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How Not to Ask a Favor


We often ask our visitors for something extra when using our product. We might ask for a review or rating, comments, charity, or more. When doing so, make sure not to accidentally motivate visitors to do the opposite.

The science

A kindergarten in Haifa, Israel, was having trouble with parents arriving late to pick up their kids. The kindergarten staff decided to fix the problem by attaching a fee to lateness. Any parent arriving late would be fined 5 dollars for every ten minutes they forced the teachers to stay late. How would you imagine this affected the parents arrival times? In the weeks after the fee was installed, parents began to arrive at the kindergarten even later (an average of 20 minutes later than before). Why is this? Before the fee was installed, parents tried their best to arrive on time, because they felt honor bound to do so. The moment a price was attached to their time, many parents felt less bad about being late. At worst, they would pay a little fine. The kindergarten teachers had become payed babysitters. And the worst part was that when the fee was removed, the lateness stayed just the same. Once the honor system is broken, it's hard to get it back in place. In a different experiment, participants who entered a lottery were asked to donate some of their potential winnings to charity. Some were offered a small gift in return. How do you think the gift affected the charity?

Just as before, those offered a gift in return gave less to charity. Once a gift was offered, participants began to compare the amount given with the gift they would receive, rather than just give from the goodness of their heart. The Practice

Motivating our customers using gifts and prizes is often a double edged sword. Be it when we ask them to rate our product, or comment below a youtube video, we are usually asking for good will.

Before offering such an incentive, it is important to first check if you might lose some of that good will by offering another incentive. Users will simply now weigh your incentive against what you ask them to do, completely forgetting the good will they once had.

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