That’s so random…!

Tie photo by Steven Depolo / licensed under CC BY 2.0

A colleague and I were discussing a clothing curation service subscription that he had received as a gift. You know, the increasingly popular web-based services through which one receives a package of clothing each month, and the recipient decides which to keep and which items to send back. I’ve always wanted to try one, such as Bombfell (great name), but…well…money. And kids. And braces. And…I see I’m digressing.

Anyway, my colleague is about to receive his first package. Just yesterday, he received an email informing him what pieces had shipped, complete with photographs and prices.

This struck us both as odd.

It took us a couple minutes to figure out what seemed so weird.

We finally realized that the surprise had been eliminated. Surprise is a form of randomness.

Randomness has such a powerful effect on the human experience.

Negatively, it is an enormous factor in gambling addiction. Positively, randomness is the key behind “surprise and delight” experiences — the wonderful moments we never saw coming.

In this instance, the clothing curation service had spoiled the surprise. When the package arrives, there will be no randomness involved. No surprise. My friend will open the box knowing what is inside.

While one wants to believe that there is some even smarter rationale behind the pre-arrival email, it is hard not to suspect that this is an unforced error, from a customer experience perspective.

It’s easy to see how randomness factors in to our consumer experiences. The unexpected bump to first class. The free bike repair. Paying for standard Zappos delivery but receiving the shoes the next day.

But what might nonprofits do for donors? How can we use randomness? I confess I’m not feeling especially creative tonight, as I write this. Perhaps you have an idea? Something you are doing now in a donor program, or something you’ve always wanted to try? If so, I’d love to discuss it with you. Leave a comment or email me at