Friday off-topic – Simple economics

Friday off-topic posts are unrelated to the general theme of the earlyinitiative blog, ie not related to career development.  They are observations or comments; things I’ve overheard which have made me laugh, cry, wonder or even just imagine.  There is no intended theme or thread – I hope you enjoy them.

Some years ago whilst in my mid-twenties, I was travelling around Japan on my own – it was part education and part fun.  Actually it was all educational and all fun.  If found myself in Nagasaki for a few days in late July.  Whilst I love Japanese food, it’s not my favourite breakfast and on this trip I’d got into the habit of finding a coffee shop and having something a little more western – usually coffee and toast.  On this particular morning, I stumbled across the tiniest coffee shop imaginable – there were no tables, just a few bar stools with enough room for probably no more than 5 or 6 people to stand.  I was greeted by what looked like a 18 or 19 year old woman – very polite and easy to understand.  My Japanese was good enough to cope with her excellent diction (all very different from some of the other places I stayed, where I really struggled to follow conversations).  The conversation went like this:

Woman: Good morning, nice to meet you.  What can I get you?
Me: Good morning, nice to meet you too.  I’d like a coffee and toast please – thank you.
Woman: Okay no problem. Today we’ve got a special offer – coffee, toast and boiled egg, all for only 500 yen.
Me: Thanks, but I just wanted the coffee and toast – I don’t really fancy an egg today.
Woman: But it’s a special offer.  Coffee and toast is 600 yen; The special offer is cheaper… and it comes with a boiled egg.
Me: Well that’s an interesting offer, and I’m truly tempted.  The thing is, I just wanted the coffee and the toast.
Woman: I understand that, but look… you could have exactly what you wanted, with the bonus of a boiled egg… for 100 yen less… if you took the “special”.
Me: Okay, how about if I take the “special”, but without the egg?  Would that work?
Woman: [Brief pause, followed by…] Well no, that would be just like having coffee and toast.  It would be 600 yen.  The special offer really is a great deal – what have you got to lose?
Throughout this conversation I was the only customer in the coffee shop, and we were having a good-natured chat – the woman seemed genuinely mystified as to why I wasn’t opting for the offer.  So I changed tack…
Me: You’ve put a compelling argument together, and I’m only now catching up with you.  I’m going to go for the “special” – thank you for being so understanding with me.
Woman: Excellent!  I like to help our customers save money where they can.  It’s simple economics.
[the woman disappeared behind a curtain of hanging beads to prepare my breakfast]
Me: Actually I’ve changed my mind… I’m not so sure about the egg now.  Just don’t bother to cook one.  But I’ll take the coffee and the toast.
Woman: Oh don’t worry about that.  I’ll do it for you anyway.  Just leave it if you don’t fancy it.
A few minutes later she emerged with my coffee, toast and a boiled egg reminding me that I didn’t need to eat the egg if I didn’t want to.  She confirmed that this particular combination qualified as a “special”, so it was 100 yen cheaper than the egg-free version.

The woman told me that she was a university student – I don’t recall what she was reading.. Customer care?  Retail?  In any case I suspect it wasn’t simple economics.


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