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I N T H E T RENCHE S

Hurt feelings can generate ill will locally and online for the store.

Firing Roscoe By Allen McBroom

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We’ve all had customers who, for one reason or another, made us wish they’d just go away. Maybe they had abrasive personalities, or they handled each transaction like they were living on depression-era income, or they were so suspicious of everything our employees said that we started to doubt our own veracity. Let’s talk about a representatively negative customer we’ll call Roscoe. Roscoe wants to return a product for a full refund. Nothing wrong with it, he assures you. His friend used it a few times, and then, after a month or so of it lying around, he decided to return it and buy something else. This was a relatively fragile ear-loop microphone, the sort of thing that is easily damaged and sort of an up-close-and-personal thing to use. You open the box to take a look at it, and he starts his pitch. Roscoe: “You ain’t got to look at it, it’s still brand new.” Well … the paperwork is missing, the cable is tied up tight with a garbage bag twist tie, the box is damaged and all the parts are opened. It’s obvious the loop has been used. It’s been long enough that the receipt has started fading to a different color. Roscoe: “You can still sell that. It’s just like new.” New means different things to different people, but this really is no longer new. You mention that, ethically, you can’t sell it as new, but you might be able to sell it as used, and … Roscoe: “As much business as I do here, and you ain’t gonna give me all my money back?” The phrase, “As much business as I do here” usually means two things: One, the customer is quick to play the bully, and two, he’s probably been in the store only rarely, if ever.

Do you recognize Roscoe yet? We all have customers like Roscoe. Roscoe can be the guy who hangs out in the store and tries to take part in every customer conversation you have, offering his “expert” opinion on every transaction. We had a Roscoe once who interrupted a conversation I was having with a customer. I had been prepping that customer to buy an expensive keyboard for her son, and today was the day. Roscoe butted in and told her he’d never spend that much money on a grade-school child, she could get a keyboard at Wal-Mart for less than $100 that would do just as well for a kid his age. These are the Roscoes who might make you think firing a customer in certain circumstances sounds like a good idea. And as appealing as that might seem in abstract, let me tell you that firing them is a really bad idea. Firing a customer can be an active thing or a passive thing. The active method means you directly tell the customer something along the lines of “Get out of the store, and don’t come back.” Oh, my. Get out and don’t come back. If you want to give the Roscoes of the world a good reason to blast you and your store on social media, this is a solid method of making that happen. It can result in negative reviews, and just generally bad word-of-mouth on social media platforms. The internet is full of users who like to pile on a negative post, even if they’ve never interacted with the object of derision. Don’t believe me? Google the words “Amazon review Haribo sugar-free gummy bears” and read the reviews. There are a lot of creative writers online, and you really don’t want them to target your store. The passive method is a much more common way of firing a customer, and it’s just as effective. The passive methodology involves OCTOBER 2019

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