|legal documents/price vs. cost||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Hungerford, David (dghungerforducdavis.edu)|
|Date: Wed, 3 Aug 94 15:33 CDT|
On 8/2 Gareth Fenley wrote: >another member of our group contacted The Cohousing Company and via them, >was offered the chance to buy sets of documents from 2 different >cohousing communities at a premium charge of something like $50 apiece. >our group did not take up this offer. Because I had recommended to Gareth that he go to The Cohousing Company for our (Muir Commons) bylaws, I was especially concerned (and surprised) at the price they were charging. When we decided to give the documents (as in free of charge) to TCC, despite our substantial monetary investment (somewhere between 3 and 5 thousand dollars, the actual fees were combined with other legal costs, so I don't know exactly without looking back at the billing) and a kazillion hours of group time (remember, we HAD NO MODEL,) our understanding was that they would distribute them "at cost." We did this because, while we want to be as helpful as possible to new groups, we were being swamped by requests for our documents. We did provide copies at xerox+mail cost for awhile, but the people doing the work found that they just didn't have time to fill all the requests and answer the inevitable questions people would call and ask after receiving them. Our main contact person, Cathy duVair, found she was spending almost every evening on the phone answering questions and taking requests (this during the period just after move-in, when all the network/NY Times/Wall St Journal/PBS/Newsweek etc. publicity was happening). We felt this was an unfair burden, so we gave the docs to Chuck and Katie. I just got off the phone with Ellen Hertzman (sp?) at The Cohousing Company, and she explained that their pricing decision included xerox cost, mailing cost, and the cost of having someone do the work, answer the phone, and talk to people when questions arose, and that they felt that $45 IS their cost for providing the service. I ran up some numbers and come up with the following: 1) xerox cost. The Muir Commons Bylaws are about 90 pages long, that's $4.50 at $.05/copy. 2) mailing cost. First class, if they copied front and back, would be about $2.50 (50ppgs+cover letter+envelope weighs about 10oz) 3) employee time. Let's say it takes 15 minutes to take an order, chat briefly to explain what's available, do the copying, and post it. Assume TCC has a generous benefits package and the employee costs $30/hr, that's $7.50. so the out of pocket costs to TCC are in the neighborhood of $14.50. BUT how much does it cost them to BE THERE TO DO THIS???? Not to defend the current price they're charging, but they are trying to make a living doing cohousing promotion (like many other "cohousing" consultants.) Yes, it IS very generous of Rob Sandelin and others to donate their time to your group so you can join us in the cohousing lifestyle, but that doesn't change the fact that The Cohousing Company has a payroll, office expenses etc. Besides, when you hire a lawyer to put together your own documents (DON'T EVEN DREAM ABOUT DOING IT ENTIRELY YOURSELVES) you'll be paying at least $125/hr. If these documents save you 30 minutes of billed lawyer time, you've made money on the deal. Ellen told me that they were reviewing their pricing policy, since they were getting some negative feedback about the price. If my opinion about all this is unclear in this posting, it's because I'm unclear what my opinion is. I do feel that the world would be a better place without the profit motive, that is, if everyone behaved generously and altruistically. . . like the Amish, or the crew of the Enterprise :-) . . but since we all (except the idle rich) have to work for our livings, I don't feel that Chuck and Katie are out of line in attempting to recover some of their "free" costs (talking on the phone, promoting the idea of cohousing, answering questions and basically serving as a free resource for general information) through these documents. Remember, if they hadn't begun promoting the idea (they self-published the first run of their book before being picked up by Ten-Speed Press), the only cohousing community in the U.S. would be "N" St. in Davis, and they wouldn't know what to call themselves (just a joke, Kevin and Stuart). By the way, collecting the sample documents as part of resource network seems like a great idea to me. But, who will do the work of distributing this stuff for free? David Hungerford dghungerford [at] ucdavis.edu Muir Commons
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