Cognitive biases are insidious precisely because they are unconscious. So insidious that you can make a really bad decision and not realize it for years.
For over a decade, I have hired Decision Mechanics Limited to design and deliver web and mobile apps. Because the company is in the United Kingdom, payment of their invoices has been complicated and expensive.
Or so we thought.
We began with international bank transfers. These are expensive — there is a $30 dollar transfer fee and additional penalties if there are errors. And they are complex.
The form requires six different sets of account identifiers totaling nearly 60 numbers, letters and symbols. Any error with those account identifiers or with the addresses of two international banks means the transfer is rejected. Resubmitting adds an additional $50 in penalty and new transfer fees, making the total transfer $80.
Each time I went to my credit union to send a transfer, the teller would forget some step and I would get a phone call asking me to return to fix the error and re-sign. In a typical year, there were only a few of these transactions, but they were frustrating, expensive and time consuming.
In 2011, we examined Google Wallet upon its release, but rejected it because of its high fees for international transfers.
Then, recently, somehow two of the 60 numbers, letters and symbols were transposed, a transfer was rejected and we had to eat the $50 in penalties and re-submission fees, an $80 expense on a $750 payment.
This spurred us once again to explore high-tech solutions: Google Wallet, Paypal’s new Venmo app, a different international bank. And then my colleague suggested, “There’s another option. We do this so infrequently you could just post a check.”
Seriously, I thought. We both have advanced degrees and occasionally fancy ourselves clever. How could we have been so stupid?
“Andrew, why haven’t we done this all along?” I asked.
He replied, “Because we have a mental block when it’s not high-tech. My mother would have suggested this right away. Of course, let’s see it work seamlessly before we get all excited.”
$2.95 cents in postage and a $7.50 check clearing fee later and we think we’ve coined a new cognitive bias:
Tech blindness: the inability to see an obvious, low-tech solution when high-tech options are available.