The Robin Hood Sales Plan


Some time ago, in a C-level meeting, we were discussing about a particularly expensive souvenir that was to be produced to commemorate an important, and emotional, occasion.

There were about 6-7 people in the room and opinions were divided. One wanted to give the souvenir to all 20,000 employees, arguing that this was a special moment that should be shared with everyone regardless of positions. At SGD 50 or RM153 per unit, the total damage would have been RM3.06 million. Everyone gasped.

Another argued that such expensive memento, should only be given to long-serving employees and those in senior positions as he felt the lower level staff would not appreciate or understand the meaningful gesture. One suggested that the souvenir should not be given for free, instead it should be sold to employees – therefore only those who really wanted it would get it. And another one suggested different souvenirs for different departments, provided that the monetary value or unit cost of each souvenir is the same.

After a few rounds of discussion, the group agreed that selling the souvenir was the way to go. One person in the group said something that interest me. He said the souvenir should be sold on a staggered pricing scale with those who could least afford it be given the biggest subsidy/discount. A “Robin Hood” sales plan, he called it. RM100 means a meal for one at Las Vacas for us, he said, but it means a week’s worth of food for others.

If he were a candidate for the upcoming GE13, he’d get my vote.

Photo (c) UF Shands Cancer Centre



April 22, 2013 · 9:38 pm

5 responses to “The Robin Hood Sales Plan

  1. side

    If i work in a multi national company and my management ask to buy something to celebrate something,i will never buy it regardless what level i am in the company.(20,000 staff is a big co.).It is just too unfriendly at ehat price it is sold.Just my thought.And i won’t vote for him as he only thinks of himself and not the rakyat

    • I think I need to explain what he meant by saying “the souvenir should be sold on a staggered pricing scale with those who could least afford it be given the biggest subsidy/discount.”

      The group had already decided the souvenir will be sold – this was a democratic process. Whether Mr Abu, let’s call him that, personally feel selling the souvenir if fair or unfair, it was no longer his decision to make.

      The next question was how much to sell it for? If you sell it at the same price for everyone, then there are people who won’t be able to afford it, even if they really really wanted to buy it as they need to use the money for something else more basic and substantial like for food or gas. Yes I agree, some employees will say, I will never buy it. That is their choice. But for those who want to, price will be an issue as income levels of employees vary greatly throughout the organization. Selling it at one standard price is unfair, as Mr Abu said, RM100 carries different value for different people, and he is right.

      Mr Abu’s point was, if we need to sell it, we need to structure it in a way that the company uses whatever budget it has to subsidize the price (as the company itself cannot afford to shell our RM3.06mil for everyone), and that the people who could least afford RM153 to be given the biggest discount. In other words, the lower you earn, the bigger the company subsidizes the souvenir. Therefore the souvenir may cost RM100 to people who earn RM15k/month (ie the company subsidizes RM53), and RM3 to people who earn RM800/month (ie the company subsidizes RM150). This is what the Robin Hood plan is about – you take the biggest amount from the coffer to give it to the people who need it most.

      So, contrary to your opinion, I believe Mr Abu was thinking of the rakyat and not himself.

  2. side

    Oh i see,if the discount is big enough to excite the staff to buy it then it is ok as the price you pay is way cheaper then the value of the gift.Thanks for the clarification.You don’t need to as my thought was not to belittle or offend anyone.

    • I didn’t see your comment as belittling or offensive so don’t worry about it. I wanted to clarify as I want people who read this to understand my point of view and the process that we went through that eventually led to the Robin Hood sales plan:

      a) In a lot of situation, decisions are made by committee. In the example above, all 6 people in the meeting had different ideas on how to execute the plan. But we needed to move forward. So, we voted and picked the idea that is most agreeable to everyone. It may not be the best idea on the table, but it was the best compromise.

      b) Limitations are real, be it a physical parameter or an emotional one. The committee had to weigh the economic cost of raising and spending RM3.06mil against the emotional and goodwill benefit that it will bring to employees’ wellness index. Does the feeling of joy and gratitude and pride for being a part of the company outweighs the ringgit and sen? Will it help to retain talent in the organisation? And, why a souvenir? Would it have been better to give cash outright? Is the perceived value higher than face value? In this instance, we had to go back and ask ourselves repeatedly, what was the purpose of the souvenir at the first place?

      c) Even the best possible, most sensitive, solutions can be misinterpreted, misunderstood and receive objections and criticism. After the plan was put into place, the committee received negative feedback for staggering the discount structure to benefit the least able. Some argued that discounts should be given based on seniority or length or service. Some wanted it to be based on performance-appraisal, like how you grant bonuses. Very few realised that the discounts were structured this way to make the souvenir affordable to as many employees as possible. So, in most cases, people are thinking only for themselves (or their circle) rather than for the society/community they live in. It was up to the leaders in the meeting i.e Mr. Abu and his peers, to look after everyone’s interest and use their discretion to apportion the budget according to what is best for the organisation as a whole, rather than to focus on the needs of the few.

      Running a country is exactly like this, magnified by a million times, and with 28 million people in the room.

  3. side

    I see you had your hurdles even at an early stage of executing the exercise.It is not easy to be a decision maker,you can’t please everybody.But you tried and that is good enough in my book.It have been great getting a direct feedback from you ,i feel honoured since stumbling to your block since last week.Just an old man trying to learn the world of Blogs.

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