Chapter 50 Summary

The $100,000 Salt and Pepper Shaker

When Pausch is twelve and his sister Tammy is fourteen, their parents take them to Disney World. For the first time, the two are old enough to roam around a bit on their own. Their parents arrange a meeting place, and the kids have ninety minutes of virtually complete freedom.

As an expression of their gratefulness at being allowed such extraordinary freedom, Pausch and his sister want to buy their parents a thank-you gift. They pool their allowance and find what they consider to be the perfect gift for such an occasion: a ceramic salt and pepper shaker set. The gift costs them ten dollars, all of their allowance money, and after they purchase it the siblings head toward Main Street and their next adventure.

Pausch is holding the gift and in a “horrible instant” the gift falls out of his hands. The ceramic item shatters on impact, and two young people are shattered as well. An adult in the park happens to see the incident and comes to console the children. She tells them to go back to the store and explain what happened, confident that they will replace the item. Pausch does not feel that is fair, since he was the one who dropped it, but they went anyway.

Pausch and his sister go back to the store and tell the employees exactly what happened. The workers smile and give them a new salt and pepper set. They even take the blame, saying they should have wrapped the gift more carefully. The message they convey is that they should have anticipated the possible consequences of an over-excited twelve-year-old. The kids leave the store in a state of disbelief but giddy with excitement. When their parents hear the story, their appreciation for Disney World rises considerably. In fact, that one ten-dollar item earned Disney more than $100,000 over time.

Because of their appreciation for Disney, the Pausches regularly made visits to Disney World part of their volunteer work. Over twenty years, they bought tickets for dozens of kids to visit the theme park and took many other groups as well. In all, between admission, food, and souvenirs for themselves and others, they have spent over $100,000 at Disney World.

As a Disney Imagineering consultant, Pausch often tells the story of the ten-dollar salt and pepper shaker to Disney executives. He asks them whether their employees today, in the same circumstances, would be allowed to do the same thing. The executives squirm, knowing the answer is probably not. That is because there is nothing in their accounting system which allows them to measure the benefits of replacing a ten-dollar item for a more than $100,000 return.

There is more than one way to measure profits and losses, and every institution should have a heart as well as a bottom line. Pausch’s mother still has that salt and pepper shaker. The day Disney replaced it was a great day for everyone.