…Or Why You Should Eat Pizza with a Knife and Fork

I recently popped open a very good bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, and poured myself a glass. That first sip was amazing. The flavor was beyond overwhelming.

Unfortunately, a few minutes and a few sips later, I hardly even noticed the taste of the wine I was drinking. Has that ever happened to you?

How about this?

The last new car I bought sent feelings of exhilaration through my entire body each time I drove it. I was one with the road – at least for a few weeks.

Then, about a month after driving it off the showroom floor, that sensation completely disappeared. At that point, it became simply a car. Nothing exciting. Just transportation. Four wheels, an engine and some seats.

Those are just two examples of common human reactions. And your laundry’s customers, being human, react the same way to your business. When they first visit your laundromat, they may get pumped up by how much better (in their minds) it is than the previous store they patronized. However, that feeling can wear off relatively quickly, and they then may be highly vulnerable to an ad campaign from one of your competitors. This occurs frequently in the restaurant business.

This feeling of satiation – which psychologists refer to as hedonic adaption – impacts just about everything that tends to make us (and your customers) happy. Look around you and think about how much you initially enjoyed most of the material things you own and the various repeatable experiences you’ve had. Now, think about how much you’re actually enjoying them today. I’d wager not as much.

A recent study asked 68 people to eat pizza. Half of them were instructed to eat it the “normal way,” by picking up a slice with their hands and putting it in their mouths. The other half were instructed to cut their slice of pizza into small pieces and eat it with a fork.

The results were that the subjects who ate the pizza with a knife and fork enjoyed it much more than the others, even though both groups were told to eat at the same slow pace.

This study seems to back what psychologists have long known: when something seems new, people pay more attention to it. And when people pay more attention to something enjoyable, they tend to enjoy it much more.

Most likely, this is why people seek so much variety in what they buy and consume. We tend to buy something and use it until it becomes familiar and somewhat mundane, and then we buy something else, thinking it will make us happier. Of course, the same scenario holds true for your laundromat’s customers as well.

Fortunately, research suggests another option. Rather than replacing something once you get tired of it, try interacting with it in unconventional ways.

For example, one study viewed 300 people as they drank water. First, the participants were asked to come up with their own unconventional ways to consume water. Their responses ranged from drinking it out of a martini glass or travel mug to lapping it up like a thirsty golden retriever.

Next, they were instructed to take five sips of water and rate their enjoyment after each sip. A third of the subjects did so in the normal way, another third sipped using one of their own randomly chosen unconventional methods over and over, and the final third used a different unconventional method for each sip.

It was found that people who drank water in a different way every time enjoyed their water the most, with even bigger boosts toward the end of the taste test. In other words, their enjoyment didn’t decline over time – while everyone else enjoyed the water less after each sip.

This presents a rare solution to the nearly universal human phenomenon of satiation, or the declining enjoyment that comes with familiarity. As long as you can find new and interesting ways to interact with something, you may never grow tired of it.

Right now, you’re likely thinking that this phenomenon could be occurring at your laundromat. And it very well may be. But here’s how to help prevent it.

You’ve no doubt noticed that many popular restaurants are continually changing their menus or offering different daily or nightly specials. Some restaurants even have developed theme nights, during which only certain types of food are offered. While some restaurants are brightly lit, others offer a more dimly lit setting to present a sophisticated atmosphere.

Observing these practices and understanding why restaurant owners follow them can help you to do the same at your laundromat. In turn, this will help you maximize your customers’ enjoyment of your store – and keep them coming back to you.

No, your laundromat is not a restaurant, but here are some suggestions to keep your store’s atmosphere fresh and interesting for your customers:

  • Try playing a different genre of music in your laundry each day. Your customers will react positively to the newness of the auditory environment you’ve created for them.
  • Offer different small, free, finger sandwiches to customers each day. This will create a feeling of anticipation of a new and different “appetizer” when they do their laundry, and they will want to repeat the experience.
  • Back to pizza – perhaps offer small squares of pizza to your customers. This will hit the spot, and nothing puts people in a positive mood better than tasting something good.
  • How about a candy handout? Kids will love this, and they’ll become your strongest advocate when mom or dad announce that it’s time to go to the laundromat.
  • What about wandering servers dressed in different amusing costumes each day? Surprise your customers with something amusing.
  • Try offering different ethnic finger foods, depending on the cultural mix of your marketplace. In addition, doing so (when done properly) will demonstrate a good measure of thoughtful respect for your customers.

Of course, you can think of many additional ideas based on your business’ own specific set of circumstances. Just remember that the goal is to keep your customers consistently excited about visiting your laundromat.

Here’s another example from my personal life. I’m not particularly crazy about shaving, so some days I just wouldn’t do it. Then, I saw an ad for a brush that attaches to any can of shaving cream and would enable me to apply shaving cream to my face like barbers did back in the “old days.” I bought one, and it’s terrific.

I immediately loved this technique, and now I can’t wait to shave in the morning with my new brush, because it’s fun and different. Again, the point is to take advantage of people’s inherent need for variety to prevent hedonic adaption from taking over.

Clearly, repainting the interior or at least sections of your store different colors can have the same positive result.

Maybe change the graphics on a particular interior wall each week – include a riddle to be solved or an embedded figure to identify. The customer who solves the riddle or identifies the item contained within the graphic can win a free wash, a free dry or whatever you chose.

What about having your attendants wear different uniforms, including some funny ones, each week? This will create visual variety for your customers.

The lesson here is to do what you can, given your particular laundry operation, to prevent hedonic adaption from affecting your customers. In other words, don’t let quarters be the only change in your store.

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