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Why A Shoe Shine Man Thrives In The Digital Age

Leather Dress ShoesMy son shared this excellent story about a shoe shine man in his downtown Sacramento building.

With Amazon, big tech, big banks and “big” everything else threatening to take over the world, this story is a great reminder of how to not only survive, but to thrive.

Long story short – the shoe shine man charges $10 a pair, which is far more than his nearby competitors charge, and four times more than Nordstrom charges. But – he is not only always busy, he also earns hefty tips. Hence, he makes as much as $40 an hour in an all cash business with very little overhead.


Here are my son’s observations with respect to why the man does so well.

1) People will pay a premium for a high quality product, even in a seemingly commoditized industry. He always cleans your shoes, conditions the leather, applies 2 coats of polish and a coat of clear wax on top. He heats the wax (with a hair dryer) and brushes your shoes with each layer of polish. Most importantly he never skips steps, cuts corners, or rushes, even when the customer is not around to watch.

2) Customer experience matters. There is a competing shoe shine man in a building across the street who charges less. His process is not as involved, but the end result is almost as good. However, he talks a bit too much and asks too many questions while shining your shoes, making the entire experience somewhat stressful. The shoe shine man in my building, by contrast, is measured, articulate, and well informed about current events – probably as a result of his previous career in corporate America.

In any case – if you are worried about competing against “big” anything, remember the lessons of the shoe shine man.

Consistent quality and customer experiences can beat even the most powerful of competitors.

Jay Voorhees
Founder/Broker | JVM Lending
(855) 855-4491 | DRE# 1197176, NMLS# 310167