I just saw this piece in The Infrastructurist: Vermont Taxi Company Says: ‘Pay What You Want!’, about a guy who is offering rides to people for whatever they want to pay. It appears to be going very well:
How does it work? “When we get to the destination, people say, ‘What do I owe you?’” says Hagen. “And I’ll say, ‘Pay what you want!’ But it’s a concept people have difficulty wrapping their heads around. So I just say, ‘Be fair.’ Most people figure out that they can save a few bucks and still be fair. I’m being generous by taking a fixed price out of the equation, so people are usually generous in return.” … He sees doing away with prices as a revolutionary form of consumer empowerment: Trust people to be honest and allow them to work within their own means can become the basis of a viable business, he believes–and he seems to be hoping that Recession Ride will spark imitators in wide range of industries. “We’re in a tough world now,” he says with a shrug. “Things have changed. They aren’t ever going back to way they were.” He thinks smaller and more adaptable business models are the way things are headed. In spite of the tough times, nobody has yet chosen to pay nothing at all. “One girl gave me a CD – she didn’t have any money,” he says. “That’s fine. Another woman gave me a food card for Hanniford supermarket with $10 on it. Again, fine.”
What strikes me about this arrangement is that it’s human-scale – it results in interactions that are not industry-defined, but which are authentic and real. The driver and passenger have to relate to each other as human beings. There’s more room for confusion and it’s not as efficient or cost-effective (perhaps) as some other business models, but it’s real, and it’s meeting people’s needs. Read the rest of the post at Infrastructurist.