How much is 1978 Ford Fiesta is worth?

Sent by Jonathan Stark on May 30th, 2020

What something is worth is not an intrinsic property of the thing. Rather, it is a subjective feeling in the mind of the buyer.

And yet the English language is full of phrases that seem to imply that the value of a product or service is true (or fair) in an objective sense.

My favorite example of this is from the world of used cars. It would perfectly normal to hear someone ask something like:

How much is 1978 Ford Fiesta is worth?

And in fact, if you google for this exact phrase, you’ll get a result that confidently declares:

A 1978 Ford Fiesta is worth $825.

Except... that’s not true.

The issue here is that the value of a ’78 Ford Fiesta is stated as an objective truth, like a law of physics.

Imagine your high school science teacher standing in front of the room and saying:

“To every action there is equal and opposite reaction. When pressure is applied to a fluid, the pressure change is transmitted to every part of the fluid without loss. And a piece of sh*t banana yellow 1978 Ford Fiesta is worth $825.”

If a ’78 Ford Fiesta was objectively worth $825, then anyone presented with the opportunity to buy one for $825 would buy it.

But this is obviously not the case, and I can prove it.

A ’78 Ford Fiesta isn’t worth squat to me because I wouldn’t be caught dead in one (and I have no use for another car anyway). In fact, you’d have to pay me to take a ’78 Ford Fiesta off your lawn.

Therefore the statement “a 1978 Ford Fiesta is worth $825” is false.

The problem here is the word is.

What someone really means when they say:

“A ’78 Ford Fiesta is worth $825.”

..is actually:

“You could probably find someone to give you $825 for a ’78 Ford Fiesta.”

You might argue that I’m splitting hairs. That this is a distinction without a difference. You could say that everyone understands that a statement like “A ’78 Ford Fiesta is worth $825” really means “You could probably find someone to give you $825 for a ’78 Ford Fiesta.”

And yet...

I hear people all the time indignantly declaring things like:

These and every other similar statement insidiously asserts that value (i.e., what something is worth) is an objective reality. This is patently untrue and there is evidence literally everywhere that proves it.

Here’s the thing...

What something is worth is completely and totally subjective. Which is to say, in the mind of the buyer, not an intrinsic property of the thing for sale.

This is great news for you!

Why?

Because it means that you can increase your fees simply by finding clients who believe that what you do is worth more than what your current clients think it’s worth.

Yours,

—J