Beware of Assumptions About Your Customers

We were working in Philadelphia and stayed at a chain hotel that did not have the practice of sliding the receipt under your hotel room door the morning you checked out.  When we met in the lobby at 5 am to catch the first shuttle to the airport for an early morning flight, neither of us had a hotel receipt.

"Why were our receipts not under our doors this morning?" I asked the way too perky front desk clerk.  The answer: "We want you to come by our front desk to get your receipt so we can bid you a proper farewell."  I was not amused.  "I think if you asked your guests,” I pointedly told the front desk clerk, “I guarantee you they will tell you that the last thing they want at five in the morning rushing to catch the hotel shuttle bus is a proper farewell!"

Never assume you know what customers value.  The fun-loving Frisbee wasn’t always a toy.  Customers changed its character completely.  William Frisbie purchased a bakery in the late 19th century in Connecticut which he called the Frisbie Pie Company.  His company grew, reaching a peak production of 80,000 pies per day.  One unique feature of the pies was they came packaged in a plate-shaped tin embossed “Frisbee Pies.”  But that is the point customers took over and created an entirely new product.

College students found they could flip the pie tins over to toss around campus.  When the flying disk approached its intended target, the person throwing it shouted “Frisbie” as a warning, much like sounding “fore” on a golf course.  Walter Morrison patented the plastic version, changed the name to Frisbee (different spelling) and sold it to Wham-O.  The rest is history.  Again, never assume you know what your customers value or that their preferences will remain static.  Today’s fad can quickly become tomorrow’s antique.  Ask, ask, and ask again!

© Chip Bell Group, 2023.  Courtesy of John R. Patterson (  Permission is given to download and distribute this article as long as it contains this copyright notice.