28 Sep 2012

Did you bring your cup?

People with cups get coffee faster!
Burning Man runs on what's called a "gift economy" -- people give what they want to who they want, without expectation of anything in exchange (smiles help!). Within the gift economy it's considered good manners to make it easier for the person giving the gift, by bringing your own cup to get free coffee, for example.

Cornelia and I volunteered to give away coffee at Cafe de la Fin du Monde in the French Quarter. Many people brought their cups (see photo), but others arrived as if they were walking in Starbucks -- not just asking for soy milk (hippie!) and decafinated coffee (horrors!) but also for cups. For that we had a simple answer:
Yes, we can pour your coffee into this communal cup. Please bring it back when you are done.
After hearing this and looking at the dusty and unwashed cups on the serving counter (water is too precious to waste on washing!), many people "suddenly" found that they did indeed have a cup. Others just drank from the communal cup.

Bottom Line: Incentives matter.

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