can figure that people will find their way to you because of what you
sell, so no sense going out of your way to learn anything about the
fine art of how to treat customers, or the fine art of how to best run
your business. You’ve got the market sewed up, so to speak, so you can
just be your own usual unlikable, rude, uncaring, and downright
disdainful self when even your best customers patronize your
I know. You’re having a hard time believing that any employee in a
store, much less the owner, could possibly treat his or her customers
that way. You’re sure that eventually word would get around and people
would just stop patronizing that place.
Well, I can tell you that such business owners (and employees) DO
exist, and not because their business makes them that way. No, they
exist because they were that way to begin with (or were perhaps
groomed to be that way for some strange and unknown reason), and then
decided to open a business that was needed in the community — since it
would have no competition — and they just never paid any attention to
their nonexistent interpersonal skills.
I’m sure you’re wondering what such a business-owner might possibly do
that could be so terrible. I will give you a couple of examples.
Besides ignoring the customers until the very last second when the
transaction has to take place, how about this: The other day a very
good friend of mine — who is living alone in a somewhat remote area
way outside of Las Vegas — was so sick she could hardly stand or walk.
But she felt the need to get something for her problem (which happened
to be food poisoning) and knew she’d have to go to the place with the
wicked witch-woman. Even though she has been in this woman’s
establishment scores of times and has never been treated with kindness
or even ordinary dignity, she knew it was the only place to get what
she needed, so she dragged herself out to do the best she could for
herself under her circumstances.
I know my friend was more or less thinking that when Wicked WitchWoman
saw her in that very sadly sick condition, that maybe some of her
natural customer-related venom and unfriendly aloofness that borders
on neglect would soften into something resembling customer service. So
mustering up a good thought to try to set a lighthearted tone when she
entered the establishment and saw WWW with her head down on the
counter, my friend, in the best voice she could produce, said, “Ah,
looks like you need a little nap!” To which Wicked WitchWoman replied,
“What are you gonna do? Tell on me and get me fired? Well, you can’t!
I own the place!”
And it was all downhill from there.
If you think that not getting an answer to a simple question about a
product that you might ask of the one selling the product might cause
you to wonder about their customer service or their desire to stay in
business — and possibly cause you to re-evaluate patronizing that
business again — how might you feel if you were criticized and
ridiculed for even asking that question? And just so you wouldn’t
misunderstand the intent of the criticism, how would you feel if the
person snarled it at you, fuming out the words as if she had just
heard that same question 349 times that same day and vowed that the
next person who asked it would get all her wrath? And, just to
complete the picture, there you are, practically ready to heave and
yet doing your best to keep it under control so you can just get the
correct product and get out of there so you can be sick in the privacy
of your own home, and you not only can’t get a drop of unrequested
decent service, but the help you do ask for is blatantly ignored.
Rather than, “Here, let me get it for you,” — because it required
bending over to get it and we all know how that feels when you’re in
“that” condition — Wicked WitchWoman just said, “Can’t you count? It’s
on the FOURTH shelf!!”
Yes, this witch-woman does exist. And her business continues ONLY
because it is the only one of its kind in that area. But I can
practically assure that woman that should another business of that
kind open up in that area, her business would shrivel up faster than
her former customers could say “Witchbegone”!
One would think that the rule of thumb, outside of offering what it is
that customers might want, would be to give your customers the kind of
experience that would make them want to come back — at the very least,
a smile, whether or not you, the owner or employee, even feel like
To sum up this woman in a nutshell, my friend asked me if I ever
watched Seinfeld, the TV series. I had, so she said, “Well, that woman
is just like the Soup Nazi.”
I wonder if she’ll recognize herself in this commentary. She’s had
several years to build her business so that if someone else did open
up a competitive establishment in that area, her customers might stick
with her out of loyalty. But word on the street in that town is that
she’s bad enough to keep everyone “healthy” (would that that could
really be true) just so they won’t have to visit her store. Or maybe
they’ll all just shop in Las Vegas for things they might need someday,
just so they won’t have to deal with her when they really do need
Wow! What a very sad and lonely woman she must be. Maybe if many of
her customers could show up at the same time and watch her in action —
everyone being witness to how everyone else is treated — maybe she’d
run out of misery-mindedness after a few customers and start to act
humanely. Or maybe everyone present could create an intervention with
her and say something like, “Why are you so nasty and why won’t you
ever give us any help?” Maybe then she’d finally get it. And change.
And be the best businesswoman in town.
And maybe I’ll learn how to fly.
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She
writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.