John Wanamaker (1838-1922), who is considered the “Father of Modern Advertising,” used his spiritual gift of hospitality to revolutionize the shopping experience for people. At the core of his apparent advertising genius was his spiritual gift of hospitality. Above all, Wanamaker wanted to welcome as many people as possible into the most comfortable shopping atmosphere possible.
Among his many innovations, Wanamaker opened the world’s first major department store because he wanted to provide a store so complete and welcoming that people would not want to leave. In those days, it was unheard of for a store to be a meeting place and even a place for relaxation and enjoyment.
In the fall and winter, Wanamaker had a custom of walking alongside individual customers with a handful of warm chestnuts in his pocket. As they walked together, he would offer the visitor a few of the nuts, and then they would walk, talk, and munch together. His personal hospitality was reflected throughout the entire store and throughout the company’s culture.
On the ninth floor of Wanamaker’s store was the Crystal Tea Room, a room so extravagantly beautiful and inviting that people have wedding receptions and other major events there to this day. To accommodate the children, the toy department on the eighth floor included a monorail that traveled around the store. For anyone needing medical attention, the tenth floor included in-house physicians and nurses. The store even housed the world’s largest playable pipe organ!
At a time when salespeople could charge whatever they could get from their customers because prices were not displayed, Wanamaker introduced price tags to the retail economy, which was the first universal pricing system of its kind. He didn’t want people to worry about whether or not they were getting fair prices while they shopped. He wanted his customers to be able to relax and feel welcome in his store.
Ultimately, his spiritual gift of hospitality was used to invite people into a relationship with Jesus. When the famous 19th-century evangelist, D.L. Moody, wanted to come to Philadelphia for one of his evangelistic meetings, Wanamaker hosted the event in his store free-of-charge and donated the services of 300 ushers from among his own paid staff to assist with the event.
Deeply committed to personal evangelism, he hand-copied evangelistic letters for each member of his large Sunday school class. The letters read,
If you are not saved, my dear friend, flee to the merciful Savior as you would fly into this warm room tonight, out of the cold streets and the drifting snow. If you are saved, humbly trusting in what Jesus did when his loved failed not on the Cross, think of others not saved… NOT SAVED… going to the eternal darkness—your near friend, your relative—and do something!”