A Payphone Business Parable

During my university days, I did a study abroad stint in Freiburg Germany during the fall of 1990.

We had an international group of students studying together including some newly minted ones from the recently fallen Eastern Bloc.

There were no mobiles or social media back then so we kept in touch with famly back home via the numerous payhones scattered throughout the city including the one in our dorm.

One day I put my 1 mark coin in (Yes this was before the EUR common currency) so I can get the intl AT&T operator to then use a calling card to call the states.

I put the coin in, dialed the number, got the operator and caught up with the folks.

As I hung up the phone, the sound of a falling coin caught my ear.

There on the floor under the change return was my 1 mark coin.

That’s odd I thought.. so I put it in again and this time called someone else.

Same thing.. I hung up and the coin was returned.

“Surely” I thought.. “this wont’ work if I call the US directly and don’t use the calling card (as it would normally cost several mark per minute if just paying via coins..”

I called me folks again.. this time with 1 mark coin in the slot and no calling card.

The line rang… and my mother picked up..

“Are you ok!?” she was alarmed to hear my voice so soon again

I calmed her down…. We spoke for 10 minutes and then I hung up..

“bling” the coin fell to the floor again.

So I stood there calling everyone I knew …

Other students saw me.. asked me why I was still at the phone booth…

I couldn’t keep this quiet.. and soon the queue formed.

I stepped back and soon calls were flying out of that phone booth to US, South America, Russia, China, Italy, Sweden.. you name it.

A queue formed and the wait went up to over an hour.

And the free calls continued all weekend…

My family eventually told me to stop calling as I had nothing more to say as did several of the other student families.

Finally, the phone guy came.. and he dutifully went to the end of the queue

When he came to the front. He calmly unscrewed the phone.. did an adjustment and the phone was ready to go again.

But this time.. the pricing worked.

And the Queue disappeared as the worldwide free calls were no more.

And a lesson was formed. If you find yourself so busy that you can’t handle new customers let alone your existing ones… look at your pricing.

Are you pricing yourself crazy busy with the worst type of customers possible (i.e. freeloading students like us who had no qualm abusing the fault in the phone system).

Pricing is the subject of one of my new masterminds where I team up with Mark Griffiths in January and Susan Trivers in February to tackle this issue with two different and valuable workshops.


Are you Charging What You’re Worth is scheduled for 17 January 10 AM EST / 3 PM UK / 7 PM Gulf.

Pricing Mastery and Business Acceleration is scheduled for 6 February 11 AM EST / 4 PM GMT / 8 PM Gulf.


No longer feel pressured to cut your prices.

No longer feel confused where to set your prices.

These two workshops will put you far ahead of your competitors and put your business on a more solid foundation to grow and scale.

The vast majority of Business owners often end up undercharging and leaving money on the table. 

How much have you already lost by doing so yourself? 

Can you afford to continue?