You don’t put bourbon in it?

fivedollarshake

The place is Jack Rabbit Slim’s. The actors are Uma Thurman and John Travolta. The movie is, of course, the incomparable Pulp Fiction.

Vincent Vega, played by Travolta, orders a steak and a vanilla Coke. Mia Wallace, played by Thurman, orders a burger . . . “and a Five Dollar Shake.”

Vincent has to ask, “Did you just order a five dollar shake? That’s a shake – that’s milk and ice cream?”

“Last I heard,” is Mia’s reply.

Not yet satisfied, Vincent confirms with the waiter, “You don’t put bourbon in it or nothin’?”

“No.”

When the shake arrives, while Mia is taking a long first sip, it’s all Vincent can do to not jump across the table to try it. Somehow he restrains himself. “You think I could have a sip of that?”.

Marketing and economics textbooks are filled with chapters on price resistance, consumer resistance to high prices. Some of the graphs would suggest that as you raise the price of the milkshake that the quantity ordered decreases linearly.

Travolta proves them wrong. It is clear he is attracted to the high price. He has to try a five dollar milkshake to see what the fuss (and price) is all about. He wouldn’t even have noticed a “Two-Dollar Shake”.

It’s not as simple as jacking up your prices, though. One expensive milkshake at a place like Jack Rabbit Slim’s is perfect. A Home Depot or Target can’t suddenly double their prices. You have to be selective about what products are priced higher. The conditions must be right and fit the story you tell.

And they must be priced high enough to stand out. Carl’s Jr. tries this with their famous, “Six Dollar Burger” but it doesn’t work the same because they were just communicating that their fast food burger is as good as a sit down restaurant burger. The “Five Dollar Shake” wasn’t trying to match anything.

And instead of scanning your inventory for a product worth doubling the price on, develop a new product. This trick doesn’t work on products that your customers already know the price of.

[photo credit: Jane Bush]

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