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By Brandon Lewis, Contributing Writer
Palette of Departments
By Jerry Rabushka,
I’ve recognized something in myself, now that I have a few decades behind me—it’s that my perception about how much something should cost is often based on what I paid for it in 1972. When I was about 12, my dad gave me two dollars for me and my friend Dean to go to Burger King. We got five items and brought back change.
Later on it went up to three dollars a meal, and now, though I rarely do it, it’s often close to ten.
Still, because I used to pay those three dollars, my perception is that’s what it should still cost. I wonder if some of your customers who hired a painter years ago, or last bought a gallon in 1998, still have the perception that the price they paid then is the price they should pay now. Sometimes we forget how long ago that actually was.
We might think we bought that gallon three years ago when it was actually fifteen. So you might not need to not only combat your competition with your bid, but also history itself.
Another thing I realized once is that people who want a service— and can afford it—will pay for it, and you don’t need to apologize for charging what you’re worth. Back in 2006 I put on a play I wrote; tickets were $15. It was a good enough play to be a finalist in two national competitions, but it was a subject that would only interest a limited audience. I went around to that supposed audience and offered $5 tickets on the assumption that some folks might be encouraged to show up who would otherwise stay home. A new play put on by a small theater is rarely a big draw, so you do what you can.
Turned out that none of the people I offered discounts to came to the play, and none of the people who did come had a problem with the $15. It taught me a lesson—not to avoid discounts, but again that people who want what you have to offer will usually pay the price you ask if it’s not unreasonable. I do remember the job I had before this one—with a resume company—and how people that we deeply discounted in order to sell them a resume in the short run were usually the most difficult customers in the long run. They always wanted more stuff on the cheap!
Back to the theater. One of the most bizarre questions we were ever asked at the box office was “are you trying to make money off this show?” like somehow it was selfish. “Well, yes,” was the answer. I produced plays on selling tickets and program ads—and while I’m here, I should thank several paint and sundry companies for their support. As one of our first Start to Finish Projects, The Paint Dealer donated a $15,000 lead abatement project to the church where we put on our plays.
Chances are you’re going to get asked “why so much” by someone who still wants to pay 1998 prices. (If you’ve ever been a waiter, you’ll remember that customers who left 50 cents in 1962 often think it’s a good tip today.) Be prepared to explain your own costs and why you’re worth the price you charge, but keep it positive. Your customer isn’t going to be OK with you doing a half-baked job, no matter how well or how often you explain that you aren’t making enough money to cover your costs. That’s not their problem. But most likely if they pay you well and you do an excellent job, they’ll feel it’s money well spent.
I’ve tried this month to include some articles that explain the products and concepts advertised in this issue, since there is a lot of new stuff to take in. As always, thanks to all our advertisers, since because of you we have a magazine! It dawned on me: I think Burger King is the only thing left on that block from 1972.
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