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The Carpenter’s Invoice

a parable about pricing


Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1975: A man owned a house with a squeaky dining room floor. He paced that floor listening intently for the location of the squeak.


Each time he thought he'd found the right place, he would pull up the carpet and drive a nail into the floorboards. Each time, the squeak eluded him.

Eventually, he called in a carpenter.


The carpenter paced the floor, pulled up the carpet, and drove a single nail into the boards. The squeak never returned.


The carpenter billed the man $50. The invoice said, “Driving one nail: $3. Knowing where to drive the nail: $47.”


Having experienced how the problem had already caused him more than $50 worth of trouble, the man happily paid right away.



The carpenter's invoice hit the nail on the head. Anybody can drive a nail. Value lies in knowing where to drive the nail. The carpenter's expertise solved the problem and was the source of value. Whether the carpenter billed an hourly rate did not matter. There was value in solving the problem quickly, too.


- Glenn R Harrington, Articulate Consultants Inc.



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