My ‘Give Freely Receive Freely’ Experiment Update – June 2012

Well its been almost two months since I began my ‘give freely receive freely’ experiment, so I thought it was about time I posted an update about how it has been going.

To re-cap, I am trying this experiment with my clinical work (Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qigong Therapy, Massage and Lifestyle Advice).  You can read the explanation that I first posted about this on my clinic website here:


Since that time I would guess that maybe about 40% of my clients have paid a bit more than they would have in the past, about 40% have paid about the same and maybe 20% have paid a bit less.  So overall, I think I am a bit ahead in terms of the money I have received for my clinical work compared to what I would have under my previous set price approach.

I have not had a huge rush of people booking in for treatment as some people thought I would with this pricing approach, and I think there are two reasons for that.

1. I think that still not a lot of people know that I am using this ‘give freely, receive freely’ exchange idea.

2. People are unfamiliar with the idea, and maybe a little uncomfortable about it.


This is not surprising at all as it is an unusual idea and one which is quite different to what we are used to in our normal day to day transactions.  Some people have actually done some research into this kind of exchange – referring to it as ‘pay what you want’.   You can read about some of this research here:

One of the key findings from the research was that less people would buy something paying whatever they want for it (even though they could pay nothing if they wanted to) than would buy something with a low set price.  I believe that this is because most people have an innate sense of what is a fair exchange, and only want to engage in exchanges that feel fair to them.

I believe this is a very good thing – even if it does not maximize income.  My aim in experimenting with this type of exchange is not to maximize the money I receive, although I certainly wish to have enough to pay for my needs my main aim is to engage in a more free type of exchange with people that encourages them to think about and recognize the true value of what they are doing.  This requires thought and can be quite difficult when people are not used to considering economic transactions in this way.  It is also to make my services affordable to everyone, not matter what their economic circumstances may be.

Therapeutic Value

From a therapeutic point of view I believe that this type of exchange can be beneficial because it causes the patient to consciously think about the value of the treatment they receive.  All to often we go through life not thinking about the reason or value of what we are doing.  By consciously thinking about this it helps to open the way for the patient to actually ‘receive’ the benefit of the treatment.  In the end while I as a practitioner will have an effect on the health of my patients, most of the work is going to be done by them.  It is their cells that will have to repair themselves, it is them who may have to do remedial exercises, it is them who may need to make changes to eating habits, lifestyle and thinking patterns.  Conscious engagement in assigning value to the sessions they have with me can help to create commitment on both a conscious and unconscious level to follow through on what they need to do to become well.

This type of conscious engagement can then spill over into other areas of their lives as they learn to recognize value in what they do.  They will hopefully continue and do more of the things that are truly valuable and find themselves doing less and less of those things that have little value or even take value away.

It has been interesting over the last few weeks as I have shared this ‘give freely receive freely’ idea with people.  I have found myself eager to see a new client or one I haven’t seen in awhile, as much to share this concept with them as for any other reason.  I have seen many smiles, nods of agreement and a few laughs as people have heard or read about the concept.  Some people have been excited and enthusiastic, others self conscious and maybe a little confused.  No-one has been outright negative.  One client who was not very happy with his work situation told me that what I am doing had inspired him to investigate a new joint venture opportunity that was coming up.

The Experiment Continues

It is early days for the experiment yet.  I plan to keep it going for now, and maybe permanently.  I am actually already thinking about how I might be able to viably use this concept for some of the other services I offer.

I do hope that as I continue people will become more and more comfortable with this concept.  ‘Give freely, receive freely’ does not mean that you suddenly have to pay more for something to show that you fully value it, it does mean that you have to engage with your role in an exchange and deal with concepts of value, integrity and fairness.  I hope that people will remember that what is ‘fair’ for them to give in an exchange has a lot to do with their resources.  Those who have little should not feel bad that they can only give little.  Those who have a lot should feel good that they are able to give a lot.  And those people somewhere in between (which is probably most of us) need to be realistic about what they can give in an exchange – so that they are satisfied and feel good about the exchange, both what they have received and what they have given.

(Those who are scripturally inclined might like to check out these links Mark 12: 41-44, Mosiah 4:27)

I know that this is challenging and maybe even confronting when you are used to having the price of something set for you.  But I think there is real value for both parties to exchanging in this way.

I have quite a lot more that I would like to write about ‘give freely, receive freely’ and the way it can change our perception of the world around us and our relationships with others. That is why I have set up this blog.  I think the idea has potential, and I am sure I will learn a lot more about it as I experiment with it in practice. I realize that to some of you this whole concept seems very strange, but I hope that you will continue to read this blog as I post more about my ideas and experiences with this concept, and maybe it will still seem strange to you, or maybe it will start to make sense.  At the very least I hope it will give you some food for thought and maybe even some entertainment.

An April Fools Joke About Pay What you want Pricing

I came across this article about a pay what you want airline.  I must admit I thought that was very strange that they would even attempt to operate that way, and the I saw the date the article was published – Sunday 1st April 2012.

I expect a lot of people view the idea of paying what you want for something with suspicion an a little bit of unease even when its for real.

Where did the inspiration come from?

As I have started my experiment with giving freely and receiving freely, people have of course asked the obvious question of where the idea came from.  As with many ideas, I didn’t really know at first, it had been buzzing around inside my head for quite awhile before I finally figured out how to express it and how I would go about it in practice.  As I’ve thought about it more though I have identified a number of sources of inspiration over the last several years that have sat in my subconscious and worked away until I have come to where I am now in my thinking.

International Financial Crisis and Recession

One of the biggest factors I think has been the international financial crisis and the prolonged recession that has followed it.  As a result, a lot of people have been having a really hard time financially and some of the inequities and problems with our financial system that normally would go unnoticed or at least not thought about in any detail have become more prominent.  I guess the saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it’ is actually pretty good advice a lot of the time, but the recent problems have made it clear that something is broken with our system and the way our society functions.

Occupy Wallstreet

A lot of people have been thinking about this and protesting, advocating different kinds of changes that might address the issues.  Probably most prominent amongst these is the Occupy movement.  Starting with Occupy Wallstreet, this movement spread all over the world including to New Zealand where protesters occupied various public spaces for long periods of time.  One of the things I found interesting about this protest movement was that no-one really seemed to have any specific demands, other than a fairer financial system which didn’t make the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  How exactly they wanted this to be achieved was not made clear and in many ways I don’t think was an aim of the organizers, but the did want people to think about it and I think in that they have succeeded.  I didn’t personally pay a great deal of attention to the protest movement, but I think it did trigger some things of in my own mind to get me thinking.

I think maybe the reason that the Occupy movement didn’t have specific demands to address the situation was that the situation is complex and a solution may not be simple, or maybe the solution is simple but we are so ingrained into thinking about things in a certain way that it is hard for us to see it at this point.  Maybe when our perspective changes the solution will in fact be clear and simple, we just have a lot of ‘deprogramming’ to do to bring us to a new way of thinking about our world and in particular our financial systems.  I’ll write more about this in a future post.

Unease and Action

Anyway, the combination of these factors and probably a host of others has left me with a general feeling of unease about our financial system which has been hard to exactly put my finger on.  I think in a way this has been a good thing, because it often takes discomfort to motivate change and action, but what action should I take, especially when I hadn’t really identified the problem fully yet.


Well a few other ideas of things I had heard about in recent times were percolating around in my head as well.  One of the high profile ones was when Radiohead released their album ‘In Rainbows’ in 2007 on a ‘pay what you want’ basis.  It was a very unusual concept at the time (and still is really) and provoked a lot of media attention.  There was a lot of speculation at the time that it had been unprofitable for them, but when figures were eventually released it turned out that the opposite was true and it had been very successful for them.  Theres an article about that here:

Something else I heard about awhile ago was a cafe here in Auckland that was operating on a ‘gift economy’ basis.  I recall thinking it was very strange and wondered if it would work (and here I find myself doing basically the same thing).  The cafe is called the Wise Cicada cafe and as I was writing this I found an article about them here:

I don’t know if they are still operating that way now, but I have contacted them to ask so hopefully I will get some feedback from them and be able to write about that in a later post.

Finally, there was one other article that I read, although this was after I had already begun my experiment.  It was about a coffee shop in the central city operating in this was for just one day to mark an anniversary.  The article is here:


Even though this article was after I had begun my experiment, it shows that there is a general zeitgeist around this idea.  There are many other factors of course, the prevalence of downloadable content on the internet, open source software and so on.  People are looking for different ways to exchange value. The idea is out there floating around and some people are beginning to latch on to it, including at this stage me. While the idea is still very much on the fringes, as I have written this and thought about some of the things that have inspired me, instead of feeling like I’m breaking new ground I’m actually starting to feel a little like maybe I’m actually a bit of a latecomer to the party.