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How much is a wombat cuddle worth?
Pay What You Think It’s Wombat.

How much would you pay to cuddle one of our cutest critters?

Healesville Sanctuary wanted to test the ‘Pay What You Think It’s Worth’ idea as applied to its Wombat Pat and Play encounter. So, BehaviourWorkssent two of its most hardened researchers, Lena Jungbluth (pictured left) and Kim Borg (pictured right) to crunch the numbers.

They came, they saw, they cuddled wombats (Maggie and Jo-Jo). And they dug up some interesting findings along the way.

Evidence suggests that the ‘Pay What You Want’ principle for a Not-for-Profit-Organisation can increase the amount people are willing to pay. Although it usually results in less money per person, it encourages overall growth – and that means more revenue.

Zoos all over the world need every cent they can raise, so if you had the chance to play with a real live wombat for say 15 minutes, that’s gotta be worth something, right? But how much exactly?

What it’s worth to you?

The Pay What You Think It’s Worth idea isn’t as simple as it sounds; even the name suggests it’s ot what you want to pay (some people want to pay zip) it’s what you think its value is.

Careful thought had to be put into information about the program and even reference prices to help guide people in their decision. And the actual trial period had a number of factors potentially affecting the final results, such as other encounters at the Sanctuary costing $12, plus the fact that kids get free admission to the Sanctuary during school holidays and weekends.

Speaking of which, school holidays happened half way through the trial, adding to the overall attendance figures.

So what did the study find?

Everyone LOVED the Wombat Experience and rated it (and the zoo) very highly. But, the average amount paid per person was only $16 (lower than the normal price of $20).

The four key factors influencing the amount paid were payment type (cash or card), education level, satisfaction with the experience and how many people were being paid for.

In other words, those who paid by card were highly educated, very happy with the experience, and only paying for 1 or 2 people. They paid more than those who paid by cash.

Those who paid by cash were less educated, dissatisfied with the experience and were paying for a big group. 

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So, while cuddling a wombat is generally perceived as a high-value experience, this doesn’t always translate into hard currency.

Participants often attributed this to budget restrictions, particularly for family groups. While the zoo didn’t make more money, it did give more people the opportunity to play with a wombat.

Said one participant: “Doing it this way enabled the whole family to participate, as we couldn’t have afforded to buy four tickets at normal price.”

What’s next?

Well, Maggie and Jo-Jo continue to enjoy meeting new friends at Healesville, Lena and Kim are working on a publication about the study and the proposed Pat and Play enclosure for crocodiles has been renamed Pat and Run.

For more information, visit the Zoos Victoria page