You sit down at a restaurant with your family and you notice on the menu there is a small insert that says “download our app for a free appetizer!” so you download the app. Who doesn’t like a free order of fried pickles, right?
While you are in the app, you notice some perks only for people who have the app. Extended Happy Hour! Half Price Appetizers on Friday! Your child eats Free on Tuesdays! You were going to delete the app after you scored your free appetizer, but now you think you’ll keep it.
You also notice that for every dollar you spend you get a point and those points add up to cool things! Free appetizers, free entrees, free desserts, free merchandise. If you spend $50 tonight, you’re halfway to 5 free wings. Score!
But wait! If you buy certain menu items at certain times, they are worth more points. You notice that they have a new menu item worth double points this week. So you try it. Double point score!
At the end of your meal, you scan your receipt and the points upload into the app. The bar moves a bit closer to the “five free wings” reward and you’re pretty excited about that. The app also dings and reminds you if you come back on Sunday between 2-4 you get half-price appetizers. So you text your friend to tell them and you guys make a plan to come back Sunday. You think “Hey, I’ll get some more points” as you leave your tip and drive home.
What actually happened is that the restaurant put you on a token economy reinforcement system and you happily complied. From the moment you sat down the restaurant had reinforcement at the ready to ensure you did what they wanted you to do. They wanted you to download that app, keep it, try new menu items, and return to their restaurant.
So the next time you put a student on a token economy system and another teacher tells you that people in real life don’t work for points to get food, ask to check their phone. I bet they have, in fact, changed their behavior to get points, that ended with food reinforcement.