Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The University Costa creates a stressful decision-making process

No matter how planned is your buying process when going to the University Costa Coffee, the food stalls will always grab your attention. 
Their in-store display is planned so that you have to walk through and pay nearby food stalls (Fig.1).

I argue that the University of Warwick Costa Coffee creates a stressful buying process for its customers. Similarly to Keinan (1987) experiment's subjects, I am anxious (in my case, not about an electric shock) when making a decision: food snack or no food snack with my Americano Coffee? As such, I do not gather enough information to effortfully think my decision through - and regret this blueberry muffin as soon as I ate it.

Fig.1: University of Warwick on-campus Costa Coffee 'customer path'
to Cash Point and highlighted areas with food stalls.

Various elements create a situation of stress for the University Costa Coffee customer:

(1) Customers are obliged to pay for products before sitting down in the Coffee place. Food snacks need to be picked up before payment. This strengthens a sense of 'obligation' of product selection. 

(2) Food snacks are not indicated on the large-display Menu. Customers only 'learn' about the product when seeing it. This reduces the time they have to 'adapt' themselves to new information.

(3) If the Food snack needs to be heated in the oven, a barista will collect it before payment (to increase the buying process throughput time). This reduces the time customers have to change their opinion. 

(4) Queueing often develops in-between food stalls: the customer feels pressured to make a decision 'while being in-between the stalls'. Otherwise the customer could loose his place in the queue, to return to the food stalls and collect a product after second thoughts. This creates a more or less credible threat for 'not-choosing' a product. 

(5) The variety of choices should hinder the consumer's motivation to buy. In Iyengard and Lepper (2000) experiment, 30% of subjects bought from a limited selection of gourmet jams, and only 3% from an extensive selection. However, subjects were not forced to 'stop and check out' the 6 or 24 gourmet jams in a grocery store. It is arguable that the Costa Coffee 'forces' customers to queue in-between Food stalls - and to therefore "check out" the food snacks. This further increases their sense of 'obligation' of product selection.

To those of you who think I am rationalising about this to perform some sort of coping strategy - you're right.


Keinan, G. (1987). Decision-making under stress: Scanning of alternatives under controllable and uncontrollable threats. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 639-644.

Iyengar, S., Lepper, M. (2000). When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing?. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 995-1006.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic application to real world experience...over the top.


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