Hello, I’m Michael Sliwinski, founder of Nozbe - to-do app for business owners and their teams. I write essays, books, work on projects and I podcast for you using #iPadOnly in #NoOffice as I believe that work is not a place you go to, it’s a thing you do. More…

Missing cup holder bias - or how a minor thing can destroy your entire experience completely


You are planning a special experience. Your expectations are high up. It’s going to be awesome. And then one minor thing doesn’t go according to plan. It’s a small issue, yet it slowly but surely impacts your perception of the entire experience. You switch from glass-full to glass-empty thinking. Now everything is wrong. It’s all bad. Ruined. Even when objectively it really isn’t. Me and my wife call it a “missing cup holder bias”. In this article I’m going to explain to you why we call it this way, how its negativity spreads and how to snap out of it!

Missing cup holder bias - or how a minor thing can destroy your entire experience completely

Why “missing cup holder bias”?

This short story explains it. Many years ago we were buying my wife a new-ish car. She was driving a beaten-up 10-year old car and we found her a pristine 3-year old model that we wanted to buy. On paper the car was much better. Better brand, better engine, better interior design… an overall upgrade.

When we saw it, it didn’t disappoint. It was as good as the photos indicated. Even better. We noticed that the seller was really suffering while selling it. It was their dream car and they were selling it because of economic reasons. I knew were were lucky to have gotten this deal.

And then my wife noticed a small issue with the car…

The car didn’t have a cup holder.

Here’s the context: every day my wife drives to work with a cup of coffee. In her old car she had a prominent cup holder that fits her thermo-cup perfectly. This car, as awesome as it was, had no cup holder. None.

Suddenly, because of this one small flaw, her entire perception of the car completely changed. It didn’t matter that the car was much better than the old one, or was much more luxurious and had a more powerful engine. She started seeing this car as worse. The trunk was too small, the doors didn’t lock as well, the space inside was cramped… it was all wrong. In her eyes, because of the missing cup holder, the car was just worse. Suddenly, what initially was supposed to be an upgrade was a downgrade.

The rescue came from the seller himself!

Luckily, the seller quickly realized what was going on and found on one of the online forums a solution to our problem! It turned out there was a possibility to install an cheap, but nicely looking, aftermarket cup holder.

My wife accepted the solution and the car was in her good graces again. We eventually test drove it, purchased it and drove it home. And a few weeks later I installed a cup holder that looks like an original one and cost only 50 EUR, which is nothing compared to the price of the car.

Snap out of it!

When the small issue switches your thinking, you must snap out of it. Just observe your bias. When from a glass-full person you see yourself transform to a glass-half empty person, you must find a way to stop the madness. The key is to focus on a small solution to fix the annoying issue. Be creative and think of it as a tiny roadblock. Take a deep breath and re-asses the problem and consider it fixed in your mind.

When we saw that the no-cup-holder-issue can be solved with a cheap aftermarket piece, the problem disappeared. Like it was never there. And we could focus on enjoying the car again.

Don’t let the small things ruin a great experience!

That’s my point of this article. Whenever you encounter an issue, ask yourself it this is really serious or it’s just a cup holder.

If it’s a cup holder, it can be solved.

Don’t let a cup holder ruin a perfectly good car.

Which here means:

Don’t let a small issue ruin a perfectly good experience.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022 /cup-holder/