Not a selling point, but a Thomas Schelling point. Also known as focal point, a segment of game theory. Without communicating, how will two people make the same choice?

To illustrate (based on Thomas Schelling’s own example, and Yuri Artibise, who inspired this post), I ask you this question:

If I called you and asked you to meet me in downtown [your city] in an hour and then my phone’s battery died, where would we meet?

Yuri said “According to Adam [Greenfield], most cities have Schelling points, because, without effective communication between people (i.e., cell phones), meeting places ultimately converge on a couple of high visibility—and usually iconic—destinations.”

Seattleites, might you meet your friend at the Central Library in Seattle, Washington? Photo by Dolan Halbrook.

It seems for New Yorkers, the traditional answer has been at the information booth in the Grand Central Station main hall. Yuri suggests that “there is nothing inherent about Grand Central Station that makes a particularly desirable meeting place.”

Schelling’s theory explains why people might pick the same location. Contributors to the “focal point” article on Wikipedia write this:

Consider a simple example: two people unable to communicate with each other are each shown a panel of four squares and asked to select one; if and only if they both select the sameone, they will each receive a prize. Three of the squares are blue and one is red. Assuming they each know nothing about the other player, but that they each do want to win the prize, then they will, reasonably, both choose the red square. Of course, the red square is not in a sense a better square; they could win by both choosing any square. And it is the “right” square to select only if a player can be sure that the other player has selected it; but by hypothesis neither can. It is the most salient, the most notable square, though, and lacking any other one most people will choose it, and this will in fact (often) work.

The destination choice should change with context. If you were to meet a classmate on campus, you might meet in the building where the class you share meets.