Logo Franetic Horizontal Branco 2
Close this search box.

Learning the Mental Trigger of Reciprocity with an Ethiopian in Rome

Table of Contents

Share This Post

Hail hail, this is Lauro Becker! Today I will share with you a story that happened to me and that surrendered to me two important lessons. I believe they can be useful for you too!

First, I couldn’t find a shorter title to adequately illustrate what I want to share here in this text. So don’t judge me! 🤣

Second, this is a real case, with real people (It looks like a horror movie intro, but you can rest assured that it doesn’t have a terrifying end). He was an Ethiopian, but he could be an Argentinian, an Italian, a Russian, or a person of any other nationality! Therefore nothing to read as a generalization or stereotyping based on some nationality.

Closed? So let’s get to the article!

Learning the Mental Trigger of Reciprocity

Lessons on mental triggers that weren’t foreseen in my Rome roadmap

The day was October 23, 2018, approximately 6pm. We had just left the Colosseum in Rome.

My first time in the city and that incredible monument that, since childhood, I dreamed of seeing. Everything was going very well and pleasant, even with the tiredness of the day, since we had just arrived from a trip.

Just ahead, still in the Piazza del Colosseoas we were heading towards another tourist spot, I hear a “Hello my friend“.


Okay, it wasn’t exactly like that. But it was similar!

I look this way and that, I don’t see anything. In a few moments it approaches a boy in his 30s and addresses me, speaking in English:

Hello my friend. Where you are from? I’m from Ethiopia, how about you?

I, without understanding very well, but in a gesture of politeness and curious because I had never met an EthiopianI answer:

Hello how are you! I am Brazilian.

We exchange a few more words. soon he offered me a bracelet. The African ones, you know? Not my style of accessory, so I kindly declined. I didn’t want to buy.

He insisted:

Please accept, it’s a gift for my friend.

I was helpless, after all, I’ve been told since I was a child that refusing a gift is impolite. So I stretched out my arm, as he indicated, and he tied that bracelet.

I don’t know the custom of Ethiopians in Italy, but… at that exact moment I realized he was trying to sell me something and, first of all, I I tried to get out of the situation common:

Thank you, but I have nothing to offer in return…

The only thing he repeated was:

It’s a gift, don’t worry my friend…

When I tried to leave, it was a “gift” after all and I didn’t have to give anything in return, he asked if i had children. I said no, trying to end the conversation. I was already enjoying the experience of the conversation, but I had a feeling of how it was going to end (as you’ve already noticed)…

Tip: User Experience: How Does It Increase My Sales Power?

By the time he noticed I was about to leave, my “friend” gave me another gift. A small porcelain elephant.

I tried to refuse again. But he was offended by the refusal. And I started to get embarrassed about the situation. (Ok, you can call me naive, but I wanted to see you in my place… 😉)

I accepted the elephant. We talk a few more things, and came another turtle, another elephant, another bracelet. I already had my hands full of crafts at that time… I tried to leave but there was no way.

Ready. I had already been hooked by the Reciprocity Trigger!

Tip: Never underestimate mental triggers as a sales technique

How could I leave with gifts without giving anything in return? But the chat continued. He made some joke, which was hard to understand in his accent (I laughed anyway, who never laughed at a joke they didn’t understand? 😂)… But, it was a peculiar moment…

If have one thing I really like to do when I travel is get to know new culturesdifferent people. something is always learned and in this case it was no different!

It didn’t last long, he took his cell phone out of his pocket and showed me a wallpaper photowith a 2 year old girl.

Of course, as any normal person would… We said:

Oh, she’s so pretty!

He went on and said it was the his daughterthat she had stayed in Ethiopia and he was there to seek a better future for her. This explanation was followed by one: would you have 5 euros to help my daughter?

That moment, I admit that I didn’t react. It was a mix of “Lauro, I can’t believe you fell for this” with a very strong feeling of guilt, after all he was there looking for something for his daughter. And at that moment, with my hands full of “gifts”, how would I behave? 🤔

Result: We looked for 5 euros and gave it to our “friend”.

I said goodbye with a smile on my face, and we continued our walk.

Inevitably, after a few minutes of silence, the subject came up. That moment, I admit, I was quite upset about what happened.. Okay, 5 euros is no big deal. But I I felt cheated and, even understanding the dynamics of mental triggersI fell for that chat. I bought something I didn’t want.

Reflecting a little more, after about 15 minutes I came to the conclusion that, at least, he had a daughter who would benefit. Anyway, it was for a noble cause, despite the regrets… Until, almost at the same moment, I hear another…

Hello my friend, where are you from?

It was inevitable that I realized that that chat was the SAME for all of them. I witnessed this scene every day of our stay in Rome! They basically used the same copy. Hahahaha

They are GENIUS!

We went to dinner and then back to the Airbnb we were in. We stayed there for two more days.

As we leave, how really it made no sense for me to take the gifts with me and there was little space in the backpack, I thought about giving up decorating to the room owner.

When I went to leave the elephant and the other trinkets on the shelf, guess what I found there, that another guest had already left? A turtle, just like mine.

Is very well done copy that generates recurring revenue. I’ve come to this conclusion! 😂

Summary and lessons learned

Remember when I said that I had learned two lessons in the introduction to the text? Let’s go to them!

Lesson #01

I know, I was tricked. But I I can’t help but admit that that was a lesson for me. After all, if there’s anything we can do with our experiences, good or bad, it’s take a lesson and learn. Right? There goes from how you see things. The “glass half full or half empty”, isn’t it?

Lesson #02

Very, very careful. In my case it was 5 euros. But how many people don’t fall into extremely well designed “mental traps”, in the promise of great results and lose a lot of money? Mental Triggers are powerful, so use them responsibly., OK? Abusing them can cause a bad experience for your customers and harm your business. That saying that the difference between the antidote and the poison is the dose.

Tip: Find out what the impacts of a bad sale are on customer retention

In fact, it reminded me of a story of a portuguese lady who sold me a cheese that i didn’t even want a few years ago

But that’s for another post, who knows!

Hope you enjoyed this article! Leave your comment and follow me on LinkedIn to receive more articles like this and, who knows, discover the history of Portuguese cheese! 😂

Success and good journey!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

More To Explore

Do You Want To Boost Your Business?

drop us a line and keep in touch