Manners Matter: Respect for Proprietors

by Mary Pat

Dear Mary Pat,

I own a small boutique for ladies, and I’m surprised by occasional comments made by customers. I’m a big believer in the philosophy that “the customer is always right”; 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, Wisconsin

Dear Tired of Biting My Tongue,

I have noticed people behaving rudely in stores myself, and I wish I could figure out why they do. I read a quote last week that said you can tell a lot about a person’s character based on how they treat waitstaff; I think that category should be expanded to anyone who works in a service-based industry, from retail 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 insecurities. Just like your mother told you, it’s best to ignore them.

I know this is difficult because 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 and complimentary customers, you’ll be better off.

As far as giving directions to your competitor’s establishment, smile and say, “Gosh, 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