"Pay What You Want" for Food

Are people generally generous or greedy? If you could get away with it and there were no prices on the menu, would you pay for your food at all?

First of a four-part essay on "pay what you want" business practice.
  1. Pay What You Want for Food
  2. Pay What You Want for Sound Advice
  3. Pay What You Want for Intuitive Readings
  4. Pay What You Want: Where, How and With Whom It Works, and Doesn't.

Imagine walking into a restaurant for the first time and have the owner say this to you:
"Hello, we're a non-profit restaurant. We operate on a pay-what-you-want model. So we have no set prices. We let our customers pick what they want to eat and then pay afterward, however much they wish. If you can't pay anything, then we ask you to volunteer an hour helping in the cafe." [Source: Here and here]

On So All May Eat (SAME) menu, you'll find food items, but no price attached to it. The philosophy is very simple: if people eat right, they can work and study better. If people work and make better grades, they can make their living and get off the street.

Or, even if they haven't figured out that much, they can still maintain their dignity and eat by helping around the place; so it’s not exactly giveaway, rather than a community helping itself.

Crazy, right? In order for a project like this to be sustainable, it needs plenty of generous patrons to keep up with the people who come and eat without paying. So, would it work on the long term? Haven't we seen enough examples of people taking advantage of each other?

A person can barely make his own keep and meals, let alone help feed others based on faith in goodness, right?

Fact is, SAME has been running since 2006. If the community project was so crazy, it would have collapsed from the first year. If people really were selfish and ungrateful, SAME wouldn't have been able to feed 55 patrons every day, 15 thousand a year.

All based on the faith that people would be decent and generous enough to volunteer making pizzas and anonymously put money in the donation box.

Obviously, they have.

Next article: Pay What You Want for Sound Advice
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