Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

We share a birthday? I'll take a dozen

  • Print

If your waitress happens to mention her birthday is the same day as yours, or you discover a clothing store clerk grew up your hometown, chances are you'll order an extra beer or buy that second pair of jeans.

New Canadian research shows that when consumers share "incidental" traits like a birthday, name or hometown with a salesperson, they're more likely to open their wallets.

"Those incidental similarities can actually shape the situation in terms of your desire to buy and associate with the product or company, your attitude toward the product," says Darren Dahl, a marketing professor at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business. "It overflows onto the purchase experience -- even though, rationally, it really shouldn't."

The reason is that we're hard-wired to seek social connections with other people, he says, and even though these small similarities have nothing to do with the product or situation at hand, they make us more open to persuasion.

And these connections aren't as rare as they seem: Previous research shows the chance that two people share the same birthday is better than 50 per cent in a group as small as 23 people, the researchers write in the paper, published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

Companies already seem to understand this. Employees at Disney theme parks and Hilton Hotels wear name tags emblazoned with their hometowns, the researchers note, and many fitness centres display detailed biographies of their personal trainers, right down to the high school they attended.

Last winter, Dahl says, he left the equipment rental centre at the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort unreasonably pleased with the unremarkable service he'd received from an employee whose hometown of Sydney, Australia -- where Dahl had just spent three months of a sabbatical year -- was printed on his name tag.

"Because we'd had this little moment, I was a lot happier when I left," he says laughing.

Whistler Blackcomb has been displaying hometowns on name tags of its international staff for more than 20 years, says Dave Brownlie, president and chief operating officer.

"It does create those connections, which ultimately make a difference in how people enjoy your resort," he says.

But there's also a risk to building these little connections with consumers, Dahl says.

"The flip side is that it raises the stakes," he says. "When you do this as a tactic, if the person does something wrong in the sales situation, they're judged much harsher than if someone else had done something wrong. It's a double-edged sword."

The researchers believe this is the first study to look at how these shared traits figure into the sales relationship, but previous research has explored how it plays out in other contexts.

In one "classic" study, Dahl says, students rated Grigori Rasputin, the "mad monk" who wielded enormous political influence in early 20th-century Russia, as a pretty good guy when they were told he shared their birthday.

In other studies, people were more co-operative with a stranger if told the person shared their birthday, name or fingerprint type, and people have been shown to prefer brand names that start with the same letter as their first name.


-- Canwest News Service

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 9, 2009 A2

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Kevin Cheveldayoff

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Young goslings are growing up quickly near Cresent Lake in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba- See Bryksa 30 Day goose project- Day 11- May 15, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • KEN GIGLIOTTI  WINNIPEG FREE PRESS / July 23 2009 - 090723 - Bart Kives story - Harry Lazarenko Annual River Bank Tour - receding water from summer rains and erosion  damage by flood  and ice  during spring flooding -  Red River , Lyndale Dr. damage to tree roots , river bank damage  , high water marks after 2009 Flood - POY

View More Gallery Photos


Do you think Manitoba needs stronger regulations for temporary workers?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google