What Should My Teen Daughter Charge for Snow Shoveling?

Super important practical follow up to Ilya’s post.  My teen daughter and perhaps a friend are thinking of doing exactly what Ilya mentions – going door to door in our neighborhood in Spring Valley Washington DC neighborhood and offering to shovel out walks.  This is near American University campus.  How much should they charge and how should they do it?  Per job, per hour, and how much?  She wants practical advice, and especially if you have some idea of the customary rates and measures for the service, even better in these geographical regions, she would be grateful.

Update:  The daughter, who is 17 and strapping, has gone out To Seek Her Fortune.  I’ll report back later on results.  However, thanks for the suggestions below.

She has already done gratis the elderly on our cul de sac, so her conscience is clear.  One of the problems, frankly, of the upper middle class school regimes, public and private, is that they start from the entirely fantastic assumption that the kids are a bunch of rapacious little capitalists who need to be forced into required pro bono service to learn character.  The lesson learned is that goodness consists of working for government or nonprofits.

No kid among my daughter’s friends or my wife’s students has ever worked for pay, but they have put in vast number of entirely pointless community service hours in places like Guatemala and Costa Rica, entirely ignorant of the whacked aid economics of sending 14 year olds to “build” houses in rural communities in the third world.  My daughter and her friends are rapacious – not as capitalists, however, but merely as consumers.  To the extent they have been educated in the ethics of production – it is entirely an ethics of therapeutic production, the helping professions, not any kind of market production.  This is a very big problem when that is the in-training of the next elites, because what we call capitalism is as much sensibility as sense.

My daughter’s biggest need is to learn how to negotiate in a straightforward, business-like basis in which she will not presume that because she’s a nice kid she doesn’t need to do a good job, or that she is somehow a rapacious little profiteering scamp if she thinks she should get paid – and that it is okay to negotiate to a deal.  You have no idea how hard that concept is for kids raised in a purely pro bono environment.  They are scared to make an offer or bargain; it seems low class and grasping.

So, my suggestion to her, based on these comments:

  • Offer only to do front walks and sidewalks – not driveways or shovel out cars.  Why?  Driveways need bigger equipment – premium in this neighborhood is getting the walks cleared, and that’s what people should be willing to pay the most for.  They don’t need their cars right now because very little is plowed yet.
  • Charge by the job.
  • Charge $20 – it’s the bill people have in their pockets.
  • Make clear up front that she is not going to be able to get the ice they allowed to accumulate from the previous storm up – in some of the cases it is an inch or so thick, and if that’s the issue, wait for the yard care guys who will also take care of the driveway and the car, but won’t be here for another three days or so.
  • In effect, it’s premium service for walkways, on an expedited basis before the people come with real equipment for the larger areas.
  • That’s Daddy’s advice.
  • Always trust Daddy’s advice.

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