Posts Tagged ‘Money’

It’s been a long day, and you’ve stopped by the grocery store to buy some pick-me-up mint chocolate chip ice cream. You navigate efficiently through the store, find your target, and analyze the lines for the quickest exit. Picking the line with the fewest people, you patiently wait to check out. The line is moving slowly. You peruse the tabloids while you wait; there’s apparently been some sort of tussle between the cast members of The Jersey Shore. Your eyes begin to wander. You notice that there are now several types of Twix bars, one with, mmm, peanut butter. You look longingly at the ice cream, melting on the conveyor belt. How much time does the person in front of you need to buy 23 items? The lines around you are moving at a brisk pace, the customers leaving happily with their groceries. It isn’t fair; you’ve been waiting here for–oh. Four minutes.

To many people, waiting in line can seem interminable. Researchers have come up with some theories as to why waiting in lines is source of common frustration, including our inability to handle uncertainty and the need to occupy our time.

The uncertainty of how long we will be waiting begins the frustration of the grocery queue. One of the reasons waiting in line can seem longer than it should be is because it’s impossible to predict how much time you’ll be standing there; people are more patient if they are told a specific wait time than if they are left to guess how long a wait will take. Unfortunately, deciding how fast the line will move depends on a few unpredictable factors. There’s the number of people, sure, but you also need to calculate how many items are on the conveyor belt and how many items are hidden in carts, how fast the cashier is at scanning items, how many coupons the customer in front of you will want to use, and how much small talk the people in front of you will make before checking out. And that’s assuming all the prices are accurately marked.

Another reason waiting in line can feel like  a struggle is because people have a natural tendency to occupy their time. While you’re waiting in line, there is only a finite number of ways you can entertain yourself; reading the headlines on the tabloid magazines and finding a new recipe for cooking ribs will only occupy you for so long. Grocery stores take advantage of this phenomenon by putting impulse buys by the register; they know that you’ll be tempted to add new items to your cart if it feels like you’re doing something with your time.

Finally, the process of checking out at the grocery store often violates our perception of fairness. Grocery stores usually have multiple queues, with some moving faster than others. Since each line will operate at a different pace than the others, it almost feels that the lines moving faster than the one you chose are cheating. You know in your mind that the cashier had to call the manager to find out how to process an item, but a part of you still feels that the people who joined another line after you started in yours shouldn’t get to leave before your shopping is finished.

Maybe this means we should be more like the person laughing at the tabloid headphones while griping into their cellphone about how slow the line is moving; apparently, they’ve got it all figured out. Do you ever feel frustrated when you’re waiting in line?


Why We Overtip

Posted: May 14, 2012 in Daily Life
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The old saying goes that it is better to give than to receive, and no one needs that statement to be true more than waiters. Although the average tip falls somewhere between 15% and 20%, it certainly helps to have customers who want to spend those extra few dollars resting in their pockets. For years, studies have provided a variety of methods that servers can use to increase their tips, such as giving their customers candy, drawing pictures or smiley faces on the check, and even predicting good weather.

Today’s specials include chicken piccata and psychological warfare.

Though these tricks of the trade haven proven effective, many customers know how much they’re going to tip before they even enter a restaurant. So why do some people habitually tip 25% percent or more whenever they go to a restaurant, regardless of whether or not they enjoyed the service?

It could be that they are enjoying the physiological benefits of tipping as an act of altruism. The pleasure center, whose routine customers include orgasm and fatty foods, also has another frequent guest—generosity. When someone engages in an act of altruism, the reward center, located in the nucleus accumbens in the limbic system of the brain, becomes activated. The truly altruistic gesture releases endorphins and dopamine, letting our minds know that we participated in an act worth pursuing again.

The feeling that is derived from generosity reinforces the behavior so that the person will want to continue to experience that pleasure. And, if altruism follows the same guidelines as the other, less positive frequenters of the reward center, such as alcohol and sugar, then customers would need to give more as time goes on to trigger the same level of pleasure that was released during the first act.

That’s good news for anyone who makes their money from tips.

Lauren Volpone