Need Your Vote: The Final Four on the #marchto800

by Stan Phelps

in purple goldfish project

Introducing the Finalists

Back in March I announced a contest called the March to 800. I was channeling a little March Madness to round up a field of 64 purple goldfish.  The reason was to celebrate reaching the milestone of reaching #800 in the Project.

purple goldfish ipod shuffle

The winning entrant will receive an engraved Apple iPod shuffle [Engraving “Little things make a big difference”]. The plan was to work with a ‘selection committee’ to narrow the field to a Sweet 16 and Final Four.  A hearty ‘thanks’ to my stellar group who helped cull the wheat from the chaff. They included Jack Campisi @jackcampisi, James Sorensen @expertinservice, Denise Barlow @dabarlow, Barry Dalton @bsdalton, Ty Sullivan @ty_sullivan, Keith Green @keithstweets and Jack Monson @jackmonson.

Introducing the top four vote getters:

#737 Hard Rock Hotels – Check in and Rock out submitted by Rick Liebling @Rick_Now

hard rock check in and rock out

Gratification. That’s what the luxury brand experience should embody. And what’s more gratifying than getting a unique amenity like a world class Gibson guitar delivered to your room at no charge? The first power chord you nail after that six hour meeting, that’s what. So forget in-room movies. Just Check In and Rock Out. Only at Hard Rock Hotels.

Guests may choose from Gibson’s SG Standard and Les Paul Studio, as we’ve got plenty. Plus, with the Pocket Pod Amps and high-def ‘Beats by Dr. Dre’ headphones we’ll also provide, you can rock out at hard as you want with zero noise complaints. As there’s no charge or time limit to the program, we encourage you to sample the guitars and keep them for as long as you’re staying in the Hotel.

#750 Universal Studios – Examples of how Universal tries harder taken from a post by Lou Imbriano @louimbriano

universal express pass

They are two very different parks, but with Disney being the 800 pound Mouse in Orlando, it is easy to understand why Universal seems to be trying harder. They are providing customer service that Disney isn’t, and perhaps cannot, due to sheer volume. The most glaring difference is in lodging on property in Universal Studios as compared to staying on property in Disney World.

The most pleasant customer service play is that when you stay at one of Universal’s three in-park hotels, you automatically receive Universal Express and it is unlimited at both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (which can also be purchased in the park for a hefty fee of $70.99 per person, per day). Universal Express is similar to Disney’s Fast Pass, where you are able to go into a quicker line to get to the ride or attraction. In Disney, Fast Pass is free, and everyone has an opportunity to access quicker lines based on appointment times set for riding or viewing. Disney’s Fast Past is a nice mechanism that allows you to enjoy more rides during the day, and if you know how to properly plan your timing to run around and work the system, you will have a much more pleasant experience than by always waiting in the regular lines.

Universal Express pass beats out Disney’s Fast Pass hands-down. If you are a guest at one of the Universal park’s hotels (Hard Rock, Portofino or Royal Pacific), the only thing you have to do is show your room key at the ride entrance, and you are “express” all the way to the front of the line. We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel and received this perk. In an unscientific calculation, we estimated that flashing our room key saved us anywhere from 50% – 75% off our wait. When the posted wait time on specific rides stated 60 minutes, we were typically in line for 15 minutes max with the Express pass. During our stay, we probably saved a full day of not waiting in lines. This courtesy to its hotel guests is an over the top amenity that is worth not only a mention, but a rave review. If we were to purchase Universal Express for a family of four, it would have cost over $280 a day, or almost half the cost of a two-room “Kids Suite”. That’s incredible value, no matter how you calculate it.

#782 Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf submitted by Ryan Macaulay

coffee bean tea and leaf supports the troops

At Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in LA, if you buy a bag of coffee to support our troops overseas, Coffee Bean will buy your round of coffees at the time of purchase- even better, there is a blank white area on the actual coffee bag designated specifically for you to write a personal message to the troops the coffee is going to!

#800 L.L. Bean taken from a post by Barry Dalton @bsdalton

ll bean guarantee

My friends recently decided to take up hiking the Appalachian Trail as a hobby. I could probably think of about 3 dozen more leisurely activities to pick up as a “hobby”. But awesome for them!

So, about sixty or seventy miles into their latest trek last week, they were strolling within a few miles of my house and asked to camp for the night for a hot meal and a shower. So, after devouring half the food in the house and getting cleaned up, we all sat down with a bottle of wine to hear some stories.

My friend proceeds to tell me that at a campground, he and a fellow hiker got their Bean Boot laces crossed, whereby the stranger ended up accidentally putting my friends boots into his backpack and hauling off down the trail. My friend, upon later putting his fellow long-departed sojorner’s size 14 boots on his size 9 foot realized the mix up.

He called L.L. Bean from the trail (in our connected world were noplace is “out of range”) and told them of his dilemma. The Bean rep told him that he would FedEx a new pair of boots in the right size to my address for next day delivery. In return, they asked him to send the old boots back to them when he got back home.

Oh, did I mention that they treated this like an exchange? Like….he didn’t have to buy the new pair of boots. And get this. The boots they were sending him cost thirty bucks less than the old ratty size 14s he had in his sack. So, Bean sent him a gift card for the thirty bucks! I couldn’t make this stuff up!

We finish the wine (and one or two more bottles, I think), went to sleep. And sure enough, around ten am the next day, the FedEx guy delivered a brand new pair of warm, dry Bean Boots to my door.

So, do you think my friend will buy his next ten pair of boots, and all his other outdoor, Daniel Boone, trail-blazing gear from L.L. Bean for the rest of his hiking days?”


Submit your vote:

QuestionsView Results

{ 3 trackbacks }

Purple Goldfish Project Top Ten List 18 (#851-900)
October 29, 2011 at 2:44 pm
Purple Goldfish Top Ten List (#901-950) | Business News – Tech News – Entertainment – Mobile – Social Media
December 5, 2011 at 2:52 am
The final Purple Goldfish Top Ten List #20 (950-1,001)
February 26, 2012 at 5:32 pm

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jim Joseph May 7, 2011 at 2:37 pm

It was a hard choice between Hard Rock (just so cool), and Coffee (gotta support the troops), and LLBean (customer service). For me, in marketing, customer service superiority usually wins.

2 Stan Phelps May 7, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Thanks Jim. LL Bean is a wonderful example of going the extra mile.
Here is a little lagniappe on LL. The initials stand for Leon Leonwood.

3 Tim Sanchez May 7, 2011 at 9:43 pm

I loved Barry’s story about LL Bean, so they get my vote!

4 Stan Phelps May 8, 2011 at 7:34 am

Thanks Tim. Love, love that story. The $30 credit is just lagniappe.

5 Gail Billingsley May 8, 2011 at 8:30 am

Had to vote for Hard Rock. What a cool amenity that you know will be consistently delivered. I don’t even play guitar, but I would still think it was neat and tell people about it.

6 Ric Dragon May 8, 2011 at 9:01 am

I dunno – Bean’s story is a great example of employees being empowered to do great things, which then make for great word-of-mouth. Not sure it falls into my own idea of lagniappe. Let’s just say for a moment that I’m right – that lagniappe is *unexpected* gifting from the entity that just sold you something… how would you go about institutionalizing it? That’s an interesting challenge. If the perk is advertised, it’s no longer lagniappe. Just my thoughts.

7 Stan Phelps May 8, 2011 at 9:36 am

Thanks Ric. Good points. In Louisiana they have broadened the definition. Anytime someone does a little something extra its considered lagniappe.

Does DragonSearch have a signature little extra? Something you and your team throw in for good measure?

8 Stan Phelps May 8, 2011 at 9:39 am

Gail – we are of like minds. Hard Rock is my favorite. It’s offered to all guests and its talkable. Even though I don’t play guitar . . . I think I’d still give it the college try. They have some instructional vid’s you can watch.

9 Kelly Lieberman May 8, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Wow this was tough ! They all create such powerful examples of top notch customer focused service. Hard Rock offers a completely cool way to experience your time there. Universal is going out of their way to offer value and a family friendly experience. Coffee Bean & Tea what a fantastic way to connect customers and their everyday purchases to troops so far from home who will truly appreciate that thoughtful gesture from strangers. But my vote goes to LL – just completely outstanding service that went above & beyond –

10 Mark Burgess May 8, 2011 at 7:16 pm


I’ll vote for the Support the Troops coffee bean concept every time.



11 Stan Phelps May 8, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Thanks Kelly. Definitely a tough decision. Not a clinker in the bunch.
Nice job breaking each down.

12 Stan Phelps May 8, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Thanks Mark. Everyday of the week and twice on Sunday.

13 Sam Parrotto May 9, 2011 at 6:57 am

I have personally encountered LL Bean’s unique brand of customer service – and that boot story totally fits into what put them in business – it all started with boots… kind of like Disney and the mouse – this was a great contest- thanks for linking me in so I could vote – the other 3 stories are terrific – just a bit more “commercial” and less personal – more obvious business promotion and less “delivering on the promise” – agree with many other comments like Ric Dragon’s – those are the moments that tug on me as a customer…

14 Sharlene Sones May 9, 2011 at 9:13 am

I’ve been taking road trips to Freeport, ME for ages because L.L. Bean has long understood the importance of serving the customer. In fact, before “experiential” retail environments were common, the L.L. Bean store was a destination for outdoor enthusiasts as well as tourists. They’ve always been quietly innovative and ahead-of-the-times in placing the customer in the center of their world.

Great stories from all the brands — thanks, Stan!

15 Stan Phelps May 9, 2011 at 9:53 am

Thanks Sharlene. You’ve gotten me thinking about a ‘road trip’.

Here’s a little lagniappe on the founder: L.L. Bean was an avid hunter and fisherman in Freeport, Maine. During his outdoor activities he noticed that his boots would become soaked. In 1911 the 39 year old Bean set out to solve this problem and developed plans for a waterproof boot.

The Bean boot was a combination of lightweight leather for the upper part of the boot and rubber on the bottom. He brought the plans to a cobbler, and the first boots were made. Bean felt the boot produced to be of good quality, and obtained a list of non-resident Maine hunting license holders and prepared a descriptive mail order circular (His first catalogue was a whopping 4 pages).

He promised 100% money back for anyone who was unhappy with the boots. Because of this, Bean had to refund 90% of the costs of the first 100 sets of boots made, when the rubber on the bottom developed cracks. Bean seemed not to mind returning the money, and the popularity of the boots was clear.

16 Ted Curtin May 9, 2011 at 9:57 am

Wow, Stan, You’re down to a really strong field of finalists! Great job on creating and promoting the competition. I must say that the LL Bean story is Super strong, the Universal Studio’s push has meaningful value and helps to differentiate itself from the 800 pound gorilla (in this case Mouse) next door, but in the end, there’s just something so wonderfully unique and clever about the Hard Rock “Check in and Rock Out” promo that I had to give them my vote. Even a non-guitar player would have a blast with that deal!

17 Sharlene Sones May 9, 2011 at 10:00 am

Awesome story! They were THE boots to wear growing up in New England; they’d practically last a lifetime. Although, really — Leon Leonwood? Ouch. And I thought my name was a toughie! :)

18 Stan Phelps May 12, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Thanks Ted. I really like the Hard Rock play because its a signature extra. When your little unexpected extra is unique and authentic . . . you’ve got something special.

19 Stan Phelps May 12, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Thanks Sam. Bean’s guarantee is a large part of their brand promise. It’s the reason a couple of years ago that I gave them ‘an attaboy’ in this post:
Appreciate your comment.

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