Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Impossible Customer

I have a dilemma. I have a long-time customer--we'll call her Anna--an elderly lady who really likes a bargain, if you know what I mean. She bought a pair of ear sweeps last weekend. A day or two later she called me and said that she had lost one and asked about a replacement. I told her I'd be happy to make one and the cost would be 1/2, since I would only be making one earring instead of a pair, so that would be $9.50. The next day she called me back and told me that she felt I should give her the replacement earring, since she has brought me "so many" customers over the years. And since it was the second time she had lost one of her ear sweeps. Oh, great.

First I told her I couldn't be responsible for how a piece of jewelry is taken care of once it leaves my store, and it certainly wasn't my fault that the earring got lost. She responded that she understood that, but that she had been such a good customer, and she had brought so many people to my store, that she felt she deserved this special treatment. I then asked her if I should have the same policy of replacing lost jewelry for every customer who may have brought in a friend over the years, and if not then how was that fair to the others, and if so then how am I supposed to make a profit and stay in business? No response except to repeat what she had said before. Very whiny-like. She brought me "all those people who bought stuff." I think that's pretty audacious. She's apparently got quite an exaggerated sense of her importance. She's not even in the top 20 of all the customers who have brought me additional business by bringing in friends and family. She doesn't even come in all that often. Once or twice a year, and usually only when she's coming to Cocoa Village to go to the Playhouse for a Sunday matinee. She actually buys maybe every third or fourth time she comes in.

And then when Anna buys, she buys stuff on sale. She asks me what stuff is on sale, and when this item or that item will be going on sale. If what she wants isn't on sale she sighs loudly and puts it back. She put off buying a pattern wire bracelet (like the one pictured) years ago because it wasn't on sale and she thought it was too expensive. That was before gold went up to over $1400 per ounce. NOW the price on that same bracelet is $150.00. When Anna was in last weekend, she whined that she "should have bought it back then because look at the price now." Yeah, well...!

I do feel a little sense of loyalty to her because she has been a customer since before I opened my store. That's more than 18 years. She's given me some business, and she's brought me some business. Probably enough to warrant giving her a $9.50 earring so I'll make her happy and keep her business. But if I don't give her the earring and I lose her business, it really won't be much of a loss. Sigh. I'm probably going to give her the earring, but I am DEFINITELY going to make sure she understands this is a one-time thing, and that I will not be responsible for replacing anything more that she loses! And then I won't see her for 6 months or a year, until the next time she comes in and whines about wishing she had bought that bracelet 5 years ago........


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