The others are paying more. Or not.

Earlier this week, I got a text from this lady, who comes round to our house about once a week, to clean and do some ironing. She was asking for a raise, arguing that her other clients pay her more than I do. You see, instead of going down the route of mentioning value or costs, she told me what others were doing. The norm.

Cue feelings of worry that she might drop me because I was paying less than others, and a certain amount of guilt that I wasn’t matching the others’ valuation of her work. And I promptly called my friends to check the new, higher rate that they were paying to her.

This article on Fast Company shows the effectiveness of descriptive norms. The article compares the effectiveness of two types of messages left on hotel rooms, encouraging guests to reuse their towels. Message one described the problem (i.e., waste of water). Message two described what previous guests had done (namely, used their towels more than once). The result? Around 25% more guests reused their towel with message two than with message one, as illustrated below:

The twist in this story is that, when I called my friends, they told me that they were paying exactly the same amount I was paying. Moreover, they told me that they had received the same, or a very similar, request from her.

So, now, I am wondering whether she was referring to other clients (she does have more, after all), or just trying her luck.

PS – For what it’s worth, I do understand her desire to get more money for her work. And I do very much value her work.

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