“You can’t charge that, it’s way too much!”
I love questions about how to charge for stuff and about pricing. It’s so subjective, isn’t it? Much room for squidginess lies herein. A rich seam for me.
I am an accountant and I know that even after having spent forty years with people and their money, I will NEVER understand how other people make their spending choices, or they mine.
Let us consider how much you would pay for:
- A meal out?
- A handbag?
- A haircut?
- A holiday?
- A car?
- A house?
- A new kitchen?
For every person who would pay what you would, based on some sort of inbuilt “ometer” about what something is worth to you, how much you can afford, and what is a “ridiculous” amount of money for something like that, there are gazillions of people living in entirely other financial realities, and multiples of those financial realities too.
My favourite example is the handbag because it is so easy to illustrate. You can buy a bag from Tesco, a bag for life, for 10p (controversially), what one of my colleagues, Carmel, used to call an “executive attache case!” You can buy one to cart your stuff around in from Asda for say £5.99, probably less for all I know, I very rarely stray into Asda, I’m posh, me. Let’s say you can buy one from Marks & Spencer for fifty quid. I don’t know, I don’t really go shopping. I have a bag that cost £650 and it was a gift. It is the only handbag I own and I shall use it every day for the rest of my life, out of respect for its beauty and craftsmanship but I would NEVER EVER have spent £650 of my own money on a handbag and probably never will, no matter how wealthy I am. But Posh Spice Victoria, Mrs Beckham, has all of those handbags like mine in all of the colours they make them in, and she does that each and every season.
Just look at all those different financial realities in just the handbag department! Amazing, isn’t it?
That applies to everything you can think of. You have no idea what people will pay for a handbag, let alone for your lovely stuff or mine. If we think we do, we are making it up. The financial reality in which you and I live is probably different, as it is from everyone else we know.
My Ocado is your Tesco. You might insist on having your hair cut in Bond Street, where I favour someone who comes to the house and charges twenty quid. And my spending on my groceries but not on my hair, and you vice versa, is just the way people are. A formerly penniless bicycle-riding friend of my acquaintance, living on baked beans and pita bread when I first met her in the Nineties, had her hair cut in Chelsea in London by Nicky Clarke.
See how this works? People are bonkers when it comes to their spending choices. And as I was nearly going bankrupt in my first recession in the late Eighties and early Nineties, I was driving a BMW 5 series, and I bet people wondered about that. But you make your spending cuts on things you don’t value in order to keep affording the things you do. And this is different with every single human being I’ve ever met. Shop at Asda so you can buy luxury clothes. Shop at Lidl while installing a hot tub in your garden. I could cite endless examples, truly.
When I was an accountant, clients used to allow me to believe they couldn’t pay my bills. And while I was sitting in the back of an artisan cheese shop doing their accounts, I used to hear my clients’ voices out front at the counter and know that they were paying through the nose for their delicious cheeses and expensive crisps in the shop. And whenever Marion and I, working together as a dynamic duo, used to cut our mutual client a fantabulous deal, because they led us to believe they were hard up, or we assumed they were, what did they do next? Nip off on a cruise with the dosh we’d just volunteered to save them, cutting off our noses to spite our faces! We laughed, oh yes. But we felt miserable too, stuck at home working for them on their websites and whatnot.
People find the money for what they want. My accounting clients would prioritise school fees, family holidays and Christmas before paying overdue invoices from me, and that meant we couldn’t have those things until they did pay us. Augusts and Decembers were grim when it came to cash flow.
Often, in the bonkers, convoluted and complex world in which we live, people value stuff the more expensive the price tag. But it’s good for us that they do, isn’t it?
Try doubling your prices and see what happens. And if no-one notices, do it again!
- What’s the most you have ever paid for something?
- Did it take your breath away?
- How else did it make you feel?
- What meaning are you giving to that, if any?
- What assumptions have you made about what people will pay?
- What assumptions have you made about what to charge?
- Do they still hold good now that you’ve read my answer to Q22?
- What are you going to do about it?