What’s Your Crocodile?

April 1, 2015

IMG_8841On a recent family trip to Costa Rica, I happened across one of the most brilliant marketing schemes I’ve ever seen. I encountered this bit of genius during a bumpy five-hour van ride through the stunningly beautiful Costa Rican countryside. After several hours, our driver, who had been good about pointing out things of interest, inquired whether we’d like to see some crocodiles in the wild. Well, yeah. Not something you see every day on the Minneapolis tundra. My kids were equally giddy with anticipation.

A few minutes later, we pulled off into the packed parking lot of a roadside souvenir stand and restaurant. From there, we were directed to walk a few hundred yards up the road, which at that point turned into a bridge over a sweeping river. Hundreds of tourists were littered on both sides of the bridge, all looking down, pointing excitedly and snapping photos. Sure enough, in the murky river below, we saw nearly two-dozen crocodiles, some on the river shore, others partially submerged in the water. Spectacular.

When we got back to the parking lot, we encountered several men, who were inviting tourists to come in for a bathroom break, some refreshments and perhaps a trinket or two. A couple Cokes, a bit of fresh mango and some keychain thingy later, we were on our way after witnessing this harrowing display of Costa Rican wilderness.

And then I learned the truth.

Turns out the guy who owned the business where we parked had for years been throwing chicken carcasses off the bridge to the river shore below. In full Pavlovian response, the crocodiles started calling the shore next to his business home. Instant roadside attraction! Bar/Restaurant/Frutera Los Crocodilos was born and business, we were told, had been booming ever since.

What’s your crocodile, and what are you doing to attract it?