At BICAS in Tucson we have a set hourly rate of $4 per hour for shop rental (or $12 per day) it divides up well with our work-trade wage of $8 per hour. As many people do work-trade for shop time we generate a very small amount of money from shop rental but it does cover consumable expenses for the shop and keeps it affordable for all. I have often thought about moving to sliding scale system say $4-$20 per hour or something but it seems like a real hassle to explain to people all day long and we dont want people to feel bad if they only can pay the minimum amount. Its really important to keep our prices low and affordable for our users but Its also true that we many times undercharge for a very valuable service to those that could afford to kick down more.
Lets say you help someone fix something on their bike that no other bike shop would touch for under $100. It only takes an hour, so for us we would say $4. I find if I tell them the the price is $4 for shop rent then they will most likely pay $4. If I instead just say "well it took us just under an hour, if you want you can just put something in the donation bin"...I find its usually worth $10-20 to that person. On the other hand a majority of our users are spending 2 hours fixing a huffy and in that case the hourly suggested rate seems to be fair and works well.
On that same subject, We have started taking note when selling small used parts as well. We will get people coming in for a hand full of nuts/bolts/washers, etc. I used to always suggest a dollar or some change. Now I just say "toss something in the donation bin" and I have found for those that can afford it will almost always leave at least $5+. Also, I many times let people choose there own price by asking "what it worth to you" on small items that we may usually only ask a dollar for its usually worth $2-5 to them. For these kinds of situations and like your situation of pumping up tires I totally agree with your volunteer. If you ask for an amount you will always get it but rarely more. If you dont ask for a specific amount you will often be surprised that the service has a much hire value to most. I think it really only works consistently on these smaller items that you dont mind giving away for free. Once you start letting people chose from nicer parts or spending a whole day in the shop it can be be a real bummer to find they dont find the service as valuable as you do.
Anyway, Our system of more or less set prices on tool use and used parts works pretty well but being flexible to ask for donations in a situation that does not pressure the donor usually ends up good for both parties. A couple of $ here and few there adds up at the end of the year.
----- Original Message ----- From: Paul Nagel Sent: 04/13/12 08:41 AM To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: [TheThinkTank] No suggested donation
At our volunteer meeting last night, someone shared an anecdote where a group offering to pump up people's bike tires raised far more money when they asked only that people pay what they thought the service was worth, rather than asking for $1 per pumping (this was something he heard in a business class of some sort). This volunteer went on to suggest we not post our current $5 suggested donation per hour for DIY repair, but rather use language along the lines of "donate what you think the service is worth".
This is in a context where, even on a busier day, with about 12 visitors, we usually receive less than $60, even though many of those people will stay for two hours or more. Also, being more firm about payment is not of interest to us.
As with most of you, we serve a wide variety of people. I can see "donate what you think the service is worth" being fine for people of even modest income, but I'm concerned about how that concept can be communicated without causing bad feelings in people who can't pay what they think the service is worth.
In the past, when we were just getting started, we advertised our services as being "free", but accepted donations. That is somewhat different from the idea presented here, as "free" implies people need not/ought not to pay.
Does anyone here have experience with having no suggested donation? If so, have you utilized both methods in a similar context, and how did the income compare? Also, how did you word your pricing policy?