Definition of LAGNIAPPE
: a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase; broadly: something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary
The word entered English from Louisiana French, in turn derived from the American Spanish phrase la ñapa (referring to a free extra item, usually a very cheap one). The term has been traced back to the Quechua word yapay ('to increase; to add'). In Andean markets it is still customary to ask for a ñapa when making a purchase. The seller usually responds by throwing in a little extra. Although this is an old custom, it is still widely practiced today in Louisiana. Street vendors, especially vegetable vendors, are expected to throw in a few green chillies or a small bunch of cilantro with a purchase.
The word is chiefly used in the Gulf Coast of the United States, but the concept is practiced in many places, such as Southeast Asia, North Africa, rural France, and Holland.
This is a practice I first learned from my family business. We would do a repair for you or you would purchase something, and we would steam clean some of the jewelry you were already wearing for free. I've seen it done in many other businesses as well. Ausar Auset Society would give free classes on vitamins and herbs. When you left the class, they were selling the things that you learned of. It was a win-win situation, and a masterful use of the concept.
I did not start using this practice in my own business, however, until after I became a member of The Handmade Collective. I would purchase things from them, and receive an unexpected little surprise like a pouch or an extra piece of fabric. I got almost as much joy from the extra little surprise as I did from the thing I purchased, just as our customers had appreciated the lagniappe we gave them in our family store. So I decided to do the same for my customers whenever I could, and that's when I got a little surprise.
Not only did the lagniappe delight my customers, but I got something special out of it too, namely that sometimes my lagniappe turned into a new item for me to sell.
Like when I made a pouch, but put some little charms and beads on it the drawstring. Two customers told me they were using the drawstring like a necklace. One customer indicated she wouldn't mind buying more necklaces. So the next thing you know, I was doing necklaces, lol.
This last time, I decided to get proactive with it. I made a style of loc holder I had always wanted to make. I threw it in my customer's package as lagniappe, but what I really had in mind was to test a new product. When I do my followup, I'll find out if it's good or if it needs adjustment. This lagniappe thing is all right.
So if you're considering giving lagniappe yourself, take it from me, it's a really good idea. Don't break the bank now; do something that won't hurt your business. If you're really smart and slick, you could find a way to make it benefit your business even more, like with my test marketing, or Ausar Auset's vitamins and herbs.
And best of all, it's something that the department stores don't ever do anymore, so it provides still another joy of buying handmade!