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My travel from Wroclaw to the UK in a Van

Feb 18, 2015 - 9 minute read

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Jan Van Eijck
I am a Dutch guy who has lived for 8 years in Poland and has recently moved to Objectivity’s office in Coventry. I am an experienced all-round manager with a strong focus on the customer. My stories are about similarities between ordinary life and work most of the times.
See all Jan's posts

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Some of you by now know that I am not longer working in the Polish office but have moved to the UK and am now working from the UK Office in a new role as onsite co-ordinator. What this role includes I might describe in a later post. However, since the posts on our blog with the most reads are the ones that deal with travel I decided to dedicate this post to my journey from Wroclaw to Redditch where we now live.

I will try in this post not to just describe my journey but also try to describe some parallels with a book that I am currently reading: "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" by Robert Cialdini PhD.
Even this last sentence already shows something I learnt from the book. Robert Cialdini uses his title to emphasize his authority. He is a PhD so he must be an expert in his field. I did not even have to look him up on Google, because he is a PhD, isn't he. And to also answer the question why I am reading the book: Sush, who is my manager now, told me about some interesting books he had read recently. Me seeing Sush as an authority and me wanting to copy his behaviour, as a result, of course, started to read this book immediately.

The key elements of the book are reciprocation (give and take), commitment and consitency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.

But let's get back to the journey...

My family consists of my wife, my son (6), my daughter (4), and a chocolate labrador called Jerry (named after "Show me the Money" - Jerry Maguire). jerry

Having decided to move to the UK some tough decisions had to be made regarding our travel. And our main obstacle was how to transport Jerry. Would we leave him with my parents-in-law? Would he fly with us? Would he go in a moving van?

Leaving him with my parents-in-law soon was ruled out. Except for the fact that he always returned after a short holiday there with an extra pair of kilos on him because my parents-in-law cannot resist his begging eyes when he sits next to them while they are having dinner, we also just did not want to say goodbye to him. Him being the first addition to our family after we got married.


The easiest option would be putting him in a bench and he would fly with us. Until we found out about horror stories on the internet describing things like hearing your dog scream in the cargo hold. And stories about pilots who forgot to turn on the heating in the cargo hold and as a result the dog turned into frozen fish fingers when collected from the cargo belt.

So that left us with only one option: Jerry would go in a van to the UK. And so would I. To make sure that every 2 hours the man with the van would stop so Jerry could have a small walk and release his bladder.



When the two men with the van arrived two things became clear. Jerry was going to be sitting in a bench that was quite small in the cargo area and I needed to sit in the middle seat of the van, which meant that with my 190cm (6 feet 2) my knees would be clamped between the dashboard and the gear shift for about the next 24 hours. But we had made the decision earlier that this was the best choice so I would not complain and knowing that he would suffer more in the back I for sure would be able to clench my teeth for that long too. Commitment: people tend to see their decisions as the right one just because they decided already earlier for it. 

While packing the van the men allowed us to pack more than the 15m2 we agreed upfront. We thought that this was very kind of them and from the beginning we liked the men immediately (Liking principle of Cialdini). When the van was packed and we were ready to go the men informed me that instead of going straight to the UK we first needed to deliver a package some 1 hour to the north of Wroclaw, a detour which would lose me about 2 hours on my 24hr journey. Since we could pack more than we originally agreed, however, reluctantly I agreed. The reciprocation (give and take) trap. The guys offered us to pack more than agreed so it would be more difficult for me to disagree with the detour which was in their advantage but not in mine.

When finally heading in the right direction (after 2 hours passing our house again) everything went quite smooth. Every 2 hours we had a small break and Jerry a small walk. The journey went even ahead of plan and so we arrived at 1AM in Calais for the Eurotunnel where our reservation slot was at 7:30 AM.


It was here that the guys tried their reciprocation trick again. By now, however, my knees were seriously hurting, the driver turned out to smoke a cigarette every 15 minutes with the window only 1mm open, and the co-driver ate garlic the day before. So Cialdini's Liking principle was starting to wear off a bit. At the reservation booth the Eurotunnel assistant informed us that we could take an earlier train if we wanted if we would pay an additional 50EUR.

Knowing that I was told earlier by the driver that he was keen on arriving early because he had another load waiting for him in Oxford, I expected him to eagerly pay the 50EUR because it was in his clear interest to do so and plus we had paid upfront for the whole service including transport on the tunnel. However, he started a whole bid for convincing me to pay the 50EUR so I could be earlier in my home, which would be better for me and the dog.

His give and take attempt did not work this time. First of all he did not know that I had no intention to arrive during the night because I needed daylight to make sure everything was moved out of the van properly. And additionally since by then I did not like them that much anymore I just could not care about actually helping them instead of really helping myself. So I played the ignorant part and ignored the request stubbornly until he exclaimed finally: "Ok then we just have to wait on the parking lot for the next 4 hours!"

The Eurotunnel employee then directed us to parking lot "M" where we could wait after we had passed customs. When the customs officer told us to stop I noticed the authority principle to have a stronger impact on my drivers than on me, especially when seeing that the Rumanian van in front of us was unloading all of their goods in the rain on the pavement.

Customs officer: "Park here"_51033798_customs Driver: "Yes, Sir" Customs officer: "Do you transport anything for commercial purposes?" Driver: a long silence At that moment I stepped in and whilst knowing that in the cargo hold was also a pallet with car parts I told the officer: "No officer, everything in here is for my new house in the UK where I am going to live from today on. You're not lucky today working while it is raining like this, aren't you? I hope your shift ends soon or that the weather will get better, because you are really working during horrible circumstances at this moment." Customs officer: "Yes, indeed the weather is nasty today. Well if it is only for your house then I wish you a nice journey and a pleasant stay in the UK."

And there in a couple of sentences a couple of Cialdini's principles were put into practice. The uniform of the customs officer clearly had an authority impact on the driver to an extent that he was humble and almost could not express a single word.

The friendly talk between the officer and me resulted in him liking me and me feeling sorry for the circumstances in which he had to work made him realize that he better found shelter from the rain than examining our van.

The exchange of words between the officer and me also created an authority effect felt by the drivers towards me. I prevented them from having had to unload the car to show all cargo by just using a couple of words towards the officer. And later on when we arrived at my home this paid off by the reciprocation effect.

When we arrived at the parking space I noticed that the customs officer had more authority than the poor Eurotunnel employee. The van got parked in the first available space close to the terminal instead of parking lot "M" which was about 5 minutes further away. When I asked them if we should not park over there they responded with a simple: "This guy does not have anything to say. We can park wherever we want."

hqdefault During the next 4 hours the driver and co-driver were sleeping. And I had to experience even a Mr Bean like scene where suddenly the head of the driver ended up in his sleep on my shoulder and  slowly tilted every second more and more towards my private areas. Uncomfortable as it was, however, I did not want to wake him up, which probably was an underlying urge to create an even stronger liking effect towards me.


 Not surprisingly, I was the only one who could not sleep. And there on that parking lot I experienced another one of Cialdini's principles: Social proof. People tend to do things or accept things automatically when someone who is like us does the same.

Every time a car or van would enter the parking lot the same behaviour could be observed. If the car/van had Polish license plates then they would park close to us. If the car/van had Rumanian license plates they would park in the next lane. If the car/van had English license plates they would drive to parking lot "M" and a couple of minutes later those people could be seen running to the terminal. If the car had German, Dutch, or Belgian license plates they would drive to parking lot "M" too. The cars with French license plates just did not seem to arrive too early so they did not have to wait.

Another reason why I probably was the only one not sleeping in the van was probably the last of Cialdini's principles: If something is scarce then it must be good! So when the van was parked I went to the terminal to find out that all stores were closed at 2AM except for Starbucks. So I ordered a double espesso being it the only available drink in the whole terminal. And double espressos do not have the tendency to make me sleepy.

The Eurotunnel journey went smooth just like the remaining 3 hours in England. From time to time I ma16.132237.d976a007-65369516.Spookrijderrijdt12kilometermetcaravanhad to remind the less experienced co-driver that in England they drive on the left side of the road, but these are minor things. The flashing lights of uncoming vehicles also proved to be very helpful in that respect.

When we arrived at home I used my reciprocation trick. I asked the driver first if they could help me with unloading the van and move some of the furniture pieces upstairs. He started to tell a story about that how much time we lost by not taking the earlier train and that he had this other customer who was waiting for him. I simply just reminded him of how we together (emphasis on we as a convincing force) managed to convince the customs officer to not having to unload our van in the rain. He laughed and reluctantly accepted the trap that I had set up for him. An hour later all the furniture was in its right place.

Knowing that they had helped unloading against their own will I decided to play the ignorant part one final time again. I offered them a simple cup of coffee which I said they deserved after their hard work. They apologized that they had to decline the offer because of the other customer that was waiting by now, but thanked me very much for the offer. The Liking principle put into practice once again.

And I was very happy with that result, because honestly I did not even have coffee in the new house that I could offer :-)

So here it is. My journey as a quick extract of Robert Cialdini's PhD book "Influence:  The Psychology of Persuasion". I hope you liked it (liking). Just like Sush (authority) I can highly recommend this book. There are many people in our company that already read it before you and think highly of it (social proof). There is one copy in the library if it is not taken by someone else (scarcity). It really is an interesting read (commitment and consistency).

Please, leave your thoughts about this article in the comments (reciprocation)

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Jan Van Eijck
I am a Dutch guy who has lived for 8 years in Poland and has recently moved to Objectivity’s office in Coventry. I am an experienced all-round manager with a strong focus on the customer. My stories are about similarities between ordinary life and work most of the times.
See all Jan's posts


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