Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What do a coffee coupon and an outfit have in common? A Feeling!

At first sight, the title might be simple and suggest that the two are simply correlated by a feeling of using a coupon while shopping for an outfit at a department store.  Am I correct?  Did I read your mind?  Alright, I will not quit my day job as an instrument manager at a university.  The subject of this post emerges every test season on the campus that I work at.  How, you might ask?  From here on out throughout the post below, I will refer to 'final exams' as 'test season' in order to be succinct.  Just today, I found a correlation between a coupon and a choice of one's apparel during 'test season.'  To learn more, read on.

There is no scientific basis for the proposition or conclusion that I draw.  The subject matter is purely speculative and based solely on observation.  I am not the only person who has drawn a similar conclusion (which I will explain shortly) on the matter.  Although, I thought that by writing about the trend, then maybe a few readers might comment and educate myself and others on the conclusion that I draw.  Alright, here we go...Lets talk about the correlation between the three different subjects: fashion, coupons, and 'test season.'

Observation 1: Reward Feels Great!

One of the staples of any university campus is a coffee shop on campus.  We have four shops on campus.    All four are the same and branded as the "Freudian Sip."  Additionally, each have a benefit system that is tied together across campus.  One benefit or reward system is a 'rewards card' -- which has a certain number of tabs or markings that represent a single purchase.

These are ubiquitous in society today. Every place I make a purchase, I feel like I am being asked "Do you have your rewards card?" Anyways, after a certain number of purchases, the customer gets an product at discount or free. In the case of coffee, the eleventh coffee is free after ten purchases!

The other reward system is in the form of 'human advertising' i.e., a t-shirt.  Each shop sells a t-shirt for around $10 dollars.  Upon ordering a coffee drink of your choice, a 20% discount is given if the customer is wearing the shirt.  A few customers can be seen 'donning' the shirt upon arrival at the coffee shop (just around the corner) in order to receive the discount.  Coffee drinkers take their discounts very seriously.

I am of the first reward system variety -- which is to say, I have a rewards card which I get stamped (or a hole punched) signifying that I have purchased a cup of coffee -- and am working towards receiving (after 10 purchases) a free drink of my choice.  At this moment, you might be asking yourself the following question:

Where is he going with this line of thought?  Anywhere?

Fair enough...Yesterday, I went to get my cup of coffee in the afternoon.  The manager and I struck up a conversation which went tangentially in all directions from topic to topic.  One topic that we stayed on for quite a long time -- during our 5 minute talk (hilarious) was that of redeeming or using the coffee rewards card on campus for coffee.

He described a strange observation with customer and reward cards for coffee purchases.  Actually, he reported on a trend which has occurred over the last five years during his employment on campus.  He said that the most popular times of the year for customers to redeem or cash in on their reward cards is during 'test season' (final exams).  At first, I did not think anything of his observation.

Out of respect, I asked him a clarification question regard the type of customer...Is the trend occurring mainly with students or staff?  There is a reason why I asked this question (without even knowing).  He confidently said that there is a definite increase in students during 'test season.'  Our conversation ended there -- because I had to get back to work.  Unbeknownst to me, in the back of my head, the wheels were turning grinding through the manager's observation and my polite but curious question.

The answer to the reason is the same answer to the subject of this blog post.  How are a coffee coupon (or reward card) and an outfit related?  To answer this, I need to tell you about observation number 2: fashion.  Read on...

Observation 2: A Nice Outfit Feels Good

Yes, I have been told by my friends who have a shopping addiction that wearing nice clothes 'feels' provides a sense of feeling great.  I am not of that variety.  Although, when I do get dressed up, I feel good -- usually because of the occasion and not the outfit necessarily.  But 'to each his own..'!!

I have noticed a trend across campuses that I have either attended or worked at that occurs during 'test season.'  At first I did not tell anyone (very frequently) of this trend, until one day my wife (who teaches chemistry) commented on a similar observation.  What observation might that be?  Here is the observation.

Go to any university campus during the 'test season' (final exam week) and undoubtedly, you will notice three types of outfits: (1) Normal (nothing unusual), (2) Pajamas (Bedtime attire), and (3) Decked out (dressed up).  At first, I thought that I was just crazy and constantly asked myself why was I noticing these three types of outfits on students during this week.

Lone and behold, the answer might have appeared.  My wife and I were walking on campus last year.  A lady walked by and had an outfit on that appeared like the lady in the picture below:


Or an alternative outfit might look like this lady below:


There is nothing particularly wrong with these two outfits.  The dress code is great if a ladies were going out on the town or to lunch, etc.  But wearing the above outfits to an exam seems like a student has spent a considerable amount of time on their outfit rather than on their exam preparation.  (Just an opinion -- I am open to being wrong).  Here is my wife's opinion below.

She is even tougher than I am on other women.  This is a phenomenon which I do not understand since I am a male.  Nor do I need to understand.  I will just keep being a simple male.  She contends that students who dress in the outfits above are giving off the following impression: 

I am on my way to a final exam right now.  I know that I did not study enough and probably will fail.  At least I will fail looking fabulous!  

To tell you the truth, I had never thought of this.  Again, we are two separate scientists and have two separate observations.  I can agree now that I have heard her observation that this appears to be true.  How do I know?  Well, without giving away any data on students test scores, I have seen some correlation with the students who have been in a few classes (that I have taught in graduate school).  I was so happy to hear this observation from a woman (my wife).  As I guy, I did not know how to express this with words.  

Again, right about now, you might be asking yourself the following question: 

Where is he going with this post?  A tangent, on top of a tangent....WOW!


I know that you did not expect me to jump to the conclusion so quickly.  But a detailed discussion is not needed.  Here is a summary of the observations above:

In the first observation, there is an increase in students 'redeeming' or collecting on their rewards during a stressful week of exams.  The overarching thought or motivation might be some unconscious thought of wanting to 'feel good.'  During stressful times, getting a 'deal' or a 'free coffee' -- especially, a 'free coffee espresso' drink -- which can cost on the order of $6 -- $8 is a nice feeling.  The local feeling of receiving an award might offset the uncomfortable stressful feeling of exams.

Similarly, in the second observation, dressing up and looking good does feel great.  No one is here to dispute the feeling.  Although, there is a time and place to do so to fully realize and reap the benefits.  During exam time might not be the best time to do so.  Although, if the test is going to be a 'failure' -- again -- that local feeling of looking 'fabulous' might be enough to offset the stress of final exams.

Finally, as I mentioned early on in the blog post, this is purely speculative on the part of two chemists.  Although, we are open to suggestions and comments on changing our thoughts on the subject matter.  

I thought that I would write a post that is a little different than my usual 'dimensional analysis' posts that have appeared thus far to give the reader a break.  Even scientists don't just spend their time thinking about numbers and equations.  We look at fashion too and occasionally dance as well.  Have a great day!

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