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Too shy to order your extra cheese, hold-the-ketchup, no onion, double bacon burger? No need to feel alone. According to new research, people tend to keep their orders simple – not because that’s what they want, but to avoid embarrassment (whether that’s the judgment of the salesperson or the disapproving eye of other customers).
A group of professors researched the methods in which a shift in retail practices reduced human interaction and found that there was a change in purchasing behavior when there was less interaction during the ordering process. Even in situations where there was a low potential for social embarrassment, people would redirect their ordering behaviors in order to limit potential for embarrassment.
Using true-life cases, the researchers first looked at a Swedish liquor retailer. When the stores switched from a model where a clerk had to retrieve bottles for the customer to a self-service model, sales increased 20 percent. Furthermore, sales shifted – with difficult-to-pronounce beverages seeing an increase in sales. Sales of difficultly named drinks increased 7 percent once people did not have to worry about mispronunciation (and the embarrassment that comes along with that).
Next, the researchers looked at a pizza chain. Customers who ordered online weren’t ashamed to load up on additional toppings or ask for complex orders. Pizzas ordered online were 15 percent more complex than those the same customers ordered over the phone (coincidentally, these orders were also more expensive and higher in calories).
Researchers believe that these changes in ordering behavior are due to the fact that social pressure usually pushes people toward the norm. But remove that layer of human interaction and judgment, and people are free to explore new options as well as express their more finicky (or embarrassing) tastes.
Would you be more willing to place a picky order if no one was watching?