Friday, November 23, 2007

People respond to incentives: Newspaper carrier edition 

Mrs. S noticed this morning: Right around Thanksgiving our SCTimes newspaper is delivered with a greater amount of care. Mrs. likes to keep a number of trinkets on our front step -- seasonal lights are up year-round. The newspaper is usually thrown (a tradition I carried on in NH in my own youth) and stuff gets knocked over constantly. Breakable trinkets are broken. But over the last few days the paper is placed against the side of the entry, on end, able to be grabbed while still standing in the doorway.

What will come next is the now-standard Christmas card from the carrier, replete with cute photo. Because it's a morning paper most of us don't know who the young man or woman is. I worked delivering an afternoon paper and did collections myself, offering me more opportunities for tips and gifts. (The SCTimes collects subscription payments itself by mail.) Indeed, the afternoon delivery person, being more visible, is likely tipped at a much greater rate. No chance of the morning carrier telling the neighbors about the cheap Banaians.

Come January, of course, the paper will once again by tossed on the step, and once again I'll have to put on shoes to step through the snow to get it. That's OK, though. The WSJ is always left in the driveway, and that guy never expects a tip.