It was just 30 minutes before my flight in the Southwest Airlines terminal at LAX. I was juggling my laptop, roller bag and a cup of yogurt and granola when I plopped down in a seat near my gate. I looked up to see a bank of three pedestal chairs, and a sign with big red letters that read “Complimentary Shoe Shines.” I usually shine my own at home, but after a quick look at my beat-up dress shoes I decided “Why not?”
I took a seat in line at chair #3 and watched the solo shoe shine wizard in action – first he did the shoes for the guy in chair #1 followed by chair #2. The shoe shiner was a middle-aged man with dark curly hair and a bushy moustache, not unlike Donkey Kong’s Mario. He wore a blue bowling style shirt with a bright yellow collar, and his name sewn on the pocket in large yellow script – NACHO.
Nacho (probably short for Ignacio) tackled each pair of shoes with quiet enthusiasm. He expertly applied overall polish, careful touch-ups and finished off with a dramatic snap of the buffing cloth. I watched the other two guys give him hefty tips for the “free” service.
When Nacho got to my burgundy dress shoes, he paused for a moment and looked a little troubled. My brown laces were a little frayed, with white cotton filler poking through in spots. He dragged his finger across one of the laces and then looked up at me. He lifted his hands in a gesture that clearly meant “Dude, I can’t believe you’re walking around in shabby shoes like this!”
But he didn’t say a word out loud. He just pulled my old laces out and grabbed a new pair from the wooden drawer. After he finished making the leather look like new, he replaced my laces without even asking me if I wanted the new ones. Nacho was clearly a man who took pride in his work and didn’t want any “customer” to walk away without looking their best.
I thanked Nacho with a “Wow, they look like new!”, and tipped him way more than I would pay for a flat fee shoe shine. I’m certain that he makes a lot more in tips than if he charged a fee. More importantly, he reminded me that great rewards come to those who put their heart into their work, and your best marketing is a happy customer.
Hopefully you are able to treat your customers with the same attention to detail. And if your heart is not really in your work, maybe you should ask yourself where your heart really belongs?