I’ve been biting my tongue on the subject of “customer triage”,
and have to share a story and an observation.
A story: years ago I am working down to the wire on a gallery
glass show, and have my work grubbies on as I shop for some
snazzy thing to wear to my opening that evening. I start my quest
in this exclusive, high-end arty clothing store. There are two
women working behind the counter, all made up and dressed to
their gold teeth, face-lifted cheeks perfectly rouged. Here I am
in jeans with a hole or two, a T-shirt, and tennis. (But all
clean, mind you.) There are no other customers in the store, and
as I browse through the racks, neither of them acknowledges my
existence (except to stare, disdainfully). Finally a third woman
comes out from the back and comes over to me:
"May I help you find something?"
"No, I really don't think I belong in your store."
"Oh, nonsense. Is there anything I can help you with?"
I tell her I’m an artist with an opening reception in three
hours, all my clothes are in storage (another tale) and I have
nothing to wear to my own event. She puts me in a room and
manages to read my personality to a T with what I like to wear,
what the event requires, what colors I look good in, what I can
afford to spend. I end up buying a very expensive handwoven
sweater, she makes a nice commission, and the other two just
glower at me on my way out the door. Eighteen years later, The
Sweater is still my very favorite dress-up garment, and every
time I wear it I remember the kindness of the woman who didn’t
let my appearance prevent her from being gracious and helpful.
An observation: there is a very well known artisan jewelry
gallery in Northern California which I have visited dozens of
times over the years. Day to day, I almost never wear anything
but jeans, so my appearance in this shi-shi gallery is often a
little out of place. While I can’t say I’ve never been greeted
by the staff, I’ve been acknowledged only once that I can
remember. I’m often the only customer when I’m there. The staff
seems “put out” to take things out of the cases for me, probably
assuming I won’t buy anything anyway. Thing is, I do collect the
work of other artists and have sometimes even been there
determined to buy something by someone I’ve admired for awhile.
But I often get so turned off by their attitude that after a
short time I leave. How many others customers are they losing for
the same reason?
A few years ago, one of my very expensive glass beads was
purchased by a 12 year old girl who loved it so much she saved
her allowance for weeks until she had enough money to buy it. The
beauty we create connects us to others. You never know who that
person might turn out to be.