Every morning, when at the barbershop, I walk across the street to the convenience store. I come back with three items – J.B.’s coffee, my coffee and my banana.

One morning, as I was waiting in line at the register, the cashier scanned the purchases for the customer in front of me. When she came to his coffee she entered the amount manually. Seeing the amount on the screen, he immediately reacted rather strongly.

“Naw! Take that off,” he said. “I’m not about to pay ninety-nine cents for a cup of coffee.” The cashier, without so much as a change in expression, took off the ninety-nine cents.

However, it’s what happened next that is a commentary on human nature. The customer asked for a few lottery tickets. Evidently, they weren’t overpriced.

As the gentleman headed out the door, I stepped to the counter and smiled at the familiar face behind the register.

“Don’t say a word,” she said.

“You know what I’m thinking,” I replied.

“Yeah, I know what you’re thinking,” she said with a smile. “Don’t say it.”

We laughed, and I left – without saying a word. But now I will.

First, a word about perceived value. When, as a boy, I would agonize over whether I ought to spend a certain amount of money on a certain item Dad would say, “Son, it’s worth whatever you’re willing to pay for it.” Similarly, the difference in the value of a cup of coffee and of a lottery ticket (as well as many other things in life) is the difference in whose buying. I wouldn’t give two cents for a lottery ticket. But, obviously others can’t see paying ninety-nine cents for coffee. People have different values.

Secondly, they also have different motivations. I once read of a salesman who made no sales for the day. When questioned by his sales manager, his response was, “You know what they say. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” His manager wisely responded, “You have it all wrong. Your job isn’t to make the horse drink. Your job is to make him thirsty.”

The convenience store customer was thirsty for the lottery tickets because he saw the possibly of gain. To him there was a strong WIFM (what’s in it for me). If the man could have been persuaded that buying the coffee would have satisfied a need stronger than mere physical appetite, I’ m confident he would have been “thirsty” and the price would not have been too much. In my case, making me “thirsty” for a lottery ticket would be an impossible job.

Lastly, the incident brings to mind how people have different likes. I’ve often thought that if everyone had the same likes, every man would want to be married to my wife. From another perspective, maybe nobody would want to marry her.

For such reasons, the convenience store brews many different flavors of coffee to suit different tastes. They also have different products to suit different priorities.

BARBER-OSOPHY: To understand and to persuade others, take note of their values, their motivations and their likes.

Copyright 2004, Sumerlin Enterprises.

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Author's Bio: 

Terry L. Sumerlin, known as the Barber-osopher, is the author of "Barber-osophy," is a columnist for the San Antonio Business Journal and speaks nationally as a humorist/motivational speaker.