Bagel, Bagel on the Wall. Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

Bagel, Bagel on the Wall. Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at


Authors note: These are three experiences that happened to me personally. They are not to be taken as the way a company always does business.

I love bagels! Years ago when I moved to Charlotte you couldn’t find one, now they seem to be everywhere. New bagel shops on every corner. McBagels. I went into a gas station yesterday with free bagels with fill up. They’re everywhere.

Soon, the war will heat up for bagel supremacy of Charlotte. Meanwhile, the field of competitors is settling in. The winner will be determined by how well their customers talk about them behinds their backs. Word-of-mouth advertising.

Here are three cases for you to judge for yourself:

Bagel 1: My partner and I just finished a long jog. I panted, “Let’s stop at that new Einstein Bagel Place (on South Boulevard) before we go home, I think it just opened.” I walked up to the entrance only to find a sign: “Open next Monday.” Rats. Before I could turn away, a man jumped up from his seat in the window at the store, ran out to greet me and said, “If you’re here for bagels, we don’t have any today, but here’s a coupon for two free bagels when we open up on Monday.”

Wow, I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting, “Sorry we are closed.” I went back on Monday. The place was packed. The staff was friendly. The bagels were good, BUT no egg bagels, my favorite. I said, “Do you have any egg bagels?” “No,” she said, “But we’ve had lots of requests for them, come back in two days, they’ll be here.” I did. They were.

Wow. I wasn’t expecting that, I was expecting, “Sorry we don’t have them yet.” I bought 6 bagels, they gave me a 7th for free. Friendly people. Good bagels (the kind I wanted) and they gave me another coupon for a free bagel with cream cheese, if I came in before the end of the month. Double Wow.

Bagel 2: 7:56 a.m., Saturday. I drive up to Manhattan Bagels (on Woodlawn Road) on my way to a meeting. A crowd of people stood outside of the door peering in the window. The sign on the door says 8:00 a.m.  I tap on the glass. Someone looks up at me and lip syncs “8 oclock,” in an act of defiance. The crowd grumbles, five of the nine people decide to leave and go to Bruegger’s.

Now it’s 8am on the dot, my tapping on the window changes to banging on the window. “The last angry man” barges out the door as he opens it, obviously annoyed with having to open the store on time. I couldn’t help but sarcastically say, “I apologize for wanting to buy something from your store so your children can eat tonight.” Which he took as a negative.

Bagel man swore at me several times so much so and so loudly that my bagel-mate sitting in the car, locked the car door for fear that the bagel man may open fire. I went inside the store where the cashier gave me five rude excuses in a row about how many wholesale account orders had to be filled that morning, and how the boss is too cheap to hire enough people, and how she offered to quit, and other assorted inane comments.

I got my bagels and exited the store alive. Vowing never to return. I made a mental note that they could stock an additional profit item: bullet proof vests.

Bagel 3: After another jog, I stopped into Bruegger’s Bagels on Morehead Street. I got to the front of the line, order an egg bagel. “We don’t have egg bagels,” she said triumphantly. “How come?” I said. “Egg bagels have too much cholesterol in them,” She said, “We serve health conscious bagels.”

Really, I thought. They put enough cream cheese on their bagels that your arteries could harden by the time you got to the cash register if you took a bite. Why don’t they just tell me, they don’t feel like making egg bagels, or that egg bagels cost too much, or they decided not to make egg bagels. I could live with that. Why don’t they just tell me the truth?

So I continued, “Just give me a plain bagel and toast it please.” “We don’t toast bagels,” she said triumphantly. “Oh,” I said. “Does anyone ever ask for toasted bagels?” “Sure, all the time,” she said. “But we don’t do it.”

Think about that for a second. Here’s a store that delivers a hypocritical message about health to their customers, and has made a conscious decision to ignore the desire of their customers often. Good move. Seems like the right kind of attitude that will keep customers coming back. Not. (NOTE: They got a toaster last week after two YEARS of ignoring customers.)

Bagel Report: I like bagels. I like toasted bagels. I like egg bagels. I like friendly people. Those being my desires, the field of bagel stores has narrowed to a precious few. And while the above three stores remain open for business, my big question would be for how long?

When competition stiffens, the only businesses that survive are the ones who offer the best value, friendly memorable service, and meet their customers needs. The same in your business. Think about that the next time you want your bagel toasted.

Think about that the next time you tell your customer no.


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