Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pay it Forward: Enforced

I just read this article about a mysterious (short lived?) cafe in Japan in which you get the order of the person before you - and your order goes to the next person. Sounds fascinating, right?

How would that work here? First, the interesting thing about the cafe seems to be a reasonably limited menu. Drinks and snacks and things. So, let's pretend the same exercise is run at a McDonalds. Anyone going into a McDonalds has a reasonably similar expectation of their meal.

Would you cheap out on someone? Americans would need more rules like "must be a meal" or "must only be a drink." You don't want to come in for lunch and get a soda. But, would it bother me for a stranger to decide between a Big Mac and a Quarter Pounder for me? no. Part of me would be amused. And if they threw in a milkshake, I'd feel downright blessed.  But, would you want to cheap out on the next person? I couldn't live with myself. I would imagine the most median-priced options would be the most commonly bought. And then someone would throw in a treat on occasion. 

Naturally, somewhere here in america, everyone would worry about food allergies and pork aversions and such. But, it would be an amazing social exercise. I bet there's a PhD thesis in this.. What would you do?

And for the record, if I'm going to eat McD... Big Mac meal, with a vanilla milkshake and sweet and sour sauce for the fries.... 

1 comment:

Capt. BS said...

I see this as an interesting spin on the white elephant gift problem. When you go to a white elephant party, you have two choices: (1) bring something silly yet oddly charming, in the spirit of the party; or (2) bring something absolutely worthless (e.g., a dog toy... AHEM) to game the system for your own satisfaction. This restaurant essentially gives you the same two choices.

Personally, I'd go with option (1) and order something that I would want to have, and delight in the randomness of whatever I received, regardless of my preference for it. Clearly, I'm not visiting this restaurant because I'm starving or craving something in particular; I'm going there for the experience. And so I'll play along, accepting that I could easily end up with a small soda. (Or a dog toy.)

On a tangential note, the computer scientist in me has to wonder: what does the first patron receive? Nothing? Anything? A small piece of paper displaying the stack trace of a null-pointer error?