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Monday, August 17, 2009

Focus on business and leave the emotion out of it!

Women are emotional creatures. We were designed that way! It makes us great nurturers, superior nest builders, and sometimes....very poor communicators. Yup, the extra dose of "warm and fuzzy" is a double edged sword. Women can --- occasionally, once in a blue moon, every now and then---let emotion impede sound business judgment. We let emotion take over and cloud rational thought: we permit a rude customer to ruin our day, view a competitor as an enemy, and say "Yes" because we don't want to offend by saying "No." It can be exhausting!

What is the crafty retailer to do?

Focus on business and leave the emotion out of it! Last week's post presented a real life challenge recounted by a friend. The comments and phone calls I received on the topic were fascinating. Here is the scenario for those who missed it:

A retail craft store owner hosted a FREE customer appreciation event which involved crafting, food, alcohol, and a gift for attendees. Customers had to pre-register for the event and one of the registrants was a "toxic" customer. You know the secretly cringe when she walks in the door. Toxic Trudy is loud, rude, and socially inept. She comes to all the free events, but spends very little money. To make matters worse, Trudy is a small time competitor who teaches classes in your field. She has a history of telling other customers that she sells product X for less. The store owner is not a happy camper when Trudy is in the store. It raises her blood pressure and probably makes her long for a glass of wine or a Prozac IV. You get the picture.

Fast forward to the big event....the festivities are going well, folks are socializing and having a good time. Things start to go downhill when the proprietor observes Trudy passing out business cards to advertise her own classes. She whispers a request to Trudy to "please put away the cards," but the situation rattles her and the customer becomes indignant. The moment is awkward at best, customers noticed, and Toxic Trudy was heard complaining and lambasting the store owner to her friend, a shop employee. It cast a pall on the evening and frustrated the business owner, particularly when the employee opined that she "could see both sides." Ouch. I wonder if she would see both sides if she was no longer on the payroll, but that is a different issue for another day.

The audacity of the customer was impressive and, not surprisingly, those who responded to the post were appalled by her behavior. I chatted about it with friends and the response along gender lines was interesting. The females of the group jumped on it like a dogs after a bone. They got themselves worked up on behalf of the proprietor.

"Can you believe the nerve?
"Think of the money and planning that went into the event! That poor business owner!"
"What is that customer's problem?"
"What a bitch! I would have kicked her out on her ass then and there!"

And so on and so on. Voices were raised in righteous indignation, each woman expressing more outrage than the last. The sole male to comment did so only after repeated prompting from the gals: he simply looked up from his sushi and said "McDonald's wouldn't hand out coupons in Burger King."

The mental image made us laugh and it shut us up. It really was as simple as that...there was no emotive drama and most importantly...NO WASTED ENERGY! What was different about the way the man and the women responded?

The man looked at it like a minor business issue, not worthy of much focus; rather, one to be handled and forgotten. The women took the faux paux personally! I do it all the time. I have learned to fight the instinct over the years and it has made my business life much easier. Of course, in the interest of full disclosure, it has not yet become second nature. I have to constantly remind myself to "take the emotion out of it and process the situation analytically," but it comes to me at a much earlier point in the process these days!

Looking at Toxic Trudy's behavior in that light, I am confident that there was nothing remotely personal about it. Trudy appears to be a social misfit. My guess is that she behaves the same way everywhere....even at your competitor's place. She is an equal opportunity offender, as it were.

OK, so we have defined the problem, but what do you do about it? Roll back the clock a bit......

Trudy slithers into the shop while the festivities are in full swing, garnering a genuine welcome from you and the staff. You leave to get her a cocktail and upon your return you see her putting her business cards on the table where the customers are working. Fighting against every quivering instinct in your are screaming in your head, after turn to your guests and sweetly introduce Trudy yourself as you nonchalantly gather up her business cards. You mention that she teaches craft classes and then you turn to Trudy
and suggest getting together later in the week to discuss the possibility of teaming up for some sort of promotional event in the future. All of this is done with a smile and sincerity. She is surprised by your offer and the discussion is over. Your customers have been watching the exchange and are impressed. Evening saved. Wow! That was not too hard! You are strong! You are powerful! Life is good!


You just realized something.....the evening will end and you have created an expectation . You don't want to work with Trudy on a joint venture. Heck, you don't want to have to ever see her again, you don't want to breathe her air, you don't want....OOPS! You are doing it again. You are being a woman. Sigh.

What's the crafty retailer to do?

Kudos to
Cathy McKillip, owner of Wish Upon a Quilt, who offered this brilliant solution:

...I agree that the store owner was spot on in asking the person to stop handing out business cards. Because this person is so vocal, I would have followed up with an invitation to coffee and steer the conversation around how the two might work together on future events since the customer wants to reap the promotional rewards of hosting an event. Once the store owner explains splitting the costs/benefits of such an event, I would bet that she will not have further trouble with this customer. I frequently have customers come in and tell people where they might find something for less and I do not hesitate to interrupt the conversation and start discussing what the customers are working on etc. Seems to work when done with a smile.

The beauty of Cathy's plan is that it resolves the problem in a charming and gracious manner. It does not involve conflict. It brings about a win-win resolution without any of the negative emotional drama that seems to plague the female of our species. Cathy was thinking with an analytical mind to determine what was in the best interest of the business. Added benefit: think of all the time you saved! Now you don't have to spend all that time angsting over Trudy's gall. Your husband doesn't need to suffer through your replays of the debacle. Your girlfriends would rather talk about their problems anyway. Everyone is happy. Way to go! You crafted a win-win! [Insert sound of raucous clapping here]

Other News:
Congratulations to Far'ha and Tandy Chazar who won July's random drawing. The lucky winners will receive a copy of Diane Gilleland's eBook, Making a Great Blog: A Guide for Creative People. Look for an email download to be sent to you by Ms. Gilleland. Please contact me to verify that I have the correct email information to provide to her

True Confes
We are
busy people with funny idiosyncrasies and weird ways of making life work. I am pretty obsessive compulsive about a number of things. Housekeeping is not one of them. Don't get me wrong.... the public parts of my house are always neat as a pin. However, I have secret pockets of chaos within the calm. For example, I have a Sock Bucket.

Yup....a Sock Bucke
t. Every time I do a load of laundry I find a sock without a mate (where do they all go?!!!!). Rather than take the time to find the MIA sock, I toss the survivor into the bucket. It drives my husband crazy, but I hold my head high. I am simply giving those socks an opportunity to mingle. Over time my kids start running out of socks and the bucket fills to the brim. My job is done...They have all found their match. Instead of knitting while I watch TV that night, I sort socks. The system allows me to ignore the socks on a daily basis and to deal with them when it is convenient to do so. My kids think I am weird, and my husband has taken to wearing flip flops more often, but it works for me.

What is your Sock Bucket? What do you put off/hide/ignore/wiggle out of in order to make your life work? Share your story and have a chance to win a package of hand dyed velvet fabrics!


  1. Great post Pat. Love the sock bucket. My secret is not opening mail that looks like bills until I am ready to pay the bills. Then I open, enter, pay all at once so that I only have the pain of looking at them one time! I happily go about my days not worrying about the bills.

    By the way, thanks for the link to my store. I love your blog!

  2. I think that a whole lot of folks are with you on that one!

  3. I am a fiber artist and I raise my own animals. They all get sheared and it makes a huge pile in the workshop area (formerly garage)that we have to walk through to get into the house. I don't bring unwashed fiber into the shop, so I need somewhere to store it until I can wash it. My husband periodically gets on me about it, so I grab as many bags as I can and throw them into the mud room where I wash them. There is standing room only in front of the sink. The pile is treacherous and goes almost to the ceiling, but it out of the workshop and my husband thinks I have gotten a lot done. Little does he know!

    Love reading your blog and my customers are telling me that they are reading it now. I tend to do the emotional, but fortunately have only had something like that happen to me once. I just steered the lady that she was talking to somewhere else. It is a shame that people are like that.

  4. Kathy:
    I think that your fleece pile probably puts my sock stash to shame!!!! Perhaps I should teach my husband to sort socks and yours would be willing to learn to wash fleece.....not very likely.....but a gal can dream!

  5. I am already blessed. My husband does the family laundry - to include sorting the clothes. Can't have him messing with my stash!