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Are you worried they didn't remember? Use this trick

Pressure for corporate profits makes companies try to do more with fewer people. Employees of service businesses are particularly rushed and asked to do more with fewer people and in less time.

As a result, you might be interacting with someone who is in more of a hurry than you'd like them to be, and may not be paying attention.

If you're concerned that whatever detail you specified may get overlooked or ignored, there's an easy way to ensure the person paid attention, but it requires a bit of ethical flexibility.

You just need to ask a slightly wrong question.

Suppose you're at a café and worried that the barista ignored the "soy milk" request in your drink order. When you get the drink, don't ask "is this with soy milk?" - that makes it too easy for the person to just say "yes" even if they don't know or care. It's simpler to just say yes than to say "I don't remember" or "oops, I totally forgot, let me re-make that for you."

If, however, you say "is this with almond milk?" then you're creating a situation where one of two things will happen:

  1. if they're lazy or forgot what you requested, they might just say "yes" which will tell you very clearly that they didn't remember your request

  2. if they remembered what you requested, they'll be forced to say "no, it's soy milk" and you can say "ah yes, that's right, thank you!"

This approach may seem a bit disingenuous because you're intentionally asking something you know to be wrong, but it almost always will garner a useful answer: if they say "yes" then you know there's a problem, and if they say "no" then you really know they are on top of the details.


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