I used to be a Godiva chocolate fan. I don’t shop often, but if I were in a shopping mall that boasted a Godiva store, you could safely bet I’d stop at Godiva to purchase a dark chocolate rocher, or perhaps an open-shelled oyster. For about 15 years, this was my habit.
And it was a well-rooted habit. I’d fallen in love with dark chocolate as a child in Greece, visiting my grandparents. My grandfather would take me to a place near Constitution Square in Athens that had the most delicious chocolate. He delighted in my delight, so it was a win win, and became tradition. And then, when we stopped flying TWA to Athens (for safety reasons) and switched to SwissAir, and the flights had to layover in Zurich for the night, well—I was toast. At Sprüngli on the Bahnhofstrasse, I learned to love the rich flavors of Swiss chocolate pralines. Yum.
So when I discovered Godiva in Boston, it brought back memories of those trips to Greece and Zurich, and the delicious European chocolates. I was hooked.
My mother-in-law, Marjorie, tells a story about the day she took care of my then 2 year old daughter. Marjorie wanted to take my daughter for a walk, but didn’t want to worry about a 2 year old breaking free and running into a busy street. So Marjorie took her to the nearby Stanford Shopping Mall. For you cold-loving East Coasters out there—it’s an outdoor shopping mall: open-air, filled with beautifully-tended flowers and plants, warm, often sunny. Most important, it’s safe from cars.
“Almost there? Almost where, honey?”
“Almost there!” my daughter sing-songs again, smiling.
“I suppose we are almost somewhere. But where are you talking about?”
“Almost there!” My daughter’s smile got bigger. “Almost there!”
And then, finally:
“There!” She points to the Godiva chocolate store.
My nutrition-conscious mother-in-law was a bit surprised to see a 2-year old so familiar with a chocolate store. I can guess all the thoughts that went through her mind about my parenting choices. Indulgently, she took her in anyway. Before Marjorie could even wonder what to buy, my daughter pointed to the milk chocolate flower, and that was that.
Today, my chocolate store of choice is See’s Candies. No more Godiva for me.
What caused the switch: the free samples that See’s gives out. Ok, I get that they’re not really free; the cost of the samples is built into the price structure. But the samples feel free. And my children are delighted to be able to try things. And of course I always buy something, too, because I’m not going to accept a free sample without giving the company some of my business.
And it’s not just the free samples. The See’s dark chocolate caramels are divine. My son likes the key lime truffles. My daughter likes the variety. And we’ve always been treated well at See’s. Their prices are good, too—probably lower than Godiva. And the geek in me doesn’t mind the white lab coats that the salespeople wear.
Did I mention the free samples?
I’m reading a book titled, “Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive” by Goldstein, Martin, and Cialdini. It’s a light read, and a quick read, but full of simple (and sometimes surprising) ways to persuade customers. And one of the techniques is that of reciprocation. People feel obligated to return favors.
See’s Candies leverages the principal of reciprocation well. By giving me a free sample, they persuade me to want to buy from them. And I, for one, am happy to return the favor.