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ScienceShot: How to Get a Roller Coaster Rider to Give to Charity

If a company offered to donate some of your purchase price to charity, would you be more likely to buy their product? Probably not, say researchers. In a new study, to be published tomorrow in Science, roller coaster riders at a U.S. amusement park rarely bought more souvenir photos when they were told that half of the profits would go to a medical foundation. But when the customers were allowed to pay what they wanted for the photos, sales revenue nearly tripled. The researchers say the incentive to buy didn't work in the first case because consumers are generally suspicious when companies claim to be doing a good deed. Allowing customers to pay what they wanted, on the other hand, introduced an element of financial risk to the company, as customers could pay very little or nothing at all for the souvenirs. And that in turn removed any cynicism towards the charitable act, say the researchers.

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