Accidental Social Experiment #1

Perhaps some of the best experiments happen by accident. Case in point, Post-It Notes. “Accidentally” is used twice to describe this incredible can’t live without office tool.

An accidental discovery occurred at our house this past weekend. Yard sales are stressful to begin with. Add a thunderstorm the night before just as you’ve finished carefully laid rows of random items once thought to be of paramount importance. Thankfully the rain was intermittent, although I think secretly David (husband) and I were hoping for a well-placed lightening strike to save us from the actual chore of conducting the sale. Alas, all treasures survived and for the first three hours of said sale, we averaged one car every hour. Morale was sinking as the temperature was marching toward one hundred.

Around 3 pm, a critical decision was made. We were no longer interested in an exchange of worldly goods for money. It was time to give it all away. Here is where it gets interesting. Because people were not going to be required to pay for anything, they spent far more time browsing and picking things up. Great! That was the idea. But not one of them left without giving a donation. That was the surprise! It seemed that our unselfishness inspired them. They began shopping for others, saying things like, “so-and-so would like this. I’ll just pick this up for them…” Oh, and they would leave a donation for it of course.

Get this. We averaged just as much money per person when we started giving things away as we did when we were charging pennies on the dollar. It appears people are far more willing to be compulsory givers than bargain shoppers. We accidentally conducted an experiment of human generosity.

I wonder if it also had something to do with our mindset. No longer trying to squeeze pennies out of treasures, we were happy to see people take interest in things that once interested us. The fiscal outcome was virtually the same but what started out as a mundane attempt to detach ourselves from possessions, turned into a rather entertaining and competitive game of who could out give the other. Perhaps they gave us money out of guilt or not wanting to look cheap. Sorry, no Survey Monkey to tell us about their shopping experience. But in reality, their motives don’t change the outcome. So maybe there motives are irrelevant? Perhaps trying to understand the motives of those around us, isn’t nearly as important as trying to understand our own motives?

Our motives were strictly desperation and frustration because we are moving to London next month and as they say, “You can’t take it with you.” (Well, in this case you can but it costs a fortune.)

More on our upcoming adventure to follow as I’m fairly confident there will be more accidental social experiments as we dive into a different culture. So stay tuned!


9 Responses to “Accidental Social Experiment #1”

  • Lin Wilder Says:

    Okay, I have not heard from you in a year…give or take. Then get a blog post from your blog that you write every 3 years or so…give or take.
    And casually add that you are moving to London. Next month.
    Could you consider adding a detail or 3?
    Regardless of your decision, my good friend, I hope your trip to London brings you everything you hope for.

    Love,
    Lin

  • Lin Wilder Says:

    I am trying this comment a 2nd time. Briefer this one. Excellent article with intriguing insights. But I would expect nothing less!
    London is the DOD job you applied for last year? Teaching? Teaching math to soldier’s kids?
    Bet the girls are excited and scared??
    I hope your move brings you all that you hope and pray for.

    Love,
    Lin

    • Rebecca Qualls Says:

      It isn’t a DOD job. I got a position at a public school about 8 miles south east of London. Girls will attend same school. We are indeed excited and scared. But as most things in life, there is usually a dichotomy of emotion!

  • Debi Says:

    My montra “You can never out give God, but it is fun trying.” When we freely give, we are actually blessed beyond measure. I am excited to watch and see how many blessings you’ll receive as you give of yourself in London. Blessings

  • Cathy Pagano Says:

    Wow what a shocker to see you in my inbox. Good luck in London. You guys amaze me. Sounds exciting. Keep me posted. Love to hear from you.

    • Rebecca Qualls Says:

      Thank you, Cathy. Should you and Craig ever fancy a trip, come see us!!

      • Cathy Pagano Says:

        Is this a long term move or will you be heading back to Nevada?

        • Rebecca Qualls Says:

          We have left that decision to the girls. Bailey has the option of coming back to Nevada next year to spend her senior year here if she desires. She isn’t leaning that direction at the moment, but we have only leased our home for one year should she want to return.

          • Cathy Pagano Says:

            Sounds like you got it figured out.Haha!!Good luck to you all. You are definitely experiencing life. You only got one on this earth. Keep me posted.

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