That day at the Sunshine Shack, we’d done everything right.
Our friends Dan and Jess* had scored us beach chairs early.
Dan had put in our order as soon as the owner showed up to start basting his meat.
And yet, after watching everyone on the beach but us get their delicious-smelling ribs, Dan went to check on our lunch and came back with this news:
“They ran out of food.”
The Sunshine Shack had forgotten us.
We wouldn’t be getting our ribs for another 90 minutes. The owner had to go to the supermarket for more meat.
Hey, we’re on vacation, we said. No hurry, no worry, right?
“The ribs are no joke,” Dan promised. “Worth the wait.”
He’d been going to the Sunshine Shack for 5 or 6 years, every Christmas break. He wasn’t psyched about being forgotten. But what are you gonna do? That’s the Caribbean for you. Plus, we’d already planted ourselves there for the day. Paid for chairs and umbrellas. And there was nowhere else on that beach for good food.
(There was a place called Coconuts, but you didn’t want to go there.)
Over the next hours, I snuck honey-wheat pretzel sticks — which I didn’t bring enough of to share — into my mouth from a Ziploc baggie in my tote.
We watched a new round of ribs being made, plated with slaw and salad onto the styrofoam plates…and served to someone more important.
Finally, a waitresses came over and told us, “Grab a table. Your ribs are ready.”
As we eagerly shook up the hot sauce bottle, she plunked down two orders.
“You guys go ahead,” Jess and Dan said, sliding the food in front of us.
Steven and I were Sunshine Shack virgins. They wanted to watch us take our first bites.
“Do they know we ordered four?” I asked. I didn’t see them coming back with more.
Oh. They’d thought we wanted two. Would we like two orders of snapper instead?
That’s when it started to pour.
The wind blew. Everyone ran and crowded under the shack’s little tin roof.
Grab the Kindle. Grab the towels. Shit, our sandals. Go back, GET THEM!
We scurried to a partially-sheltered table with our two precious rib orders. In a gust of wind, the plate I put down promptly flew off the table and into the sand.
Steven cried out, “Laura! What did you DO?” as though I’d just killed a puppy.
A nearby man gasped, “OH NO!” and dove for his sandals to snatch them away from our barbecue mess.
Steven gathered up the sandy ribs while I stood stupidly.
Dan abandoned ship (or ribs), ran off to the warm water, and dove in.
Jess held down the one good plate of ribs, staring ahead with glazed eyes. Her spirit had left her body and gone someplace else.
Steven and I frantically ate ribs off the plate Jess held down, yelling at each other, “Stop eating the ribs! Save them for Jess and Dan!”
The waitress came, shouting over the wind that they were making us two orders of snapper.
“That’s fine,” Steven said. “We’ll eat that and Jess and Dan can have the ribs.” (The ribs that we were finishing.)
“I don’t care about the ribs” Jess kept saying, lifelessly.
She continued to hold down our plate of picked-clean bones while the rain drenched her back.
And then it was over. As the sun came out, Steven and I started on the sandy ribs from the ground.
The waitress brought us snapper. Steven and I ate that, too.
Jess and Dan said they’d get ribs somewhere else later.
We paid our lunch bill. 150 bucks. (The snapper costs extra.)
Two days later, we went back to try again.
The business lesson?
Honestly, the main lesson from this story is that Steven and I are animals who will eat sandy ribs.
But that’s not instructive for you. So here’s how our ribs-capades are relevant to your business:
If you want customers who’ll gladly wait all day for whatever you offer;
Who’ll take it even in a rain storm;
Who’ll come back for more even after you forgot about them, served everyone else before them, and then, instead of what they wanted, given them (and charged them for) fucking SNAPPER…
…Then you need to be the one place on the beach. And serve something that tastes and smells crazy delicious.
Not the one place? Not on the beach? Don’t have a barbecue scent that carries for miles on a warm Caribbean breeze?
OK, then be the one business people think of when they need the kind of thing you sell.
Want help doing that? Here are some ways:
Start with B-School to learn how to get your name out there and win loyal clients, customers and fans online.
If you’re ready to focus on copywriting that helps you stand out, sharpen your word skills with The Copy Cure (if it’s open for enrollment).
Or, we can work together. Maybe I’ll show you how to shoehorn a business lesson (and plug) into a story about eating ribs on the beach.
Ever stayed loyal to a business that kept screwing you over, or forgetting about your ribs, because they were either that good or the only place to go, or both?
If you have a business, what could you do to make it that essential?
Would you eat ribs with sand on them?
TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS.
(* Friends’ names changed to protect me from going to the trouble to ask if they mind me using their real names.)