Too Embarrassed to Order What We Actually Want

Do you feel more comfortable ordering food online than in person? Joshua Gans at Slate looked at a recent study looking at the role embarrassment plays in the way we make transactions, and the answer for some people if often yes.

Order online and you remove the need to talk to a human over the phone or at a counter. You might think that this change would merely be more convenient, but wouldn’t materially affect the food you order. Then I thought about what my typical “conversation” with a pizza website might sound like:

“Umm, ok I’d like one Margarita pizza and a BBQ Chicken with pineapple. Oh no scratch that, can I have half the BBQ Chicken with pineapple and the other half with peppers. And I’d like the Margarita pizza to have a thin crust and, wow, what is a four cheese mushroom pizza? I’ll have one of those but can you remove the goat’s cheese … wait, does that work with this coupon?”

Suffice it to say, something usually holds me back from making such a speech to a fellow human being. Apparently, I’m not alone. Despite the new website being fairly rudimentary (no search, no ratings, no recommendations, no saved orders), the researchers were able to compare the orders of the 6.7 percent of their customers now using the website to what they previously asked for over the phone. (The company kept good records.) They found that customers loaded on additional toppings, spending $0.61 more per order on goods that were 15 percent more complex (as measured by the number of instructions customers gave for each pizza in their order) compared to what they used to order offline. (With all of those extra toppings also came higher calorie counts—about 6 percent more than a base that was already pretty large; it is pizza after all.)

Ordering food online through places like Seamless certainly feels easier—you can take as much time as you want to decide what you’d like to eat, and then simply select those items and pay with a card—but I also have no problem ordering extra bacon in person if what I want is extra bacon (the heart wants what it wants).

Photo: Dick Uhne



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