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Doing Business With Ward Members

February 2, 2011

I had a new friend over today for lunch.  She introduced me to some new foods and we had a great time chatting.  When she asked me what I charged for piano lessons, she said, “Oh good.  I’m glad you charge the full amount for ward members. *  It is one of my biggest pet peeves when they expect things for free all the time.”

She and I are going to get along great!  That is also one of my biggest pet peeves.  I live in a pretty wealthy ward and although people know we struggle so hard financially, it doesn’t stop some of them from trying to get things for cheap or free.  Really, I don’t think it’s the majority, but they make a very lasting impression.

I play for many things that are church related and it’s no problem as long as no one expects me to drop everything at the last minute to help.  I can’t even count how many times I have been asked to play for a baptism the day of –  sometimes even an hour or two in advance.  I guess it’s one of the last things they think about and I understand that, but they need to understand that I have a life and I’m not going to cancel family plans if I happen to have them.  It was extra annoying when the same person kept asking me at the last minute.  I finally told him, “You really need to give me some notice for baptisms.”  We had to devote that day to job searches and we couldn’t put it off.

What frustrates me more than anything is when people actually have the nerve to tell me, “Ohhhhhhhh!  We checked into the cost of accompanists and it was sooooo expensive so we figured we would ask you!”  Amount they offered:  $0.   I ended up telling the mom, “A friend was trying to convince me to go into business doing this because I could make a lot of money.  I haven’t chosen to advertise at this point because it is so time consuming and would be hard on my family.”  She said, “I told my daughter if we had to pay for an accompanist then she wasn’t going to do it!”  It was amazing that she assumed so quickly that I would be OK with practicing with her daughter weekly, practicing on my own for hours, and giving up a Saturday to attend this event with no compensation whatsoever.  These aren’t church hymns.  They take a lot of work.  It was hard not to take it as, “We don’t have money for a real accompanist, so we’ll just have to settle for you.”

I ended up not playing for this girl because another girl asked me too and she wanted all of my attention to go to her daughter, but the following year the mom called me again three days before the event and asked me to play for her daughter.  I was stunned.  She must not have any clue what a big deal these things are, but for Pete’s sake, I have four children including a toddler!

Having participated in solo/ensemble competitions in junior high and high school, I paid my accompanists or I traded with a friend who was also singing.  As a teenager, I was paid to play for others.  When I had my voice finals in college, I had to pay an accompanist.  It’s just one of those things that comes with studying music.  If my parents felt they couldn’t afford it, I did some more babysitting.

Then there’s my husband.  He’s very handy.  Some ward members are very cool and say, “We would rather pay you than someone else!  We want to pay you what you’re worth!”  Other times, he gets questions like, “What’s the cheapest you would charge to fix the hole in our ceiling?  Would you do it for $50?”  Hmm.  That works out to be less than $10 an hour.  Not such a sweet deal for us.  If there is some kind of disaster with plumbing or a tree falls on a house, he is happy to run over and help for nothing, but it is really irritating when people try to take advantage .  Don’t tell me about your trips to Hawaii, Disneyland, brand new cars, etc. and then claim that it’s just not in your budget to pay a reasonable price for services.  It’s a really hurtful thing when my family is struggling to eat.

I have a really hard time talking money with people, but I am getting better at it.  If my mechanic quotes a price without guilt, why should I feel guilty?  Because of past experiences, I now have a policy that lessons need to be paid for at the beginning of the month and if something happens, I am willing to do a make-up lesson.  If someone isn’t happy with my rates, they can shop around for someone cheaper if they can find them because it won’t be long before I’m approached by someone who knows it’s a great deal, especially since I come to their house.

I think this philosophy that Mormons should do stuff for free all the time comes from the idea of living the Law of Consecration.  It does sound very nice, but my landlord doesn’t live the Law of Consecration.  Neither does the grocery store, our insurance company, phone company, electric company, or car dealerships. 

Speaking of, I better go pay our rent!

*A ward is the word Mormons use for our congregations.

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