Thanks For The Free Coffee

Wikipedia defines reciprocity in social psychology as “responding to a positive action with another positive action, and responding to a negative action with another negative one”.  Well, I had a great personal experience with reciprocity a couple of weeks ago.

I walked in to the new Pret A Manger by my office and helped myself to their self-serve coffee bar. Normally, I’d go to Starbucks or Eataly, both on the same block, but this day I decided to try out Pret’s coffee.

When I walked up to the register, my conversation with the cashier went something like this:

Cashier: “What can I get for you, sir?”

Me: “Just this coffee.”

Cashier: “You’re all set then.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Cashier: “You’re all set.”

Me: “I don’t owe you anything?”

Cashier: “Nope, it’s on the house.”

Me: “Thanks…”

Notice, no exclamation point after my “thanks”. I think I was in a little bit of awe at the time, so I didn’t properly thank her.

Now, a couple weeks later, Pret has become my go to place for my afternoon coffee. I’ve returned several times, and I’ve even steered a few co-workers there instead of their usual coffee spot.

Why? Because of that cashier.

Yes, the coffee is good, but it’s not noticeably better than Starbucks. And, yes the coffee is well-priced, but it’s not noticeably cheaper than Starbucks.

In this case, the experience made all the difference. Even if I never get another free coffee at that Pret again, I’ll remember the cashier’s gesture and that every time I walk into Pret I’m greeted by the welcoming staff with smiles and a desire to provide good service. And, so escaping the office for 5 minutes in the afternoon to grab coffee has turned into a pleasurable experience.

Pret has seen the ROI on my free coffee several times over. That’s reciprocity in action. Now, if I can just get Pret to join Twitter!

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