Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The $100,000 Salt & Pepper Shaker.

I just finished listening to the audio book The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, the moving story of a 47-year old college professor and the life lessons he passed on shortly before succumbing to cancer. In the book, Pausch tells the story of the $100,000 salt & pepper shaker.

It seems that when Randy was 12-years old and on a visit to Disney World, he decided to show his parents his appreciation for the trip by purchasing them a ceramic Disney salt and pepper shaker. 

Minutes later, a minor tragedy struck when he accidentally dropped the shaker and it shattered into pieces. On the advice of an adult who witnessed the accident, a hesitant young Randy returned the broken shaker to the store—and to his surprise, was given a new one. No questions asked.

So where does the $100,000 come in?

After the incident, Randy and his whole family were so impressed by the Disney staff member’s handling of the incident that they began to appreciate Disney on "a whole other level". They made Disney their permanent vacation home. And by Randy’s calculations, over the years his family went on to spend over $100,000 with Disney, never forgetting the symbolic importance of that one interaction. Hence, the $100,000 salt and pepper shaker was born.

What’s your brand or company’s $100,000 gesture? As this story illustrates, even the smallest actions can pay off with a very big reward—turning a current customer into a customer for life.

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