St. Francis Hotel makes lagniappe out of spare change

by Stan Phelps

in purple goldfish project

Shiny coins are a ‘little extra’ and tradition worth keeping

#672 in the Project is taken from a post by Ben Popken from the blog, ‘The Consumerist’:

St. Francis Hotel

westin st. francis

“As a favor to guests, one hotel washes every coin it receives, just like it’s done since 1938.

The practice at the St. Francis hotel in San Francisco is said to have started when hotelier Dan London observed that some coins sullied a woman’s white gloves.

At the time, coins were used for everything from tips to payphones to taxicabs. Back then washing the coins were a full-time job. Now it’s only 10 hours a week, but the practice continues, passed down from one generation to the next.

The coins are first passed from the general cashier to the coin washer who dumps them into a silver burnisher.

borax“Along with the coins, the burnisher is filled with water, buckshot to knock the dirt off, and a healthy pour of 20 Mule Team Borax soap. After three hours of swishing the coins around, Holsen uses a metal ice scoop to pour the loot into a perforated roast pan that sifts out the buckshot.

The wet coins are then spread out on a table beneath heat lamps.

This is where once-rusted copper pennies turn into shimmering bronze coins. Quarters look like sparkling silver bits.”

Marketing Lagniappe Takeaway – There are 5 r.u.l.e.s or ingredients when creating your own Purple Goldfish.  The first is relevance and the need to make sure the ‘little unexpected extra’ is seen as a value add by your customer.  Do guests of the St. Francis really care that their coins are sparkly?  Other than the germophobes . . . probably not.

That said the coin washing scores well on the other ingredients: Unexpected (Surprise and Delight), Limited (Signature), Expression (How its given) and Sticky (Talkable). I’m thinking 2 thumbs up (but not way, way up).

A coin flip? Treasure it or trash it? What are your thoughts?

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra) – here is a look at the lobby of the hotel at the Westin St. Francis.  CAUTION this vid is not one of those feel good touristy pieces, its an angry flash mob doing their own version of Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’:

Lagniappe defined: A marketing lagniappe, i.e. purple goldfish,  is any time a business goes above and beyond to provide a ‘little something extra’. It’s that unexpected surprise that’s thrown in for good measure.

How do you stand out in the sea of sameness? How do you win repeat customers and influence word of mouth? What’s Your Purple Goldfish?

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