Five Things Your Customer May Never Tell You

You see her every week. A great customer, loyal and regular. Then a couple weeks go by and you realize that you haven’t seen her at your stall recently. Or you glance across the isle and notice her at someone else’s stall and carrying some bags. Or you notice that she comes by often and looks around but never quite gets around to purchasing anything. Hmmm…what could these behaviors mean?

While some customers are very good at communicating, most of us prefer to avoid awkward, uncomfortable and/or confrontational situations whenever possible. So you might find yourself in the position of having to read minds.

Here are 5 things customers might be reluctant to share:

    • If a customer is unfamiliar with a product they may be reluctant to buy it.

      If a customer is unfamiliar with a product they may be reluctant to buy it.

      I don’t know what this is! No one wants to appear ignorant so most customers will never bring the celeriac (or kohlrabi or blood sausage or ??) over and say ‘what in the world is this?’ If you want to sell these items you need to have a label stating the name clearly (a guide to pronunciation helps too) and a short description of what to use it for, what it tastes like and what other foods pair well with it.

    • I found a better product somewhere else. Quality always matters and customers generally do not like to give you bad news. What you are likely to observe is reduced repeat sales. What can you do? Post a ‘money-back guarantee prominently so customers know that you want to hear when a product is not meeting their expectations. Remind customers that you want to hear feedback. And when you do get feedback resist the temptation to be defensive. Provide a suggestion box so people can comment anonymously.
    • Your product tasted/smelled/looked funny when I finally got around to trying it.


      The more you communicate about what a product should look, smell and taste like the more likely they will be to have a positive experience.

This is another tricky situation. Some customers will return a product and try to get a refund but other customers will just throw the product away and say nothing. You may never know there was a problem. A bad experience could be the result of spoilage or it could be that the customer was not prepared for what to expect.  The best strategy is to provide use and care instructions. Have a binder available that provides basic information like how to store the product, what parts are edible and how long it will keep.

  • I can’t spend money on an expensive item for just one recipe. Many people are living on reduced incomes and they may have less disposable income to spend on food. If they perceive that an item is a specialty item they may choose to pass it by. As the vendor it will serve you well to try to promote multiple uses for your products. For example if you are selling sausage, a package may contain more servings than the customer needs so it’s a good idea to offer some tips on how to use leftovers. For example, ‘after breakfast brown up the remainder and freeze as a pizza topping or add to pasta sauce’.
  • My financial situation has changed and I’m embarrassedBe tactful and observant. If a regular customer suddenly changes their buying habits it is fine to ask if they have experienced some problem with the product. If their answer is vague or they don’t respond just let it go. You provided an opportunity and the rest is up to them. Chances are that if sales stay strong among other customers it is not a product issue.

About Mary Peabody

Working with beginning farmers since 1994.
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3 Responses to Five Things Your Customer May Never Tell You

  1. Other issues I’ve run into at market as a competing vendor is cleanliness or poor/rude behavior, especially when young interns are running a market stand unsupervised. Are they too busy with their phones? Are they scantily dressed? Are they festooned with piercings, studs and tattoos? Smoking? Hanging all over a boyfriend/girlfriend? Are they physically clean and neat? Customers may not say, “I won’t buy from you because you’re filthy, rude, offensive, stoned, etc., but you can be darn sure they’ll tell the new vendor that’s why they no longer purchase from their previous farmer.

  2. suzanne silk says:

    These are good but my pet peeve as a person with multiple food allergies and chemical sensitivities is that alot of ingredient labels even at farm stands and farmer’s markets don’t have specific ingredients, there are alot of “and/or” listed and one bakery I used changed the oil they used on their rising containers and never changed their ingredient list to include the soy oil in the spray. What was nutritious and favorful became a serious health issue. I know I’m not the only one with these issues. How about truth in ingredients. It’s not nice when you end up in the hospital eating the same thing you had last week or rather what you thought was the same.

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