Boy Scout's Pinky Promise

[Bad] Ideas | Scriptdog

Let me set the stage:

We were stationed behind a folding table in front of a Pavilions Grocery Store, eight Boy Scouts and two fathers.

The mission was to sell popcorn.

Like the Girl Scouts and cookies, the Boy Scouts have the same annual fund-raising drill, only it’s popcorn.

The boys were in their scout uniforms and people would pass them by, heading from their cars into the store, or heading out of the store and back to their cars with newly purchased groceries.

The boys would smile, cute and charming, asking those passing if they’d like to buy some popcorn.

Invariably, the person would say I’ll catch you on my way out, sometimes adding that they needed to get change.
Whatever it was, us dads monitoring the boys could tell the passing adults were just using avoidance tactics.

Of course, on the way out the prospects would find slick ways to avoid encountering our uniformed popcorn sales kids by using the far exit, or timing it to coincide when the boys were hitting up others, or looking in the wrong direction.

Nobody was accountable.

The boys would watch as people left the grocery store and headed off to the parking lot with their groceries, never to be seen again.

It was so sad. Nobody had time for our boys and their actually pretty tasty popcorn.

Sales were minimal, and that’s being kind.

My son, one of the scouts learning how the real world was working, had an idea.

At first I thought it was simply cute.

Then, as he put it into practice, I realized it was deceptively powerful.

I’m still not sure why business schools don’t teach this, it’s that good.

My son stood there with his gleaming uniform and polite smile and held out a sample box of popcorn as a man in his 40s strode toward the automatic doors to the store.

Hey, Mister, wanna buy some popcorn?
I’ll catch you on the way out, the man said.

And here is where my son did his magic trick.

He held out his hand and said two simple, in fact childish words.

Pinkie Promise?

At this, the man laughed and smiled. He probably had kids of his own. He had no choice but to meet my son’s outstretched hand, with its kicked-out pinkie, with his own.

The man and my son now had a sworn pact in place, solidified by the intertwining of their pinkie fingers.

This simple childish gesture, in truth a brilliant mogul-making maneuver, was all it took for sales to sky rocket that day, and beyond.

For, when this man came out of Pavilions, he did not try to avoid my son, he did not hide his head behind a bag of groceries, he in fact made a bee-line toward my son and delivered on his promise with crisp currency, cold hard cash, money on the barrelhead, moolah, bisquits for the triskets, dead presidents for the win…Okay I’ll stop.

He found my son and bought the popcorn. He had to. He had entered a sworn pact. He had no way to get out of it. He didn’t want to get out of it. His sense of honor, goodness, of all that is right in the world when you see it through a child’s eyes and constructs, drove him to complete the transaction.

My son was grateful and felt good about it, both of them smiling and exchanging pleasantries.

Thank you, Sir.
It’s my pleasure.
The man had been captured off guard in a way that hooked him, literally.

The power of a tiny finger, the smallest one we have, was leveraged to cut through all pretense. A moral obligation had spontaneously combusted from a pure act. A pre-teen scout had taken the kindling of a simple yet universal attempt to connect and turned it into an entwined bond, he had learned how to make fire in a new way, the fire of accomplishment. {How’d I do at forcing an extended, awkward metaphor? Or simile? Or whatever this mishmash of a sentence is. :) }

My son closed every single sale the rest of the afternoon. He sold out the entire inventory.
His request for the pinkie promise was in effect a call to action.

Each person my son was able to catch on their way into Pavilions got the same innocent approach -

Would you like to buy some popcorn?
I’ll find you on the way out, okay?
Pinkie Promise?

Young, old, men, women, couples, thruples, everyone who pinkie promised my son, bought the popcorn. A line formed from people coming out of the store, making good on their promises.

At the time, I was getting an Executive MBA and I shared this with my classmates, all of us well into our 40s and 50s.

We compared the Pinkie Promise (or Pinky Swear) to all of the other strategies for closing sales and had to admit, it was pretty genius. It’s universally recognized, simple, involves an action, fosters a link emanating from a physicality and puts a smile on your face. And it’s funny in a business environment. Humor resonates.

Some of us, including myself, now use it in our dealings. When I’m parting after a meeting, if there’s anything I’m really hoping the other party will follow through on, I jokingly hold out my hand and tilt my pinkie and ask for a promise.🍿

See if you can you use this silly yet potent little technique in your life. Even if you just tell the story about the scout and his popcorn as an icebreaker and then, at the right moment, stick out your own hand and pinkie and close your deal.
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Writer, Director, Producer of TV, Film and Stand-Up Comedy Tours in the MENA region and Asia. Writer's Guild, Director's Guild and Producer's Guild member. WARNING: Microdosing content will shift paradigm.

West Hollywood, CA

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