Thursday, August 4, 2011

How do hotels get people to re-use the linens if they are staying multiple nights? Well, trick them, of course...Read how La Quinta did it to me.

"Help reduce the amount of water and energy we use. Place this card on your pillow and your linens will be changed daily. No card on your pillow means your linens will be changed every three days"
I took this photo at a La Quinta in College Station, Texas...Interesting lesson in incentives and how to "Nudge" people into doing something you would like them to do with an overwhelming sense of coeresion.  It is subtle but La Quinta uses a little reverse psychology to achieve a goal, financial mostly and environmentally secondarily, although La Quinta wants you to think the opposite by the way they designed the card. 

If you care about the environment then you will be pro-active in doing small things to try to make a difference--that is just the way you roll. If you don't care about the environment you won't lift a finger to do much to advance that cause. 

La Quinta requires the opposite. If your concern for the environment is greater than your concern for clean sheets everyday, then La Quinta asks you to do nothing.  No effort required and you get the same linens for 3 days. However, if your concern for clean linens is greater than your concern for the environment, then you have to DO SOMETHING to get them changed everyday.

I certainly understand BOTH groups of people could simply want clean linens regardless of their views on environmental issues.

I am interested in the potential response of 3 groups of people in this scenario. The first two might be alienated by the policy (for different reasons) and are certainly the outliers, but the third is the real target group, in my opinion:

(1) the environmentally conscience people who support this and will dutifully follow instructions BUT might feel a little cheated by not being able to demonstrate their commitment by not actively putting the card on the pillow ("Conspicuous Conservation"--a terrific podcast on this topic from Freakonomics).

(2) the non-environmentally conscience people who when they come back at the end of the day and curse the "damn Liberals" because they could not be bothered to put the card on the pillow but want clean linens because that it what they pay for.

(3) the "guilt-trip middle", for a lack of a better term.  As with most issues, this represents the largest number of people and are the ones you want to "nudge" in numbers that will make a difference in the bottom line AND in saving the planet.  The card is very bold in its design and you cannot miss it or avoid the message.  If La Quinta can move a good number of these people to the side of re-using linens, it can save money on the bottomline, and yes, help the planet too.

I am reading the book Nudge right now about using economic priniciples and behavioral science to get people on a micro-level to do things they might now otherwise do.  Pretty interesting and if you are interested in this type of thing I recommend it highly.
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