I believe that herbal medicine is the people’s medicine and that it should be as accessible as possible to all. And while I hope to craft a modest livelihood for myself out of my love and passion for plants, that is gentle on (and ideally regenerative for) the earth, I also just really want to share and celebrate the gifts of our wild and wonderful herbal allies with as many people as possible.
To help further that goal, two summers ago I introduced sliding scale pricing when selling my products at the farmgate stand, craft shows and markets. I feel it has been successful and though it sometimes takes a little bit of explaining to people who aren’t familiar with the system, folks are generally quite appreciative and positive once they understand how it works.
I have been wanting to add sliding scale pricing to my herbal boxes and workshops for a while but needed to take some time to sit down and work the numbers. I finally had a chance to do that and I am very happy to start offering sliding scale prices (sliding scales on monthly boxes are effective immediately and will be introduced for workshops in January 2016).
What is sliding scale pricing and how does it work?
Sliding scale pricing provides a service or product with multiple price points. These price points are set to make the service or product accessible to people with different levels of income, so that financial resources need not be a barrier to a person’s ability to access a product or service. Community members can chose the price point that best reflects their ability pay for a product or service, based on their individual circumstances.
The Price Points
When choosing my three price points, I spent time figuring out what my costs are for each product and service I offer and approximately how many working hours are required to develop and produce my products and services. I calculated the amount per hour I need to earn a living wage, that also allows me to make ethical choices as a consumer, including sustaining the business, plus a little extra for an expendable income (books are my weakness!)* I combined my costs and hourly wage together to determine the true cost of my products and services. This price covers the cost of materials and 100% of my time. I have chosen two additional price points that cover the costs of materials but only 60% and 30% of my time respectively.
Obviously I need to recover my costs, but for those with limited financial resources, I am happy to gift my time to make my products and services more accessible across a wider ranger of income levels.
*a living wage is the minimum income sufficient for [people] to pay for the basic necessities of life (food, housing, transportation), so they can live with dignity and participate as active citizens in our society. Source: http://www.livingwagecanada.ca/
How to chose which price point to pay?
This is the tricky part. Sliding scale pricing requires trust, openness and honest reflection of an individual’s ability to pay for a product or service. Determining one’s ability to pay can be challenging and there are different systems to help one decide where one falls on the scale. For example, some businesses ask for income verification, while others may ask that you reflect on how much of your income is spent on necessities versus entertainment, hobbies or vacations. In researching and reflecting on my own needs, values and desire to offer a sliding scale, I came across the work of Alexis J. Cunningfolk and her sliding scale system. She discusses the difference between hardship and sacrifice as one way of determining where to pay on the scale.
“If paying for a class, product, or service would be difficult, but not detrimental, it qualifies as a sacrifice. You might have to cut back on other spending in your life (such as going out to dinner, buying coffee, or a new outfit), but this will not have a long term harmful impact on your life. It is a sacred sacrifice in order to pursue something you are called to do. If, however, paying for a class, product, or service would lead to a harmful impact on your life, such as not being able to put food on the table, pay rent, or pay for your transportation to get to work, then you are dealing with hardship. Folks coming from a space of hardship typically qualify for the lower end of the sliding scale… Please be mindful that if you purchase a price at the lowest end of the scale when you can truthfully afford the higher ticket prices, you are limiting access to those who truly need the gift of financial flexibility. Being honest with yourself and your financial situation when engaging with sliding scale practices grows strong and sustainable communities.”
Alexis also developed a handy infographic to help people determine where they best fall on the scale. (Click to enlarge image.) While this approach may not exactly capture everyone’s individual circumstances, I think it’s a helpful starting place when choosing which price to pay.
I would also like to add that there are many people who have a lower than average income, but for reasons of ethics, social justice and commitment to the environment, they may pay a premium price for consumer goods that support their values. While on the surface it may look like they can easily afford to pay high-end prices for things like local, organic food, fair trade items, or humanely raised meat for example, in reality they may already be making significant financial sacrifices in other areas in order to do so. For these folks, I feel that the middle or lower end of the scale would be appropriate choices here.
When offering sliding scale prices at markets some people express surprise that anyone would pay the true cost of a product when a reduced price is available, but I have found over and over again, most people are willing to pay what they can honestly afford.
We live in a world where so much of the production and consumption of goods causes misery and suffering to others. My hope is that I can offer something of value to the community, that provides a more accessible (admittedly small, but heartfelt) alternative to participating in an economic system the necessitates the profligate use of precious resources and concentrates wealth and power to the few, at the expense of the health and well-being of the many.
If you are interested in purchasing some of the products or services that the Wild Garden has to offer, I invite you to to use the sliding scale. And if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment below!