Ethics in Business

A college student sat in our kitchen last week and told me of his experience at a local alteration shop.

He needed three repairs done on two items.

First, there was a tear in these shorts:

and a rip in this pocket:

and a button missing here:

And guess what they were going to charge him?



Can you believe it?

How much would you charge?

How much would you pay to have someone else fix them?

I know, some people would say, “Hey, if someone is willing to pay that much, you should charge whatever you can get from them and make a huge profit.”

Well, I don’t agree.

First, wouldn’t you just feel terrible in your heart of hearts knowing that you ripped someone off?

One of the verses in the Bible in the book of Proverbs says that “Honest scales and balances are from the Lord.”

So, I want to be fair and honest in my pricing; not gouging someone just because I can.

Plus, there is the admonition to love your neighbor as yourself. I’m to treat others like I want to be treated.

And,  don’t you find that people who are “all about the money” are tough and mean and greedy?

I don’t want to be tough and mean and greedy.

The thing that’s sad about this particular shop is that they consistently don’t do a good job.

I’ve been hired to redo several items that they “altered” over the years and I feel bad for the customer.

Lots of people go there because they are located right next to the city mall.

When they walk in the shop, they don’t know what poor service they’ll get until after they pick the item up.

So, I told this boy I would fix his clothes for a fraction of what it was going to cost him there.

He called the shop, ran over and got the items, and brought them back to me.

And we were both happy about it.

It took me 20 minutes to do all the mending and reattach the button.

That means the other shop, who I’m sure would take the same amount of time to fix these items, was charging $126.00 an hour!


Isn’t that what we pay a doctor per hour? Or a dentist?

Granted, our skill is a skill and it takes time to develop, but $126.00 per hour?

Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you think…..!

(If you want to know how to fix these kind of tears in your garment, check out this post.)


29 Responses

  1. Thanks!!! I have had the same experience and have been appalled at what is charged. True it is a skill but a God given one and should be treated as a gift—-
    Thanks nice to know there are others out there who believe as I do

    • Hi Joy,
      Thank you so much for your comments. So, you’ve had that happen too. Maybe it’s more common than I thought.

      I like your thought that it’s a God given skill and should be treated as a gift.

      I hope you have a great Labor Day weekend!

  2. I do alterations and repairs on clothing. For this particular job I would charge $10.00. I live in the midwest and have been sewing for a long time, but those prices are outrageous. When you deal with a cleaners though, they tack on more than the alterations person charges, especially if the alterations are not done on-site as in my case. I pick-up the jobs from the cleaners and then repair them accordingly, then deliver them back when done.

    • Hi Shelly,
      You made a great point. The dry cleaners charge a large overhead fee on altered clothes here too. The nice thing for you is that you don’t have to spend the extra time with each customer when they drop off and pick up their clothes because many times you can’t add that time into your fee. (I do like to visit with customers, but sometimes, it takes more time than I’d like especially if I have a fast approaching deadline.) Your price is what we charge in this area too.

      Wow, you are up early today! Hope you have a great weekend!


  3. HI! This is amazing! It is hard to know what to charge, but I usually set a $20 hour..$10 for 1/2 hr..It works out fair. If it is a big project with many hours we just agree on a price! I always use my stash of zippers and hem tape, etc., as I have a ton from garage sales, etc. I, too, feel it is a gift and am so thankful for the “talent”. I usually go to bed thinking about “how to fix the whatever” and then wake up with an idea in the morning! I do get paid well for costuming the Theatre Dept. at the High School. It is a labor of love, though, believe me! I LOVE IT!!!
    I so appreciate this “blog” as I have learned so much and get sew (so) inspired by everyone!

  4. If a customer has one button to sew on and has the button, I never charge a customer to resew one button on. I get more repeat customers — it is a tiny thing for me to do and so worth not charging for. They remember that I gave them something — two minutes time and a piece of thread.

    • I have handled similar situations like yours with the finished item, a smile, and a no charge! Return costumers are very thrilled and happy with a small courtesy as that.

  5. Awesome, ladies….good for you! Thanks for sharing.

  6. I was so glad to see you write about this and that I’m not the only one that feels this way. Just because you have a skill doesn’t mean you should go all out and gouge people that don’t.

  7. Pricing is one of the hardest things to determine in alterations. However, my general rule depends on the garment and how much time it takes to get the job done. I know for me to breakeven, I need to charge based on $25/hour. But most of the time, I find myself charging a little lower than the market rate. A book called “Pricing Without Fear’ is a good start if you don’t know what to charge. I only charge $2.00 to sew on a button if the botton is not provided, plus $1 if I provide it. Based on this scenario, I am charging about the right amount and that is the general cost for sewing on a button in my area.

  8. I charge $15/hr. No matter what the alteration (1/2 hr; 20 mins.;15 mins..) I charge a minimum of 1/2 hr – $7.50. For these alterations I would probably charge an hour – $15. I also usually give a small discount to students (I have 4 kids and know that money is always short)! I do treat my customers like I want to be cheated and how I would want my kids treated. That said, my biggest problem this whole year is being ‘stiffed’ and having to justify my time and charges. Is it the economy? Our customers wouldn’t think of not paying their plumber or their dentist; I am starting to think their seamstresses are in a different category.

  9. Does anyone have any ideas on how to start a home-based sewing business out of an apartment?

  10. I didn’t think the alterations company was charging too much, especially considering overhead that needs to be paid every month. It is nice when you can express your gratitude by giving something for free, but I think you should do that when you can. If your sewing as a hobby, then gifts and pleasure are one of the main reasons why you do what you do. I believe it’s okay to ask for payment, especially if you really feel that person is worth spending your time and talents on. It is a sure sign of respect because talk is cheap. Thanks for posting such informative articles for free, the likes of which I see rarely on the web.

    • Hi Kat,
      I tried to reply to your email, but it permanantly failed.

      Thanks for your comments. It’s interesting you didn’t think they were charging too much. Most people don’t have that kind of money to spend on a couple of tears when it’s cheaper to buy new items. So, I appreciate your honesty on that.

      I agree, I don’t do things for free unless I know the person, and even then, I charge, but I also like to extend complimentary services every once in awhile.

      Glad you like the blog. There wasn’t any way I could make a book out of all this info without spending a fortune. My only beef with this system is all the people who are copying it (photos and words) on their own blogs and not giving me the credit. But, I’d rather help the majority of people who really need this info and not charge them. I’m not sure how many people would pay for something up front before they saw if it was good or not.

  11. Not all alteration shops are the same and this has to be considered when pricing your work. I do alteration on bridal and formal wear exclusively. I no longer do alterations on regular clothing like I did when I worked from home because of my overhead. I realized that I would have to work myself to death or charge more than the outfit was worth to make it. Even doing alterations on formal wear, I only take home about $12 per hour even though my business brings in over $130,000.00 per year. They may not be as greedy and guilty of price gouging as it may appear. They may just need to find a way to bring in other income along with the alterations like I do in tuxedo rentals. This way they can bring their alteration prices down to reasonable ammount.

  12. This is the best sewing blog EVER! I’m so glad I stumbled upon it. I am just starting to do formal gowns for homecoming, prom, etc. exclusively for one resale consignment shop. Two questions….How much do you charge to sew in cups? And when you sew them in, do you just tack them in few places or stitch all the way around the cup? And how do you charge for replacing and repairing hand beading? I have spent hours and hours and don’t think customer would pay for eight hours of beading…over hundred dollars? Maybe I sew too slow! Replacing hand beading is soooo time consuming! What do you think?

    • Hi Joan, This sounds like a fun job for you! I am so glad the blog has been helpful to you. I thank the Lord for giving me the idea.

      When I am sewing in cups, I usually sew across the top and make a tack in the center bottom, but I like your idea of just tacking them (maybe in four spots?) I think the reason I didn’t do that is because I hate to knot and thread the needle so many times. Perhaps you could just go from one tack to the other by hiding the thread in the cup or under it. I usually charge $20 to sew in cups. I would say that you should sew a set in and time yourself and multiply that by your hourly rate. Did you see my post on pricing? If not, just type “pricing” into the search box on my blog. There may be more than one page of posts. Be sure and scroll down to see them all.

      Yes, sewing beads on is a bear, but I am going to try to encourage you to charge the normal price…even if it is over $100! I always tell my customer that i won’t know the exact price until I am finished but that it will be somewhere between $50-200. Their reaction will tell you how serious they are in getting it done. If they are a bride, they probably won’t care if you are giving your hard work and time away if you only charge a fraction of what it is worth. Don’t let it worry you if you pass by a big project because you stuck with your price. You will get other jobs.

      Hope that helps ! Linda

      • Dear Joan, re beading is skilled work and should be charged for accordingly. I also do a lot of re beading work, I love it …. But I do charge my normal fee.
        Encouragement and blessings, Nanette

    • I charge $15 an hour and ask how many hours do you want me to bead. Then we decide on the beading design that will fit into this time frame. Or, I give an estimate of the time to repair. It is tedious work and not many people do this work. The cups: I sew 4 spots, top, bottom, and 2 sides and charge $5 for the pair. I sew by hand several stitches so they don’t move. Hope this helps you out.

  13. Unfortunately many different types of occupations seem to think they’d rather burn someone once and charge a high fee rather than be honest and get repeat business.
    I always think of the saying, a good job, you’ll tell 2 or 3 people. A bad job you’ll tell 8 or 10.

  14. Thanks so much for all of the really great information that you share. And, so many times the beautiful Christian music has lifted and comforted me. May God continue to bless you.

  15. I agree with you over charging won’t get you no where. God will bless you double, triple when you bless others.

  16. Your talent, generosity, and honesty are inspiring. Thank you so much!

  17. I have just started reading your blog. I must tell you: I love it! Thank you so much for choosing to share your knowledge of sewing, alterations, and business. What a gift to those of us wanting to learn more about our craft. -Sandy

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