What do massages and behavioral economics have in common? I used one to get the other.
Several months ago I gave my wife a gift certificate to a local spa for a manicure, a pedicure and a massage. She decided just recently to use them, but didn't want the massage and offered it to me. I never turn down a massage and was happy to receive her gift, but the spa didn't share my enthusiasm.
When Amy called the spa to book our appointments, she began by telling the woman on the phone about the gift certificate and her desire to give the massage portion to me. Upon hearing this she explained that, because the gift certificate was in Amy's name, that she could not use it to pay for my massage.
Amy told me the story when I went home for lunch. Since the spa is near my work, I took the gift certificate and stopped at the spa on my way back to the office.
When I approached the counter I didn't tell them Amy had called earlier, nor did I mention the gift certificate. Instead, I said I wanted to schedule a massage for myself and a manicure for my wife. The gal at the counter (the same gal, we later confirmed) clicked her mouse and tapped her keyboard and after several minutes the concurrent appointments were booked.
When all of that work was complete, I said, "Oh, and I'll be paying for them both with this gift certificate." I handed her the certificate with Amy's name on it and waited silently. The woman looked at the certificate, looked back at her computer and then back at the certificate before saying, "Okay. Great."
And that was that. Two days later we enjoyed our respective spa services and paid for them both from the certificate. What happened?
I had purposely booked the appointments BEFORE mentioning the certificate. Refusing me at that point would have required the woman at the front desk to cancel two appointments and "waste" the work she had invested in setting them up. I bet, correctly, that she would prefer to accept the gift certificate over enduring that loss. In constrast, by mentioning the gift certificate at the outset, Amy had unintentionally presented a "problem" before the woman had expended any effort and so she perceived nothing to lose by refusing.
Before having common life interactions it pays to consider which behavioral economics principles apply and how subtely altering the language or the order of presentation may help deliver the desired outcome. Spread the fire. GS