Surprise Industries sells happiness for $25 a pop.
Started in 2009 by a psychology instructor, a sign language interpreter and a college student, the innovative New York consultancy was conceived on the basis that the element of surprise can make us happier people. Surprise Industries coordinates with New York City event and activity purveyors (who offer experiences like fire eating or pottery classes, wine tasting, bowling or trapeze school) and negotiates group rates.
When you sign up for one of their $25 surprises you have no idea what you will be in for until you arrive at your destination. An email with a cryptic clue is your only lead, and that typically only advises on footwear.
“The idea is to get people to experience new things,” founder Tania Luna said. “We are also eliminating choice. We have learned that choice prevents you from trying something new and ultimately decreases satisfaction.” (We told you they were a bunch of psychology wonks.)
For the more adventurous and those willing to crack open their wallets just a little bit wider, Surprise Industries crafts custom surprises which can include entire evenings or even days of surprise
“We kept getting requests for personalized surprises,” Luna said. “People would say ‘If we paid more could you push me more out of my comfort zone ?’”
It just so happens they can.
Personalized surprises start at $75 per person and the prices go up from there. The more you pay the more they will blow your mind. Paying a premium means you just might spend the afternoon jumping out of a plane over Long Island. And your invitation to jump out of said plane might be delivered by a woman in a cat suit on the subway strumming a ukulele.
So far all of the companies earnings have been invested back into the company which is expanding this summer with a surprise package they promise will blow your mind even more completely (and run thousands of dollars).
“We just want to use surprise to help people live a more rich and meaningful life,” Luna said. “And we want them to have some fun along the way.
So what are the elements of a good surprise, whether you pay for it or you opt to go it alone? According to Luna:
“First, anticipation. The typical surprise party is a complete surprise to the guest of honor, but our experience and research in psychology show that anticipation intensifies enjoyment. Instead of throwing someone into a totally unexpected surprise, we recommend telling them a surprise is coming but hiding all the details. Our clients often tell us this is half the fun. It is also a way to boost your mood and creativity long before the experience,” she said.
Second, go an inch outside your comfort zone. Luna said: “Doing something safe (think yoga) often isn’t exhilarating enough, but doing something too exhilarating (think base jumping) might not be enjoyable either. It all depends on the surprise recipient much more than the surprise itself. What we strive to do is understand our clients’ comfort zones and then push them just a toe or two outside these boundaries. Getting just outside of this space stimulates our minds and bodies, encourages us to take more positive risks, and creates a truly vibrant, happy memory.”
Finally, bonding. “Another factor that’s more important than the surprise itself is who is doing the surprise with you. The happiest clients experience their surprises with the person they are surprising,” said Luna. “This provides comfort for the surprisee and strengthens relationship, and attraction.”