Customers buying dance shoes do silly things. Here is a list of all the ways they annoy me.
If you happen to actually be one of my customers and feel insulted, plese know that many people make the same mistakes, and that I have nothing against you. I’m sure you’re really nice and smart and everything, you just weren’t thinking at the time and didn’t realize how silly you were being. No offense, really. Because the customer is always right (except when I’m a customer, I guess), so, please, take good care of your reciept and have a nice day!
That disclaimer doesn’t count for the people who made the last mistake on the list. I don’t want your day to be nice at all.
My unspoken answers are in italics.
Customers who don’t trust me: "They don’t fit. There is no room to grow." I know you don’t want to be back here in two weeks because your kid’s had a growth spurt. But please trust me, if you have any room to grow in dance shoes, they are too big. The shoes should fit like socks, like a second skin. They’re made of soft leather, and they really will stretch. I know you think I’m just saying that so that you’ll buy them, but if you don’t trust me, then why are you asking for my advice in the first place?
Customers who trust me too much: "My doctor said I have this very serious and mysterious foot problem. I’m not entirely sure what kind of shoes I should be wearing, but if I wear the wrong ones, it will get much worse." You know, if I were actually qualified to treat your feet, do you think I would be working Saturdays at a store?
Customers who don’t trust their own children: "Honey, why don’t we buy these shoes instead?" First of all, your daughter is 14 and has been dancing for ten years, so unless you have the same experience yourself, maybe you should let her take care of this. Secondly, she’s doing tap, not jazz, so she should be buying tap shoes. And if you can’t tell the difference…
Customers who complain that ballet shoes for children are too expensive: I can understand when a mother walks in with three daughters in hand-me-downs who all want ballet shoes and who are all about to have growth spurts (again). But sometimes I just want to tell people: Look, ballet is a more expensive hobby than reading or drawing, but it’s no worse than most sports. You chose to let your children do this, and if you’re not going to let them do it right, with actual dance shoes so they can do the steps correctly, than please, don’t let them do it all. And to a surprising number of really bad cases: Actually, I have an idea: why don’t you sell your Louis Vuitton bag and fur coat on EBay and buy your kids some shoes?
Customers who just don’t get it: They walk in and we have the following conversation:
– I need shoes.
– Ok, what kind of shoes?
– Uh… dance shoes.
– Ok, what kind of dance?
– Uh… regular dance.
Don’t they realize that this makes as much sense as walking into a grocery store and saying: "I need to find some food."?
Customers who think I know their childrens’ shoe sizes: "My daughter needs pink ballet leather ballet shoes. She can’t be here to try them on. I don’t know her size." You do realize that it will be difficult for me to help you, right?
A variation: "My daughter needs pointe shoes. She’s not here, but why don’t you just sell me something in a size 38 or maybe 39? Or something." We sell at least 10 different types of pointe shoes, each designed to fit a certain type of foot. They each come in whole and half sizes and there are three different widths per size. So if I sell you what you’re asking for, there is a 1/150 chance that the shoes will fit.
Customers who think I know everything: "We live on the other side of the country, and my daughter just started dancing at a tiny ballet school there, with a strict dress code which I can’t remember. I have absolutely no idea what she needs to buy, but I’m sure you can help me. Oh, and of course she’s not here and we can’t return any of this, since we live so far away and can’t be bothered to mail stuff." Uh… maybe shoes… maybe a leotard… maybe you need to make a phone call.
Customers who are just so clueless that they are actually quite charming: "Help! I have a niece! I forgot her birthday! I think she’s going to be four. Or maybe ten. And she likes pink. Save me!" Thank you! I get to use my brain creatively now for a change. But next year: get a grip.
customers who think they have the right to waste my time: 20 minutes after closing time, when their daughter had tried every jazz shoe in the store and had finally made up her mind, a couple got very angry with me because I asked them if they were ready to pay for the shoes: "Excuuuuuuse me, but you don’t have to be so impolite. You’re standing behind that counter demonstrating how impatient you are to go home. We’re leaving. This is getting uncomfortable. I guess it’s extremely important for you to start your weekend right this minute, but I guess you’ll learn when you’re older." Learn what, exactly? That you’re entitled to waste people’s time because you have a lot of money and a cranky daughter who can’t make up her mind? By the way, standing behind the counter and using the cash register are basic parts of my job; I’m not doing this for you. You had decided to buy the shoes, and now I’m helping you do that, when I should have thrown you out. You should be feeling uncomfortable. Oh, well, good thing I’m young and have plenty of time to learn. It seems you haven’t learned much.
Update November 28th 2007: A similar list for people who sell cosmetics.
Update November 10th 2009: A similar list for people who answer customer service phone calls. This one applies to all forms of customer service, I think, including shop assistants.