Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ecomomics of Happiness

It's true. The little things do make you happy. And sometimes they do make you spend more money.

Most Wednesdays, I take the night off and treat myself to dinner at the same place. Sometimes I hit the gym first; occasionally I try a new place--only because I keep thinking that I need to break myself of the "creature of habit" habit. But I'm rarely satisfied--well OK, there was the one time I skipped dinner all together and saw Burn After Reading instead--but I generally wind up at Vino Santo. Because food-wise and not-minding-if-I-bring-a-computer-a-book-or-a-friend-wise, this is my absolute favorite place to go for a lovely dinner. Every once in awhile I do take a friend!

Tonight, I tried to talk myself into either staying home (a bad mashup of "I'm too unmotivated to decide on anything" and "maybe I should tighten that belt a bit") or trying something different. But old habits and my adoration of the Vino Santo Caesar salad with grilled chicken won out.

I might call it a habit, but what really keeps me coming back is that, like tonight, when I got there, the only open table was "my" table. There were two couples waiting, but as soon as I arrived I was told that MY table was ready. And after dinner when I confided to the waiter that I loved seeing them so busy on a weeknight, he told me that they had actually turned away a table because the only one open was . . . MY table.

I’m not sure that everyone else would find the Caesar salad to be as tasty, or the pan roasted sole with a white wine, butter and caper sauce to be as divine. In fact, even my favorite Daniel Gilbert* might say that, because of the habituation factor, even I don’t enjoy the salad or fish as much as I did the first time. And yet.

Vanity has ever been an economic motivator and it is always in the merchants’ best interest to make sure you want to come back again and again. After all, why would you not want to go where every body knows your name (Norm), where the staff all know where you like to sit and know which menu items you might like and those . . .well, maybe not so much.

It may have been a complete fabrication--even a partial would have felt good--but the waiter said that it was my table, and they were going to hold it on the (very good) chance that I came to claim it. And I was told that my “usual” house white had been replaced and that I probably wouldn’t like it. I didn’t. It was then upgraded to something much nicer—cost (to them) be dammed. Maybe it was a small exaggeration. But there WAS a couple waiting by the door, and there WAS only my table open.

The upshot is that it made me happy. It didn’t cost them a whole lot.

And it made me want to keep going back.

And this post just reminded me to buy my own copy of Burn After Reading.

* I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t catch Mr Gilbert on the Colbert Report a couple of years ago. But now you can! God I love the Internets!

1 comment:

Number Nine said...

I so miss Vino Santo, where Carlos is Norm. I also highly recommend the calamari steak