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My friends and I went to San Francisco this weekend. We rode on the cable car, and went to the Fisherman’s Wharf. On the way to Pier 39 we saw this small jewelry shop, with an awning and table underneath it. There were few people standing around and it seemed like there was some kind of demo going on. We naturally gathered around the table to see what it was. The saleslady was telling a couple to choose an oyster from a container. They picked one, handed it to her and she asked them to tap it thrice, then she rang the bell and they all said `Aloha’. She then pried open the oyster with a blunt knife and sliced through the flesh to reveal two pink pearls. The couple was thrilled. She scrubbed the pearls with some salt and they went inside to get the pearls set in some kind of earring.

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She turned to us and asked us if we wanted to try it as well. We were hesitant so she asked us to choose a coupon from a bunch of coupons. I got a 60% off coupon. I decided to give it a shot. She told us that they guarantee we will get a pearl or we get our money back. And so it went, pick, tap, bell, Aloha, open the oyster, pearl. A black one this time.

The service was advertised at $14.99. A customer can pick only one oyster. They drill the pearl for free so that you can get it set any way you want. This shop was called Maui Divers. Check out the website. They have also registered the domain Pick A Pearl.

We then continued walking towards Pier 39. Once Inside, we saw another shop out there, The Pearl Factory, a part of Na Hoku Inc. They offered the same concept. Then I came home and I looked online and it is possible to buy pearls from $1.50 to $49.00. I am sure the price can go up even more depending on the pearl – whether it is naturally occurring (very rare), cultured, saltwater or fresh.

The point is buying a pearl online and buying a pearl from one of these shops are two different experiences. Buying a pearl online is very much like buying a jacket online. But buying a pearl from one of these shops is an adventure. And while they guarantee you your money back if you don’t get a pearl (and that is very rare since they seed these oysters) there is still an element of mystery. What color pearl will it be? Will there be two?

The $14.99 they charge is not for the pearl. It is for the story, the romance of being a treasure hunter, a diver, even if it means just picking an oyster from a container. Come to think of it, if you were to choose one from their shop, you could pick exactly the color or shape you wanted. If someone is willing to pay more to open an oyster (and people are), then it is for that element of uncertainty.

And the fact is this probably is not even a major part of their income. That is just the hook, to get people to buy the gold ring, pendant or earring to set that pearl in.

Does your business have a story to sell with the product? Does it have a concept that can make buying the product hip/cool/fun/romantic/adventurous? Think about it – it might just be the hook you were looking for to get customers to buy your other products.

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