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Picture this. You walk into a shop and peruse the goods on offer. You choose a few that you like, then you take them to the counter. You tell the cashier you’ll take these items, and in a month’s time after you’ve used them and had the benefit from them, you’ll send in the payment for them.
Maybe. If you remember.
If the shop remembers to send you a reminder. If you don’t decide after you’ve used the products that actually they weren’t what you wanted after all, despite having tried them and had the opportunity to derive the benefits from them.
Sounds crazy right? But I can tell you that as a service provider – that is someone who sells services – my knowledges, gifts, skills, call it what you will, as opposed to a physical product – this is so often how we as a society, show our lack of value for what we perceive to be “intangible”.
Before I go any further I’d like to get one thing straight: This is NOT a “woe me” post about how hard it is to be a service provider and how people just don’t respect me and all I have to offer, boo hoo. No.
1) I have been a designer maker in my lifetime. I know how hard it can also be to sell physical stuff. Great big overheads to start with and no guarantees of a sale. Pouring your heart and soul, hours of time, art degrees and evening pottery classes into something beautiful, only for folks to look it up and down and balk at the price. Trying to convince stores to take your work and settling for sale or return. “But it’s hand made!”
2) I have enough experience as a service provider to have my own systems for payment working in my favour. I didn’t always. That was and continues to be my responsibility, and I accept it fully.
So now we’ve got that cleared up, I’d like to clarify what this IS:
It’s a post about the differing levels of value and worth we place on things we perceive as tangible, and things we perceive as “intangible”.
Things we perceive as tangible – usually perishable or material goods – we are willing to pay for upfront. Indeed the whole product industry is set up so that we pay upfront, or at least lay down a deposit and sign into a payment plan. It’s expected.
Things we perceive as intangible – mostly services to do with our mental or physical well being, or services that would give us back time, or take away a stress or hassle – we expect to pay for after delivery, often with some kind of a delay built in – 14, 30, 90 days.
Now of course I’m speaking in broad strokes here. I know not every service is paid for after the fact, I know not all products are paid for in advance. I’m generally speaking in terms of buying products and services at retail (as opposed to wholesale) level. I know not everyone holds this system of value as de rigueur.
But honestly this system of value truly baffles me. I have no problem with paying for physical products upfront. I also personally have no problem paying for services upfront either.
Maybe that’s because I’m used to doing it. Maybe that’s because that’s the way my business works. Maybe that’s because I’m a diligent buyer.
I pay the same care and attention when researching a service provider and whether I want to invest with them as I would when purchasing a new pair of shoes. In both cases, I already have an idea of what I want when I go shopping and how much I’d like to pay. I look with focus at the styles I’m interested in. I try a few on. I get a hit about the ones for me, and I look around some more to double check they really are a yes.
Then I go back and get them. (Sounds like a lengthy process, but until you’ve seen me shop you can’t know how efficient I am!)
I understand that the choice is mine to make. I do my research.
I connect with the service provider (or the shoes!) to get a feel for them. I read the small print.
And if I don’t like what is delivered, as long as it is within the parameters of what I was expecting and what was laid out in our agreement together, I will either terminate the service, or if that’s not an option, I suck it up and understand that it was my decision, that I made, of my own free will.
I took up time and space on this person’s schedule and they are giving me me the value they have to offer. So I make the best, play my part and learn from the experience.
To trivialize the matter and bring it down to a more easy to digest analogy, it’s like going to the supermarket and trying out a new pasta sauce. You saw it advertised, it looks great. It has all the flavours you love in it. So probably worth a shot. Then you get it home, cook it up and turns out it’s a bit gross. No delish pasta for you, boo hiss. You move on and chalk it up to experience. You won’t buy that sauce again. No biggie.
Of course the level of investment you make for a service is generally going to be far more significant that for a jar of pasta sauce, but when we take money out of the equation it really boils down to what in, at least modern western society, we place greater value on. And the fact that we’re willing to pay upfront and take a risk on physical stuff, and expect to pay after delivery, after proof, for “intangible” stuff, for me is symptomatic of how little we value that which is not of material substance.
We place greater value on things we can hold, and touch, wear and drive, and show to our friends. We place less value, and perhaps even hold suspicion about, the things that we perceive as “intangible”. Our mental and physical wellbeing. Our enjoyment of our lives and the gift of time given back to us by someone providing a service for us.
I once asked a friend “If I told you I had the answer, the magical solution to make you happy for the rest of your life – let’s just say for the sake of this, it’s a dead cert, guaranteed – but it will cost you £10,000, what would you say?”
She replied “I’d rather be miserable and have £10,000 in the bank.” (And then she laughed. I’m not sure whether it was at me or her own answer!)
I’d be willing to bet that same friend wouldn’t hesitate to spend £10,000 on a new car if she had it to hand.
While we’re on the subject of automobiles, a while ago I did a quick survey on Facebook about the amount folks would be willing to spend on their next car – most answers went into the multiple thousands, some into the tens of thousands.
Firstly – no judgement. Cars don’t do it for me personally, but it’s ok to like nice stuff an get turned on by torque and bhp and other things I don’t understand.
Secondly – cars are super useful. I have one. It gets me, my fiancee, my step daughter, our three dogs and whole heaps of other crap from A to B and beyond.
But is it worth more than my health and happiness? Is it worth more than the precious gift of time to me? No. If I had the option of either a life altering service or a hunk of metal, I know which I’d choose.
And I’ve seen the opposite in action with potential clients – they have the option of taking a risk on something they perhaps don’t quite understand but feels like it might be a great solution for their current not-so-happy state, or buying a car, or going abroad on holiday. Sometimes, sadly, they choose the latter, believing that it will make them happy and be “worth”the money.
And, this is NOT a lecture on why my values are better than yours. If it’s coming across that way please now tune into the sound of my winding my neck in.
What I’m trying to do is bring home this question of values.
When did our society get so twisted in what it holds dear, what it values, that a ton of metal, gears and engine, that will eventually depreciate itself into the ground and become financially worthless, that in the majority of cases adds to the pollution on the planet, is costly to maintain whilst it’s in working order – fuel, servicing, MOT’s, tax, insurance, repairs – and even more costly to maintain as it starts to deteriorate, more than it values what can be given by the “intangible”, by services – time, health and happiness?
Perhaps lessons and healing that will change and serve you for a lifetime. Perhaps time given back that will allow memories to be created that will have you smiling into your old age.
Maybe it comes down to this. Time, health and happiness are about the most tangible real and valuable things we actually have on this Earth. We just haven’t figured that out yet.
We’d love to hear from YOU…
In which areas of your life are you willing to pay for great value? Does this reflect what you truly value in your life? Leave your answer in the comments below!