Case Study #17: Trust-based Selling in the Real World

I bought some designer eyeglasses 18 months ago at Pildes Optical in Short Hills, New Jersey. I was well-served, and happy with the glasses.

A few weeks ago a tiny screw came loose. I took it in. The screw had to be factory-ordered—it was made of gold (I said they were designer).

They called me when the part came in, and I went to the store. While the manager was replacing the screw, I asked the Associate about getting a backup pair for travel overseas. I didn’t want to spend as much.

“You don’t have to,” she explained. “Here are some perfectly good-looking frames that are about half the price; if they’re just a backup, you may not care as much about the aesthetics."

“Also,” she continued, “you may not want all the features you have in the lenses themselves. You can get a perfectly good backup pair by changing a mix of lens and frame features."

"But”, she said, “how is your prescription? Does it need changing?”

“Well,” I replied, “my arms are getting a little short again when it comes to reading. It’s been a while since I got an exam.”

“You really shouldn’t think about getting a replacement set,” she said firmly, “until you’ve had your eyes examined again.”

“Actually,” I mused, “if I get a new set, then this one can be my backup, and it wouldn’t cost me anything.”

“There you go,” she smiled. “That would save you the most.”

The manager came out with my newly fixed glasses, and I took out my wallet. “No, no,” he waved his hand at me, “no charge.”
As I walked out, I realized what these people had done.

On the face of it, they turned down two transactions—a repair, and a sale (of backup glasses). But that’s just the surface.

At one level higher, they guaranteed a much bigger sale—a new set of eyewear for me—worth more than the two foregone transactions. Because they focused on the relationship, not the transaction.

At yet one level higher, they virtually guaranteed that that later sale would be to Pildes of Short Hills—not to anyone else. Because they focused on my needs, not theirs.

At a higher level still, they cemented my loyalty. Not just my repeat business; no, they got me to do something even more important. They got me to feel energized enough to, say, write about it for public consumption in my blog.

I think if I had asked them all this, they would have readily agreed to my analysis, but would probably tell me something like, “that makes sense all right, though we didn’t think it through that way. That’s just the way we believe in doing business.”

This is the paradox of Trust-based Selling®—-if you live by the principles of customer focus, collaboration, transparency and relationships-before-transactions, you will make more money than if you lived by the principle of trying to make money. It works in the real world.

And if you want to buy eyewear, I can recommend a good place.



5 replies
  1. jen_chan, writer
    jen_chan, writer says:


    I love reading entries about customer experience. Especially when they’re positive. That optical store is the perfect example of a store that values its customers more than the idea of making a sale. It’s very refreshing to hear stories like yours because it tells everybody that not every entrepreneur is  after the money. While profit of course is part of a business, customers should also be treated well.

  2. Tash
    Tash says:

    What great service!

    We have a market garden place near us that sells fruit & vegies a bit chealer than the big stores.

    Next to the cash registers is a box of lollipops that they sell for $1.50 or so each. Every time we go, my kids are given a lollipop for free as we get everything weighed, etc.

    The cost to them is very small, but it makes me appreciate them and (More importantly!) gets my kids keen to go vegie shopping so it is an easier place to shop. So $3 of lollipops is very cheap marketing really!

  3. David B. Bohl at
    David B. Bohl at says:


    Great story.  Well written. I found your post as a fellow blogger in Liz Fuller’s Carnival of Small Business Issues.

    I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had the exact experience you described, except with the opposite result – that of the sales associate selling me an eye exam and another pair of glasses (after pushing all the upgrades).  I never have left those situations feeling satisfied.  Your story has inspired me to find another vendor.  Is having the same experience you had too much to wish for?



  4. Charles H. Green
    Charles H. Green says:

    Neat stories! 

    David, welcome–and may I suggest you forward the post and these comments to your old eyewear provider(s); it shouldn’t be too much to ask to be able to find people as good as the ones I found!


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