What If You Charged Admission For What You Do?

ExperienceEconomyI could write a lot on the book The Experience Economy, but there’s one thought that really hit me from what I read. What if, instead of charging for your product or service, you instead charged an admission and gave the rest away for free?

How would this impact how you interact with your market?

How would this change your focus on the customer?

The best example of this contrast is a theme park like Disney World (or Disney Land) vs a carnival. Whether or not you personally like Disney World/Land isn’t the issue…their cash flow statement clearly shows that plenty of people do.

When you arrive at Disney you pay an admission to enter the park. At a carnival you often go in for free.

At Disney, once you’re inside, the rides are free. At the carnival you buy tickets and then spend them to get on the rides individually.

How does this change the experience? Are the rides really all that different? I can find trolley rides with robots at either venue. Roller coasters,  rides that spin, rides that go up in the air…functionally it’s the same thing right?

But it’s the experience that changes the context.

I’m guessing that in many cases, the net outflow of cash from your pocket is about the same. Whether you pay for everything a la carte or in a lump sum at the door, what you pay is probably equal.

At Disney World I go through “It’s a Small World” every single time and never calculate it from the “cost per ride” as part of the original admission.

At a carnival, if I had to pay 15 tickets for it, I’d be pissed. My focus is turned from the experience of being there to a critique of the worth of an individual ride.

Heck, the Tilt-A-Whirl isn’t worth 15 tickets to me these days.

Wooden roller coasters? They kill my back. There’s no way I would pay to get on one…and yet, when I visit King’s Dominion, near where I live, I get on their wooden roller coaster every single time. I swear I can feel my vertebrae clack together. It has nothing to do with getting my money’s worth and everything to do with immersing myself in the experience.

Anyone who witnessed me shoveling the snow for the past couple of weeks may have realized that this is how I roll. Snow down my back from a big wind gust? Soaking wet from climbing on top of SUVs? All part of the experience. Love it, even when I’m in agonizing pain from the exertion.

The last three times I’ve been to Sea World, I’ve spent an entire day feeding the dolphins. (I had to pay for all those sardines too.) The last time I was there I paid another $150 to take a “behind the scenes” tour.

So I paid admission to pay to feed dolphins and pay to look at tank filters for a bunch of sharks.

Sign me up.

I wasn’t the only on there, doing exactly the same thing, either.

I can’t think of a single story of an experience I had from a carnival or fair I’ve been too, but I can describe lots of awesome experiences I’ve had with friends (and some I’m sworn to never share…cough cough…Pleasure Island at Disney World). I’ve ridden the chocolate factory tour ride at Hershey Park more times than I can count (and I don’t think it’s ever changed) and I can vividly remember some of the people I rode with and the fun times we had.

I’ll pay a lot for an experience but I’m kind of cheap when it comes to paying for the individual components that make up that same thing.

I don’t think I’m alone in this either.

So how about you? What would your own business look like if you were to charge admission for it and give away a part that’s currently charged for? If not your business, how about some other businesses out there? Leave your comment below and share your ideas.

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