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Pick a Price, Any Price

May 20, 2009  

When you have customers scrambling to make ends meet, or cutting back on unnecessary expenditures, it might seem foolhardy to let them set prices for your product or service. But Sam Lippert of the Java Street Cafe in Kettering, Ohio, took a chance on that risky strategy. He told diners they should pay what they thought their meal was worth.

In an interview with CNN's John Roberts, Lippert reported that the policy is working. While some people take advantage of the system, most come close to the prices he would charge on a set-price menu. "[S]ometimes people shoot a few dollars over," he says, "and sometimes it's a few dollars under. And, you know, at the end of the day … it works out even."

Critical to Lippert's success is the personal nature of the transaction. "[T]hey have to look me in the eye and say that that's what they think is fair," he says. "And, you know, that's a big incentive. When … you say, you get to pay what you think is fair, very few people are going to take advantage of that situation."

Business is up, and in a big way: daily sales and customer counts have risen by 50 to 100 percent. "I'm starting to look at being able to bring some of my part-time people on full-time," he notes, "and maybe being able to add a couple of new employees."

The Po!nt: Don't stop thinking about tomorrow. This strategy is a great reminder that good ideas grow businesses—even in a downturn.

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