By Kristine Thomas

In the 1960s, my grandmother worked at an upscale department store. One day a woman walked into the women’s department and all the saleswomen fought about who would have to help her.

No one wanted to assist the woman, my grandmother told me, because she wasn’t dressed nice. They all thought it would be a waste of their time to help her because judging by her appearance they assumed she didn’t have any money to spend.

My grandmother kindly volunteered to help the woman. Turns out, the woman was the wife of a wealthy rancher from Eastern Oregon. She came to Portland twice a month to buy all her clothing. And when she left the store, she had several bags of clothing.

My grandmother shared this story with me when I began my journey into the workforce as a waitress at a nice restaurant. She told me to never judge anyone by their appearance. I quickly learned this to be true – often people who were dressed nice left little or no tips and people who looked like they just rolled out of bed, left a good tip.

Living in a small town, we call it going to the big city to go shopping and often the days we go shopping are on Saturday and Sunday when we are wearing athletic gear. We have had people look at us like we don’t have any money. I can’t count how many times I have wanted to be like Julia Roberts and ask a salesperson if they work on commission and then tell them “big mistake.”

Here are few reminders on how to treat customers

  1. Never judge a customer by his or her appearance. Unfortunately, we all have stereotypes. We think the woman with the expensive handbag has more financial clout than a woman who carries her money in a small wallet. Remind your employees the importance of treating everyone the way they would like to be treated.
  2. Remember to profile a person can get your company in hot water. Unless you have a reasonable cause to suspect a customer is a shoplifter, you cannot target certain people for how they look or behave to another group.
  3. Regardless of a customer spends $1 or $1,000, remember that is still more money than you had when you began the day with $0 in income.

It’s also a good to remember just as your employees may judge customers, customers may judge your employees.

  1. Remind your employees to smile, be friendly and enthusiastic. An employee who is in a bad mood can make a customer go somewhere else.
  2. Hygiene is important. It seems in today’s society we have let our appearance take a nose dive. Little things like brushing hair and teeth, wearing clean clothes that are neatly pressed.. all make an impression on clients.

When I waited tables to pay for college, I confess it was easy to get discouraged. I would provide a client with excellent service, run here and there for them, make sure water glass and coffee cup was filled – only to get a terrible tip. Why it may be easy to start slacking, I never did because I always hoped the next customer would appreciate good customer service.

Because you never want a customer quoting Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. She went shopping at one store and was treated terribly. Went to another and got good service.

Returning to the first store, she told the sales clerk, “You work on commission right” as she held up shopping bags from a competitor. “Mistake. Big mistake.”

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