, $17.75 a week! I believe I will save that much starting each week from Christmas this year until Christmas next year to see how well I do!

  7. If anybody has read “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Galdwell he discusses something Lexus did at it’s inception to illustrate how much it valued its customers.

    Essentially there was a part that needed to be recalled so they contacted each owner individually and had them come in to fix the part. If I’m not mistaken they were treated to lunch while their car was being fixed and returned to find their car had been cleaned as well. Also, if I’m not mistaken, if they lived more than 50 miles from a dealership, then Lexus sent a mechanic to their home. Talk about customer service…

  8. I have to say that it is crazy that you wrote this article. I just told my fiance I was going to send a book I am reading to the director of recruiting at my company. They happen to be located in California (I’m in Nebraska) and I have never met them before, but I thought the book was so good that some of the leaders of our company should read it. I figure it only takes a few bucks to make this gesture and it would be a nice surprise for the Director when she receives the gift from some employee she doesn’t even know. Heck, maybe it will help me move up in the company a bit faster. Who knows.

    P.S. Here is the craziest part of the story. The book I told my fiance I was going to send to the recruiting director is called “Recruit or Die”. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you have heard of it before.

  9. Ramit,

    would you have personally fedexed a pair of jeans if someone left them at ur home? (at your cost) even if that might add value to your friendship.

    It’s easy for that person to do that because it was company expense.

    If you owned PBWIKI entirely, would you have that lunch policy? Its easy to burn VC money.

  10. Derek,

    im gonna play the devil’s advocate here. any chance she can be offended?