During the holidays, I was fortunate enough to treat my lovely mother to a late birthday lunch at Awai in Bloor West Village. Besides the food being fantastic, something else interesting happened at the end of our meal….. Our server, who was great!.. brought the bill and it said “Pay what you’d like.”

To be completely honest… Im rather diligent with understanding an establishments menu and pricing prior to attending. Although I’ve heard a lot of hype about Awai and my mother is slowly becoming a vegan (like everyone else I know!) But this was my mother birthday!.. and I was happy to bring her somewhere I knew she would enjoy. When we arrived, our server explained they had a 5 course tasting menu that day for lunch and there is no menu. My best dining experiences in the past have also been tasting menus so I gladly gave the waitress a nod and thumbs up, without asking the price per plate! (not a common move for me)

I really would like to make sure that I get a word or two in about the food prior to diving into the pay what you can economy theory…. The food was fantastic! All vegetable based with bursting flavours and the right amount of food to please. Awai opened earlier this year and is located in Bloor West Village at Bloor St. West and Durie St. be sure to check them out, the service was top notch and they have definitely earned my business again!

Back to the pay what you’d like economy…..

Its something I’ve heard of, but have never actually been subjected to! When the bill came our waitress promptly explained this approach. My mother and I quickly understood and the server left us a pen to fill in the blank and then went to help other patrons. So there we sat…. With a pen and a _______ to fill in and scratching our heads a little.

Im not oblivious to the fact that view of this approach may vary from others. The first thing that came to my mind is how confident a business must be in its ability to please its customer. I get it…. This can also be a tactic to guilt customers in to over-paying out of the fear of under-paying. I can understand this may frustrate some people as many like structure and this type of end-of-meal experience may be a cramp in a good experience.. But I loved it!

It’s no secret that if you live in Toronto you know the “hold back on offers” strategy to selling a home…. I’ve literally seen a million dollar property listed for $1 with the same kind of “pay what you can” tactic….. (link to this blog here) This is a frustrating topic and I know its left quite a few people with a bad impression on Toronto’s real estate market.

That being said…. what i want to dive into in this blog is the service industries approach to the pay what you’d like economy.

My career is literally built on clients experiences… I think of it much the same as a dining experience! I find a way to bring my clients into my business, whether it be referrals, marketing, networking etc….. and then I go above and beyond to provide them with the best damn real estate experience anyone has ever had in an attempt to gain client loyalty and future business… Much the same as a restaurant! The confidence you must have in your service to put your livelihood in another’s hands based on their experience with you, says a lot about a business’s confidence.

Lets be realistic…. If I go to a restaurant and the experience is not pleasant, there is no way I will go back and I will likely tell people in my network that the food or service was poor, along with write a review to suggest ways for the business to improve. Its much the same with a client relationship in real estate. Whether the meal is half the price of a good restaurant or not, it doesn’t matter.. Im there for the experience and if Im not content with the experience, no discount or “next times free” voucher can replenish the relationship.

I guess what Im what Im getting at here is there is 49,000 realtors in Toronto. Realtors are listing properties for .5% to get listings, rather than the market rate of 2.5%! What I would like to see is the pay what you’d like economy creep in the Toronto Real Estate industry. I have a feeling the realtors working for .5% would still only be getting paid .5%! Theres something to be said about a positive, A+ experience… which scatches that ever important itch the customer/client has for a top tier experience.

I know you’re likely wondering by now… what I ended up paying for the 5 course lunch I treated my mother to… and YES, of course I paid… hah! I was pleased with the service and the food. I have a rather good understanding of what a full 5 course meal such as this with a glass of wine would cost… my mental tally was $90.00 excluding tip. I ended up paying $120.00 with tip based on the principal that the food and experience exceeded my expectation. In my opinion, this was a few dollars above the market value of that meal.

I’m not saying pay your agent more than 2.5% of the sale price if they exceed your expectations… What I am getting at is the accountability factor. I would like to a see a more accountable system in real estate. Rather than the commit-prior-to-service model we currently have… I understand that if I brought my mother to Tony’s 2 for 1 pizza we would of had a completely different experience.
Final Thought: Hire a professional who has the proper tools, skills and abilities to achieve the highest results possible… Don’t be fooled by low commission and believe in the pay what you’d like economy!