‘Nudge’: Technique used by McDonald’s to elicit a positive response for 15 years

“Charge?”, the 1st drive-thru attendant, the one taking the order, asks me every time. No matter what I answer, the 2nd person to receive the payment asks “charge?” again. It’s a push, a financial behavior tool that must have made a lot of money over the years. McDonalds.

It is preferable to receive by debit rather than credit, as the latter type of payment takes longer to settle. Money loses its value over time. Considering the sales of millions, a lot is to be gained if the percentage of customers who pay with a fee is increased. Forced bill rollover is hostile, better for the consumer to do it voluntarily.

The nudge is a nudge, prompting me to answer “could” or repeat: “debt”. I then follow what he suggested, although I’m free to decide otherwise – like default, the default option for a form. Nudge, the book, is now 15 years old: it popularized an area of ​​research that won Richard Thaler a Nobel Prize and spawned many applications in the private and public sectors.

A nudge is a nudge, prompting me to answer “could be” or to repeat: “charge” Photo: Elliott Verdier/The New York Times

There were several governments and multilateral organizations that created their own structures, designing policies based on this kind of psychology. The push in these cases is not for a choice that increases profits, but for a choice that is beneficial to society (eg responsible energy consumption) or the individual (eg increased savings).

The big advantage over other public policies is clear: nudges are cheap. There’s one more: they don’t usually have to go through the long process legislative projects or PECs and can be tailored to each entity’s remit or regulatory authority’s mandate.

But they have faced controversy: whether they are invasive, whether they are paternalistic and, more recently, whether they are really effective. The latest evidence shows that effectiveness is limited, a welcome restraint in the hype of recent years.

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New governments already have enough literature to draw on to choose incentives in areas such as child-rearing, over-indebtedness and education (in Peru there is a specific department in the relevant ministry). These are areas where simplifying decision-making and disseminating good information continue to show potential for so many citizens living with the heavy cognitive load of everyday life.

In the private sector, the startup Noom is valued at almost BRL 20 billion: it sells a weight loss app, based only on behavioral solutions such as nudges. It indicates that innovation has not run out. It helps to go to McDonald’s less.

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