1. WHAT IS IT ?
Gift Economy is a model that promotes a truly ethical way of doing business, it is about giving gifts from a place of service and love as opposed to charging set amounts out of fear and demand. Furthermore by allowing your customer to choose their donation amount, you are enabling and empowering them to make decisions motivated by their own will.
But why is normal business demanding and therefore unkind and unethical?
To answer this, we need to look at a specific and very important attribute of love. “Love is a Gift”. True love cannot be expected, it has no strings attached, it doesn’t barter, pander, manipulate or compromise; it is an unconditional gift. But when looking at business and the economy we shun such a special and important attribute love. We set prices and we make demands. We attach a lot of strings, manipulate, strategise and exploit to avoid our own feelings of fear and satisfy feelings of greed, lack of worth and scarcity. It is these emotions that are the driving force behind the worlds economy and look at what we have created. If we are really interested in loving others as a global family we have to go to the source of the problems and change the motive behind why we do what we do. When any organisation charges a set price they are using a technique to get people to engage their will. Love never manipulates people to engage their will, because your will is most beautiful when it is motivated by you.
When operating with Gift Economy:
The service provider can enjoy the benefits of
Working from a place of love and not fear
Receive gifts from others for their work
Learning about their limiting emotions linked with money through the Law of Attraction
Customers can then enjoy
Being given a gift
Having no demand placed on them to reciprocate this gift
The opportunity to give a gift in return
Learning about their limiting emotions linked with money by observing their desires
That’s a lot of gifts! Alongside any attribute of love always comes truth, which in the case of business, relates to financial transparency. In a truly ethical business, companies operating on Gift Economy would share what their services cost to deliver, including how much all of their staff are paid and how they spend their funds. This transparency goes hand in hand with working by donation, more on this below. Transparency allows people to make an informed choice as to how they want to support and it encourages business’s to be honest about what they can do better and how they can bring more equality. Gift economy to me is a system that brings to the surface for everyone involved the emotional issues we have surrounding money and provides an amazing opportunity to grow in love and purify our desires.
2. WHY DO IT?
We can all see that the world needs a lot of change, I feel very strongly that “What the world needs now is love sweet love, it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of”. So, instead of trying to achieve in the Worlds way of business, which wasn't bringing me real happiness and was causing me to mistreat those around me, I am trying a new way. About 4 years ago I would have described myself as an atheist, I was very closed off to the potential existence of a loving God. Quite frankly I was judgmental, arrogant and I thought the whole concept was ridiculous. Now I can see how all present Gods loving design is and how I was actively working against it in so many ways in my life. The implementation of Gift Economy in my business is an experiment to attempt to purify my motives and desires and to find out... what actually happens when you do Business Gods way?
So, what was off with my motives previously? In 2019 after spending time in Australia learning more about Gods truth from the teachings of Divine Truth and volunteering for the Gods Way organisation, I was given help to see the true motives and driving force behind a lot of my decision making. From a very young age there has been a large feeling in me of needing to earn worth and prove myself, particularly to men, by competing with men. My feelings were and still can be “I can do that too”, I’ll show you that women aren’t all the negative things that the world around me was making them out to be. This also came with a heap of issues that would be projected at women. To be given such accurate personal feedback about my main emotional issues, is the best gift I have ever received.
I am extremely grateful for the awareness it has brought me, these feelings had solidified so deeply in me it had turned into more of a state of being, I didn't really even know that there was another way to approach things other than work hard play hard with the goal of achieving. I was quite unaware of just how much these feelings were shaping and influencing my life in a negative way. I have always led with strong logic, often meaning that I unknowingly sacrificed my heart, feelings and true self to do so. The business world is a patriarchal one, if you want to “succeed” in this broken system you do have to compete and reject the more feminine traits of emotional sensitivity and I feel that applies to both men and women.
The very sad thing is, it’s that very connection to our hearts and feelings which is the most powerful and fulfilling aspect of ourselves. When we combine emotional connection with the application of logic and reason we can start to meaningfully fulfil our passions and life really begins.
I could see that the way I had been doing things previously was bringing false success. Although I had built a very prosperous and respected business, this success often came with stress, suppression, mis-treatment of others and general feeling of dissatisfaction and fatigue. I’m not saying that my true passions and nature don’t shine through in Happy Maki, they have definitely shaped the business that I have built, which already has so many kind attributes to it. But if I’m not feeling emotionally fulfilled and I'm not passionately engaged in service then something isn’t adding up.
After reflecting on the emotional feedback I had received and the reasons behind why I hadn’t tried using Gift Economy sooner in the business (even though I had known for a while that it was a kinder way to operate). It became apparent that this was the perfect experiment for me to learn from and trigger my fears and false beliefs about money. In its implementation, the issues of competition and financial security have been abruptly challenged. Instead of it just being a crazy idea to be dismissed because “it would never work”, I could now see it for what it was, a great opportunity to grow in love and get closer to God, the latter of which I still have quite large blocks to. I’ve always been drawn to experiments and innovation, so it excited me too. The past two years had taken me from concept to where we are now and it has been that teetering mixture of fear and excitement. One day, this is awesome, the next day I'm thinking, eject eject! No real growth occurs without going through some hard feelings, but going through these has been so inspiring, fascinating and faith building. Plus its actually been a lot of fun seeing the ideas and inventions come to life as me and the team explore what is a relatively under-applied facet of ethics and economics.
In summary I want to focus on love, in doing so I hope to discover and demonstrate a truly ethical business model, with a solid foundation. Whether you agree with me or not on the source of "Love" makes no difference to me. But I bet most of you agree, on the importance of love and its power. I want to slow down and focus on how I can better treat others rather than “achieving” in the world’s way. I believe that when I act out of Love for God, others, self and the environment then real joy, satisfaction and "success" will result. When we confront and work through our fear, anger and grief, not only can we be happier but the process will reveal exciting, and at times surprising, opportunities and truths about our real selves and will greatly benefit those around us. I can safely say that so far this is exactly what is transpiring for me, the experiment is working and its teaching me more that I had imagined possible.
As a company we feel strongly about transparency and how undervalued a quality it is in life and business. In order for customers to connect to their donations we want to be forthcoming with our finances, how much we are making or losing and where our money is spent each year. We have put a lot of effort into working out our “actual cost” and £6.50 is what we have calculated we need to receive from every customer in a year at our takeaway to be able to operate at a 5-10% profit margin to allow for growth and repairs. At the end of the first year, we will be able to show full analysis of how the experiment has gone for us across all seasons and following our improved methods of communication. However, at the moment we are on track to make around a £20,000 loss this financial year. (6 weeks of which we were closed due to Covid during which little losses occurred) Below is a breakdown of what makes up that cost price. We pay our staff more than living wage regardless of age and we continue to plant a tree and feed a child regardless of the donation amount given per meal. You will soon be able to see more info about our finances and how we run as a not for personal profit company on our FINANCES page.
4. THE RESPONSE
The whole experiment has been fascinating. I want to sincerely thank those who have chosen to support us over the last 10 months with their kind and generous donations. When we serve customers who are grateful for the food and who value what we are offering it really is special. I definitely feel it's a privilege to be able to do this for my job irrespective of how people choose to value us. We are all very passionate about veganism, the environment, healthy food and positive change. I do think people can feel this and that its why they really fall in love with the food and all that comes with it.
The experiment been a huge learning process for us, every day we are presented with situations that trigger negative emotions. It's has provided the perfect opportunity to practise humility and process the exposed demands, anger, judgements and hurt (I'll go into more detail on this in the next section). At the beginning I was optimistic about the fact that our customers would choose to support us, and for the first few months this was almost the case. However we are now faced with a problem, people aren't valuing the food and we are not being supported.
To be honest I don’t think I realised just how many people once they got wind of the "opportunity" would take advantage of the gift we we are giving when we were being so transparent. There has only been one day in 10 months that the donations we received covered the "actual cost" of the service we provided. Interestingly enough this was Valentines day, maybe because people felt like though ought be loving on that day? The full stats and breakdown can be found in the results section. But the overarching issue is a feeling of entitlement, its not a secret that this is widely present in western society, we should get what we want when we want. When you offer food for free or as a gift, you literally become a magnet for people with these feelings, but this isn't a bad thing because it provides many opportunities, to teach by demonstration and to show compassion. And if that continues not to work then we can remove the gift.
I can give you an example of these feelings in people, just the other day, a customer had chosen to donate £1 for 4 wraps (we get 50p of this after charity donations). When we asked what had influenced her donation amount and how she valued our food, she said that she wanted to treat her and her friends to dinner but she didn't have much money. After trying to raise the ethical issues she wasn't seeing, she got angry and said " but this is why you are doing this so that people like me can get cheap food". This is not what Gift Economy is about and it is not why we are doing it. Those with entitlement issues feel its completely ok to expect others to cover the cost of their meal... and along with that expectation comes assumptions. Not once have we had someone ask, I dont have enough to cover the meal but are you guys receiving enough donations so that I can pay less? They just assume its all taken care of.
It became clear pretty quickly that if this was going to have a chance of working and if we were going to fully engage, it had to become more of an education project than a business experiment.
1 in 3 people choose not to donate the "actual cost" of the food, on average they donate 65% of what it costs us. Because we already make the food very affordable and we are a not for personal profit company it doesn't take much to push us into a negative. As a result of the donations people are choosing to give, we will be making a large loss this year. It's not ethical to operate a company at a loss, because we want to be financially self responsible. But I also will not go back to charging set prices, since properly connecting to the fact this doesn't honour peoples will and desire. So I needed to ask the following questions:
Why are so many people choosing to engage their will in a negative direction?
Why are they so greatly undervaluing the gift that they are being given?
Why is it typically students or people aged 18-25?
Why are we attracting this, how do we value ourselves, what are we being shown?
We all have a lot of emotional issues surrounding money, whether we hoard it, long for it, resent it, prioritise it, attach our worth to it, let it be the main influencer in our decisions, give it away because we are uncomfortable with having it, the list goes on an on. Gift Economy is such an awesome model, because by being given the opportunity to participate in an exchange that allows you to engage your will, it highlights your personal emotions surrounding money. We can see how confronting, thought provoking and uncomfortable it can be for someone people but we know this is a good thing, our discomfort is our guide. Also we know we are providing a kind environment in which these feelings can be highlighted, addressed and discussed without judgment. Although some people do not take it this way and can't be quite attacking and abusive towards us. We have a small toilet downstairs which is our "emotional processing room" and often staff need to have a good cry after some pretty horrible treatment just for standing up for love and being transparent about the position we are in and how the experiment is going.
For the majority of people, students or not, who choose to undervalue the gifts, I feel that there are 9 main potential emotional issues at play. It can be really beneficial to honestly reflect on which of these emotions exists in us and reflect on how our parents and caregivers have not given us unconditional love growing up which leads to these emotional errors that we easily attach to money, but which aren't really even about money.
I also want to say none of the below is judgmental, we get that the system is broken. Students pay very high fees and I think especially after the way the last year has panned out they are pissed about really being very ripped off. All myself and the team can do is raise issues when we see them and encourage people to reflect. I recognise some of them in myself still and I know that they only reason they are there is because we have been taught wrong about love.
The solution however comes down to emotional self responsibility and asking ourselves the hard question why do I not value these people and the gifts they are giving ? What do I value, what will I happily spend my money on and are these choices beneficial for myself, others and the environment?
DISCONNECTION: We can be so disconnected from the service and charity that we receive from those around us that we don't even realise we are receiving it. If everyone knew how much hard work goes into making a sushi burrito, they wouldn't value it at £2/3 pounds. It's like how most people who have been a waiter or a waitress tip well, because they are connected to the hard work someone is engaging in for their benefit. When you are aware of a gift you really value it. Every day to run the shop takes a minimum of 32 man hours, cleaning, food prep, food assembly, administration, stock management and more cleaning! Plus the time and funds it has taken to get the store up and running in the first place. But can any of us even claim that we don't all know how much effort it takes to make a nice vegan meal completely from scratch? People are not even connecting to the fact that there are 3-5 people right in front of them all working hard, using efficient systems to make them fresh food as quickly as possible.
EXPECTATION: When the people around us create environments in which we are constantly served without being aware, then we can come to expect it and demand it. This is very clear with how students expect that they shouldn't have to pay full price, and a general feeling of being able to get away with certain behaviour because "they are students". Society continues to create different rules and exemptions for students, this is what breeds the expectation. Students not only feel entitled to a discount but to expect others to cover the cost of it. I feel like this is also the case with Universal Living Wage, again being given something for nothing when we are surrounded by work that needs to be done particularly environmental work. Its breeds feelings in that that we can expect to be looked after.
DILUTION: We let how much money we have affect how much we value something. I call it our "financial filter" when everything is assessed relative to what we have rather than what we are actually being given. If we have lots of money things can become disposable and devalued. If we feel we are short of money we can attach this lack to what's being provided to us. To asses the real value of something we need to look at the gift alone and not attach our personal circumstances to it, instead we should maybe be asking, why don't I have enough money to be able to buy things at their true value? (This is obviously a different scenario when speaking to people who have nothing due to circumstances largely out of their control like third world countries)
REBELLION: All of our lives we have been forced to pay for things, a lot of the time "through the nose" whilst often others get rich from it. We are angry about that and the inequality that results. This used to be a big emotion for me, I was angry especially when it came to the housing situation in the UK and when it came to what the government were spending taxes on. When the rules are lifted we take the opportunity to act out on this anger and we rebel. It's the same emotion that causes looting when civil law breaks down or tax fraud when we are allowed to self asses. Sometimes our customers are simply looting from us!
SCARCITY & GREED: A lot of us are told no a lot as children, we are controlled with money and we are manipulated by gifts, Santa Claus is a prime example of this. So when someone says to us "yes, you can have whatever you want as a gift" it can send us into some sort of kid in a candy store frenzy. We be completely self involved in that place. Taking all that we can for ourselves and not thinking about exactly what's going on in the situation. Businesses manipulate this feeling in us with BOGOF offers and sales making us feel like we are getting as much as we can for our money, like we are cheating the system and that feels good.
TAKING ADVANTAGE: I think one of the saddest truths highlighted to us, is that people are taking advantage of us, simply because we are being open hearted and therefor they can. But the truth of the scenario is we are the ones that have the least desire to control and we want to use the donations in good ways. This has been a big personal lesson for me, over the past year and its a real relief and joy to start taking more responsibility for my own feelings and actions and not use the kinder people around me as an avoidance tool. It allows room for gratefulness which is just, well, great!
INEXPERIENCE: Some students might not have had a full time job before or worked in a physically and energetically demanding environment. So it's hard for people to relate when they don't have a real concept of what "earning their way feels like". When you meet people who have been taught self responsibility and independence from a young age it's a very obvious contrast, these people make for amazing employees.
FALSE VALUE: At the moment on the planet we really only associate something as valuable if it has a price tag attached. This is how high end brands build a following, they manipulating this feeling in people. Isn't this just crazy, that as soon as someone offers something for free we immediately devalue it? I feel that this is happening in some of our customers, oh its free it doesn't matter what we donate for it cos in some weird way they think that its now worth less. This also applies when people are trying to offer a service that is affordable it gets taken for granted and devalued even more, when really these are the sort of actions and generosity that we should be highly valuing in our lives.
SUSPICION: People quite commonly believe that we have an ulterior motive. In the world around us especially when it comes to money, people are shifty. We often get asked if what we are doing is for tax reasons, or people just assume that's why we are doing it. Some people find it hard to believe that we would do what we're doing without an ulterior motive, some people think it's a marketing ploy and that we are getting more money by doing it. When we are suspicious about people, it blocks us being able to feel their true nature and it also blocks any potential generosity. We are very awkward and ashamed and embarrassed when it comes to money, when money isn't even real or bad. It's just a system of exchange that we have created to enable us to make things happen. We want to relax the conversation around money, we're not embarrassed about it or ashamed, that's the beauty of financial transparency you lose all those things when you put everything out in the open.
USE OF WILL: Where and how we choose to spend our money is a huge statement that we all make daily and it carries a lot of voting power. Every penny we spend funds something and creates the world that we are currently living in. The seemingly small decisions we make really do add up and can make a big difference and I feel a lot of people don't realise the power of this, they want to blame organisations like governments and oil companies instead of looking at the fact that these only exist because of our actions, desires and demands to live a certain way.
Charles Eisenstein's video on Sacred Economics is a great watch, it looks at the financial system and how our emotions have played out in its creation which is an economy based on interest bearing debt. Charles Eisenstein (born 1967) is an American public speaker and author. His work covers a wide range of topics, including the history of human civilisation, economics, spirituality, and the ecology movement. Within the video there are a few nuances that I disagree with in the points he raises. One being that we give gifts because we need each other and we want to create social security. If these are our motives then I feel by the very nature of the interaction you're not giving gifts and it can't be classed as Gift Economy, it's more of a barter. But i’d love the opportunity to discuss this in person with him one day. He has also has a really interesting Interview with Russell Brand which is definitely worth a watch if you’re into this field of research.
5. OUR EXPERIENCE
Quite full on to say the least as I have touched on a bit above, but very powerful and full of positives. Since May our communication around the topic has greatly improved, from how we speak to customers to the way the application has been designed and developed. The more we address emotional issues in ourselves the more emotional and ethical nuances are shown to us, that we didn’t necessarily notice at the beginning.
To begin with, we were being quite largely triggered at peoples actions. To be able to have these conversations in this in a kind way we needed to first be willing to address and process the negative feelings that it was bringing up for us. Some examples of these feelings are:
Anger at under donations made in a disrespectful way
Anger at apparent chosen ignorance in people
Anger at people’s feelings of entitlement
Anger when people project what we are doing is stupid / nonsensical
Feeling completely under-appreciated for our time and effort
Feelings of hopelessness when kindness is met with mistreatment
Feeling like what’s the point. We’re all doomed.
Feelings of being taking advantage of
Fear and grief about the fact that when you do open your heart people willingly abuse this.
Fear of job security being at risk
The above list highlights the demands that we have on the people around us. When these demands /emotional addictions are not met then, we get angry. For example, the demand from our end is that we must be appreciated for what we do. When we are appreciated it feels nice and when we are not it exposes the injury. Once this demand is worked though we are able to provide the service with zero expectation of appreciation, so when we are not appreciated it won’t trigger any negative feelings in us, just compassion for the individual and a desire to educate. When in this place, then the food is truly a gift.
It’s very much a work in progress for us all and there are times when we feel more resistant to owning our emotions and we are all at different stages with it. But what we can do is help each other see when we are acting unkindly, a lot of which on the surface might seem very subtle, but you can soon build sensitivity to what’s going on inside. This can very quickly facilitate positive change if approached with humility.
As I mentioned before there have been a lot of beautiful learnings and positive feelings too Some examples of these are:
How a day at work can feel completely different when your focused-on service and giving
How grateful some people can be and what it feels like to be truly valued
How respectful people can be when they take the time to understand our desires and intentions behind the experiment.
What true humility looks and feels like
How faith building it is to see people giving generously is a true joy for people who are less affected by emotions regarding money
How confronting our anger, fear and grief leads to positive change
How God's law of attraction brings us with uncanny accuracy what we need to address
How the majority of people still want to support you, the world is not doomed, there is a point!
How facing fears of mistreatment and judgement is very freeing and empowering
That not everybody is going to like or understand what you’re doing and that’s ok and freeing
How important education about self-responsibility is and learning how we can help with this
I remember so clearly the first conversation I started with a customer, they had ordered £40 of food and paid £1 for it. I was just asking to understand what was influencing what they were choosing to donate, in case there was anyway in which we could help. I was scared to have the conversation because of the bad feelings I might receive and that my intentions might be misconstrued, but I was in no way attacking or shaming, I was bricking it! The next day I received a very abusive message from the customers friend (who hadn't been there) telling me how disgusting my behaviour had been, that I had shamed and embarrassed the individual and that I have pulled her to one side in front of lots of people, basically she was saying that I was a horrible person. All of which wasn't true (I checked with the team on shift just to be double sure!). Essentially it was all the feelings I was scared of experiencing, and thats what I mean about how the law of attraction is so perfect. However it was a start and a wake up call that people were at times going to get very defensive and choose to attack us.
It became pretty obvious how important addressing unloving behaviour in people was, not because the survival of Happy Maki is at risk but because:
When Happy Maki gives gifts that foster unkind behaviour in our customers, then we are no longer loving them.
Since November we created a leaflet that we give to people, after a low donation has been made. Every month or so a new version gets printed as we become clearer in our desires, and as we learn more from our conversations and uncover all the false beliefs that people have. I am very grateful for those who have been honest and open about their feelings surrounding the experiment, it's been super useful and has helped us realise where the main misunderstandings are. The leaflet we give, explains gift economy in more detail, explains the facts of how the many low donations are affecting us and it and outlines the common false beliefs around the experiment. Then when their food is ready, we start a conversation asking how the leaflet made them feel so we can better understand them and their motives. We reiterate that our desire is not to manipulate or punish (but understandably some people, due to their upbringings are going to feel told of regardless of our feelings in the interaction) and we and encourage them to reflect on it and chat about it with their friends.
You can check out this leaflet here.
Our goal is to help people honour and understand the use of their free will and we can't do that if we charge a set price. So if you're reading this because we've spoken to you I hope you can better understand our intentions. We've had some really lovely interactions with people who have been very receptive to what we have to say and have gladly changed their donation habits and are grateful for what we had shared with them. Even if 10 people respond badly and one person connects with it and personally benefits then its worth it. And even with the negative interactions we don't know what the positive ripple effect will be of that conversation. But we do know when the conversation is had with a loving motive on our part, then it's going to have quite a substantial positive effect in one way shape or form whether that's relatively soon or some time down the line.
5. OUR EXPERIENCE
Below is a summary of the main points that customers have raised that come about from the emotions I listed in the section "How are our customers responding" or the beliefs they had about why they felt justified, comfortable and, in many cases, entitled to under value the gift out of choice rather than true necessity.
We are aware that this is not all on the customers. We are always reflecting…. how have we contributed to not being clear?
How have we avoided addressing the exploitation of the gift being offered? How are our feeling and projections affecting those around us? We continue to work on modifications on our end to improve this.
You make lots of money from delivery sales, don’t you?
This is essentially an accusation that in providing a suggested price/ our actual cost that we are not being transparent about what we need to operate as a company. That we are somehow sneakily making and pocketing money off deliveries on the side. Our delivery platforms take around 30% of the total cost as a fee. The orders really help us pay our staff and business bills rather than making us any money. The money that we take from these transactions is very much needed by us, especially so in this winter when they have accounted for around 45- 55% of our turnover. They help reduce our losses in these much quieter months and if we didn’t have the support from delivery platforms then the suggested price would have to be about30% more. Its looking pretty clear that by the end of the 1st year, come May, that the under-donations made by customers will translate pretty clearly into an equivalent financial loss for us. In other words, the OPEX is still what we need from each customer in store to make between 5% and 10% profit in a financial year.
I thought other people would be donating more and covering my deficit?
We feel the main issue here is that it’s not someone else’s responsibility to cover your underpayment. The majority of the people under donating are not doing it because they don’t have access to funds to feed themselves, they are doing it because they are choosing to spend their money elsewhere and to take advantage of a company that gives them the opportunity to do so. When people over donate it’s on average by 5 % when people under donate its at an average of 38 % so no one is covering that deficit. Also, those over donating are doing it to either support the company and what it stands for and help those who genuinely don’t have access to food, not to mop up the losses created by unnecessarily low donations.
Why don’t you just put a minimum price in place?
The suggestion here is that others should have to put rules in place to control our bad behaviour instead of taking responsibility for our own decisions and actions. Did you know that to begin with road speed limits were advisory, but after everyone abused this, legal limits and fines had to be put in place to attempt to force people to drive safely. I find it really interesting that usually the people who have a dislike for the police and government and rules are often the same people who don’t take responsibility. The whole point of Gift Economy is that the customer engages their will to give ethically, putting a minimum price in would defy the whole point of that. We do tell you what our minimum price is, this would be the OPEX– 5/10%. Our minimum price would be our OPEX so we would be right back to selling as we used to.
My student loan has almost run out?
It’s not our place to act as a scapegoat for a broken system and potential mismanagement of personal finances. One of the really sad confirmations that have come from the experiment so far is that as a society we are still quite likely to take advantage of people being kind to us and give power to those who are demanding, less open hearted and transparent. I feel very passionately about sorting problems out at the cause and not just mediating the effects. Us operating at a loss because your finances aren't adding up is definitely not dealing with the cause of the issue, and us having to force you to give us the amount of money that we need also doesn't solve the cause of the issue.
Well, you’re saying I can pay what I want so why wouldn’t I pay £1?
A large part of this experiment, is to encourage people to connect with their spending and what they are choosing to support and why. When you donate less just because you can you’re making quite a large statement that you don’t even value the time that the someone has put in to all the processes involved in preparing a meal for you. That’s a pretty sucky mindset to be living in, one that we know means you’re not getting the most joy that’s available to you and we want to help with that. We’ve pretty much all been there so we’re speaking from experience and it’s a lesson that most of us wish we had learnt sooner. So, what we are encouraging is reflection on the issue and connecting to how you feel about it and how those feelings might be negatively affecting you. Feelings such as “I just want to get as much as I can for my money” versus “I am happy to support these people who have taken the time to make me a healthy and sustainable meal. If negative attitude and behaviour like this continues, we know the right thing is to simply remove the gift from the individual, we do not want to be the facilitators of damaging behaviours, this is an act of kindness.
Do you lecture all of your customers about ethics?
This was said by someone who didn’t realise that we can see what people donate and what options they chose as the reasons as to why they are giving themselves more than a 33% discount (double the “normal” student discount). So, no we only speak to customers who we feel might be taking advantage of the gift being given or might not have understood the concept fully. Usually these are people ordering large meals with all the trimmings and paying very little, they have an unkind attitude or feel unconnected/ unappreciative.
Why don’t you just up the suggested/ “actual”price?
Again, this is a similar answer to “putting minimum prices in” you’re suggesting that others should pay more to cover your unkind decisions. Also suggesting that we lie about how much we need to operate. The “actual price” is what we need from every single customer to operate at 10% profit>. This profit allows for business repairs, improvements and growth. It’s only a so low in the first place because we are an established popular business with a high-volume Summer trade, if we weren’t popular the actual cost would go up.
They can’t see what I’m donating so why does it matter?
We can see what you’re donating…. but that really shouldn’t have any influence on the amount you choose to give. If you’re only going to give what you feel is an appropriate amount if you’re being watched then you’re really not interested in supporting the company. That is an issue of love when we want to take advantage of people if given the opportunity.
This is a clever marketing ploy I bet they get more because of it?
We hear this quite a bit from 30 + year old customers, I think there is a suspicion in a lot of people that this couldn’t just be something that someone chooses to do out of good will. I understand why people might be suspicious, there are not many businesses yet that would do this in good faith alone. I have had other industry friends say to me though, once you’ve worked out how to do it well and done all the problem solving, I’d be keen to give it a go! That’s great, I love the process of purifying processes and intentions, problem solving, I thrive off of that. So, I don’t know what else to say other than there is no ulterior motive. We are likely to lose around £20,000 this year, so it’s definitely not a marketing ploy to make money. If money was a priority there would already be multiple Happy Maki stores across the UK.
Is this for tax benefit purposes?
No, the decision to operate on gift economy was made before any potential tax ramifications were looked into. To give you a bit more detail of the currentVAT situation, as we serve cold food to take away, we don’t have to charge VATon the sushi or cold sides but we do on drinks and hot sides. However, when we open our eat in restaurant and start providing eat in meals all normally subject to VAT, HMRC are not willing to give me a clear answer on the legislation as to whether we need to pay VAT or not. A donation is not technically a business transaction. As it’s not a compulsory payment that means it’s VAT exempt. However, we are also aware that at some point HMRC might turn around and say we have to pay it, it’s a bit of a grey area. Either way we just pass this saving on to you by keeping the eat in prices lower, if we did have to start paying VAT then the eat in “actual cost” would increase by 20% (5% at the moment due to Covid) to reflect this. I am happy to pay all our tax due, but if as a result of the experiment we are doing we don’t have to pay VAT then that’s just a bonus that allows the food to stay affordable.
DATA ANALYTICS AND PROCESSING DONE BY JOEY SALMON - BUSINESS MANAGER
KEY FINDINGS :
37 % of people choose to donate less than the actual cost
44 % of people pay the actual cost / suggested amount
19 % of people choose to donate more than the actual cost
When people choose to give extra the average over donation is 14%
The average "discount" amount is 36%
1 in 4 "discounts" are between 50%-1% & 3 in 4 "discounts" are between 51-100%
1 in 10 people donate less than 50% of the actual cost for their food
There has only been one day on which the donations we received covered the cost of what we provided.
Total donations given to date : £ 154, 915.07
Total actual cost to us : £ 174, 975.52
The overall deficit is : - £ 21,060.45
Until we get to our year end we won't know how accurate our calculations have been for actual cost, but at the moment it's looking like the predicted loss of circa £21,000 is quite accurate.
When individuals who are homeless or don't have any money or access to a bank account received food for free, we don't put this through the till. So the data doesn't include these gifts we give, and is therefore slightly positively skewed
6. OUR TILL
We first trialled the Gift Economy concept at Vegan Camp Out in 2019. At this event we didn't give customers any guidance of what it costs us to make the wraps, plus the customers had to tell us what their chosen donation amount was. We found it was very common for people to either just empty their pockets of change and hand this over as their donation, or to be influenced by what whole notes they had on them. For example if they had a £10 and £5 they would donate £5 even if they wanted to pay £6/7 as this avoided them having to "break" their tenner. At the end of the event we ended up with just an insane amount of coins and an average donation of £. per wrap. We also found that without giving an actual cost, it was very hard for people to connect to all the background expenses that were involved in bringing them sushi burritos in a field, why would you know this unless you had experience in event catering. So although they might have wanted to cover the costs they weren't able to accurately assess what these were.
At the second event we repeated the above, no suggested price but we did card only payments and the customers could type in their donation amount in front of us. Operating cash free worked a lot better for us, its more hygienic, it doesn't influence or affect people's donation choices based on what they "have on them" at the time. It saves us time in having to bank the cash which incurs a fee for us. Going Cashless also makes recording and analysing information a lot easier. So after the two test events it was obvious that in order to facilitate a quick, clear, cashless and hassle free donation process for our customers I would need to design and build a donation till interface.
This was a VERY long process that involved figuring out :
What getting an app built was going to involve.
If we could afford to do this, and how much money could we invest in this product.
Making sure the final product was well built and sharable as we would be giving away what we developed for free also on a donation basis.
I emailed a load of app development companies and Ben from Ocasta who specialises in app development and online training offered to help and give some advice. He was extremely kind in hearing me out and offering to help me speak to the tech people at IZettle regarding whether or not we could get information sent to and from their application which would take payment, this involves something called an API. API is the acronym for Application Programming Interface, which is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other, which in our case is our application and the payment providers application. Long story short this was a dead end with I-Zettle and building an app was likely to cost around £10,000 if it was to include a back of house reporting system. Eventually I ended up speaking to Long live King, who create web applications. They quoted us around the £3000 mark and at this point I had reached out to Square Uk about the project and they had shown much enthusiasm and interest. They had an API in place that would let our web application speak to their payment machine, essentially our application could sent the chosen donation amount to their card reader to process. The design for the interface continued to develop and eventually we ended up with a working web application to use in store for the launch of Gift Economy in May 2020.
Since we launched it the design has been changed a few times after seeing how people interact with it (very few people read text that is on the screen) and also after seeing how my emotions had negatively affected the design. For example to begin with the actual costs (then called the suggested cost) was hidden behind a button which you had to press to reveal. I was so worried about being accused of trying to manipulate people's actions that I hid was is very important information. Sharing the actual cost of making the food should never be something I feel bad about! We are now about to make a version 4, interface which you can see below. Currently due to the fact that we cannot sent the actual cost to our application as a API for this doesn't exist, the customer needs to enter a code which generates the cost total on the screen for customers to see. They then have two options they can work with this actual cost to create a donation amount that they are happy with. Or they can use the keypad section to manual type in a donation amount. Once either the Pink or Green donation button is pressed this then gets sent to the square card reader to process the chosen amount. See below the screen progression. If customers give themselves more than 33% off the cost of their food a prompt screen comes up to A. help them connect to why they are valuing the food at this amount and B. To let us know why they are valuing the food at their chosen amount.
SCROLL BELOW TO SEE SCREEN SHOTS OF THE APPLICATION
The application will continue to be a work in progress we are currently in conversations with Square, in the hope that we will be able to use their application to generate an actual cost for the customers rather than them having to enter their own code. This will speed up the process, avoid having to repeat and raise our voices (currently screens and masks make this process harder than it should be) and it will also eliminate user error, sometimes the codes are wrong and a single error can change the suggested cost significantly. The below diagram explains in a diagram the system we are currently using and the API's in use, and looks forward as to how we would like the three parts of the system to interact. Interesting for those of you who enjoy tech and programming.
CLICK HERE TO SEE API DIAGRAM