Differentiation: When being so bad is so good


We are well aware of the importance of “great customer service” — that is, in truly providing an amazing experience (and if we are good marketers, letting the customers share the news.)

But what happens if you deliberately provide “terrible customer service”. ?Although I doubt most architectural, engineering or construction businesses will follow the example, a Chicago hot dog stand — The Weiner’s Circle — is succeeding because it is so terrible.


  • The staff is abusive, foul-mouthed, and totally antagonistic to the customers.
  • You are expected to tip. I mean, you are ordered to tip, by the people behind the counter.
  • The place?has been cited (and closed for a time) by health inspectors.

Wow. Sounds like a disaster zone. And in a way it is. But the reputation is honestly earned.

It seems that giving lip is a two-way street, and in the evening hours, drunken people show up to play the game with the staff, who actually enjoy their jobs and stay for years. (There really isn’t a turn-over problem because tips are indeed very high and the employees earn good money.) And there is some humor — like the three-inch “footlong” Trump Dog.

The Trump “Footlong”

The place has become a tourist attraction, and also an entertainment spot for locals, who can order their food and watch the show at the counter.

I realize you would only try such a crazy inverted customer service model if you were over the line. But this is a reminder that differentiation trumps (bad pun) most other forms of marketing. If you have the courage to dare to be different, and can create an experience that resonates with the clients, you can certainly get away with being very bad.

Did you enjoy this article?