Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Sometimes removing customer choice is a good business idea

Every week, on a Thursday, I get home and have a surprise waiting for me. It is a box of lovely organic veggies and it gets delivered while I’m at work. So I get home and it’s almost as if someone gave me a lovely gift.

I take my box inside and almost can’t wait to see what we got this week: lately it’s been yummy courgettes, sweet carrots, fantastic pumpkins and the best sweetcorn I’ve ever had. Sometimes I even get a vegetable I can’t identify and I have to use the included leaflets to learn what it is, how I store it and what to do with it. It is all terribly exciting.

The organic veggie box scheme is one of my weekly thrills, not the least because of the element of surprise. I have little choice of what goes in the box, other than basic decisions (what size? All veggies? Some veggies, some fruit? etc) the whole experience is one where I have very little control. And I wouldn’t want to change that.

I have noticed that there seems to be a rise in the amount of “no choice” schemes available lately, and they cover various areas in my life. Another lovely parcel I always anticipate is my scrapbooking kit from Sarah’s Cards. Again, I have little choice into what comes in the box but I haven’t failed to be delighted every time I open the pizza box. I get the usual favorites, some fashionable items and some things that I would probably have never chosen or, more likely, haven’t even heard of. And it’s great!

My latest parcel in the series of “no choice” parcels is a graze box. The same principles apply here: I get a regular delivery of yummy nibbles that I have little control over and is a complete surprise when I get them. There is of course a mechanism where you can tell the supplier your preferences in terms of content (for example, I hate cherries so have told them never to send me anything with cherries) but the actual contents are a total surprise.

Examples like these I’m sure are many and you probably have a couple in mind right now (Lovefilm springs to mind). They all operate on the same principles of regular deliveries of items where you may have little to no control over. One would think that this lack of control sounds horrendous and goes against the mantra of “I want what I want” that we seem to have adopted in these consumerist times. Yet these schemes are doing very well.

What is it about this apparent “no choice” that makes these propositions so appealing? In my personal case, not only is the lack of control a small price to pay for convenience (I get the veggies delivered and don’t have to worry about going out to buy them) but actually I like the surprise element. It is like getting a gift and the excitement is sometimes as much! Okay, so I don’t necessarily skip around the kitchen or anything, but I do love the anticipation of looking through my box and finding what we got this week. Or looking through my scrapbooking kit and finding the gorgeous papers and embellishments I got this time.

Relinquishing control also means I have discovered new things, effortlessly. I had never heard of a romanesco until one turned up in my veggie box. Now it is one of my favorite vegetables (and one of the prettiest!) I had similarly never used any Cosmo Cricket paper until some turned up in my kit and now I wonder how I scrapped without it. I had no idea brazil nuts mixed with dark chocolate and cranberries could be so delicious, until I had some in my graze box. And so on.

Could it be that these “no choice” schemes are a great antidote to our lives, already filled with too much choioce, too little time? I always wanted to try new vegetables, for example, but whenever I was grocery shopping I would just get what I always got, being too rushed to try and work out which of the other, untested, vegetables would be nice to try. Now someone else tells me what to try! I may not always like them, but at least I can say I’ve tried it.

I love having no choice. Not only do I get convenience, but I also get variety and delight in opening parcels that I have no idea what they contain. I didn’t think it could be possible but it certainly works for me.

What do you think: wave of the future or passing fad?

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