Friends and Family Discounts

January 13th, 2021 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 5 comments

I have read your book Thou Shall Prosper and am currently reading Business Secrets from the Bible. Which led me to wonder the following:

The question I have is about letting everyone know what you do to serve humanity and making friends with many people. If I make friends with someone, won’t I look like a greedy guy to ask full charge to a friend? What would you do, Sir? Would you give a discount for friends? 

I don’t think a lot of people understand the concept of making money being a good thing. So for that reason I ask you the question.

Thank you in advance.

Kind regards,

Oscar

Hi Oscar,

We’re delighted you are reading our books and, since some Ask the Rabbi readers may not have done so yet, we’d like to give a little preface to our answer. 

In the books, as in our other business resources, we encourage people to share their skills and professions with friends, acquaintances and those they meet. This is how you let people know the way in which you can serve them.  We note that many Jewish last names—a relatively recent phenomenon — stemmed from how people benefited  society. Wasserman was the water carrier while Silverman was the silversmith. The Cooperman family descends from barrel makers while the name Melamed means teacher in Hebrew. It was an early form of advertising, about which Winston Churchill said, “Advertising nourishes the consuming power of men. It sets up before a man the goal of a better home, better clothing, better food for himself and his family. It spurs individual exertion and greater production.”

Many people share your concern. We are certainly not suggesting a cynical and self-serving approach to winning new friends.  We recommend an organic and authentic expansion of your circle of friends.  And we agree that befriending someone to ‘trick’ them into using your services or products is reprehensible. However, that is entirely different from what we are encouraging. 

The first basic principle is that you should be doing something that makes you proud. If you are peddling shoddy merchandise or you are an incompetent tradesman, you certainly should not share your profession with anyone. In fact, you either need to improve or get out of that field. However, let’s say you are a talented and principled locksmith. By sharing that information, you are giving me the option to turn to someone I know, like and trust when I need the locks in my house changed rather than needing to select the services of a stranger. You aren’t making a heavy pitch or trying to scare me into using your services; you are simply sharing an important part of your life and letting me turn to you if I do need help.  What is more, I have friends who often ask me for recommendations so little by little, the word spreads that you are a reliable and courteous provider of the goods or services required.

The second principle you raise is whether you need to offer a discount to friends and relatives. This is where your own attitude makes all the difference. If you sound apologetic and embarrassed about presenting your fee, your friend will also feel uncomfortable. If you are matter-of-fact, your friend will follow suit. 

We were once out of town when one of us (Susan) began feeling not well. We turned for help to an acquaintance who was a doctor. Because of our relationship, she saw us right away. When she presented her bill, we were glad to pay it. Could one offer a “friends and family” discount? In some ways that might cause more trouble as you need to define what those terms mean? Second cousin twice removed? The woman with whom you share carpool? It is actually neater not to get into that discussion and to simply confidently and politely present your bill. 

Certainly, we each have some people to whom we may want to provide free or discounted services. These may be especially close friends or relatives. But that is a free and voluntary decision and should not be expected or demanded. 

Oscar, we suggest practicing naming your price until you do it casually and with self-assurance. If you are uncomfortable, reach inside yourself and ask whether you believe that you are providing a good service for a fair price. If you are, accept payment with a clear conscience.

You forgot to tell us what you do!

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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5 comments

Linda Smith says:

I agree. You don’t want to get a reputation for discounting your services. It would then adversely affect you if you tried to stop or limit it to certain people.

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Ben says:

What to do when you want to thank a friend or family member by paying them as a genuine ‘thank you,’ but they refuse and say: ‘nope! From a friend to a friend, no charge.’

This happened to me recently and I felt a little sad. I wanted to pay the man for a service well done but they refused!

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Anoushka Armstrong says:

It happened to me too. I felt somewhat rejected- she said she wanted to bless me-why would she not let me bless her? Inversely, i have accepted a charge when i originally was going to do it for free-then i wondered , did i really, deep deep inside not want to be paid? I think part of it is that we often feel somewhat powerful when we pay, or give a gift and weak when we don’t pay or receive a gift. I decided to choose to receive her gift as much as i wanted to give mine. it was humbling. In our world we too much do not accept spontaneous, kind generosity, nor give it so much.

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Paula says:

Your time, energy, education and experience are worth something. Is your fee markedly higher than other local fees for the same service? If not, be confident in charging your fees. It’s business. They’ll pay someone, might as well be you. You may get people who ask for a discount, but evaluate that on a case by case basis if upu coose to. Also, don’t let self esteem issues get in your way. There are always people looking for freebies, but there are more people thinking that if you’re not charging at least the going rate that there’s something wrong with your services, and that’s not good.

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Henry says:

When I lived in another state, one of my friends and my neighbor owned and operated a deli/wine and beer store. I would buy beer from him even when I could get the same product for less at another store. As for quality, his submarine sandwiches had no equal in that town.
He knew how to take care of his best customers, occasionally giving me something for free that he knew I would like, although I can’t remember that he ever gave me a discount.
We enjoyed a multi-level relationship over many years. When I inherited a couple of 22 rifles that I didn’t need, I gave them to his sons who were at an age when they could appreciate such a gift.
I would add that your best customers are your friends and family when it comes to business. Take care of one another and I believe you will prosper.

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