The other day, in my post Pricing Exists in the Context of Value, I asked what would you do to make it worthwhile to customers if you charged a bit more for your products and services. And then I saw Rich of StartUp Nation’s Holiday Selling Tip #493, Provide Lagniappe — a nice little reminder of how merchants, especially in New Orleans, sweeten a sale with a prospective customer. Rich quoted TheFreeDictionary.com’s definition as:
- A small gift presented by a storeowner to a customer with the customer’s purchase.
- An extra or unexpected gift or benefit.
It’s a lovely word and a great concept. But I was surprised to also learn that it doesn’t come from French, as I had always assumed.
Lagniappe derives from New World Spanish la ñapa, “the gift,” and ultimately from Quechua yapay, “to give more.” The word came into the rich Creole dialect mixture of New Orleans and there acquired a French spelling. It is still used in the Gulf states, especially southern Louisiana, to denote a little bonus that a friendly shopkeeper might add to a purchase.
As Rich points out, receiving a lagniappe “may just influence [a customer] down the road when they need to buy something again and weigh you against alternatives.”