Thursday, 21 August 2008

Supermarket queues and Nasi Lemak

Why is psychology interesting?

Because you can answer questions like these?

1. Why do people usually avoid moving from a long checkout queue in the supermarket to another one they’ve noticed which is actually shorter?

Well, it’s not because they’ve got too much time on their hands. The answer comes down to the old notion of tempting fate: i.e. if you move to the other checkout line and there are then problems and you do have to wait longer then this will be of your own making. In other words a bad situation is worse if you somehow believe that you brought it on yourself. Moral of the story: be unconventional in supermarkets and switch queues – but don’t blame me if the cashier can’t get the credit card machine to work when the man in front of you wants to pay!

2. Why do many restaurants have a dish on their menu that is so exorbitantly priced that noone in their right mind would ever order it?

Well in a word relativity. Nope not Einstein’s E=MC2, but the idea that people always like to compare things when making a decision. So is a meal expensive or cheap? Well that’s relative of course. A dish of Nasi Lemak in a Malaysian food court could be expensive at US$5 and a dish from a top notch restaurant could be considered cheap at US$100.

So what should a restaurant do? Well it should offer one dish at a very high price, and then price its other dishes comfortably below this level. Customers will invariably look at the second most expensive dish, see that it is much cheaper than the most expensive dish, and thus come to the conclusion that it is attractively priced!

So now you know. Be careful what you order!

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