The Case of the Two-cent Candy

Years ago, I wrote about a retail store in the Palo Alto environs, a good one, that had a box of two-cent candies at the checkout. I said I remembered the gesture of the two-cent candy as a symbol of all that is Excellent at that store. Dozens of people who have attended seminars of mine have come up to remind me, as many as 15 years later, of the two-cent story—that apparently had a sizeable impact on how they did business, metaphorically and in fact, from retailers to bankers to plumbing supply house owners.

Well, the two-cent candy has struck again—in the most unlikely of places.

Singapore's "brand" for years, and ever so successfully, has more or less been "the place that works." Its monumental operational efficiency in all it does has been a matchless attractant to businesses of all sorts. Faced with challenges from all about, Singapore has decided—with determination as usual—to "re-brand" as an exciting/"with it" place as well as one that works. (I was part of an early re-branding conference, a couple of years ago, that also featured the likes of Anita Roddick and Deepak Chopra and Infosys's Narayana Murthy.)

Singapore's fabled operating efficiency starts, as indeed it should, at ports of entry—notably the airport. Clearing Immigration, retrieving baggage and speeding downtown are unmatched anywhere in the world.

And ...

Immigration in Thailand, three days before my Singapore visit last week, was a royal pain. Needless to say, entering Russia some months ago was a royal royal pain. To be sure, and especially after 9/11, Immigration in U.S. airports has not been something you'd mistake for Disneyland.

Singapore, circa August 2006. Immigration:

The entry form was a marvel of simplicity.
The lines were short, very short, with more than adequate staffing.
The processing was simple and unobtrusive. (I was photographed, as we in the U.S. do with/to "foreigners," in Bangkok.)

And:

The Immigration Officer could have easily gotten work at Starbucks; she was all smiles and courtesy.

And:

Yes!
There was a little candy plate at each Immigration portal!!!

The message in a dozen ways:

"WELCOME TO SINGAPORE, TOM! WE ARE DELIGHTED YOU ARE HERE!"

Wow!
Wow!
Wow!