In 1997 I was responsible for a small derivatives desk in Singapore – of which, more some other time. The only relevant information for the purpose of this blog is that at 16:00 every day I would make my humid way across Raffles Plaza to The Tea Shop on the edge of Boat Quay to order a coffee and an orange muffin with grated peel sprinkled liberally on top. One afternoon, I strolled into the emporium and placed my order, clearly and unmistakably.
The chap on the other side of the counter looked me squarely in the eye and said ‘Would you like some chicken pie instead – only 4 Sing Dollars?’
‘Thanks’ I said, ‘But no. I’d prefer an orange muffin, please. Chicken pie and latte doesn’t work quite as well at tea time’.
‘It really is very excellent chicken pie’, my man pressed on, ‘and you can have it for 3 Sing’.
‘Tell me’, I said mystified, ‘Which bit of ‘Can I have an orange muffin?’ sounds like ‘I’d really like some chicken pie?’’
‘Tell you what’, he said, wholly unmoved, ‘You can have it for 2 Sing. Boss said we gotta shift it by tonight. No excuses.’
Wearily, I grabbed my coffee, headed for the door and never went back. Three months later The Tea Shop closed for ever and the savvy guys from Starbucks moved in.
Too often when clients ask for Orange Muffins, what they get is Chicken Pie. Because what the client needs is not always what you want to sell.
Thing is, they can ALWAYS tell the difference.