Change Catalyst with Shanna Mann: Strategy & Support for Sane Self-Employment

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Back To Basics: Are You Using the Craigslist Penis Effect to Your Advantage?

Last week my husband needed a haircut. We’re not fancy, so we went where we’ve always gone — the Smart Style at Walmart. You walk in, you ask for a haircut, and the next person who is free puts you in their chair. I did have a favorite — Lindsay, who I use if she was working, more because she liked work silently more than for her particular skills.

On this day, there was a new face, a young man. The place was busier than I’d ever seen it, but when Chris’s turn came, the new hairdresser called him over, introduced himself, and offered a handshake.

A haircut progressed normally; I guess there’s not much to discuss with the man’s haircut. He verified the length of the guards and explain the steps he was going to take. 10 minutes later, he was done and I stood up to wait by the door while Chris paid.

Then I started really paying attention, as the dude started practicing a level of salesmanship and never seen at this location. In his explanation for running the card reader, he slipped in a mention of the tip that was un-pushy. He restated his name — “Jareth, like Jared will but with a TH” and offered his card to Chris, saying that he hoped he’d ask for him again if he felt done a good job. And he called Chris by his name when he wished him a good day.

Break It Down

Let’s break this down, because it’s a great example of what Ramit Sethi calls “Craigslist Penis Effect”— the idea that because the competition does certain things so inadequately, you look like a rockstar by comparison even when you only clear a minimal bar.

It’s not that Jareth did anything special. It’s just that his ‘competition’, his fellow hairdressers, did NOTHING, so he scored by default.

This is basic stuff. It’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” stuff — nothing that hasn’t been understood for decades.

  • shake hands, make eye contact
  • make the other person feel comfortable (explaining the steps of the haircut)
  • repeat your name, so they don’t have to ask
  • remember their name

Most people are willing to do this, they just forget. Jareth did the other half though, the parts people often feel weird about. But this is the part that has a bigger impact on your bottom line; it’s the 20% of the 80/20 rule.

  • he brought up the issue of tipping in a non-pushy way
  • he suggested and facilitated an ongoing relationship by suggesting Chris ask for him and by giving him a card

This wasn’t pushy or in-your-face. It didn’t violate any social norms. But Chris gave him a larger tip than normal — probably completely unconsciously.

Also, let me remind you, the place was slammed. But Jareth did all of this anyway.

It’s the Simple Things

By doing these simple things, he:

  • got a ~10% better tip than normal
  • the possibility of a regular customer
  • who was already primed to tip well!

I figure this is worth about $25 a day to him, which is not nothing, especially if you’re working part-time. In fact, it’s probably an extra 25% or better on top of his take home.

I’ll bet if you think about it, there are some mildly uncomfortable things YOU could be doing to improve your bottom line. You probably don’t think about them because you have an existential horror of being pushy. But remember all Jareth did was some brutally basic stuff, and that was enough to outclasses counterparts.

It’s pretty easy to figure this out– just imagine what you’d tell someone younger or more experienced to do if they wanted to excel in your field. 😛

What’s your favorite way to use the Craigslist Penis Effect to your advantage?

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