My Internal “Give Em the Pickle” Struggle

31 Mar

Several years ago, as I started to learn about customer service excellence, a colleague of mine introduced me to the “Give Em The Pickle” philosophy create by Bob Farrell. Here’s the background story on how he created this philosophy.

Dear Mr. Farrell,

I’ve been coming to your restaurant for over three years. I always order a #2 hamburger and a chocolate shake. I always ask for an extra pickle and I always get one. Mind you, this has been going on once or twice a week for three years.

I came into your restaurant the other day and I ordered my usual #2 hamburger and a chocolate shake. I asked the young waitress for an extra pickle. I believe she was new because I hadn’t seen her before. She said, “Sir, I will sell you a side of pickles for $1.25.” I told her, “No, I just want one extra slice of pickle. I always ask for it and they always give it to me. Go ask your manager.”

She went away and came back after speaking to the manager. The waitress looked me in the eye and said, “I’ll sell you a pickle for a nickel.” Mr. Farrell, I told her what to do with her pickle, hamburger and milkshake. I’m not coming back to your restaurant if that’s the way you’re going to run it.


He signed his name and, fortunately for me, included his address. I wrote him a letter and enclosed a card for a free hot fudge sundae. I assured him we don’t run our business that way, apologized, and asked him to please come back. I had a chance meeting with him years later and I thanked him in person for his letter because it became the “war cry” of our young company, “Give ’em the Pickle.” When something happens with a customer and you’re not sure what to do? “Give ’em the Pickle!” Do what it takes to make things right!

So, basically the philosophy is to do whatever it takes to make things right with the customer. My question is, at what cost? This customer had been getting free pickles for 3 years and the one day a waitress says no and he decides to never come back? In addition, this “great customer” couldn’t give the benefit of the doubt for a new waitress? I am not sure that’s the client we are looking for when we are looking to retain clients. Sure, the pickle is worth the continued repeat business of the client, but should we be giving away products and services to clients who end up costing more than they are worth?


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