Give ’em The Pickle

Originally Published: Packaging News, November-December 2022, by Paul Allen

What’s a pickle? Bob Farrell, the man who made it into the Guinness Book of Records for creating the world’s largest ice cream sundae, describes a ‘pickle’ as that special extra thing you do to make your customers happy – and he ought to know.

As the founder of 120 Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlours, he gave away thousands of pickles during his lifetime as the owner, and later spokesperson, for the successful chain.

Farrell’s moment of inspiration came about in the 1960s when a customer wrote him an angry letter, vowing to never return because the “waitress wouldn’t give [him] an extra pickle – with­out charge”.

Now, in Australia, we probably can’t see the connec­tion between ice cream and a pickle (better known as a gher­kin here), but that’s not the point. What is relevant is that Farrell famously declared, “Can you imagine what losing a life­time of sales to a customer over one single pickle is worth? Just give ’em the pickle!”

And, from then on, his staff did just that, while Farrell went on to sell his ice cream empire to the Marriott Corporation and build a multimillion-dollar customer service training business.


Do you have a pickle?

Is it spec­ified or discretionary?

Do staff know when and how many they can give to customers?

Do custom­ers come back when they get into a pickle and do you know how many pickles make a peck?

Most importantly, how much are pickles costing your business?

Research reveals that Farrell’s real genius wasn’t in encouraging staff to give away freebies, but in having the right attitude toward the customer. The pickle wasn’t what mattered. Bob Farrell focused his training on getting the magic ingredient of ‘attitude’ instilled into every member of his staff.

So, what’s your staff attitude like?

Are they engaged, cus­tomer considerate, excited to come to work, a joy to collaborate with, ready to lend a hand when required, and committed to serv­ing? Is there warmth in their smile when a customer comes through the door? Have you ever asked your key clients to describe the attitude they experience from your business?

At a time when so many exter­nal economic variables are going against us, Bob Farrell’s story reminds us to focus on what really matters: our attitude, not our pickle.