Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hollow scooping -- business lessons from ice cream

I was buying my daughter a single scoop of ice cream at an ice cream shop the other day and I had to tell the lady scooping the ice cream not to "hollow scoop". For those of you that do not know what hollow scooping is, it involves creating a nearly perfectly round ball of ice cream with a hollow space in the middle -- effectively you wind up with a very beautiful scoop that lack a good portion of the substance it would have had it been a compacted scoop.

When I was growing up, there were basically 2 choices for ice cream: Thrifty ice cream at $0.25 per scoop or the higher-end Baskin Robbins or Double Rainbow at around $1.50-$2.00 per scoop. Thrifty used a funky scoop that was cylinder-shaped and nearly always guaranteed that you would get less than a full scoop and it was put into a flimsy cup or a really cheap cone that resembled wet cardboard as soon as the ice cream started to melt; usually there were only 3 or 4 flavors available -- it was cheap ice cream, but it was $0.25 and you knew what you were getting for what you spent. Baskin Robbins and Double Rainbow, on the other hand, had numerous flavors to choose from (at least 31) and the scoops were put into nice cups with lids or you had a choice of cones that tended to not turn to mush in your hand. The promise from Baskin Robbins and Double Rainbow was that you were getting a better product, more choices, and a better experience -- hollow scooping killed it.

It's hard to believe, but I remember the first time I was told about hollow scooping. I was pretty young and my cousins had taken me to a Baskin Robbins by their house -- they wanted me to try bubble gum ice cream with real gumballs in it (strange what you remember, right?). When the guy was scooping the ice cream, my cousin yelled across the counter to him and told him not to hollow scoop; the guy was a friend of my cousin from high school and they knew each other. Curious, I of course asked about, and the guy behind the counter proceeded to make the most beautifully round ball of ice cream that I had ever seen that was easily twice as big as any scoop I had every been given. He handed the cup across the counter to me, handed me a spoon, and told me to dig in, so I pushed the spoon into . . . nothing. There was a space at least the size of a tennis ball inside the scoop and the whole thing collapsed in on itself when I applied pressure. At the time, I was convinced this was the coolest thing ever and used to tell other people behind the counter not to hollow scoop my ice cream while growing up.

There's a not-so-new style of ice cream now that involves using a cold stone -- they can't hollow scoop because they have to mix up the chunk of ice cream that they pull out for you with the toppings that you want in front of you on that, well, cold stone. There's full transparency in the process and an even higher premium in the price.

So let's look at it:
  • Thrifty -- low cost, low experience proposition, low expectations
  • Cold stone ice cream -- high cost, high experience proposition, high transparency
  • Baskin Robins, Double Rainbow -- relative high cost, high experience proposition, hollow scooping
People don't like doing business with hollow scoopers and they're unfortunately common -- it feels dirty, like a trick has been played on you. Once you've been burned by a hollow scooper, you're likely to go for the known, lower cost and lower value option or the higher cost and higher transparency option.

PS -- if you serve ice cream, I hope you learned a lot from this article and I hope that nothing that you learned had to do with hollow scooping techniques.

PPS -- if you don't serve ice cream and you've been hollow scooping with your goods or services, I hope you stop TODAY because it's never been easier for your customers to cry foul and they have big megaphones, or at least just start charging the $0.25 that it's worth.

Photo lifted from Sweet Strain

1 comment:

Patrice said...

I really enjoyed reading your post as I can relate with it. I also have experienced buying an ice cream but the lady did that "hollow scooping".