Pay what you want might be asking too much from customers

Being the math guy in my hood and non-academic social circle, I am often asked to give private lessons, most often when exams are coming up, but sometimes even some sort of semi regular arrangement. I love teaching mathematics and helping people, and more often than not, people in need for private lessons are not really well off (makes you think), so I am not in it for the money. So when it comes to the end of the lesson and people ask me what to pay, I just tell them to pay what they think is right, which usually plays out in the mid tens per hour.

35 euros

Not too much money for two hours of one of the best math teachers.

Anyway, as you know, everything you say to anyone except your closest friends, spreads around, and so I got word of how some student thought that I am too expensive. What the fuck? Bad publicity despite best intentions. To be fair, that person actually did pay a above average, but I did not ask her to do so. In fact I was a bit surprised by her offer, but the thought of negotiating a lower payment for myself was quite disturbing.

But why did she pay more than she wanted? In contrast to most people asking me for private lessons, she did not know me that much personally beforehand, but instead a mutual friend suggested to her to ask me for lessons. Maybe she wanted to look less cheap in front of me or do not embarrass the mutual friend. Maybe she expected, since I dress, at least for my field of work, sharp that I would be offended by a lesser amount. I do not really know and actually do not need to know.

The real take home lesson here is: Even if you'd be willing to do work for free, doing the pricing for yourself probably enhances the experience of the full transaction. Even if you really love doing it, the mere act of not caring about the payment probably is offensive to people in a less entrepreneurial spirit. Also you can often probably better judge other peoples financial situation in contrast to your own, especially if you visit them at home for your job. Last but not least, fair pricing is hard work and part of your job. Personally I almost never buy anything where I have to ask for the price or even have to negotiate it. That is just too much hassle.