My boyfriend and I just got back from Chicago. It was an amazing and fun trip.
We had a couple Bloody Mary’s on the flight, flirted with each other at all possible moments, ate delicious food, walked in the rain, and took Ubers through downtown (what a crazy busy city!). We also attended a David Neagle seminar.
Outside of the seminar, we had a couple interesting experiences.
One night, we decided to go for a walk outside our hotel. It was fairly late, close to midnight. Not too many people were out walking.
This homeless-looking dude approached my boyfriend — and without really asking for permission, squirted a dollop of shoe cleaner on one of his shoes.
“Can I make a suggestion? Don’t kick me,” he said.
He began rambling about his shoe shine polish, how he had a daughter in college, and blah blah blah.
“Oh God,” I thought. It was one of those awkward moments where I stood observing, feeling slightly trapped. We were both hesitant to say “No.”
The guy finished cleaning Dan’s right shoe …then proceeded to clean the left one, again without asking for permission.
At no point did he specify that he had a rate or expected money in return — until both shoes were shined.
At which point, he demanded $20.
Dan and I looked at each other like, “Outrageous. Is this guy for real?!”
I happened to have a hundred dollar bill on me from the Neagle event. But my boyfriend didn’t want me giving it to this guy, or to break the hundred.
He told Shoe Shine Guy he didn’t have any cash on him.
At which point, Shoe Shine Guy demanded that we go to a nearby ATM and get cash.
Not wanting to get stabbed or shot, we found ourselves reluctantly agreeing to walk with him to a nearby 7-Eleven. It was surreal.
Clearly, he was using guilt, fear, and manipulation to control our actions — and neither of us felt safe or comfortable to say “No.” (Something which we would learn about in the Neagle seminar!)
The guy waited outside as we walked into the 7-Eleven. We giggled nervously through the aisles over how crazy the situation was. Meanwhile, we picked up a few snacks and waters for ourselves.
Dan asked the teller if he could get cash back. There was a $10 limit.
“Shoe Shine guy is not gonna be happy about that,” I whispered.
Sure enough, when discovering we only had $10 cash for him, the guy quickly grew bitter and unfriendly.
“Aw shit. You guys are really doing this to me right now? Then can you at least get me something,” he demanded.
“No,” my boyfriend finally said.
We extracted ourselves away from him and quickly walked back to our hotel. So much for our walk.
I was pissed. Pissed at myself for not standing up to the guy. Pissed that we didn’t simply say “No thanks” from the beginning. Pissed that he ruined our walk and dominated our time — and we let him, out of guilt.
But mostly I was pissed that “slimy salesmen” like him exist in the first place.
Contrast this to a second experience we had on our final day in Chicago…
We were in our hotel room, getting ready to head back to the airport. We’d just finished a workout and packed our suitcases.
Dan wanted to check out the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). It’s the second tallest building in the U.S., after the new World Trade Center. It was across the street, within walking distance from our hotel.
I wasn’t sure if we’d have time to see it. We needed to be at the airport soon.
However, I figured we could manifest a quick, easy trip to the top of the building. We didn’t realize the Willis Tower was a full-blown tourist attraction.
“Do they let you go to the top?” Dan casually asked someone at the front desk.
Turns out, not only do they “let” you…they’ve made a multimillion dollar business out of showing people the top of the Willis Tower! “More than one million people visit its observation deck each year, making it one of Chicago’s most popular tourist destinations,” says Wikipedia.
Here’s the interesting thing:
Even though we were pressed for time — and could have quite easily missed our flight — the height and appeal of the Willis Tower sold us on seeing it, without even trying.
We made our own decision to see it, and created our own sense of urgency. We willingly (no pun intended) walked across the street of our own accord to get there. We willingly moved through the security line. We willingly forked over $46 bucks, stood in line with other tourists, waited for the elevator…and quickly toured the top floor. (See pics below!)
This was a very different “sale” than the one the Shoe Shine Guy made.
The elevator ride up the Willis Tower was lightning fast, making us feel better about our purchase. (Thank God, ’cause we were running late!) As we passed certain floors, a video presentation explained that were were surpassing the height of other remarkably tall buildings in the world.
From the top — over 100 floors up — the view of Chicago was massive. To me it looked like 30 downtown Denvers on steroids, packed into one city. It reminded me of a movie portraying some futuristic urban setting where overpopulation has taken over, and everybody started building upwards towards the sky.
Amazing. Those who own Willis Tower had thoughtfully set up a user-friendly system that made a $46 spur-of-the-moment sale easy and effortless — amongst hundreds, if not thousands, of other sales that day.
What were the real differences between the two sales?
The Shoe Shine guy:
- used guilt and shame to manipulate unexcited, reluctant customers into buying something they didn’t want
- focused on himself and his own desires
- didn’t consider our wants and needs or our perspective at all
- spent over half an hour chasing ONE customer and one sale (therefore not using leverage or smart marketing)
- failed to get the amount of money he wanted, then blamed the customer
- used its natural appeal to inspire thousands of excited tourists to pay money just to experience it for 20-60+ minutes
- focused on answering the most common questions tourists probably had about the building (in the form of an entertaining elevator presentation)
- completely considered the customer’s point of view! (with strategically placed gift shops, photos available for purchase, and more)
- had systems in place to allow for hundreds of customers to quickly make purchases every hour
One purchase felt good.
The other felt slimy.
…And it all had to do with the approach the seller was taking.
We were willing to risk missing our flight just to get a glimpse of the top of the Willis Tower. (And yet $10 felt like a lot to give to the Shoe Shine Guy.)
Luckily, despite a traffic delay, we made our flight just in time. We were the second to last people to board the plane. Phew!
Shoe Shine Guys of the world, you could learn a lesson from reading this.
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