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  • Writer's pictureBrian Cathcart

The Baker's Dozen

Two people are in a stand-off at the negotiating table. The two parties are facing each other with a deal between them with a pen on top. The product has been identified, and the numbers have been presented and thoroughly explained. The seller has expressed that it's a good deal, which it reasonably is, with a visible discount factored in, it should be a "done deal." Then the purchasing party bluntly states, "it's not good enough." It's an anticipated statement, but the deal already has a discount, so what is missing? The purchaser feels like they are being cheated and the deal needs to be "sweeter."

The term Baker's Dozen is commonly understood to mean thirteen, rather than twelve (Eldridge, 2018). The concept is that the baker increases the value of the purchase by adding a donut to the first dozen - sweetening the deal. Consumers like the feeling that they are receiving something special that super exceeds the original agreement, that they came out of the deal as the real victor. The result is that they leave feeling valued and that they will return to the same baker the next time they need bread.

There are several theories to where the term came from, but it is most commonly considered that it was 13th-century bakers that we have to thank for the extra bread to the dozen (Trex, 2013). In the Medieval Era, British bread makers were notorious for shorting customers with skimpy loaves. The bakers knew that bread was the daily staple and saw an opportunity to monetize on it. As a result, King Henry III made a law that would standardize the amount of bread that was given, and anyone who was caught breaking the law would be gravely punished. Many bakers chose not to take any chances and would often include a thirteenth slice of bread to ensure there were no doubts that they were abiding by the law (Hiskey, 2010).

Today, Baker's Dozen is a concept used in sales to increase the value of a deal. A baker will add that extra bagel without being asked, just something to increase the value and a chance to earn a repeating customer. This is the common goal for all salesmen; to earn a loyal repeating customer who speaks highly of the business.

The best salesmen are those who can sense that the original offer is not enough. This can be accomplished by listening to what the customer has to say, because when people feel heard, they feel valued (Feifer, 2017). Instead of just trying to convince the buyer to take the standing offer, the good salesman will add something small to the deal, and thus over-deliver (Phelps, 2018). Examples would be a full tank of gas for a new car, or a free alteration on a custom-made gown.

A skilled seller always leaves some room in the deal for negotiating, just as with a baker adding the thirteenth donut without it having a negative impact on the bakery. Voluntarily increasing the value of the deal not only helps close the deal, but it leaves the seller in control. The advantage of the Baker's Dozen technique is it also makes the buyer feel like they had control. In the end, everyone to leaves the negotiating table feeling victorious.



Eldridge, A. (2018). Why Is a Baker’s Dozen 13?

Trex, E. (Jan. 10, 2013) Why is a Baker's Dozen 13?

Hiskey, D. (September 7, 2010) Why a Baker's Dozen is 13 Instead of 12

Phelps, T. (Aug. 2018). Pro-Tips for Closing Your Sales Opportunities

Feifer, J. (July 5, 2017). The Importance of Making Sure Customers Feel Heard

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