Service With A Sneer (Or Why Businesses Fail)

by admin on September 5, 2012

My husband and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary last month. Last year (our 10th anniversary), we had talked about taking my wedding set in to have the center stone sized up. Mind you, my ring is perfectly nice but not a huge honking thing–think 1/3 ct tw. Our intent was to perhaps take the 1/4 ct. center stone up to perhaps a 1/2 ct oval.

We visited the local franchise of the chain where we had purchased the ring originally. The saleswoman (think a composite of Ivana Trump and Hermione Gingold) approached and we told her what we were thinking of doing.

She examined my ring briefly and in a very thick (and very LOUD) Eastern European trumpet tone, announced: “Well, this certainly is a SMALL one!!” Heads turned from all sides of the shop, people wanting to see this pathetic little ring. We turned around and walked out without a word.  Never went back.

Last trip to the mall? The store is gone, taken over by another chain. From what I gather, all of the stores in this chain are now gone. I just wonder how much that kind of “customer disservice” contributed to the closure (in addition to the state of the current economy, of course). 0820-12

In this challenging economy, it is a source of wonder to me that there are businesses who are their own worst enemy, who shoot success in the foot and deserve to fail utterly.  It’s as if a business owner has a death wish to strangle his/her business to the point of no return.

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

lkb September 5, 2012 at 5:19 am

This story reminds me of one that happened to us when we were first married. We were at a prominent department store chain (that is still in business) looking at plates to use for every day. I admired a certain folk-art-type pattern by a prominent company that sells stoneware. I asked a store employee about additional pieces and she started going on and on about how “ugly” the pattern was even laughing at us for liking it. Needless to say, we never went back to that store. (We still have that pattern that we did find at a competitor.)

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Cherry September 5, 2012 at 5:39 am

This is sadly a sales technique I’ve seen a few times, where sales assistants attempt to prey on the insecurities of the customer. No doubt if you had stayed in the shop she would have tried to convince you that if your husband really loved you he would buy you the biggest stone they sold.

I had a similar encouter a few years ago. My mother has offered to buy me a small piece of jewellery as a spontaneous treat, so we were examining the wares in a shop. I always prefer silver jewellery to gold as I think it suits my colouring better, but when my mother asked if they sold a certain necklace in silver, you would have thought she had asked if the stock had fallen off the back of a truck. The woman at the counter made several snide comments, clearly feeling that my mother was trying to “go cheap” by wanting to buy silver instead of gold. When I had heard enough, I informed the woman that I greatly preferred silver jewellery to gold, before my mother and I turned around and left without buying anything.

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Libby September 5, 2012 at 6:11 am

This seems to be a carry-over from the playground where children learned to raise their voices when disparaging another child so that he or she could overhear what they said. It’s the same technique that adults use when making sure that someone of whom they disapprove is made aware of their disapproval. It’s also the same technique upscale stores use when selling their products, i.e.: the customer who can afford our product is special and welcome and those who can’t afford it aren’t welcome in our store. Is it rude? You bet it is. And it’s also dumb, because you’re thumbing your nose at customers that, in this economic climate, you can’t afford to lose.

I think I might have written a letter to the store’s manager and copied the corporate headquarters letting them know of your experience in their store and why you won’t shop there again.

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Green123 September 5, 2012 at 6:18 am

I always think the best way of rewarding good service provided by retailers, restaurants, hotels, salons etc. is to return and recommend. I don’t blame the OP for not going back, and I sniggered slightly smugly when I read the business had closed.

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Kate September 5, 2012 at 6:42 am

This kind of behaviour always baffles me. Unless yours is the only business of its kind, it’s demented to actively drive out customers like this when they can easily turn tail and go elsewhere.

I’ve used the following tactic; others might use it too, although it’s rather direct. If I’m faced with a ridiculously rude shop assistant (or similar), I’ll respond to their rude comment by saying calmly and pleasantly, “why are you trying to make it hard for me to give you money?” I’ll let that sink in for a few seconds before continuing as though nothing has happened. They usually are too stunned to say anything, and it generally smooths things out. I did have one man who swore at me, though, but I suspect that nothing I could have said or done would have changed his demeanor. In that case, like the couple in today’s story, I left without a word.

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Jenny September 5, 2012 at 7:33 am

Wow. Never, ever criticize someone’s engagement ring or wedding band! That can have deep emotional meaning to the owner.

There are lots of personal choices involving engagement rings. Personal finances at the time, preference in stones, people being uncomfortable wearing something that is super expensive, etc. It’s up to the couple.

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--Lia September 5, 2012 at 7:43 am

I’ve had a (blessedly) few times when I’ve gotten truly horrendous service, then returned to see that the restaurant, store or whatever has gone out of business a short while after. I always wonder if it’s a chicken-egg thing. I doubt that a well-run business would hire service staff that awful, and I doubt that a few awful customer service reps would put a large functioning business under. I think that the business starts to flounder and hires people who aren’t that good because the best recognize what’s going on and work elsewhere. Small misunderstandings become big ones as management is too occupied elsewhere to give the right training or make the right corrections. Everything spirals down from there. But it was the original floundering that started the problem.

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Elizabeth September 5, 2012 at 7:48 am

Chains seem to have less control over themselves, I guess do to the nature of their business – they are chains! Mom and Pop/family owned seem to care more, and want to keep you coming back. Suport small, family-owned businesses – a better value in the long run.

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Lo September 5, 2012 at 8:29 am

How obnoxious.

Would love to see what that woman would have had to say about my engagement ring– $20 sterling silver claddagh. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Tru September 5, 2012 at 8:57 am

In this day and age of technology, such “disservice” is even more dangerous. A would-be customer can simply walk out of the store, pull out their smart phone, and leave reviews for the whole world to see. As a reader of such reviews, I know that can make a difference as to where people shop.

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Coralreef September 5, 2012 at 9:02 am

OP, good for you leaving that store. I would probably have called/written the head office.

“If it bothers you that much, I’ll take my mony elsewhere.” I’ve used that a couple of times when I’ve been treated as if I was disturbing the sales staff. Once at a grocery store, the other time at a shoe store. Never been back to either one. When discussing it with friends, they had the same feeling as I did and disliked going to those stores, so I knew it wasn’t me jumping to conclusions. And I did call the head office of the shoe store. I was disturbing them too. Go figure. Sometimes rudeness is from the top down.

About commenting on someone’s jewelry choices: the only thing to say is probably “Oh, nice! Perfect on you!”

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Justin September 5, 2012 at 9:04 am

I actually find that the huge overstated stones don’t look that attractive on most people. I prefer a smaller stone in a more unique mount myself.

When I was shopping for a ring years ago I went to a small family owned store and was treated extremely well, even though I didn’t have a lot to spend they made sure I left with a beautiful and unique ring. Unfortunately the engagement fell through and this same store treated me more than fairly in returning the ring.

I would highly encourage anyone shopping for high value items to avoid chains and seek out small businesses. You usually get more personal and quality service. If you don’t, just walk away.

This also reminds me of a shopping experience I had. I went to a jewelry store because I needed a watch battery in an less expensive watch I owned. I had been working around the house so and left torun a few errands so I was in jeans and a t-shirt. I could barely get the time of day in the store. After getting the battery I asked to look at watches since I was in the market for an upgrade. They asked my budget and I said two. The clerk who had barely looked at me asked hundred and I said thousand. Within minutes I had three people assisting me including a sales girl who’s sole function seemed to be telling me how good I looked in the watches I tried on. Didn’t end up buying there as I didn’t like how I was treated before announcing my budget.

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cleosia September 5, 2012 at 9:06 am

I’ve gone to a needlework shop where the owner acts like you’re imposing on her by coming in to buy. Her only saving grace is her staff (which were nice people but they weren’t there the second time I stopped) and her husband, who doesn’t technically work in the store but was a pleasant, friendly person. Considering all the competition that these little stores now have from big chains and on-line sites, her attitude is amazing and I’m not sure how she stays in business. I do know I’m not going back.

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Daisy September 5, 2012 at 9:31 am

I never understand why sales representatives aren’t given classes in basic salesmanship. Had the woman simply looked at your ring, smiled, and said “What a beautiful ring! We can certainly make it sparkle a little more, but I wouldn’t want to change too much. It’s almost perfect as it is!”, chances are you’d have ended up giving her the sale, and recommending the store to everyone who admired your ring.

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girl_with_all_the_yarn September 5, 2012 at 9:34 am

This sort of thing is why I bought my computer somewhere other than my college bookstore. After being hung up on, called fat, having my intelligence questioned, and then being unable to get assistance and when I asked being told “I’m busy” when the associate in question was clearly (and somewhat obviously since I could see his screen) playing Minecraft, I decided to never buy things there.

So I went to the rival college and purchased my computer there, then brought my receipt to show the computer store manager. It may have been passive aggressive, but I finally got my point across.

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Cat September 5, 2012 at 9:50 am

I believe it was Elizabeth Taylor who showed someone her new 29.5 karat diamond ring and commented, “We decided against 30 karats because we thought it would have been ostentatious.”
I once wanted a very special piece of a brand name furniture. The piece had been discontinued, but I found it, used but in good condition, on Craigslist. The owner lived some distance from me, but I frequently made the drive to go shopping, have lunch, and enjoy a day in a new locale.
When I mentioned that it would take me a couple of hours to drive over to get the piece and she realized how far I was driving, she launched into a diatribe about how stupid anyone willing to make such a trip was. All for a piece of furniture! I must be out of my mind! How could anyone be that stupid? She had never heard of such a fool!
I explained that I was retired, frequently drove over to spend the day, and that I was sorry to have bothered her. I said that I made it a rule never to do business with people who were rude to me, called me stupid, and implied that I was out of my mind. I was certain that she would not want to do business with someone like me, and that I would not be buying the piece after all.
A possible reply to your sales person might have been, “I am sorry that it does not meet with your approval. We will patronize another store that carries better stones.”

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Sharon September 5, 2012 at 10:08 am

A few years ago I noticed a nice looking winter coat in the window of a small neighborhood department store (not a chain). I went in and looked around, not seeing the coat on any racks. I asked a saleswoman about it and she said they were all out, offering to get the last one out of the window. (It wasn’t a big deal; the store was quite small and the window very accessible.) I tried it on and decided it just didn’t suit me so I thanked her profusely for all of her trouble. Suddenly another woman, who I assume was the manager, walked up and started yelling at ME for asking to try on the coat that was part of the window display. She went on and on about how they pay someone to do the display, it was very carefully thought out, etc. etc. I asked her if business was so good (I happened to be the only customer in the store at the time) that she could afford to treat people like that. The saleswoman looked like she was about to cry and the manager walked away in a huff. Does it surprise anyone to know that the store closed 2 months later?

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Lisa September 5, 2012 at 10:20 am

My Dad passed away and I was the executrix of his estate. Part of this includes setting up a checking account to pay off outstanding debts, and a savings account to deposit the proceeds of the sale of his home. My first visit to this “Nationwide Bank” was horrible. The bank was busy and I was asked to sit in the waiting area with a few other customers. The associate comes over and in front of everyone, asks what my business is regarding; this is an emotional situation, so I mumble what I needed help with and was asked to repeat myself. The ensuing transactions with this bank were on par with my first experience. I lived in one city, Dad’s bank was in another city, and I was told I had travel to his city to get this sorted out. Um, no, sorry, but this is “Nationwide Bank” and both cities are in the same nation, so can they please work together. Amazingly they finally did, but not before I was reduced to tears. Again, in public, sitting in front of someone’s desk. Future transaction were met with the same attitude of ‘you’re bothering me’ until they received the deposit from the sale of his house. Suddenly, the size of this savings account got their attention and I was now ushered into private rooms to conduct my business, offered tea or coffee, and would I like to move all of my business to “Nationwide Bank”? Once everything was completed I sent customer service a letter detailing my experiences but never heard back, and vowed never to step foot into “Nationwide Bank” again. Unfortunately they are still around.

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vanessaga81 September 5, 2012 at 10:26 am

I had a waitress recently tell me something I ordered was “ewwwww”. I had ordered a shrimp dish and she went on to ask me if I knew that “that stuff on shrimps is their poop”. I wanted what I was ordering but she made me lose my appetite. I ordered something else that was incidently less expensive.

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German Shepherd September 5, 2012 at 10:32 am

Good for you and your husband for walking out. The lady made a bad impression on her other customers, and I wonder if her manager saw her lose business for the store.

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Jewel September 5, 2012 at 10:49 am

I once purchased six packs of computer printable cardstock at a stationery shop near me. I ended up not using two of the packs. I promptly took the two unopened packs back to the store to make the return (with receipt). The owner was all smiles until I told her why I was there. Then, she decided to get snotty when stating she didn’t take returns. You’d have thought I was smearing a dirty diaper all over her counter the way she looked and spoke to me.

I pointed out that her “no returns” policy wasn’t printed on her store receipt, there was no signage to this effect anywhere in the store, nor did anyone verbally tell me this policy at the time of the purchase.

At that, she processed my return in icy silence. When I turned and was almost out the door, she called out in the most nasty way possible, “You have a NICE day!”. I turned and said I would never shop there again and everyone I know was going to hear about her poor customer service.

Honestly, had she been apologetic about not being able to take returns and kind in her delivery of this information (and promised to put up a sign about her policy), I would have found another use for the cardstock and shopped there again someday.

However, she lost my business and had her store reputation smeared with the 40 + people I told about my experience, all over a $16 return.

Amazingly, she’s still in business. If she treated other customers like she treated me, I do not understand how this is possible.

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Calli Arcale September 5, 2012 at 11:04 am

I recently discontinued business with an eye clinic over a similar sort of situation. This particular optician (a licensed medical professional in this state, not just a glorified sales clerk) had always acted as if she was being personally inconvenienced if you had any issue with what was being done or the quality of the work or even wanted to look at different frames rather than the really expensive ones she suggested, but the last time I was there she was downright rude. There are sales agents who seem to genuinely think that if a customer cares at all about the cost of something, they are clearly defective and deserve to be harangued. Maybe they grew up as bullies, and think that such strategies are effective, but I’ve noticed that store getting emptier and emptier, and I think it’s because of that particular optician. Mind you, I’ve had poor luck with opticians anyway. I’ve started to think that if they’re covered by VSP, they’ll be overpriced and rude, because when I was just using the optician at my doctor’s office (which takes my health insurance, but not VSP), they were always friendly, allowed me to take as much time as I wanted browsing, and were mainly concerned with making sure I got the right glasses for me — not what they, in their infinite wisdom, felt suited my features.

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Kat September 5, 2012 at 11:21 am

My wedding band, by my choice, doesn’t have a stone. I talk all the time about how much i love it, but people still make comments about how my husband “wouldn’t” or “couldn’t afford to” buy me a diamond. It’s offensive.

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Lerah99 September 5, 2012 at 11:25 am

I’ve had this happen in department stores. I’m a plus sized woman (size 28-30), but I will often buy clothes for my girlfriend who is a size 6-8 depending on the brand/style. She HATES shopping and would much prefer if clothes would simply appear in her closet.

On more than one occasion I’ve been in nice department stores looking through the racks only to have sales people come over to inform me: “There is nothing your size in this section.”
Some of them are very nice about it and once I mention I’m shopping for someone else, they will jump to help me.

Other act like I am infecting the clothes with my fat-cooties and really shouldn’t be allowed in public much less touching normal sized clothes. I actually had one sales person run up to me and shout: “You are going to rip that dress when you try it on. Be reasonable and go to the women’s section in the back of the store.”

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Beth September 5, 2012 at 11:31 am

Congrats on doing the right thing-and congrats on 11 years-

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Nicole September 5, 2012 at 11:53 am

I had a similar experience at a local gym. I am the first to admit that I’m out of shape, which is why I wanted to join a gym so I went into one that was close to my house. The owner did a fitness assessment and told me that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the regular classes and I should sign up for personal training first (which would cost much more than the membership price). I walked out and found another gym to try. They are so positive and encouraging that I’m actually trying out equipment that I was always too intimidated to try before, and the gym is much cheaper than the one closest to my house and there was no pressure to add personal training sessions.

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June First September 5, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Well done, OP!

We had some time to kill before our dinner reservations on New Year’s Eve and went to the mall to look at wedding rings for my fiance. We went into one chain store, and the employee (who might have been a manager, even) was very impatient with us. She even went so far as to criticize DF’s ring size, that he had small “lady hands” or something like that. At the time, we chalked it up to someone being ready to go home on a holiday, but I later heard similar reports about that woman. You know your service is bad when people say, “I know who you’re talking about! She was really rude to me, too!”
We later went to the OTHER chain store directly across from the first one in the mall. The saleswoman there gave us great service and even said her husband has hands the same size as DF.

Why on earth would the saleswoman at the first store treat us like that when there’s another jewelry store about 20 feet away? Makes no sense to me.

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AthenaC September 5, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Couple of stories to add –

1) When my husband and I decided to get married, we went shopping for my ring together. At one store, the salesman congratulated us and then asked, “What are you looking to spend, $10,000?” We said no – more like $200. We ended up with an asymmetrical, three-stone $400 (I think) ring. At which the salesman said, “Well, I suppose that’s all right if you’re going to upgrade at Christmas.” My husband just laughed in the guy’s face and said no (classy, I know, but there you are). We would have left, but we had already looked at five or six stores and hadn’t found anything I liked elsewhere.

2) A non-financial story related to Justin’s post above about “I didn’t like how I was treated before announcing my budget.” My first marriage was circling the drain pretty much from the day we got married until the day we got divorced, except for one brief window – when I got pregnant a couple years after we got married. Suddenly, I was the “mother of his child” and he began treating me like a human being. So, I didn’t like how I was treated before I became the “mother of his child” …. so I left. It’s interesting how some people completely fail to see the inherent value in people and only begin to treat them decently once people essentially prove their value to them.

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Shalamar September 5, 2012 at 1:18 pm

When my then-fiance,now-husband were planning our wedding, we only had a small wedding party (one groomsman for him, a matron of honour for me). All in all, we needed flowers for the groom, bride, groomsman, matron of hour, both fathers, both mothers, and a grandmother on each side. We had a heck of a time trying to get a florist to even give us the time of day once they heard that we wouldn’t be buying a huge number of flowers. We even had a florist snap at us that they had pre-set floral orders for weddings, and they absolutely WOULD not customize them for us (even though we hadn’t asked them to do such a thing). Had those florists treated us politely, we would have been happy to pay for more flowers than we needed – I’m sure we could have done SOMETHING with them.

Finally, we heard about a very nice florist who would gladly do any number of flowers for us, no matter how small. She got our business.

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Angel September 5, 2012 at 1:50 pm

OP, that is an awful story! I’m not sure if I even have one that would top that. I do know that when I was looking for a wedding gown, I went to a nationally known chain store for a wedding dress, along with my mom and my 6 bridesmaids. The store double booked the sales person I was supposed to have an appointment with. This is their error, not my fault, yet I was treated by the sales person like it was my fault and that I was imposing on her. Oh, I’m sorry, I’m about to buy my gown and my bridesmaids dresses, possibly flower girl dresses here too, and you have the nerve to treat me that way? I don’t think so. I think I even said to her, you know I booked this appointment 2 weeks ago, I was in the system, whoever does your bookings is the one at fault, so please don’t mistreat me or my bridesmaids. We spent an hour there, didn’t buy anything, and wound up at a local independent bridal shop who treated us great! As a postscript to the story, said bridal chain sent me an email about a month later, asking me how my service was. It was some kind of questionaire. I gave every category a 0 out of 5 and wrote a very scathing comment. Yes, I was still pretty pissed! I never heard back from them. Unfortunately they are still in business. But anyone who asked me about this place I say, “You get what you pay for.” Plain and simple.

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Margaret September 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm

I understand that not every business WANTS every customer. If you are an upscale business, you might only WANT customers with big budgets. That’s okay. However, there’s politely telling someone that they might find another retailer more suited to them, and there’s being rude so that they will never return no matter what their budget is in the future.

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Cat September 5, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I recall a story about Donald Trump going into a business and being rudely treated by a manager. He left the store, bought it, and then went back and personally fired the man who had been rude to him. Nothing passive-aggressive about him; he goes right for the throat. I love it!

Our school system hired a new superintendent. Wanting to see how his schools operated, he began visiting schools unannounced. He would walk up to the front counter of a school and see how the employees responded to him when they had no idea as to who he was.

At one school, there were three female employees chatting and, when they saw him, ignored him and kept up their idle conversation. He introduced himself, learned that they were all part-time employees for whom there was no expectation of continued employment, and fired all three of them on the spot.

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Drawberry September 5, 2012 at 3:20 pm

My Boyfriend and I have been discussing getting engaged for some months now, and went looking around the local mall area at jewelry retailers for ideas. Personally, I find anything above $500 to be completely off this planet and as such it can be difficult for youngin’s like us on what’s considered a ‘budget’ to find something in that price range.

The two of us are youngin’s with me being 23 and him being 28, not particularly ‘snazzy’ dressers but clean up nice when the occasion calls for it. Out daily attire is not much different then most American’s in our demographic; He wears jeans or khaki shorts and button ups and I wear dark jeans and simple tops or tee’s. When we where at the counter at popular retailers like JcPenny or Macy’s or Dillards no one bothered to even approach us much less to ask us a price range, no one even talked to us in the first place! Very few pieces where under 1k and those that where just simply looked unattractive (to me) anyway.

We went into a single location business at the mall and where greeted immediately by a friendly, if not slightly chatty, employee who asked our price range and respected that without a flinch. She managed to find several handsome rings for Boyfriend that where all under $100 and I fell in love with a ring that ended up being a little over $500 that Boyfriend was enthusiastic about himself; it’s a simple rose-gold band with inset tiny diamonds going half way around the band. The woman gave us her business card with my ring size, his ring size, and the shop numbers for the particular rings we liked for when we’d like to come back in.

She was friendly and helpful and was not put off by a youngin’ looking couple like us not looking to spend very much at all and not going to be buying right away. Really nice lady, and because of the service we’ve decided on going back to them when the time comes to buy.

Unlike the big retailers who wouldn’t even speak to us.

This tale was passed on to me by my mother and took place in the 70’s long before I was born (my mother is in her 60’s).My mother is a woman who has saved very long and worked very hard to posses some very pricey and attractive belongings ranging from home decor, to china sets, to clothing, she would save up to purchase quality items when she had the money to do so. She knew how to find very attractive clothing at very reasonable prices but certainly did not fit ascetically in with the very wealthy clientele of a particular department store she went into.

While looking for a winter coat she was constantly being followed by a sales clerk, who would hoover over her suspiciously every time she even touched a coat. By the time she picked out an attractive winter coat and brought it up to the register all three sales clerks where waiting with sneers on their faces and looking her up and down like she was a dirty thief. She set the coat up on the counter and one dryly said “So I am assuming this will be credit..” to which my mother pulled out a nice crisp $100 bill and said “No. Cash”. All of their faces fell and they stared at her with their mouths open while she gave them the iciest stare of the century.

Never judge a book by frugal the cover, as the saying goes!

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sv September 5, 2012 at 3:22 pm

My stone is very small – my husband could not afford to buy me a larger one, and I am not comfortable with “large” jewellrey anyway. I love my ring and I think I would clock anyone who dared insult it – my husband chose it, himself, with love in his heart. I don’t know if I would have had the self restraint to simply leave without some harsh words…good for you, OP!

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kingsrings September 5, 2012 at 3:31 pm

There was a large, world-wide record/video/bookstore that recently went out of business after many years of operation. One of the main reasons why was their long-time bad customer service. Their employees (most of them, once in a while there would be nice ones working there) were legendary for being very pretentious and so they were short, surly, mistrained, and had bad attitudes. Basically, if you wanted to do anything other than have them ring up your purchase at the register, you were sorely out of luck. It was the town joke that if you wanted good customer service, don’t go to such-and-such store. It caught up to them eventually when competitors that offered exceptional customer service opened.

Sometimes, I’ve experienced bad customer service not at the hands of the employees, but of the store owners. It’s as if they think they of all people can treat customers badly because they don’t have to answer to anyone about it. It’s unbelievable since you would think that they of all people know the true value of good customer service.

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Justin September 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm

@Margaret I certainly agree, but you don’t know how much money someone has until they decide to start spending it. Someone may prefer small stones on rings but have thousands to spend on multiple pieces of jeweley. I’ve had salespeople actually try and downsell me on things when I am interested in something pricier as I don’t tend to “dress my income” with expensive designer brands. My only outward sign is a nice watch, but it is also stainless steel, not gold, so it is understated.

When I did sales I learned never to assume about my customers budgets and I made some very big sales by treating people with respect and dignity.

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Lola September 5, 2012 at 4:02 pm

@Margaret, your comment made me laugh as I remembered that scene from Pretty Woman where the [rhymes with “witches”] at a Rodeo Drive boutique wouldn’t let Julia Roberts shop, snootily telling her something like, “This is very, very expensive.” Then she came back with Richard Gere to make them sorry.

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Shalamar September 5, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Justin’s story reminds me of when an acquaintance went wedding dress-shopping. She and her bridesmaids were all dressed fairly casually, because it was a warm day – t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops. The snooty saleslady was very rude and basically scoffed when Bride-to-Be asked to see the nicer dresses (read: more expensive).

Little did the saleslady know that Bride-to-Be was a spoiled only child whose doting parents had promised her the wedding of her dreams, with money being no object …

When Bride-to-Be had finally had enough of this treatment, she deliberately made a gesture with her left hand that made her engagement ring very apparent. It was a huge rock that had obviously cost a fortune. The saleslady’s attitude changed abruptly, but it was too late … Bride-to-Be and her entourage went elsewhere.

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Library Diva September 5, 2012 at 4:18 pm

The stories about how people have been treated badly before they “proved their value” reminded me of one that had a positive ending from a development and marketing class I once took. A classmate was recounting his experience with a major museum donor, of both valuable and rare artifacts and of money. The donor, however, made all the money as a farmer. He told my classmate that when he came to the first few museums dressed cleanly but appropriately for his business, no one was terribly interested in talking to him. My classmate landed the donor for his museum because he was nice to him, despite his overall, flannel shirt and work boots. It was a good lesson for the class: treat everyone you meet like they’re a multi-million dollar donor, because you can’t always necessarily tell.

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White Lotus September 5, 2012 at 5:05 pm

What many people don’t realize is that there are diamonds and diamonds. Size is less important than color and clarity. A flawless one-carat white stone could well set you back US$25,000, because they are rare. Go on TV or to big mall chains and they’ll try to sell you size, Size, SIZE. For very little, comparatively, money. Virtually all of those stones are of low quality, heat treated, dyed and are poorly cut by a machine trying to get as many salable stones possible out of a piece of rough, rather than by a person working by hand to follow the natural contours of the rough and get the best possible stones. Yes, they are diamonds, and often they are pretty, but I would rather have a smaller good stone than a huge poor one. Good stones hold value and even appreciate. Poor ones? Not so much. You’d do better with a CZ and some nice investments, if you want bling. Many women turn to plain bands after the first year or so because their wedding sets are not wearable in real life, but enjoy beautiful, fancier jewelry when they can wear it. Why not start out with simple bands you both love and can wear forever, and buy fancy things later if you want them? Bottom line: get what you like, can afford, and works for you. And take your business away from any place that won’t treat you nicely and sell you exactly that. Any place that doesn’t is probably selling cheap crap anyway and makes all its money in wedding sets. A good store knows you may well be back for earrings, bracelets, pendants — all sorts of other lovely things — in time. And will respect your knowledge and sense and treat you as a permanent customer. Athena C’s ring, for example, sounds both lovely and wearable. I’m sorry she had to go through all that nonsense to get it.

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Amanda September 5, 2012 at 5:15 pm

How timely that we, too, had a recent experience with rude, dismissive sales staff who found it necessary to pointedly ignore my husband and me when we were shopping for furniture this past weekend. After forty-five minutes of looking, comparing, and deciding and still not having any of the six sales people we passed even give us the time of day (and we passed by them several times, the last few of which were to see if we were going to be acknowledged), we walked out. I returned a few minutes later to ask for the manager, who I nicely informed that we were planning to spend several thousands of dollars on furniture, but the staff had pointedly ignored us so we would not be returning, and she may want to inform her sales staff for future customers. Oddly enough, when I mentioned to the manager that we had been in the business for such a long amount of time, she interrupted me to ask, “And no one welcomed you?” before I could finish my sentence. I’m not sure if the attitude is from the sense of entitlement or from trying to judge someone based on his or her looks, but I’ll always remember that when I worked in sales, my biggest sales commissions were from people who didn’t look as if they had two dimes to rub together, usually because they were coming off of work themselves, and they were always grateful to be treated as a human being.

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Emwithme September 5, 2012 at 5:35 pm

I was recently shopping for my wedding ring. My engagement ring is a beautiful, unique, ring with two 1/2 carat diamonds that previously belonged to my DF’s great-grandmother. I was so honoured when his parents offered it to us after we got engaged (particularly because they had only met me once, as they live 2,000 miles away!). Because my engagement ring is so beautiful, all I want in a wedding ring is a plain, gold band. Lots of shops weren’t interested when I explained this; it seemed all they wanted was to sell me something Very Expensive with (quite frankly) inferior diamonds in it.

I finally got my wedding band from a pawnbroker, where they were wonderfully flattering about my engagement ring, and said they understood why I just wanted something simple to complement its beauty!

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clairedelune September 5, 2012 at 5:37 pm

I imagine that the other customers swiveling their heads around were less interested in the “pathetic little ring” than the comically terrible saleswoman!

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woohoo! September 5, 2012 at 6:23 pm

I try hard not to let people in businesses like this decide my attitude or my purchasing decision. If they have something I really want, I don’t care what their attitude is–it simply doesn’t affect me and my attitude and what I’m doing there. I just chalk it up to them having a bad day. But if they have nothing I want, their prices are ridiculous, and their customer service is bad, I may tell someone, but may not, because like I said, their actions truly do not affect MY actions. I refuse to have a bad day because someone is having one. I refuse to have a bad shopping experience because I got a crabby salesperson.

Some businesses simply don’t know how their customer service is until someone tells them. Some businesses are only paying these “salespeople” minimum wage, and the fact is, you can not expect a lot out of people who only get minimum wage salaries (before you go ballistic on that statement, yes, I know there are some people of integrity who only earn min. wage, but the fact is most of these wage earners are high school kids, drop outs, or others with low ambition who don’t care whether the business succeeds or not and can not connect the dots between their “service” and future “income”.) Some good businesses struggle continuing trying to find good salespeople and it’s hard sometimes to find good ones from just an interview, and they are just as frustrated as you are over these people.

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VanessaW September 5, 2012 at 9:14 pm

I seem to remember a story about why Stanford University exists. It seems Governor & Mrs Stanford wanted to donate money to an established university (don’t remember which one) to build some facilities to honor the memory of their son (who died in his teens). Because they were dressed nicely, but simply, the people at the established university didn’t think the Stanfords had enough money to make much of a difference & turned down their offer.

They went home & started a whole university in their son’s honor.

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Marna September 5, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Hi. OP here. Thanks to those of you who sent their congratulations. 11 years seems to have FLOWN by! ;)

Thinking back to when we originally pruchased the ring (at another store in this particular chain), I recall they DID seem to be trying to push the huge honkin’ ones that cost as much as a down payment on a house! And were big enough for me to SKATE on. Nope, jewelry for me is like clothes–the classic items are the simplest ones and will never go out of style. And when it comes to my wedding set, the true value for me isn’t what it looks like, or how big it is…but the person who put it on my hand to begin with.

@White Lotus – I hear ya on the CZ thing. All my LARGE stones are CZ–I simply can’t justify the expense of a real stone above a certain size. I have one particular 2 ct heart CZ stone, set in 14K gold that is continually mistaken for the real deal. If someday someone mugs me for it, I’m out $100, not several thousand.

@Margaret – Yes, I realize not all stores want EVERY customer. But this wasn’t Tiffany’s–just a middle class chain in the middle class mall. Perhaps this saleswoman had delusions of grandeur?

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MonkeysMommy September 5, 2012 at 9:49 pm

I had a similar experience at a furniture story. My husband and I were shopping for a new sofa and I specifically wanted a sectional with a chaise but didn’t want to spend a fortune. We went to a four floor furniture mall, with many different stores to shop at. We found one we really loved at a store, but at 3500$, I was hesitant. The sales lady was really nice, offered to let us pay on it while on order if we wanted, offered options to get the lowest taxes, etc. I told her we would consider it. Next store down we encountered a sofa with the set up I wanted, just not Leather, or as comfy, but at 1500, it was far more reasonable. When I asked about a discount due to a flaw with the center console piece, the salesman sneered at me and said absolutely not, and also stated there would be no discounts on shipping or delivery. I also told him I would think about it, to which he replied “you’ll be back. You can’t do any better”. Did I mention how amazing that $3500 leather sofa looks in my living room?

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Roslyn September 5, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Wow. Many years ago when I was in college my Mum and I went into a car dealership with money in the bank for a down payment and pre-approval for a loan for a new little Honda. We weren’t even LOOKED IN THE EYE by anyone passing by, and we sat ourselves down and she gave it 45 minutes before we got up to leave.

All the salesmen were, well, men, and as we were walking out one said to my Mother to “Have a nice day”, she whipped around and told him that she had been waiting for someone to even speak to us for 45 minutes, and we would have a nice day at a car dealership in a city 45 minutes away. She said that maybe someone THERE would like to take our money. He looked at us like we had lobsters coming out of our ears!!

To this day I go to that same city to buy a car, if salesmen don’t personally know you in this town I don’t think they speak to you!!

I won’t even comment on the minimum wage crap from above. Some areas only OFFER minimum wage and then the businesses/owners expect you to be GRATEFUL to work (even with college degrees, tech degrees and 20 years experience) for poverty wages.

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Ultra Venia September 6, 2012 at 1:22 am

At a department store I once worked at, the assistant manager made fun of a customer trying to return a corroded iron for using tap water to fill it instead of distilled water. And yes, I’m not sad to report the chain is no longer in business.

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Katie2 September 6, 2012 at 5:28 am

How awful! I’m not surprised you didn’t go back.

What makes it worse is that the size of a stone doesn’t necessarily denote its value! So she was ill-informed as well as snooty.

Congrats on your anniversary :)

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