Musings & Observations / Barry Halpin
One itsy bit of information that has bugged me for years was a research study I read while helping a family member plan a business some time ago. It was this: Of the top 10 reasons consumers frequently return to a restaurant, the least important -- number 10 -- was the food.
The data was well supported. Still it seemed odd. In the end, as the business plan developed, the quality of food was placed high on the priority list but the other nine factors were taken into consideration.
Number one on the list, by the way, was recognition. Yep. The number one reason consumers return to a restaurant (large fast food chains excluded) was that the owner, maitre'd, or hostess recognized the consumer. "Mr. Jackson, I have your favorite table for you" was more important than "That was the best lobster bisque I've ever had." Funny how consumers behave.
And there I was, two Saturday's ago signing a lease for a new car. Guess what I didn't do? I didn't look under the hood. I didn't ask about the horsepower or the engine's torque. I didn't ask about the front suspension design or the incident of repair. I didn't ask about the transmission or the fuel mileage. I didn't even ask what level of gasoline the engine required for best performance.
My wife was interested in trunk space. She had driven a Volvo for the past three years and complained about the Volvo's trunk every time she went to the supermarket and bought more then we needed. Trunk space was her key buying hot button. And heated seats. She wouldn't buy a car unless it had heated front seats.
I looked for other comfort features. The car had to have a navigational system. Not that I would ever need it. I can't think of anywhere I would drive to that I haven't already been. But navigational systems seem to be as essential as a cell phone for a modern man. I wanted the navigational system. And memory seats. And automatic garage door openers.
To get all that I needed to buy the Premium 1 package which added another $2,300 to the cost of the car and the Multimedia package which had a $2,650 tag. Oh. And the car's color scheme -- add $720. That's $5,670 that have nothing to do with the car's elemental function -- take me and my passengers safely from one place to another.
Like the restaurant patron who returns for that nod of recognition instead of the quality of the food, I leased a car not for its essential purpose but for its supplementary parts. The nod of recognition that I sought was comfort, status and gadgetry.
But what I'm most guilty of is being "OK" with that. To tell you the truth, I love to go to a very popular Italian restaurant in downtown Stamford without a reservation. When we walk in, the owner is always there. He kisses my wife and me on both checks as an Italian sign of respect since we know and are of his parents' age. If there isn't a table available he makes a place for us at the bar and we end up having a night cap together. I will say, however, the food is always superb. And I don't think I would go there if it weren't.
The same with the new car. We closed the deal for all the wrong reasons but its reputation for performance and safety is legendary. I think, no, I know, I would not have leased the car if I didn't already know its reputation.
Besides, who wouldn't want to pull up to his 50th high school reunion in a brand new luxury edition of a Mercedes Benz? OMG, I can't believe I'm guilty of that. I'm embarrassed. That's so not me. But I'm guilty, yep, I'm guilty. Recognition. We all want a little recognition.