Applied Behavior Science for Health and Happiness
Nudging The Lock Closed
Nudging The Lock Closed

Nudging The Lock Closed

Nudging the LockA couple times per month, I go to a spin class at Flywheel. While generally I enjoy the experience a lot, one aspect that’s had me consistently frustrated is the locker situation. Flywheel offers these easy-to-use free lockers to keep your stuff secure during class. However, many patrons don’t lock the lockers. This means that if you need a locker before class, you may find yourself opening door after door thinking each one is free, then finding it isn’t. It’s a minor annoyance that can end up wasting valuable minutes during a very short turnaround period between classes in a small locker room.

Locked on the left, unlocked on the right.
Locked on the left, unlocked on the right.

I had told myself that the best way for Flywheel to deal with this issue, clearly, would be to empty the unlocked lockers during classes into a communal bin. After all, the people who don’t lock the lockers must not really be concerned about security so much as just having a physical space for their stuff. But this was frustrated revenge thinking. It is not thinking like a psychologist (well, not like a design psychologist–it is thinking like a behaviorist).

It's so easy! Why wouldn't you lock your locker?
It’s so easy! Why wouldn’t you lock your locker?

Instead, what a design psychologist might ask is: What nudges could be implemented to subtly prompt people to lock their lockers?

I came up with three ideas, not all of which would be affordable to implement, but hey, this was an ideation exercise:

  • Add prominent signs to the locker area letting people know the establishment is not responsible for items missing from unlocked lockers. It would be important in this case to specify unlocked lockers (even though most establishments also decline responsibility for thefts from properly secured lockers) in order to achieve the nudge effect. Difficulty level: Easy.
  • Add a digital indicator, like a scoreboard, showing how many lockers remain unused, triggered by the locking of a locker. This would be similar to the signs in some airport parking lots showing the remaining spaces on each level. A digital indicator subtly suggests that an unlocked locker is not used and therefore the user’s belongings aren’t secure, and may prompt people to actually lock the locker. Difficulty level: Medium, but also expensive.
  • Set it up so that each bike corresponds with a specific locker, and you can only get the bike to work with a token from the locker. In this scenario, there would be exactly the right number of lockers to have one per bike, and the locked locker would provide some sort of token that enables the bike to move. This is probably the least practical idea for a number of reasons, ranging from the fact that not everyone needs a locker at all to the potential for lost or stolen tokens. It would eliminate a lot of the hassle of finding a locker before class, and could be the jumping off point for a better refinement of the idea.

I was tempted to list a fourth idea of priming thoughts of theft by looping video like this great 1980’s commercial from the Church of Latter Day Saints (“I stole your necklace”), but let’s be honest: I just wanted to reference the commercials of my youth.

What do you think? What are some environmental nudges that Flywheel could implement to get more people locking those lockers?