Serving Up Carrots
By Steve Portigal at 9:37 am, Tuesday December 17 2013

A very small social experiment, more something to reflect on rather than proof of anything.

The Petite Syrah café in the Riviera city of Nice, has implemented a new pricing scheme. “A coffee” will set you back €7, according to the sign, while “a coffee please” is a little more affordable, at €4.25. If you want keep your expenses down, and stay friends with your local barista, however, the best option is “Hello, a coffee please,” which will only cost you €1.40.

Manager of the Petite Syrah, Fabrice Pepino, told The Local: “It started as a joke because at lunchtime people would come in very stressed and were sometimes rude to us when they ordered a coffee. Although Pepino admits he’s never actually had to enforce the price scheme, he says he has noticed a difference in his customers’ behaviour. “Most of my customers are regulars and they just see the funny side and exaggerate their politeness,” he said, adding “They started calling me ‘your greatness’ when they saw the sign. But people are more relaxed now, and they’re smiling more. That’s the most important thing.”

The framing here is important: there’s a reward for the behavior the business wants. It’s not a punishment for failing to adhere to the rules (e.g., surcharge for being a dickhead: $3.00) – even though it’s the same thing economically, behaviorally it’s entirely different. It’s the carrot versus the stick.

As well, the outcome is less about adherence to the rules and more about the increased mindfulness about a detail of the interaction. We’d need to come back and see what happens after the regulars attenuate to this change, but the empowerment that the rules produce as a consequence is quite enticing.

Also see previously: A silly (?) coffee pricing scheme at Tim Hortons.

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