Having the opportunity to travel the world allows for the opportunity for difference experiences and my favorite: try new dishes. Yea… I am bit of a foodie.

During my International tour, one of my hosts took me to a small little town known for their fudge. This quiet little town was an obviously destination with a mini outside mall filled with local art designers, clothing, sculptures, painters etc.. and of course about a dozen or so fudge shops.

Doing the touristy thing is usually not my thing… however, when it comes to food tastings, I am all in. And its fudge a tasting. If they had wine tastings, I would have moved there.

I have a pretty refined palate and it was hard to tell the difference of one fudge store to the next. They were all amazing. However, I noticed very quickly how I fell into this tourist – Fudge Zombie – tasting pattern:

  1. Walk into fudge shop and eye the free samples while pretending to ‘shop’ around a little.
  2. After what seems like an ‘appropriate’ time, walk up and ask for a free sample. If the person behind the counter seems friendly, ask for a few more.
  3. Say “thanks”, even give a little nod or smile of how impressed you are as if you are part of the secret elite of fudge tasters looking to write a review.
  4. Then ‘appear’ to look around a little more before another quick thanks – because your parents brought you up right – as you try to stealthily sneak out the door of this tiny shop to avoid any sense of shame or guilt for not buying something.
  5. Repeat at next fudge shop.

On average, there were about 1-3 Tourist Tasters in a shop at a time doing the same thing.  Sooo… I did not feel to bad, as this seemed to be the thing to do and the business owners seems to accept this is how business is done – I guess since all the other shops were doing it too and this is what it appeared their customers wanted.

Then I walked into what must have been my 10th-ish store. I was almost fudged out – if you could even think that is a possibility. This 10th-ish little store looked exactly like the rest, but with one big difference.This place had about 20 people in line all wanting to buy fudge.

I saw one of the floor helpers walking around. I commented how impressed I was with how busy it was in here and this must be ‘The Best‘ of all the fudge stores. Since it was so crowded and I could not see the front counter, I asked where they give the samples. She responded very nicely with a “Oh, we do not give free samples here.”

This grabbed my interest, as I knew I was about to learn something.

(to keep this story on the short side I will fast forward to meeting with with the owner of the fudge shop) 

After the introductions with a super kind hearted man, I shared with him about the CareerHearted Business Course for Small Businesses and how I was looking for something to share with my students and graduate. He generously opened up and shared all that he could so I could pass it on to you.

He told me about the history of his store and like most stores in the town were generation-family owned.  He even commented that all the qualities between stores is about equal and it does not matter which store you got your fudge – they are all great.

So I asked why his store busy and the others are not.

He said he stopped giving away free samples. That was it. That was the ONLY thing he did differently. And, the moment he did this, people started buying.

As far back as he could remember, this store was like every other store: give away free samples – as that is what you do in this business.

He also shared something else very interesting. When they did offer free samples people would on occasion buy one to three slices at a time. When he stopped the free samples, people were buying a minimum of two to six slices at a time.  This was true. While I was talking with him I was watching the counter and I do not think anyone bought less than three or four slides at a time at the equivalent of $6 a slice. And the place was filled with people the entire time I was there.

He even shared this discovery with the other stores but he said they were too afraid to make the change as this is what they always did.

Here is the big take away: He stopped putting time, money and focus/energy into giving free samples. Instead he put his teams focus on people buying fudge.