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Drama in the retail world


#1

Hi Orchidians;

I’m still trying to metabolize all the adrenaline in my system after
an event that took place in front of my store today. What a welcome
to the world of retail. I wonder if any of you can relate.

There was a commotion in front of my store this afternoon, I heard
shouting, and it sounded like it was escalating, so I went to see
what was going on. A middle aged man, his back to me, was facing off
with a young woman (of noteworthy physical characterisics) and
goading her to “take your best shot” and spouting racial slurs at
her. She looked like she could do it too, at least, the idea would
have given me pause if I were in his place. She towered a foot over
him and had at least fifty pounds on him too. Now, having spent 20
years in Detroit (not in the nice suburbs, but right in the heart of
the gritty and infamous Cass Corridor), I’ve seen too many of these
confrontations end in somebody getting knifed or shot. If this thing
continued, punching “wolf tickets” would soon turn bloody. I shouted
at them, over the fracas, “take it somewhere else, will ya? I’m
trying to run a business here.” They didn’t even look at me, so I
raised my voice, “Get the F**k out of here with this crap or I’m
calling the police”. Still they carried on, getting ready to come to
blows over what, I had no idea. I went in, hit the speed dial button
for the cops, but before they answered, the police showed up,
apparantly after someone else called them. Then they called me back,
as my store name, David L. Huffman Fine Jewelry showed up on their
caller ID and they thought it wise to investigate. I told them there
were officers on the scene and that the parties involved had already
left, so I’d be glad to speak with them if they wanted. Now it gets
interesting.

The man, now with his wife in tow, came into my store. How the police
missed him I don’t know. They were probably looking for the girls.
Before I could stop myself, I blurted out, “Get out of my store!” He
started to apologize, but I was hot and wouldn’t hear it, so I told
him again to get out. He flashed a police badge and declared he was
retired law enforcement. I said, “well, then you really should have
known better!” By then, I was close enough to recognize he and his
wife were customers and had recently picked up a custom sale I’d done
for them (my showroom is rather long, I had taken off my optivisor
and hadn’t put on my regular eyeglasses). By that time, he had turned
and walked out the door, his wife in tow. Well, I dug out the old
invoice and called him up later to aplogize for berating him in front
of his wife, trying to explain my perspective on this event. He
wasn’t placated, to say the least. I just hadn’t want to see anybody
get hurt over what I was certain was something trivial. Isn’t it
always trivial? Later, I got the rest of the story. Seems the young
woman and her friend had tried to buy cigarettes at the little store
next door without ID, so when the clerk refused, they got abusive.
This guy, still thinking like an old school cop decided to intervene
and things went balistic from there. This explains why the police
weren’t looking for him. The clerk had ID’s the girls, not the guy,
who they thought was the virtuous party (they didn’t hear or see what
I did). I do wish I’d kept a cooler head, as the couple were there to
see me about another jewelry purchase. That’s not going to happen
now. I hadn’t called him to try and save a sale (which I didn’t know
was pending). I called because I let my anger get the better of me,
and even if he were a jerk, I understand that people do and say
stupid things when they’re angry, and it wasn’t my place to yell at
him, except that I was p****ed off that he didn’t snap out of it when
I yelled at them during the throwdown and realize he was acting out
this drama in public, in front of MY store, you see. And, if this guy
is a racist, I don’t need his money either. The girls were trouble,
but they’re also young and stupid, and that has nothing to do with
the color or their skin. See, I let my ego get involved. All I had
seen was the ugly, stupid behavior. But then again, I’m a jeweler,
not a peace maker. But I feel I’ve got a lot to learn. Well, I’ve
only been running a retail store since mid February, and here’s my
first taste of that special kind of heartbreak that goes with the
territory. Moral of the story, keep a cool head and a low profile
when things like this happen. Next time, I won’t even show my face,
I’ll just hit that speed dial button and lay low until the dust
settles. Then I won’t have to know things I will wish later I didn’t.

David L. Huffman


#2

David, please tell me you are kidding when you say you called to
apologize to an abusive, racist, hot-headed jerk? As you described
the scene, he was baiting the girl with racial epithets. Personally,
I would have told him to get out and called the cops back when he
came into the store. I would not want to have someone as frightening
and as disgusting as that as a customer, but that’s just me.

I would be afraid that in the future this guy might turn on me.
Retired law enforcement? Flashes a badge? And he thought that made
what he did permissible? shakes head

Telling him to get out was the right thing to do.

Lisa, (in Paris for a week. Someone here introduced me to JAR.
Wowie!) Topanga, (usually) CA USA


#3

Dear David,

I'm still trying to metabolize all the adrenaline in my system
after an event that took place in front of my store today. What a
welcome to the world of retail. I wonder if any of you can relate. 

That was a difficult situation. Statements of bigotry or racism will
infuriate me and I tend to tell people I will have none of that
regardless of what the consequences will be.

I would ask you if you feel that you were acting out of personal
integrity when you reacted to the racial comments. I can understand
if you did.

The problem is that you did not have a dog in the fight and you made
assumptions and held someone accountable for their behavior without
having all the facts. Having more facts made you aware of the whole
story.

As complicated as the situation was, it is actually somewhat simple.
Being angry toward someone for their inappropriate behavior and then
finding out that the person was a customer might have made you
question your behavior and feel guilt.

I wonder, if the person who was your customer was yelling outside
your store at someone who was gay, Jewish, ect. perhaps you were gay
or Jewish, what would you have done?

About 1 1/2 years ago I was making a purchase from someone I had
just made a $2000 purchase from two weeks before. He asked me how
much I would charge to size a ring. I told him and he thought it was
too high. I mentioned that someone he knows had a hard time with my
prices and he told me that the other person was " more of a Jew that
I am." I am a Jew. I have not given that person any of my business
since, and I did not tell him why as I hope he will say something to
someone else and lose more business.

The person is not white, easily identifiable of an ethnic origin so I
know he has suffered from prejudice. I cannot understand why someone
would want make someone suffer the way he has.

I am not sure why you apologized as there is no good excuse, reason,
or justification for the inappropriate behavior of someone using
racism as a solution to a problem, regardless of the behavior of
others in the situation. My in-laws are from Georgia, originally
from Texas…old school racists. We live in Denver, and every visit
by them here, or us there is a test. I am just as adamant in my
position to not hear their crap as they are adamant that they have
the right to free speech. I agree that they have the right, but not
the right to exercise it in my house. Only been to Georgia about 4
times in 29 years.

David, I hope this was a one time experience, not to be repeated,
and that you will be successful in your new venture.

Richard Hart G.G.
Jewelers Gallery
Denver, Co.


#4

Hi David,

Always something interesting in the retail world. I’m not sure, with
my 25+ years of running a store that I would have reacted much
differently, except maybe I would have recognized the guy as a
customer (I’ve learned to look closely at the faces of people coming
in the store) and I definitely would not have gone outside and talked
to them myself. This is for no other reason than: how would you know
that they weren’t setting you up for a robbery with just this kind of
behavior? Get you outside the store, stick a gun in your face and
bang you’re out of business. But all that being said, the guy is
behaving badly. If he’s not a cop anymore he shouldn’t be pretending
to be one especially over an attempted purchase of cigarettes (I
mean, we’re not talking about armed robbery here). He also wasn’t
respectful of you, or any other shop in the neighborhood. At least if
he’d been an active, in uniform, police officer you would have known
what was going on.

He’s certainly a racist, but I’m not sure that qualifies as a reason
not to serve him. I’m sure some of my customers are racists (or who
knows what else) but I don’t discriminate against them for it (nor do
I like to give every customer a questionnaire about it when they come
in the door so I would know whether or not to discriminate against
them for it), because I wouldn’t want to be discriminated against for
my radically left wing stances on most subjects if I were out and
about. (Trust me, there are parts of this country where, if my ideas
were known, not only wouldn’t I be served, I might be drawn and
quartered.)

On moving forward: I would follow up with a written apology, not as
a way to bring him back in the store, because I doubt that the
relationship could be saved, but just because it’s the right thing to
do if you don’t want to lose all of his friends as potential
customers too. You should be apologizing only for yelling at him, but
I would be clear that if he had identified himself as a police office
(retired or not) when you first went outside, there wouldn’t have
been an issue. In other words, your actions were right, but the
manner in which you did it was wrong, and he’s not without fault as
well.

Then write it off as a learning experience. This was one of my own
most embarrassing learning experiences (from a good twenty years
ago):

I had been out skating and twisted my ankle so I was hobbling around
the store quite a bit. A woman walks into my shop and she’s also
hobbling around quite a bit, so I quip, oh, you must have fallen
while skating too. At which point she turns, looks me dead in the eye
and says: No, I have a wooden leg. Needless to say I didn’t do any
business with her that day or any other day. And I learned, very
quickly, when to open my mouth and when not to (well most of the
time).

If I can survive that foot in mouth experience, I’m sure you can
survive yours.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
www.spirerjewelers.com


#5

Hi David,

I was just wondering where your store is located. I would love to
swing by and check it out some time.

Being from down town Detroit as well I think that we all are often
in a state of shell shock. I often fly off the handle when I see
garbage happening in front of my home studio.

I think its because I want peace and quite or at least peace, and
wanting people that cause mayhem to know that they better not cause
it around me.

Personally I am surprised that you got the police to show up so
fast, congrats! I am sure once your customer has a chance to consider
what happened they will be back and apologize.

Christine


#6
And I learned, very quickly, when to open my mouth and when not to
(well most of the time)." 

Woman comes in for a ring sizing stating that she had lost weight. I
congratulate her. She then tells me that it was because her husband
died. Oops. I tell her how sorry I am and how hard that must be to
go through. I did the sizing, she was happy and has been back since.
It did make me think about how to be more careful in the future.

Richard Hart G.G.
Jewelers Gallery
Denver, Co.


#7

Hi David,

What a disturbing experience. I don’t know why but my first thought
was what Daniel described, pasted below. Being drawn out of the shop
by a loud commotion could in fact be a set up for some type of
robbery. I am very glad it was not the case and that you are safe.

Carrie Nunes


#8
Woman comes in for a ring sizing stating that she had lost weight.
I congratulate her. She then tells me that it was because her
husband died. Oops. I tell her how sorry I am and how hard that
must be to go through. I did the sizing, she was happy and has been
back since. It did make me think about how to be more careful in
the future. 

Richard, I don’t think you said anything inappropriate here. Remember
that even in retail, with customers and jewelers on opposite sides of
a counter, everyone is still just a human being, and an honest and
caring conversation is seldom out of place. I’m sure she’s had other
similarly difficult conversations, and awkward is it may be for
others to discuss, I’ll bet it’s actually helpful for her to share
the story…

Peter


#9

David, Don’t be so hard on yourself. A cool head is important, but
having lived in Atlanta’s Bankhead area, I completely understand why
you reacted the way you did. Fights can get very violent very
quickly, and they have a tendency to spread. This is something the
officer should have known. My ex is a police officer, and having
helped him study for his tests, I can tell you this: generally,
officers who are retired or off duty are not to get involved
(liability issues) unless a felony is being committed. Detroit may
be different.

I can tell you another thing- an officer who is retired/off duty,
who goes around flashing his badge over things like cigarettes, is
trouble. My ex would go on regular power trips, and pull his badge
on people as a form of intimidation. This is the kind of behavior
that will get a city sued. It is usually actively discouraged (my ex
was dismissed from the department after several complaints). He may
have been asked to retire, if this is his MO for dealing with
delinquents. Again, Detroit may be different.I am sorry for you about
the lost sale. That hurts. It especially hurts when you know they
were a good customer. I have been in your shoes. There are two things
you can take away from this to help you feel better.

  1. Keep your cool, important, yes.

  2. The flip side of beating your self up over losing a customer is
    this: you did what you thought was right, including apologizing.

The guy was wrong again when he refused to accept your apology.
Maturity means taking responsibility for how your behavior affects
others.A bully is a bully, even if he has a badge. And saying he was
going to buy something else is suspect, in my mind, too. That’s kind
of an odd time/place to take the wife shopping for jewelry: right
after a fight? In the store the fight was in front of? He had an
agenda when he went into your store.

My ex would pull this sort of thing a lot, too. He would generally
want to make sure someone "saw what he saw."My two cents worth, from
someone who was married to a cop a lot like this guy. I can’t begin
to tell you all the times I had to go back later and apologize to
people for his behavior. All the places I couldn’t go to anymore
because he had a falling out with someone.

Susannah


#10

A guy walks into the store, says in his slow country drawl that he
needs a watch battery. As I am installing his battery, he suddenly
rips a massive fart, and says in his slow drawl, ‘scuuuuse meee’,
looking quite embarassed. I simply smiled and took care of business,
telling him the battery price with tax. This is when he realizes he
forgot his wallet, and has to leave the watch and come back later in
the day to pay, and face us again after his brief indescrection.


#11

Retail is a mine-field and I’m glad to pay (or take a loss) for
others to do it. Retail is a a specialty as far as I know and is far
removed from my skill as a bench worker.

The retailers deserve their mark-up because of what they have to put
up with. Their skills are very valuable and I have little desire to
be involved in all that!

Alastair