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.

Monday, March 12, 2018

How I got sucked in to a membership I didn’t want

Free samples and reciprocity

I noticed after signing up to ‘Graze’ that I had been subject to the rule of reciprocity. Graze is a company who deliver weekly healthy snack boxes – but there’s a catch – the first one is free!
This advert uses the persuasive technique of reciprocity norms. Giving a free sample is a way of them activating the need for reciprocity. After being given the free box you feel more obliged to continue with the subscription by paying for the future boxes. You feel as though you owe them something because of the free gift.

This is supported by research from Kolyesnikova and Dodd (2009) who found that offering free wine tasting lead to more money being spent on wine afterwards, compared to those who paid for the service of a wine tasting. Being offered a free sample of the wine activated the reciprocity rule and therefore participants felt obliged to spend more money on wine in the winery afterwards. Those who paid for the service of the tasting did not feel this commitment or obligation and so spent less.
You feel a commitment to the company and after receiving a free sample there is some feeling of guilt about unsubscribing from the service. So this is why I currently have about 20 snack packs on my desk that I neither wanted nor liked. Thankfully, I have now unsubscribed.


Kolyesnikova, N., & Dodd, T. H. (2009). There is no such thing as a free wine tasting: The effect of a tasting fee on obligation to buy. Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing, 26, 806-819.

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