Many people talk about the “law of reciprocity” but few real understand its power and value. As marketers we talk about is all the time with our clients in the context of giving information and products freely in exchange for information, loyalty or purchases. It’s an age old marketing technique a business can use to engenders good will from a client or potential client. By freely giving away something of value, the perceived value is often returned to the business in kind, loyalty or purchase value. It works because we innately wish to even the ledger sheet and balance up the perceived value of the gift. It’s origins is unknown but probably a result of our nurturing nature and is much more complex than the description given above. As humans we develop reciprocal relationships in the first few weeks of life and continue to develop reciprocal social exchange for the whole of our lives.
Its so common that we seldom recognise the reciprocity of a simple “hello”. A word uttered upon meeting someone, given freely to initiate the beginning of a reciprocal exchange. A social exchange which could result in something as mundane as a returned greeting or a friendship that last a life time. Either way the initial greeting seldom goes unrecognised or not returned by another.
One definition for reciprocity is “the the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit.” and goes no to talk about privileges granted by one country or organisation to another. But that’s a fairly impersonal view of reciprocity and I’d like to discuss reciprocity in terms of experience we have encountered on our travels and the value of reciprocity while traveling.
We engaged in may reciprocal relationships with the majority of these being the simple social exchanges described above where we greet someone and a conversation ensues. The outcome in general is an exchange of some knowledge which leaves both parties feeling better for the exchange. The initial exchange evens the tally on the reciprocal ledger sheet. But we many not experience the real value of the exchange until later when information gleaned, leads to an enhanced experiences during our travels.
Importantly a true reciprocal relationship involved exchanges which enhance the experience of both parties and builds a relationship between those parties where future exchanges may persist. I’ll recount a few we have experienced during our travels
Whilst in Phnom Penh we experience some excellent customer service at the Gloria Jeans Cafe in Riverside. In particularly the service provided by a one of the female barista’s. Not only did the coffee taste great the artwork she created with the milk foam looked stunning. But her true skill was appearing to create the artwork specifically for the drinker. This personal touch meant that we reciprocated with praise for her skill and more importantly for her business returned every day during our stay to purchase a coffee.
The BC Family in Hanoi helped us book accommodation and introduced us to the old quarter of Hanoi. On our first day in the old quarter several of the BC family staff helped us settle into our accommodation and then came with us for lunch at one of their favourite roadside restaurants. Their excellent customer service extended to taking the boys roller skating, minding the children and even organising my 50th birthday. The BC family shared so much with us that even now while in France we still feel indebted to them for the fun and experiences we enjoyed in Hanoi. To show our appreciation from a far we created a Birthday video for the BC family to celebrate their 8th year of operation and recommend them to any any and everyone heading to Hanoi. It’s relationship that will last a long time and hopefully provide great value in return to BC family in the form of exposure and future bookings for their accommodation and tour business.
The Au Chateau in St Nicolas De La Grave is bed and breakfast accommodation in the heart of the Midi-Pyrénées but for Ken and Katherin Barker the owners it a real hassle when they want to take a family holiday. My grandmother once summed it up aptly when asked if she enjoyed being the owner of a large farm property in Tasmania and she replied that “she did but that she didn’t own the property, it owned her“. I didn’t fully appreciate her comment until owning a large property of my own. It’s a big investment with its own financial rewards but its also a big consumer of time and income. Add animals to the mix you have a large responsibility and millstone around your neck.
As travellers we are always looking for value for money places to stay and love the idea of house sitting. This is true reciprocal relationship where the owner needs someone to stay on their property while they take a break or do something different. In return for letting us house sit their place and look after their animals they get to spend some time away doing as they please. While we experience a little piece of real life slotted in to our travels. A change to live the “normal life”, looking after animals and a property as if they were our own.
As with any lent property a good lender will always return the lent goods in the same condition or better. But sometimes the reciprocity of the relationship will engender a greater exchange depending largely on the perceived value of the arrangement by either or both parties. For instance during or stay at the Chateau both Michelle and I contributed to the up keep of the Chateau not just staying in the house as visitor. We helped complete the construction of a hay barn, fenced parts of the horse paddock to prevent the horses escaping and cooked many meals for both our family and the Barkers.