Ever heard that phrase? Here in Chicago we are more likely to say, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Actually, I heard someone say that to me on the streets one time when I was passing out something free… I don’t remember what it was but it definitely was not lunch. Yet, that’s what the passerby said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
On the flip side…
People LOVE coupons, discounts, special deals, lowest price guarantees, dollar stores, etc.
We live in a world where instant gratification is everything. It is not about how much work or effort you put into something but how cheap did you get it. It is everywhere and its killing us.
Businesses source materials at the least expensive rates possible (with the highest markup possible). I am not that old but I can remember being able to find high quality items at stores. For fun a few weeks ago, I ventured into the Halloween decoration area at Target. I do not typically look at that stuff but had a few minutes to fill. I was blown away by how cheaply the stuff was made.
Consumers look for the lowest priced items rather then the highest quality items. Plus, consumers use coupons, discounts, and clearance racks first and foremost. I have been guilty of this myself. With one of my favorite clothing stores, I used to go first to the clearance rack. Now, I don’t really go shopping so, if I need something new, I will check the sale section on their website first.
Business has catered to consumers’ desires and consumers have kept asking for lower prices. It is a vicious cycle. In order to fulfill businesses’ and consumers’ desire for as cheap as possible, we have shipped off our jobs overseas because no one in the United States will work for the little amount of money you get out of making the product.
Let’s take coffee as an example (I ❤️ Coffee)…
Coffee is the 2nd most widely traded commodity in the USA next to oil. We spend a ton of money on coffee. We also complain about the cost of coffee. So many people want the 99 cent 20 oz coffee. Even when people pay $5 for coffee, people want to earn points or get a punch on a punch card.
The reality is that some of the poorest countries in the world are coffee growing countries. There are 23 million small coffee farmers in the world and they live on an average of $1 per day. They work hard to grow and harvest their coffee but they cannot sell it for a high enough cost to provide for themselves and their family (more in this video). With coffee and with so many other products, people in other countries end up paying for our desire for cheap and free.
To make a long story short
It really irks me when people complain and whine that we have no jobs. If we say we want more jobs for people in the USA, it will cost us. I wonder to myself, “Are those people who complain are willing to pay the price?”
Tons of businesses have used our desire for cheap and free to cut cost by only offering part time work. I myself own a business and it is super hard to compete with everything. Then we have to realize that our clothes, our food, our chocolate, and everything we buy were made by someone. Are people willing to pay more? Are people willing to live with less (but higher quality)?
This is a big problem
Lots of people know this and still go after free and cheap. They know the consequences. They see the writing on the wall. They are like a frog or a lobster in a pot of water. As the water temperature rises, they do not notice and stay there until the are cooked. Going after free and cheap is killing us.
Being a small business owner, I see this all the time.
With the coffee shop, people come in all the time with outside food, use the wifi without making a purchase, and wonder why there is a problem. Then they get upset if we aren’t exactly like the competition or have EVERYTHING!
With coaching, people just want us to drop everything we are doing so we can give them sage advice and help them but they are not interested in paying us for our time. They do not care that we spent many many hours, days, months and years to make our dream a reality and they just want us to give away all the knowledge we have gained from our hard work.
As a culture, we have to realize the things we take for granted cost someone. It may not have been you but someone paid for you to have something free or cheap.
There is Hope
Okay, I may have been in the business too long. I may be jaded and cynical but I still think there is hope.
Here is how I believe free should work…
When we were in the early stages of Overflow, Amanda left a relatively high paying job to work for someone for free. Amanda mentored under someone who gave her sage advice and helped us be at the place we are today. What Amanda did was offer the mentor her time and service to help grow her mentor’s business. Amanda showed up 21 hours per week for 3 months. In exchange, the mentor taught Amanda everything she knew about running a coffee shop. No money changed hands but Amanda’s hands went to work and the mentor shared her wisdom and knowledge.
What we water grows.
Remember that vicious cycle of business pandering to consumers’ desires and consumers pushing for cheaper products? What we water grows.
Businesses who are trying to do right for the entire supply chain – like, paying coffee farmers a living wage – depend on consumers to make a conscious decision when they shop. What we water grows.
Coaches and mentors who are trying to pass along their knowledge depend on allies and mentees to realize the value of the investment being made and treat it accordingly. What we water grows.
As a consumer, it is okay to live with less and only buy what you need. Water what you want to grow.
As an entrepreneur, it is okay for your products to cost. You might have heard it said, “An entrepreneur works 80 hours a week so they don’t have to work 40 hours.” You know the cost of what you are creating. Do not cheapen it. Ever. Water what you want to grow.
What are you willing to pay top dollar for? There’s something of high quality, uniqueness, or some other characteristic that you will pay whatever the cost. Comment and share what that is.