Producing Revenue From Unexpected Places


I’m sitting in my local Barnes and Nobles and tapping away at the keyboard. If you must know, I’m sipping on a Blackberry Soda. Quite delicious.

I look up and see three people sitting at a table not far from me. They each brought several items from the store to their table. One brought a few paperbacks, another 4-5 magazines and I’m not sure about the last one. Come on, I’m not staring at them!

Here’s an important fact:

Each one of these items at their table is not paid for.

There is a convention in this Barnes and Nobles cafe (and others I’ve been to):

‘Feel free to bring whatever reading material you like to the cafe. If you purchase any of the items, great.

If not, we’ll gather them up for you.’

Back in the day, let’s call it the mid 70s, I was in a bookstore near my work. They had a small cafe off to the side of the bookstore. I pulled a book off the shelf that I wanted to peruse and sat down in the cafe. I had a coffee or some other beverage with me, I was quite enjoying myself when one of the staff came by and stood  over me.

She asked, somewhat harshly, “Did you purchase that book?” I said no and probably was a bit sheepish about my answer. She then said, also with perceptible harshness in her tone, “We do not allow people to bring unpaid items to the cafe!”

I felt sufficiently scolded, got up, returned the book to its shelf and left the bookstore.

Fast forward to present time.

I’ve been to my local Barnes and Nobles many times. I like taking a break from the office and I love bookstores. And I have seen quite a few people bring quite a few unpaid items to the cafe and leave without paying for them.

But they did pay for the coffee. They did pay for the soda or the pastry.

And you know what?

The profit margin on that cup of coffee was probably close to 70% or more.

The profit margin on an average book in the store? Maybe 10-20%.

Somebody made a decision that it was perfectly okay to come to the Barnes and Nobles cafe and consume coffee, soda and pastry to your heart’s content AND grab a few books to peruse along the way. There are over 60 seats in this cafe and most of them are usually filled.

Now, I don’t know the overall bottom line of Barnes. But I do know it’s probably in much better shape since they not only brought in the cafe but made it perfectly safe to bring any item from the store to the cafe.

Those books or magazines that had coffee spilled on or whose spine was broken…what about those items that are no longer in a condition to be sold? I imagine those losses are more than sufficiently offset by the profits in the cafe.

The moral of the story of course is this:

Look for new ways to use your existing resources to create profits. One of these ways may produce some losses by doing X but adding Y may mean an overall better bottom line.

About Stan Dubin

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