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Friday, September 12, 2008

The Bad Customer


    
While it sounds like an oxymoron, it is true; there are Bad Customers.
Some customers are disruptive to others, some steal, some are vulgar, others talk loudly, and some cause drama or complain about trivial matters. In my stores we have a written sales policy by the register and part of it says “… if you are rude, pompous, or annoying, please leave and never come back”. And occasionally we must reference this item and kick someone out. I always wanted my stores to be inviting so I decided long ago that some customers are not worth the trouble. Getting rid of Bad Customers lets us focus on the customers who deserve our attention.
    
I remember during my first month in business I asked my father ‘isn’t the customer always right?’ and he said ‘of course’ …. followed by a long pause…. and then he said “unless you are willing to lose that customer“. Well, I learned early on, some customers are worth losing. But, knowing this does not make it any easier to lose a customer. Customers are precious – and not easily replaced. Above all, our customers make a choice to spend their money with us and that is an honor, so losing one is not a decision that should be taken lightly.
   
A week ago we ‘un-customered’ someone and it has been popping into my head everyday since then. This customer, we will call “Slava” is a perennial nuisance. Years ago we asked him to stop yelling at his wife in the store and ‘take it outside’. He didn’t come in for months after that: he actually thought we were being rude. Now that I look back, I wish he had never come back… but saying goodbye to a customer is like breaking up – very difficult. Last week Slava pulled a cigar out of the cellophane and stuck it into his nostril (see picture), leaving a glossy sheen of mucous. He then paid for it, got his change, and went back into into the humidor to exchange the cigar he stuck up his nose. Well, of course this is disgusting and unsanitary so we told him he would not be able to exchange the cigar. Being the narcissistic imbecile that he is, he got angry, insulted us, and stomped out of the store. Good riddance Slava! Now you can go torture some other poor retailer for $2.69.
Ultimately, I am confident we did the right thing, but that doesn’t stop it from hurting. Again, because every customer is precious.

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