Thursday, May 1, 2014

Unethical Marketing By Fast Food Chains

There is a fine line between marketing and psychological misdirection. Companies adapt their marketing to match consumer behavior patterns. Global fast food and coffee enterprises are making millions of dollars daily with their so-called marketing tactics which consumers are not aware of. One such marketing tactic has been identified in how cashiers are taking orders, which could be considered by some as below the belt.

Understanding the way consumers think and operate can be a key opportunity for many fast food outlets to maximize their profits substantially. For example, when a customer is given a choice between Large, Medium and Small, the customer will choose subconsciously one of these three sizes and no other. Usually in fast food outlets you have visible menus which list the types and sizes of drinks and meals, but despite this cashiers when taking orders ask the client the size of their order, but they do not present the customer with three different sizes (S, M, L) which they can offer but they ask them only if they would like a “medium or large” omitting the small option. At that moment, the customer does not have enough time to sit and think about what they are being asked, and they will simply choose either out of the two. Obviously choosing medium instead of a small is a few cents more profit on each order. If customers were to order a small this would result in less profit. Quite clever, but ethically wrong.

A few months ago, I actually picked up on this marketing tactic, if you can call it marketing. This happened with two different brand outlets, McDonalds and Costa Coffee. On the one occasion with Costa Coffee, I placed an order and the cashier asked if I wanted a medium or large, this is when I first came across this, but I didn’t say anything and ordered a small. However during my recent visit to McDonalds I ordered a Big Mac Meal, and the cashier asked if I wanted a medium or large. I replied with:

Me: Can you repeat what you just said please?
Cashier: Would you like a Medium or Large?
Me: Do you realise what you just said to me? You just asked if I wanted a medium or a large, what happened to regular?
Cashier: (no response), Just staring at me.
Me: Because I have picked up on your tactics I will order a regular please. Why do you do that?
Cashier: It is part of our marketing.

There are a lot of people who are not aware of this, and people should be informed. Why should you end up paying a little more for something which you could simply avoid had the information been presented fairly. This is not marketing but exploiting the predictability of individuals.

So the next time you are visiting a retail coffee or food chain, pay attention to what they ask, explain to them that they forgot to mention small or regular or tall. A few cents more for us may seem insignificant but a few cents more for global chains works out to millions gained in sales.


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