How to make the best of a wallet-wrenching situation

By Gordon Hecht, YSN Contributor

You may have noticed, but the pain at the pump and shock at the grocery store cash register is getting worse.  It’s so bad that our local Frugal Hoosier Market is selling Cheerios … one at a time!

At home we got a “Save the Date” wedding announcement and the happy couple let us know that they are registered at Shell, Exxon, BP and Texaco.

There are lots of reasons for the double dig into your purse or wallet. I’m not sure that I can explain them; the economics class at my alma mater, Sagebrush State, only taught us to hit on 16 and stay on 17. And even if we could understand the reasons, they are out of our circle of influence, meaning in our Retail World we will just have to work through and around them.

It’s never a bad idea to promote with topics that are top of mind. Your shoppers are dealing with gas prices at, near or above $5 a gallon. It’s probably a great time to promote “free gas with purchase” gift cards.

Sure, there was a gas gift card scam around 2009, but that’s almost two decades ago. Think about simply purchasing several $25 and $50 cards at the local service station and tying into a gift with purchase: $25 on low price merchandise, $50 in the middle, and $100 at the high end. You can deliver the cards when you deliver the merchandise, or keep a few in the store and hand them over when writing the order.

If you don’t have a taste for gas cards, you can do the same thing with a “fill your fridge” card — just get them from your local grocery store.

High fuel costs affect your operational costs too. Free delivery sounds great to a shopper, but it’s not free for you.  Depending on location, actual delivery costs now range between $45 to $100 or more.  If you don’t believe me, just add your vehicle and maintenance costs to your insurance, labor, taxes, and fuel costs. Then tack on any extra equipment and supply costs.  Take that number and divide by the number of deliveries you make.

Shoppers like free delivery but they are aware of fuel costs. If your market demands free or low-cost delivery fees, you can still feel comfortable in telling the shopper that you need to add $15 to $20 to offset fuel costs. The extra $500 to $1,000 or more that you’ll collect will take the pressure off your rising costs and is a reasonable cost to your shopper.

Also, while high fuel and food costs affect us all, they take a bigger bite out of the budget for your team members at the lower end of the earning scale. When you go to buy those gift cards for your shoppers, nab a few for the people who keep your business going. Make it an employee reward “just because.” I can promise you that it’ll generate greater loyalty and boost morale higher than a 50-cent-an-hour raise.

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at