Thursday, 5 May 2011

Crafting and Fair Prices (again), part VI

 After the break for Freienfels and the CfP yesterday, here's finally the next post in the Crafting and Prices series - and probably the last one for a while.

Things are fairly easy from the buyer's side, as described in the last post - you either are willing (and able) to afford something, or you aren't. If there is no cheaper choice and you need (or really want) something, you have to pay whatever the asking price is.

If you are the crafter or the seller, you will have to figure out how much you need to charge per hour or per item to make a living. Pricing is a fickle game, because the market might be small, and there's competitors, and there's traps and pitfalls everywhere. If you charge too little, you ruin your own business and that of your competitors as well. If you charge too much, you might not sell, or might not sell much. And it's hard to tell whether you just need to find customers yet, or if your quality is too low for the price, or if there are other reasons why people do not buy. If you do not hold out long enough, or run into a streak of luck now and then, things can look pretty grim.

And the main problem in pricing, or at least one of the main problems for craftspersons, is the de-valueing by society. The system of demand and supply in itself has been tested over hundreds of years, and it does work. Things that are scarce are of higher value; things that take a long time, a master craftsperson, or lots of resources to make are scarce, and thus of high value. Items with a high value go for a high price, regardless of the reimbursement system.

Today, we have a trading system that can take into account the time and resources spent on developing and training, and that can make value easily understandable and translatable. It's money. A universal trading concept that envelops our whole world, that enables us to trade with somebody from the Philippines and somebody from Norway and somebody from Japan and US and Germany. Basically, there's nothing wrong with the system of supply and demand and currency as a general barter item.

The problem is one that has been there also for ages, and maybe only grown stronger with our globalised society: It does not take much to break the value of something. You only need to flood the market with something sold way under price, and people will flock and buy the cheap alternative. This will mean that you lose money at first. But if you are a large-scale entrepreneur and can afford to invest a few millions, or billions, or whateverillions, this is just a starting investment - because if everybody buys the item from you, the other people that offer the same goods, but for a fair price, will suffer. And eventually, they will have to give up. And once the competition is gone... you can up your prices however you like. Fat profits.

If you look around, that has been done again and again, on large or small scale. Buying good value for little money is a very tempting thing, and it's just human to do so. But there's a difference between getting a good (and still fair) price and buying something for much less than the asking price should be. Because the latter... it breaks the system. And we are all part of the system.

Buying for way under price, in time, will come back and kick us in the butt. Please consider this the next time you are tempted to buy cheap - especially textiles, but also other crafted things. Paying fair prices can help us all, while paying too little makes the system suffer. Buying fewer things, but for a fair price and in high quality does lend a different quality to life. It's not always possible, that is true - but do give it a try for yourself, and you will see that one-of-a-kind things, where you know the living breathing craftsperson who made it for you will change the way you look at things, and the way you value things.

We can break the system easily. But we can also be part of a revaluation of crafts, and handmade things, and high-quality things. In a world of mass-production, we can make crafted, bespoke items a status symbol and prestigious thing again, and craftspersonship a thing of value.

Think before you buy. Help making our world a better place to be.

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