Sliding scale is an acknowledgment that just because something costs the same number of dollars to all people buying it does not mean that that something is equally as expensive for each of those people.
A $20 ticket to the single mother working for minimum wage is much more expensive than the $20 ticket for a professional couple with no children both working full time.
Sliding scale does not reflect the value that you put on the event. The person who pays the lowest end of the sliding scale and the person paying the highest on the sliding scale both place equal value on that which they’re getting from the event.
Sliding scale is based on your ability to pay. One person’s loonie can be worth more than another person’s loonie and so sliding scale is an attempt to make it that every person pays the same worth instead of the same dollar value.
When asked I tend to say, somewhat flippantly, “if you can afford to buy yourself a latte every day then you might consider paying more than the lowest end of the scale.” The person using their disposable income to buy a latte every day, leaving themselves only enough to pay the lowest end of the scale, is choosing to allocate their resources to coffee, and is saying that the fancy caffeinated drinks are of more value to them then the skill and expertise of the person providing the service. It is a somewhat flippant reply because the coffee may actually be worth more. It may be the only thing keeping that person from loosing it at their children during the afternoon slump. And why is it that only “well off” people are allowed vices?
With sliding scale one is not expected to justify what one pays. It is completely on the honor system, and is a private calculation/decision made by the individual and is not the concern or the business of the person offering the sliding scale – because it is based on mutual respect. Nor is the highest price the “real” price and the lowest price a discount. Whatever you pay on the sliding scale is the full cost of what you are paying for – and everyone, no matter how many dollars they spent, receives the exact same product and the exact same respect. The “customer” who pays the lowest end of the scale is valued just as much as the “customer” who pays the highest end of the scale.
(Sliding scale is seen in the wider world too. Think the tax system or the premiums for our medical services plan here in Canada.)
Why do I do this? Because gender and race and class and sexuality effect our earning power. Because it is a way to make an unfair world a little more fair. Because we all need to be part of the solutions.