"Pay What You Want" for a Glimpse of Divination

Image: Garry Gay

Let's get a couple of things cleared up: I'm mentioning this as example to "Pay What You Want" because – well – tarot card reading is just as ludicrous as a commodity can get. Among my skeptic buddies, anybody admitting a stint of belief in the art of divination is basically predicting his own dark future filled with ridicule and accusations of an unsound mind.

I get that.

Now stop point-and-giggle at me for three reasons:
  1. I don't have divination talents, or absolute belief in them. I just know how attract attention by fancily spreading and dealing cards.
  2. It's not my money vouched in return for psychic smoke.
  3. Psychic readings do not come in cheap.
Compared to struggling artists and bloggers, Psychics are basically making a better living, considering a package of "Divination 101" textbook and a proper deck of Tarot cards barely reaches $100. That, and a knack for theatrical storytelling.

A private 30 minute psychic reading would come at the impressive rate of $75 to $85 - and you should check this article on 12 things to watch out for when getting a psychic reading before reaching for your wallet. If you ever.

The is the third 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 Valuable Advice
  3. Pay What You Want for a Glimpse of Divination.
  4. Pay What You Want: Where, How and With Whom It Works, and Doesn't

The Tarot Card Reading Experiment
  • Thesis:
Would people pay for tarot card readings? If yes, how much?
  • Cast & Crew:
Me, as the card reading babushka, and two friends who will deny any association with me and my cards if I ever mention their names.
  • Setting:
What's the easiest setting to make believers flock and pay for psychic readings? A Bazaar, of course! The Bazaar was held at the higher-end of Bintaro, Western Java. I had a stand banner that read:
[Haha. Sure, you can laugh.]
  • Procedure:
A client comes, asks a question, shuffles and deals the tarot cards, then I - Mama Alia - will spread it on the table for reading and interpretation. Usually starting sentences with, "Hmm..interesting..."

When people got their readings and asked how much the service was for, we just gave them a tin cigarette pack and asked them to "hide the tin box from our sights and pay us with what they wanted".
  • Results:
We had 22 clients that day. Which by the end of it had the three of us sitting around a pile of money not knowing how to divide it amongst us. We had banknotes in 10Ks, 20Ks and 50Ks, making up to an amount that was far more than we had expected.

And it wasn't even payment for a hearty meal or a sound advice. That money was basically an answer to the question "Am I doing alright?", reflected on a bunch of beat cards. Or, looking at it from another point of view, the money was payment for few minutes of undivided attention on a client's narcissistic needs.

The way people responded to our "Pay What You Want" method made us realize: That when people paid what they wanted, they actually paid more than what we had expected.

Which was – in this case – just as weird as it was awesome.

PS: In case you're wondering, I don't read cards anymore – been too worried about pageranks and traffic [Haha. Yeah, that's enough now]. Besides, that bazaar experiment was enough to snuff every empathetical intuition out of me.
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