Free Prizes Create Priceless Memories


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We checked into the ranger’s store to get our permit for a camp site. It was in the midst of a lush, forest…especially the primitive area where we prefer to pitch our tent and build a camp fire. As we were leaving the store to find our site, the receptionist said, “You might need this.” It was what every Army soldier would know as a P38, a miniature aluminum can opener. We no doubt looked puzzled. “A can opener is the most frequently forgotten item, according to our campers,” he explained. We were awed!

A very gloomy Wall Street Journal on a very long flight left me with a very bad headache. And, I rarely get headaches! As soon as I exited the jet way at the San Francisco Airport, I headed for the nearest newsstand for some relief—Advil. I opened the plastic package and removed the two tablets in foil for some quick relief. Tucked behind the foil was a collapsible paper cup just big enough for two large swallows of water. The clever value-add became a value-unique–an unexpected free prize that turned my frown upside down.

Providing a special gift can turn an okay service experience into one with a surprise. And, the gifts that make customers smile are the ones that are simple, unexpected and seem to fit the situation. Remember the great appeal and captivating nature of Cracker Jack? It was not the caramelized popcorn or the colorful box we cherished. It was that free prize inside that was economically worthless but emotionally priceless. What can you add to your customer’s experience that will leave them awed?

Chip Bell
Chip R. Bell is the founder of the Chip Bell Group ( and a renowned keynote speaker and customer loyalty consultant. Dr. Bell has authored several best-selling books including The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service and, with John Patterson, Take Their Breath Away. His newest book, Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service, will be released in February.