Locals' discounts — your 'grat' for loyalty
By Chris Woodall
They are pampered and "preferred," their patronage is a sign of a retailer's importance to the community.
No, we aren't talking about the European or Japanese skier, but of a handful of businesses that offer Whistler's "locals" a discount for purchases.
In some cases, the locals' discount is a freebie after buying a certain number of items. Sometimes a retailer may offer a discount if you ask for a "locals' discount"... and are nice about it.
The queen of the locals' discount is Rose Garbutt, owner of Misty Mountain Pizza and, recently, of Moguls Coffee Bean café.
"It's our way to say 'thank you' and that we appreciate your business," she says of the frequent buyer cards that offer free cups of coffee (at Moguls) or free pizza slices (at Misty).
Both Misty and Moguls have been offering the locals' discount for years.
The pizzeria has upped its appreciation by driving a shuttle bus — free when you buy a slice — from its Whistler Village store to Creekside or to Emerald Estates after the municipal buses stop running at 12:30 a.m.
"It's a real locals service for the winter," Garbutt says. "After the bars are closed there's a shortage of cabs and people just can't get out of the village."
But why go out of your way to give locals a benefit?
"We're locals, too. We don't get to talk to our customers all the time and this is a way to acknowledge they are the reason we are in business," Garbutt says.
Some other coffee shops, like Grabbajabba in Marketplace, see that as a reason for frequent business cards, too.
But some retailers get itchy at the idea of offering a special deal to locals.
"I don't like it when they say 'I'm a local, give me a discount.' I think it's rude," says Russ Long, owner of Katmandu Sports in Function Junction.
The way he figures it, he already offers the best prices for his goods, but if you want to negotiate, he'll listen to anyone.
"I treat everybody the same," he says.
The main photo shops in town offer an array of locals discounts.
Whistler 1-Hour Photo gives locals free doubles or a free enlargement on Wednesdays, says manager Anne Marie Kuzyk at the Benchlands store. She has been offering a frequent user card for the past three years that gives you free developing on every ninth roll of film. Ambassador pass holders also get a cut off film developing.
"A lot of times we do little things for our regular customers," such as print a free enlargement without asking, simply because they are regulars, Kuzyk says.
Knowing something about a store's regulars is important.
"It makes us feel good. It's nice to call someone by name," Kuzyk says. "And when they know your name they'll be more likely to come back."
Part of that is to know what your regular customers like.
"It's a nice personal touch," Kuzyk says. "I don't think it brings in extra business, but it keeps regular customers coming here," she says.
The philosophy behind offering a locals' discount has changed, Kuzyk says.
"At first it was a big issue, but if you're a local you already have the card or know about our specials," Kuzyk says. "I don't really care if you live here, it should be a fair price for everybody."
If you show loyalty to a business, you should be rewarded, Kuzyk says. "We have repeat customers from Toronto and Seattle," Kuzyk explains. "Maybe they don't come in once a week, but they might come in when they're here every day for a week."
Over at Slalom One Hour Photo, locals can get the "advantage card" that offers holders 10-40 per cent off virtually everything in the store, says manager Chris Screech.
There are four "instant redemptions" as well: buy one, get one T-shirt; free 6X8 enlargement; free second set of prints; and free 8X10 laser photo.
Slalom also offers an Employee Service card that gives Whistler workers Slalom's best rate on photo development.
"The ES card recognizes that some locals are seasonal," Screech says, so this is a way to give back something right away and is a reward for sending tourists to the photo shop.
The ES card is $5 normally, but is free during the annual Spirit Day event at the conference centre. The card has been around for five years.
"The majority of our customers are going to hear about us from other people, so we want to reward those people who'll pass on our name," Screech says.
And because of the cyclical nature of business through the seasons, "when the tourist business is down, we want local business to keep coming," Screech says.
Nesters Market has joined the ranks of many high-flying businesses with its Nesters Value Card, a frequent flyer sort of card that users accumulate points from purchases toward "rewards" in free stuff.
The Nesters Value Card is free for the asking.
The points earned can be used in a variety of ways at Nesters or at 25 other Whistler-area stores, explains Brian Kerr, owner of the grocery store. Among them are sports stores, restaurants, a Pemberton gas station, and a travel agency.
The grocery store, for example, gives card holders special deals on 180 food items not available to the uninitiated.
"There are five million points outstanding," Kerr says as an indication of the card's popularity among the store's 5,000 card holders.
"Everything we do is to think how our customers can benefit," Kerr says. "By offering these services we are creating a real loyal customer base.