Behaviour economics challenged: What if gym members had to pay more if they don’t work out? And how about pre-browsing Facebook to select your airplane seatmate?


Often fitness memberships are seen as sunk costs, especially if paid at the beginning of the year. But behaviour economics tells us that people are more motivated by immediate consequences than by future possibilities. So what if you turned the business model on it ear? That’s exactly what a couple Harvard grads did in 2011 with Gym-Pact. They offered customers motivational fees. Customers agreed to pay more if they missed their scheduled workouts, literally buying into a financial penalty if they deviated from their fitness plan. The business model was an interesting one based on the premise that they didn’t want to profit from peoples failures. Fast forward a couple years to 2013, and the founders have launched the Gym-Pact APP essentially allowing you to set your fitness schedule and pledge dollars towards that goal using your smart phone. Users check in to their own selected gym to log the workout. Every week a financial tally is made of those who did not get to the gym as planned, and that pledged money is shared with those that actually achieved the pledged goal. The more days a user commits, the more cash they can earn. Check it out here: The fitness category is largely a sea of sameness. This behaviour economics twist is a pretty interesting idea!

And here’s another interesting idea for anyone who has endured a long flight seated beside a less than desirable passenger. It could be that they were just excessively chatty and you really needed to get some work done. Or perhaps their sheer size saw them cascading into your armrest territory. Or maybe you really would have enjoyed meeting up with someone off to the same conference as you. What if you could choose your seatmate based on their social media profile? KLM began testing this concept with their “Meet and seat” program. They allowed customers to upload details from their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, and to use the data to choose seatmates. It’s also undeniably a way for the airline to learn more about their customer base and preferences. Malaysia Airlines introduced a similar concept last year allowing passengers to check in via the carriers Facebook page to see if any “friends” were on the flight or destined for the city at the same time. And if you’d really just prefer to have nobody seated beside you for a fee of $6-60, Air New Zealand, Air Asia X in Malaysia and Vueling in Spain let passengers request empty seats next to theirs. If the flight turns out to be full, the extra charge is refunded. Air Canada, are you listening?

Mary Charleson

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