Sunday, October 05, 2003

What's it worth?

I've been brooding tonight. Something happened today that has me pondering.

A lady came into Skein today and said she wanted some help fixing something she was working on. She said she didn't know we were so close to her home and had always gone to another knit shop that is a few miles south of Skein.

She had a scarf and a washcloth that had some dropped stitches. The yarn was not from Skein. I explained about our lessons and the price. ($15.00 per session) So I fixed her mistakes and we chatted a little bit about nothing in particular. Then she asked me what she owed us. I told her $15.00. "Just for this?" she asked, indicating the two pieces I had fixed. "Well, I have to go out to my car."

So she went out and I kind of figured she wasn't going to come back. But she did and brought the money. Ann Mary began ringing up the transaction as the lady started leaving the shop. "I don't need a receipt" she said. And left.

Now, I know the other shop charges for help. I don't know what their fees are. So that isn't what's bothering me. It's the way she dismissed the work I did for her and the inference that it wasn't worth the $15.00.

I guess it's the same old issue of people undervaluing their knitting and perhaps crafts in general. And she would have paid the same fee regardless of how complicated the repair was. I'm not sure if she was clear about the price. There's no way I can know that. I thought I was specific. But what I think is that she herself doesn't value what she does. Or what I do.

I get paid for what I know, not what I do. Although I do have to be able to do complicated things if the situation calls for it. I think I have been guilty myself of not valuing my knowledge and skill enough.

I don't know why this is preying on my mind but it is. I suspect she won't ever come back. And that may be part of it. Ann Mary frequently hands customers over to me to show them how to do some little thing and sometimes those little things can get pretty involved. But she has decided not to charge if the customer bought the yarn from Skein. That's her perogative as the owner even though I might think the work involved should be chargeable. That's why she pays me.

What's bugging me about this? Do I feel bad because the customer didn't understand what the charge would be and that's making me feel incompetent? Am I angry because she dismissed my work as so easy I shouldn't have charged for it? Is it the bigger issue of valuing myself and what I do as being worth someone else's money?

I don't have a certificate from any organization that verifies I have certain skills. (Maybe I need to look into that.) I do know that I've spent a lot of years learning what I know. I don't think of myself as a professional. There's lots that I don't know but there's lots that I do. I'm good at figuring out things I haven't come across before and at getting people to understand what's needed.

I used to do some production knitting. For very little money. I don't do that anymore. The money isn't enough for the time involved. And I don't need to accept that kind of work anymore. But I learned a lot while I was doing it. Kind of like going to school. If someone wants to pay me $500 to knit a sweater I'd probably do it. But not for the $50 I used to get.

I realize that the money people spend on knitting is generally discretionary whereas money spent at the doctor's or dentist's is not. That doesn't change the fact that they've asked for a service. And that service has a value.

I wonder if the bottom line of all this may be stemming from my own background. I don't think my parents recognized the worth of the arts in people's lives. They had a strong bias toward security and easily identified careers. I think I learned that my own interests were not of equal value to those of, for example, my older brother. So maybe I'm still struggling with that. You'd think after all these years I would have settled that.

Sometimes I just run on too long.

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