Charging your customers a joy tax

The sanity tax is a minor cost that’s disproportionate to the massive value we get in return.

It’s when we pay a little bit more to get what we need rather than settling for less out of guilt, pride, consistency or frugality.

Like spending a hundred bucks an air conditioning unit for our bedroom so we don’t sleep in a puddle of our own sweat all summer. Doesn’t that seem worth every penny?

But that’s not the only tariff worth paying. There’s also something called the joy tax.

This is when we forego time, money or quality for the privilege of having a more delightful, connected and memorable experience.

Like the sandwich place by my office. Hank is the friendly, smiling owner who shakes your hand when you walk in the door, genuinely cares how your day is going, and almost always offers you a free cookie or beer sample while you wait. The staff is hard at work, but always singing and joking around. And the customers in the dining room can’t help but be in an upbeat mood.

We have never had anything less than delightful experience there.

The thing is, the food is average. Kind of greasy actually, expensive, and if you order the portabella sandwich, it takes seven extra minutes for them to cook it just right.

But customers don’t care. Because the experience is so wonderful. That’s the brand. And we’re happy to pay the joy tax. Doesn’t that seem worth every penny?

It’s proof that business is at its best when it’s about the service above what you really sell. The goal is creating emotional and social meaning above and beyond your actual product.

Here’s a formula companies can think about:

We’re really a _____ company that just happens to sell _____.

Hank’s restaurant is a joyful respite from the dull and robotic workday, that happens to sell sandwiches.

See the difference? Every other lunch stop on the block misses the boat on humanity and delight completely.

Sure, their food might be better, their price might be lower and their service might be faster, but because they’re not brave enough to charge customers a joy tax, we never make it through the door in the first place.

Have you considered what business you’re really in?


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