Thursday, June 04, 2015
You can't make it look too easy
As I mention in the video, what’s really interesting is that this locksmith was penalized for getting better at his profession. He was tipped better when he was an apprentice and it took him longer to pick a lock, even though he would often break the lock! Now that it takes him only a moment, his customers complain that he is overcharging and they don’t tip him. What this reveals is that consumers don’t value goods and services solely by their utility, benefit from the service, but also a sense of fairness relating to how much effort was exerted.
Even Richard Feynman knew this trick back in the 40s:
I didn't need any tools, but I'd go to my office and look up the number of his safe. I had the last two numbers for everybody's safe in my office. I'd put a screwdriver in my back pocket to account for the tool I claimed I needed. I'd go back to the room and close the door. The attitude is that this business about how you open safes is not something that everybody should know because it makes everything very unsafe. So I'd close the door and then sit down and read a magazine or do something. I'd average about 20 minutes of doing nothing, and then I'd open it. Well, I really opened it right away to see that everything was all right, and then I'd sit there for 20 minutes to give myself a good reputation that it wasn't too easy, that there was no trick to it. And then I'd come out, sweating a bit, and say, “It's open. There you are."
Los Alamos From Below: Reminiscences 1943-1945, by Richard Feynman
You can't make it too easy else people will question the work required to make it look easy. I'm reminded of this joke: A large mainframe computer is broken, so the company sends for a computer repair technician. The technician comes in and sits down in front of the mainframe computer for a few moments, opens one of the cabinets, pulls a card out and replaces it, then says, “That will be $5,000.”
“Five thousand?” says the company owner. “You just came in, sat for a minute and replaced a card. How is that worth five thousand dollars?”
“Well,” said the technician, “It's $100 for the new card, and $4,900 for the time and effort for me to learn which card to replace.”