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.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Free Pret anyone?

I am always keen to get something for free, so when I heard that Pret A Manger have a whole policy regarding a number of free items they give away each day I needed to know more. A bit more reading led me to a quote from the man in charge of Pret, Clive Schlee - “The staff have to give away a certain number of hot drinks and food every week. They will decide ‘I like the person on the bicycle’ or ‘I like the guy in that tie’ or ‘I fancy that girl or that boy’.”. This seems like a strange and expensive policy to have, so why do they do it? 

It may be to do with reciprocity, invoking feelings of 'owing' as a result of getting something for free, and so repaying that brand with your loyalty. If you get a free lunch from Pret, and the next day you have a choice of a Starbucks 20 meters away or a Pret slightly further, you may be more likely to go out of your way to spend your money at Pret. 

How much do they give away though? Is it just a publicity stunt, offering a potential incentive to encourage people to go to Pret? Clive Schlee claims that 27% of customers have received a free item at some point, which suggests this is not just a weak claim to get more people through the doors, but something that really aims to work on an individual level, affecting their feelings toward the company. 

The fact that the staff get to choose who they give these freebees allows bias into the system. It was suggested that this is the alternative to a loyalty card, however in Schlee's original statement that staff may decide to give it to someone they 'fancy', suggests that more attractive people are likely to get a higher proportion of free things - seeing as they are already blessed with good genetics it seems unfair they get blessed with free coffee too. This may work to Pret's advantage however, if attractive people are walking down the street holding cups with PRET written on, this may act as a form of social influence. If they are beautiful and go to Pret, I may want to go there too to be like them.

Physical beauty isn't the only way to get free stuff though -  there have been many reports of people who are unhappy or having a bad day being told "its on the house". These people then go and do Pret's advertising for them, telling twitter and their friends about how lovely and compassionate this vast company is, a very hard but important impression when it comes to customer loyalty. 

Whatever the reasons and psychology behind implementing this policy are, Pret know we simply can't resist a freebee 

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