Article posted Thursday, August 19, 2010 11:59am

Dear Mary Pat,

I own a small ladies boutique and I am surprised by occasional comments made by customers. I am a big believer in the customer is always right philosophy; however, when they casually insult my merchandise or ask me for directions to my competitor’s store, I don’t feel that they are in the right. Is there a way to respond to such comments?


Tired of Biting My Tongue

Egg Harbor, WI

Dear Tired of Biting My Tongue,

I have noticed people behaving rudely in stores myself and I wish I could figure out why. I read a quote last week that said you can tell a lot about a person’s character based on how they treat waiters and waitresses; I think that category should be expanded to anyone who works in a service based industry – from retailing to housekeeping. My best guess for this behavior (apart from ill-breeding) is that the people just like to hear themselves talk and more than that, some love to feel superior. By telling you that your selection of women’s wraps is not nearly as nice as the ones they saw in Paris, they feel as though they have trumped you in fashion knowledge. When you think about it, though, they are really just showing their major insecurities. Just like your mother told you, it is best to ignore them. I know that it is difficult since it would be so satisfying to give them a piece of your mind, but if you take your focus off the negative Nellies and concentrate instead on the kind customers, you will be better off. As far as directions to your competitor’s, smile and say, “Golly. I don’t really leave my store very much. You’ll have to ask elsewhere.” That way you aren’t lying, but you don’t have to draw them a map either.

Good luck,

Mary Pat