Tuesday, September 20, 2011

PIF= WTH? What Is Pay It Forward and How Is It Good For Me?

Wrap Bracelet
Pay It Forward, is a term coined from a 2000 movie starring Helen Hunt, as an alcoholic mother, and Haley Joel Osment as her son. Frustrated with home life, the son sets out to change the world, one good deed at a time. He calls his random acts of kindness, "Paying It Forward". The idea is that if everyone made small gestures of kindness, the world would be a better place.

So how, exactly, does that apply to handmade crafts?

"Pay It Forward", or PIF, is a growing trend in the handmade marketplace. For shoppers, it means getting items practically free, or incredibly inexpensive, in exchange for your pledge to pay the kindness forward. Of course, no one will actually know if you fulfill your end of bargain and pass on the good deed, but your conscience will!

The wrap bracelet above and several other items are featured in my handmade shop, Mylana, as a PIF listing, for only 20 cents. That's right, anyone can purchase select items for 0.20 USD. I will even ship the item free with another purchase from my shop.

So, what's the catch?

You have to pass on the good deed or perform a random act of kindness for someone else!
PIF Stone Necklace
The benefit for shoppers is obvious, get items for little cost and pledge to PIF to someone else when you purchase the item. This can be anything from listing something in your own shop as a PIF, or if you don't sell, giving to the Salvation Army, or buying a stranger her morning coffee. Whether you choose to bake your neighbor cookies or give to the food pantry, giving back to the community in return for getting a nice item is a great feeling. So, hit the handmade online markets and look for some PIF deals today.

One word of caution is to look over the PIF item details closely. Some unscrupulous sellers will advertise an item at a low, low price, but try to gouge you on the shipping. That's not nice. A true PIF listing will have a reasonable quality item with an accurate shipping charge, not an inflated price or inferior item.
20 Cent Bracelet
As a seller, why might it be a good idea to experiment with PIF? Below, I will give several reasons why one might consider doing it.

1) If you cannot afford charitable donations. The holiday season is coming up and maybe you don't have spare change to toss in the red kettle, but you have something you made or supplies to list as a PIF, hoping that the buyer of your item donates to a good cause.

2) To get exposure for your handmade goods. When shopping online, many people sort by lowest price. Having a low priced item gets people in the door to see your other things. Retail stores often do this by offering a popular item at an incredible price, hoping that shoppers buy something else. This is called a "loss leader". Only engage in this type of marketing if you really need the exposure and you can afford to give the item away at practically no cost. Think of it as giving away items in exchange for traffic.

3) You want to give shoppers a good first impression of your personal character. If you are an established seller, you might not want to offer PIF items, knowing that most likely, you will attract bargain hunters and those who might not want to pay full price anyway; however, an occasional high visibility PIF listing, or charitable donation, makes you look like a concerned and caring citizen.

4) You are a new seller to a venue and need feedback to build rapport. Face it, when shoppers see an online seller that has never sold an item, or with zero feedback, the customer is a little skeptical. Having a few sales under your belt makes you look reputable and trustworthy.

In my online Etsy shop, Mylana, I have sold perhaps 5 PIF items for 20 cents, the lowest price Etsy allows. From experience, I can say that it does attract traffic to my shop and generates buzz. Whether or not the customers will return is another matter. I fully understand that I am possibly courting the buyers that would not pay full price anyway, but I am hoping that a great product and great service will lure them back. I only list PIF items when I have excess inventory that is not selling or I really need the traffic.

At the end of the day, when I see that my handmade item has sold as a PIF, I feel good because I hope that the buyer will indeed pass on the kindness, as well as look favorably upon my shop for offering them the chance to purchase a nice treat for a low price.

I don't always have PIF items listed, but please see my online shop for a chance to score a PIF deal- just remember to pay it forward to someone else:


  1. Fabulous post, Clare. It was very informative.

  2. Great post! I know I've bought one of your PIF items before, and a candle to go with it.. now I'm gritting my teeth trying to decide whether or not to buy more. I haven't even burned the first candle I bought because it smelled so nice and made everything around it smell like vanilla!

  3. Great post! I have never purchased a PIF item. I feel guilty buying for something at such a low price. After reading this I may buy one and in return list one in my store.

  4. Fabulous post, thanks for sharing! I haven't listed any PIF items in my shop yet, but it's something I've considered...