Is It Wrong to Charge Different Rates for the Same Service?

March 29, 2016, 3:11 PM UTC
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Practically Speaking is a weekly column that addresses your most pressing business dilemmas. The advice is the opinion of long-time business owner Gene Marks. Send your questions to

My business provides therapy services to individuals and I frequently quote different rates for the same service based on what I think the client can afford. An employee thought this was not a fair practice. Am I wrong to do this?

Is it wrong that the guy sitting next to me on the same flight paid $100 less for his ticket than I did? Or that Uber charges a premium on busy nights? Is it wrong that a luxury resort charges more for Internet access than a Hampton Inn, even though the speed is the same? Just because you’re providing professional services doesn’t mean that you’re not running a business. And because you’re running a business you can charge your clients any rate. You don’t even have to explain your reasons. Are you taking advantage? No, you’re just charging what the market will bear. And if one of your clients is happy paying more per hour than the another guy and he’s happy with the services you provide then go ahead and charge what you can get, fellow capitalist.

Now that summertime is approaching, my employees are showing up to work in less clothing. One woman in customer service wears very low-cut tops that not only display more of her body but also a bunch of tattoos that were previously covered during colder days. Is it right for me to dictate to my employees how to dress for work?

This depends on your business. Do you run a tattoo parlor? A fitness center? A swimsuit shop? Then fine. But it seems like you’re running a typical office and in a typical office it’s expected that people will dress professionally and appropriately. Your customers who visit your place of work don’t want to see anything more than the product you sell and the smiling faces of your great staff. And your fellow employees may find all that extra skin is…well…distracting. So write up a dress code. Communicate it to the staff. And if you feel that tattoos are not a professional look for your company then politely tell your employee to cover them up.

Related: This Is the No. 1 Quality Gary Vaynerchuk Looks For in a New Hire