Does the Amtrak Snack Guy Know More About Sales Than You Do?

Marketing Lessons I knew I’d like the Snack Car Guy when he started his introductory announcement on our train ride with, “Good morning passengers!  Join me for freshly brewed coffee this morning in the snack car…” and followed that with step by step directions on how to find him for those of us not yet fully awake.

As the train ride continued, his salesmanship made the perfect example of seven great sales lessons:

1.  Any Situation or Circumstance Can Be An Opportunity For a Creative Offer

“And we’ve got cows out the window on the left side of the train as well as cows down here in the snack car in the form of hot 100% Angus Beef cheeseburgers.  Come on down!”

Cows out the window… this one made my kids smile when they got the joke (a sure way to get a Mom’s attention!).  What’s out your virtual window?  What’s the way to your potential client’s hearts?

2.  Focus on Doing What You Do But Keep an Eye Out For Opportunities Others Create

During a very lengthy early-morning delay, the silent tension was broken with… “This is NOT your conductor and I CAN’T explain why we’re not moving right now because I’m just the snack guy, but now is a great time to come on down and pick up a snickers, or a pizza,  or a hot dog and a soda.”

What circumstances are around you that you can tie into?  What’s the conversation around you in your industry or in the “world” your potential clients are in?

3.  Give People Permission to Do What They Already Wanted to Do

“It may be early in the morning folks but I am here for you and this can be the party train if you would like it to be.  Who wants to kick things off with a Bloody Mary or glass of wine?” was followed shortly by, “And we’ve sold our first Bloody Mary of the trip!  That means it’s okay for YOU to come get yours next.  I won’t tell.  I’m here to help you relax and enjoy this ride.”

I was more interested in the coffee than the wine, but plenty of anxious train riders jumped at his offer when they had “permission” and knew they were not the only ones… what do your clients or potential clients already want to do, but need a little push, or to know there’s a crowd going that way?

4.  Make Your Presence Known, Repeatedly!

Over the course of 40+ hours while we zoomed (or perhaps moseyed is a better word to describe our pace…) from stop to stop, I quickly lost count of the announcements the snack car guy shared.  But I was never annoyed by the frequent offers because they were a bit of unexpected fun on a slightly monotonous trip.

If it’d been the same exact “come buy a snack” announcement, it would have gotten old and annoying quickly.  But because he brought some fun into the announcements, we looked forward to finding out what he would say each time.

And, if he’d only made one announcement at the beginning of the trip, imagine how many fewer sales he’d have made… remind your audience that you’re there to serve them!

5.  Don’t Forget to Offer Upsells

A Mom with three kids walks into the (snack) bar to order lunch, and the bartender says…  “When they finish their pizzas, how about dessert?”  Yes, I walked away with more junk food than planned.

6.  Get Creative With Scarcity and Time Based Offers

“Folks, I am all sold out of pepperoni pizzas and I’m down to my last couple of cheese pizzas.  Now is your LAST chance to get these because when we arrive at our next stop I’ll be closing during the stop and for about 15 minutes afterwards as I restock the snack car for you.”

Everyone on the train knew that stopping to restock meant he’d have more pepperoni pizzas in less than half an hour.  But it was a creative way to add scarcity into his sales and motivate people to come down for a snack in the timing that worked for him (before he got busy restocking).

7.  Play Up the Advantages and Be Truthful About the Disadvantages

“I’m not as fancy the dining car or the parlour car, but I AM the only one who cares enough about you to be open right now and I am 100% here to serve YOU.  Come see me.  You know you want a snack.”

The snack car didn’t serve steak.   It didn’t have real silverware.  But between meal times he was the only choice.  So he focused on selling with the advantages he had while acknowledging the disadvantages.

It’s okay to say what everyone already realizes may be a downside to a particular program or service, for example, “This doesn’t include one on one time with me BUT the group format allows me to help you at a much more affordable rate.”

Honesty will help your audience feel safe and trust you.  It’ll also result in happier clients with fewer complaints and refunds since people know exactly what they’re getting (and what they aren’t).

Bonus Lesson: Personality Counts So Share Yours

“I’m still here… just waiting to serve you your next delicious snack… please come see me… it’s lonely down here in the snack car…”

By the time he made this announcement we’d all gotten to “know” him and DID care.  My children immediately looked at me and asked to go visit the funny guy in snack car.  The fact that he’d advocated for their “dessert rights” earlier helped.

And that folks, is how the Amtrak Snack Car Guy not only sold more me snacks than I’d ever intended to buy (in fact, we skipped the dining car in favor of the snack car for several meals) on our train ride from Seattle to Los Angeles aboard the Coastal Starlight, but got me thinking more creatively about offers in my own business.

Are you using these strategies in your marketing?

Spread the Love


  1. HI Michelle,

    In live in London and honestly, I have no idea who Snack Car Guy is! But no big deal this post in still a lot of use to me. Most beneficial tip for me is…#3 Give People Permission to Do What They Already Wanted to Do. I will now look for ways to apply this, thanks.

    PS – Snack Car Guy asking if your kids want desserts?… easiest sale of day! How can a parent say no?



    1. Definitely an easy sale — but easy to overlook making that offer.

      Amtrak is our train service here in the US. Their trains (at least the one I was on) include an area where snacks and drinks can be purchased during the ride.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… 18 Smarter Ways to Promote Affiliate Products #infographicMy Profile

      1. Hi Michelle, thanks for your reply. It is definitely easily overlooked. Whether I enter a place of business with my kids, if a salesperson is particularly friendly towards them, it normally creates a better customer experience for me.

        I think all parents can tell when this ‘friendless’ is being forced and fake. Which I have to admit would be difficult for anyone because my sons know how and when to turn on the priceless ‘halo’ look!


        Naomi recently posted… What to Do If Your Business Start Up Research Is Not WorkingMy Profile

  2. This is a great story! The Snack Guy was feeling easy and comfortable in his skin and saying his thing. Making it fun. I like the ‘giving permission’ idea and the ‘I’m not the this or that..but I’m here and available” idea. I think I’ll use that last one…”I’m not your millionaire clinic up the road but I’m here all the time and you don’t have to get dressed your best to come here! Tho’ if you look good, I won’t object!”. And maybe something like “It’s OK if you want to feel good. My last patient decided that not only was it OK to feel good, but that it just might save her next important sales meeting!”

    1. It was a lot of fun. I think sometimes we take ourselves too seriously in business. We can be professional and fun. :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… How to Attend Events for FreeMy Profile

  3. Great information. I will use it for my massage business.

  4. I really enjoyed reading this. Great insights and so well-written! One of my faves!

  5. This was a really good read, snack car guy sounds like a great guy.

  6. Dear Michelle, I really enjoyed this article. Although I’m not trying to sell things in my Christian blogs, I do think that the personal connection you talk about is vitally important with readers. Thanks! Debbie Seiling
    Debra Seiling recently posted… Letting Relationships Define Me…My Profile

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge