grace at the coffee shop

It’s never happened before, it probably won’t happen again. I was visiting a cafe I’d never been before, I placed my order, but I didn’t have enough cash in my wallet (I was a dollar short). I searched my bag for stray coins – nothing. I wasn’t sure where the nearest ATM was, or I could have made a break for one, and grabbed some more cash, but that didn’t appear to be an option either.

Then, the lady behind the counter tried to work out how she could fix the situation: Could I change my order to a smaller coffee? No, they’d already made the coffee. Then, something amazing happened. She said “pay the extra dollar the next time you’re here.”

Amazing. Does anyone take such risks in this cynical world – offering credit to a stranger (admittedly, a neatly dressed stranger)?

Then, the next day, when I went back to pay the extra dollar, she wouldn’t hear of it! I couldn’t cope with that, though, so I left the dollar in the tips jar.

It seems to me that my reaction is a common one: people don’t like to be given something for nothing – am I right?

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  1. One of Robert Cialdini’s ‘Influence Patterns’ at work: Reciprocity. When we are given a gift we always feel the need to equalise the situation and return the favour. Hence your need to return the next day…maybe.

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