I am crushed. I just discovered a betrayal of monumental proportion. My favorite restaurant is deliberately utilizing sophisticated, pre-meditated, cognitive techniques in order to manipulate my behavior and psychologically pressure me into doing what they want me to do. This is one of those horrifying realities you try hard not to believe. But at a certain point, you can no longer deny the subversive tactics being employed against you.
I have a favorite eatery. It is one of those restaurants I never tire of frequenting. Their food is delicious, relatively low cal, fresh, filling and nutritious. And they have fabulous desserts. The greatest thing about their desserts is that nothing is ever over 475 calories. Plus the desserts are incredibly eye-pleasing, decadent and small enough to avoid any kind of post-repast guilt or remorse. I always order dessert at this restaurant. Until yesterday.
Yesterday I met my mom and sister-in-law at my fave spot late in the afternoon. I just wanted coffee since I’d eaten several hours earlier. But both of them were hungry and ordered lunch. After they’d finished eating and our table had been cleared, our server came by, dessert tray in hand, and began laying out clean napkins and silverware for dessert. “I don’t think anyone is going to indulge,” I kindly remarked to save him the trouble of replacing all of the utensils and painstakingly describing each of the 10 stunning desserts before us.
He continued placing the silverware, though, as if he hadn’t heard me. My sister-in-law chimed in, “I don’t think we’re going to order dessert.” Again he ignored us and started to describe the first item on the tray, a healthy peach melba housed in a miniature shot glass.
It was then that I realized something astounding. I felt guilty. I felt guilty that he’d gone to all that trouble to lay out the table for dessert and I suddenly felt compelled, out of some kind of misguided sense of duty, to indulge in one of the tiny, tasty treats. I didn’t actually want to eat dessert. I’ve been very disciplined the last few days, adhering to my daily weight watcher point limit. Dessert was the farthest thing from my mind. But I was going to order one simply because I suddenly felt compelled to not hurt his feelings. Rationally, I realized the absurdity of this. But emotionally I’d been hooked. This realization, however, ignited my inner will. “We don’t want dessert!” I announced emphatically.
The server was taken aback by my assertive stance. He looked stunned, and hurt, like I’d shocked him, wounded him, rudely interrupted him. “But I have to finish,” he stammered. “It’s restaurant policy.” And at that moment, everything became clear. “You mean, that’s why you kept placing the dessert spoons and napkins on the table even though we said we didn’t want anything?” I inquired. Then he confessed, “Oh yeah. There’s a whole psychology to getting people to order dessert.”
Feeling guilty? Try not ordering one.
“Please don’t tell anyone,” he fearfully implored, “And if anyone asks, I did describe every dessert. OK?” We assured him of our loyalty and he defeatedly collected the spoons, napkins, and dessert tray and slunk away. His disappointment was palpable.
My sister-in-law picked up the tab. I bet she left him a hefty tip in response to his despondent demeanor. But wait a minute, maybe that was simply another form of emotional manipulation. Maybe he was merely feigning dismay in order to secure a few more gratuity percentage points. I wouldn’t put it past him.
It really is true. Once trust is destroyed in a relationship you can never go back.