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How Would You Deal With the Case of the Outsourced Sitter?

Which one should Bella believe?

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BELLA POURED HERSELF a big cup of coffee and snuggled up in her couch with her laptop and a calculator. It was Sunday morning and time to look at the sales for the week. She read the numbers out loud to herself as she tapped them into the calculator.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

LINDA LIEBRAND is a former marketing manager for a successful doggie spa and boutique who is now helping others promote their local pet businesses. She writes about pet biz marketing at
mybrandbuddy.com and can be reached at linda@mybrandbuddy.com.

“$250 for Molly the cat, plus $300 for Alfie the Weimaraner, and another $250 for Billy and Bob the twin kittens.” That’s $800 all in all, she thought and smiled to herself. The new pet-sitting part of her store was adding up nicely, and using independent contractors as well as employees had allowed her to expand her reach to neighboring towns too.

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She felt her phone buzz in her pocket, and she looked at the screen. It was an unknown number. She picked up and before she had a chance to say hello, an angry male voice started shouting in her ear.

“My whole house stinks of smoke! I thought you said this Helen was trustworthy? I found her on all fours in the living room picking up cigarette butts and beer bottles. The brand new rug is completely ruined, and my wife is in tears.”

“I’m sorry, who is this?” Bella asked, as she racked her brain to try and place his voice.

“It’s Morgan. Billy and Bob’s dad. Remember me? You said in the store that Helen would be perfect for looking after my boys, and now I come home to this mess.” the man replied. Bella immediately recalled the couple who had taken in two rescue kittens after their eldest child had gone to college.

Bella’s heart pounded wildly in her chest, but she managed to remain calm and asked to look into the situation and call him back. Morgan hung up the phone without another word.

She immediately dialed Helen’s number and got straight to voicemail. She left an angry message and asked Helen to please explain herself. An hour later her phone rang.

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“Hi Bella, it’s Helen. I have no idea what’s going on, I’m so confused. I went to the movies and got back to the cats late last night and found the house in this mess. So I got up early to clean up. Then Morgan and Louise showed up earlier than expected and started yelling at me. I think their kids might have let themselves in with friends and had a party while I was gone, I can’t imagine what else might have happened.”

Bella’s head was spinning and she felt conflicted and confused. She wanted to believe Helen, she really did, but it was the first time she had hired her and she didn’t really know her that well apart from a recommendation from a friend and the reviews her business had received on Facebook.

And if Helen was telling the truth about last night, then why hadn’t she told her about the situation before the clients came back home early to discover the mess? And why on earth did she go out that late when she was on a job in the first place? Now, thanks to her actions, Bella had a real problem on her hands. Thank goodness at least the cats were safe and accounted for.

The Big Questions

  • Who is responsible for the damages to the client’s property and why?
  • How should Bella respond to the client’s complaint?
  • What systems could Bella put in place to avoid this and similar problems from happening again?

Real Deal Responses: Expanded Online Version

Christine D.
Harrisburg, NC

Helen should have been in the home if she was being paid to be there. She should have called the owner of the business immediately and explained the situation. This would have allowed the owner to be proactive with the customers.

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Gretchen B.
St. Louis, MO

If you believe Helen, you let her know that a client is a client and regardless of whether they are right or wrong, you as the owner, need to make sure they are taken care of. She also gets paid; she did the job she was hired to do. It’s up to you to make sure clients are happy. If you don’t believe her, you still take care of Morgan’s house, and you fire Helen.

Mark D.
Eugene, OR

Some ways to prevent this: in-person interview, review a list of dos and don’ts, contract for expected behaviors, text check-in after every appointment, check references. Don’t trust your friends with your business.

Jay P.
Mystic, CT

Bella is responsible; she was the contractor. She should use her insurance to pay for it. Bella should vet her subcontractors and make sure they are not AWOL.

Dawn T.
Florida

Bella is responsible because she referred Helen when she should have done a better background check before actually utilizing her. Bella should apologize and offer to pay for damages. She should research backgrounds further, meet the individuals and follow up with previous clients and current clients.

Claudia L.
New Jersey

Getting to the truth does not matter; what matters is customer service. Bella should apologize and offer to make it right by offering to pay to have the house cleaned. She should also either not charge them for the sitting or reimburse them if they paid in advance. She should also do something a extra for the couple, like give them a cat goodie basket.

Lisa D.
Phoenix, AZ

It is the pet sitter’s fault. She was hired to do a job, and going out to the movies wasn’t part of it. She should have been at that house the whole time.

Colleen B.
Lake Villa, IL

I would require my sitters to be insured. I would do spot checks at the properties unannounced until you know the sitter personally. I would take before-and-after photos (or video) to ensure no attempted blame on previous damage. I would personally ask about the whereabouts of their college-age children and provide the ticket stub from the sitter as proof she was not there at the time and entered the home to this mess. Do not waste money on being bonded! Only way that pays out ever is if it is proven by the police that the sitter actually stole something.

Randy D.
Eldora, IA

Bella needs to tell Helen she needs to be at her job, not off doing something else. This is why this happened, and this is why Helen needs to pay Bella back for all damages that resulted. Bella needs to set rules and guidelines for her subcontractors in a written contract to avoid any misunderstandings in the future.

Kassi C.
Carlsbad, CA

Bella should respond to the client’s complaint by calmly calling the clients and asking them if their children or anyone who had access to the house was planning on coming over. She should then explain to the them what Helen told her, and wait for their response. If the clients response is that their children couldn’t have come over, then Bella should apologize for what happened and pay for the damages on the clients property. If the clients say, you know what maybe it was my kids, and then come to find out it was. Then the client should have to pay for the damages.

Bella can do more detailed background checks and reference checks of the people she hires. She can also have set in stone procedures for her contractors and employees, making sure that if they are on the clock that they come to the clients home at a certain time.

Eric M.
Columbus, NC

Bella needs to offer to have the house cleaned professionally. As the one who put this sitter into their home. I can understand a late movie, but it sounds like to me she had people over and got caught. Not sure I buy the kids came to have a party excuse. I’d terminate that relationship instantly. New sitters can’t be given overnights without vetting by owner(s). Also, insurance might be a good idea in this case, if it’s not already in the portfolio.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. pet business serving the public, you’re invited to join the PETS+ Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the pet industry. Sign up here.

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Real Deal

A Regular Customer of Snowy Paws Is Also One Who Returns Her Purchases Regularly. What’s a Store Owner to Do?

Read the case of the frequent returner.

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SWEEPING THE DUSTING of powdery snow away from the storefront and putting down pet-safe salt, Taylor was looking forward to the Winterfest Weekend in the beautiful mountain resort town where Snowy Paws is located.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at . nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com

During the bustling ski season, the store is quite busy from November through April, and this weekend was one of the busiest in February. The boutique caters to both high-end clientele who come into town to ski, with touristy, kitschy items and regular pet supplies for local year-round residents. To cater to all clientele can be a challenge.

As Taylor sprinkled the salt, one of her top costumers was walking her year-old Golden Doodle across the street and waved, “Hi Taylor! We’ll be in later today!”

“Looking forward to seeing you both!” Taylor replied, waving back. “I have some new treats for Oliver to try!”

Sharon smiled, waved and continued her walk. Taylor went into the shop to open up and said to Kurt her store assistant, “Sharon just said she will be in later,” smirking to him. “I wonder what she is going to try to return today. Actually, can you look up and see what she did purchase the last time she was in?”

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“Sure,” Kurt said walking over to the computer that was also the register. “She just bought dog food, so I don’t think she will be bringing that back,” he chuckled. “Although, nothing would surprise me with her.”

As the day went on, Taylor forgot about Sharon and Oliver, until the jingle of the front door rang as the door opened. Turning to see it was Sharon and Oliver rushing in from the snow, Taylor noticed Sharon had a Snowy Paws store bag in hand.

Smiling at them and grabbing some treats, Taylor walked over and said, “How are you both doing today? Ready for this weekend?”

“Well, almost. We have friends and family coming in tonight — and wanted to make sure I got here before the festivities begin!” Sharon said, smiling. “So you know how much I loved this dog harness when I got it for Ollie, but it seems to be fraying a bit.”

Taylor examined the harness, seeing that Oliver had clearly chewed on it. “Hmm, do you remember when you bought this?”

“Well I am not sure exactly, but probably within the last month.”

“OK, let’s check to see if we can pull up when you purchased it,” Taylor said, looking at the computer. “It looks like you purchased this about 8 months ago …. I am not sure if the manufacturer will take it back after all these months and replace it —”

“Well you know I am in here weekly,” Sharon said. “I am sure you can do something for me. Perhaps another, better harness would work for Oliver?”

Taylor spotted Kurt over Sharon’s shoulder making a face.

Sharon was a local well-to-do resident who was a frequent shopper, but she was also someone who was always bringing product back to return long past Snowy Paw’s return policy.

Taylor would normally take a product back that wasn’t so obviously chewed up by the dog, but this was really damaged. “Well, it does look like Oliver may have gotten a hold of this harness and damaged it,” she said.

Sharon looked at her blankly and then down to Oliver and said, “You didn’t do that did you? The harness must not be high quality. What do you think, Ollie?”

The Big Questions

  • How should Taylor handle a frequent customer who seemingly takes advantage of what she spends versus adhere to the store’s return policy?
  • What kind of return policy can Taylor put into place and be better about enforcing at her store?
  • Is it even viable to have a return policy in this day and age competing with online e-commerce sites?

Expanded Real Deal Responses

Elvis J.
San Rafael, CA

This customer is what my friend calls a “taker.” Takers do not realize what they are doing because they can’t see beyond there own actions. As a store owner, it is difficult to tell them what they are doing is wrong, because the taker will not understand. Each time they try to return something you have to evaluate whether you want this customer to continue buying from you. If they are returning 80 percent of what they are purchasing, it would be smart to “shut off the spigot,” so to speak. Having strong policies about returns is an option, but generally most manufacturers have a no-questions-asked return policy, so a store owner should pass that along. At my store, we take all returns. All dog and cat food is guaranteed, and we extend that to all merch. And a good way to prevent abuse of a liberal, no-questions return policy is to encourage with a very strong voice that an exchange for more merchandise is really more beneficial for all parties involved.

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Mary Beth K.
Kennebunkport, ME

It sounds like Taylor and her staff are already accustomed to stroking this customer’s ego, so Taylor should start out by thanking Sharon for being such a loyal customer and let her know how much she values her business, enjoys her visits with her and Oliver, etc. Then Taylor needs to remind Sharon all puppies, no matter how cute and well behaved, will chew given the opportunity. If the harness is 8 months old, chances are Oliver needs a “big boy” harness anyway and Taylor should suggest a more size-appropriate option, and maybe some new chew toys. Perhaps Taylor could offer up a new toy for Oliver to “test” and ask Sharon to give her feedback, reinforcing Sharon’s importance and value (i.e., her ego).

Greg F.
Scottsdale, AZ

I would politely remind Sharon of the return policy but offer her a good discount on a replacement harness. She will probably accept that offer as she knows what really happened. You need to take care of your good customers, while trying not to break the bank. Service with a smile. Remember that a satisfied customer will only tell three or four others about the experience, while a dissatisfied customer will tell two to four times as many people about their poor experience. Play the odds and send them away happy.

Jim L.
PembroKe, MA

Tell Sharon that it’s obvious that the dog has chewed the halter and that is no fault of the manufacturer. You can offer her a 10 percent discount, or a number of your choosing, to console her on her new purchase.

Carla C.
Upland, CA

The store should exchange the harness. Her business is worth more than the wholesale price of a harness.

CJ
Tom’s River, NJ

Swallow the loss. But be sure to say that the return value should be in exchange and not cash, plus that you are doing a favor by allowing it. Last, smile and give her a charm or some other inexpensive but really nice product for free. I promise the returns will stop. For more information, read Influence by Robert Cialdini for social/group dynamic tricks to contain bad behaviors in humans. I used Influence to grow my business, which was purchased in bankruptcy four years ago, from about 25 clients per month to over 150.

Ramie G.
Evanston, IL

We try to prevent returns in the first place. We give out food and treat samples, we have toy demos, and we fit dogs for harnesses and coats, boots, costumes like Nordstrom’s shoe department. Good service can prevent some returns. If your customer returns everything she buys, how valuable is she? The time you spend with her is time you are not spending with someone else. But does she bring in business, friends, family, neighbors, etc.? Where will she shop, if not with you? Be nice and polite, but you can say no with a smile and hopefully not lose her forever.

Frank F.
Farmingdale NJ

Take it back … no questions asked! 100 percent guaranteed! And thank her for letting you know. Yes, return policies are necessary, mostly to give our customers a guideline as well as to provide our sales team with an additional tool to demonstrate to our customers that we are willing to break the rules for them, either “this one time” or “since they are such a good customer.”

Audree B.
Fort Lauderdale, FL

You could have been talking about my customer. Our return policy is clearly printed at the register and on the receipts. However, we do make exceptions depending on the situation. In this case, if the harness is being returned due to a manufacturer’s defect, we’d take it back. Or if they manufacturer had a policy that they’d replace a chewed harness. If it’s being returned just do to normal wear and tear, we’d have to enforce the policy. We explain that our vendor restricts our ability to submit returns after 90 days (or what ever time frame we state on our return policy). We have done this, but we do explain that we’re itty bitty and try really hard to keep our prices fair.

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Stacy D.
Providence, RI

Have a 30-day return policy for everyone. If she can’t enforce it, say it is a state policy. The store isn’t making money if a customer returns everything they buy.

Danielle F.
Datyon, OH

As the owner of a retail business, every once in a while you’ve just had enough. We can do the math and understand the lifetime value of a customer. But when the customer’s value goes negative, it’s time to fire them. First, don’t fire the customer in the heat of the moment. It’s not the way you should do business. If you find yourself in that place, take a deep breath, and finish the transaction in front of you. Acknowledge that you’re angry. In the calm moments decide if the lifetime value is worth what you’re going through. Next, make a decision if the negative feedback is worth the hassle of having that person as a customer. Once you’ve made the decision to let them go, happily send them to your competitor. The next time the customer comes in, have a calm conversation. Explain that your ultimate goal is to make them happy and hand them off to a competitor. There is no reason to make an unfriendly return policy based on one bad customer.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. pet business serving the public, you’re invited to join the PETS+ Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the pet industry. Sign up here.

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Real Deal

When One Dog Scuffles With Another While Being Trained By Your Staff, What Do You Need to Do?

A new dog-training service at a pet boutique gets off to a bad start.

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SHAWN ALWAYS WANTED TO add dog-training services to his small pet retail store in SoHo in New York City, but he has limited space inside to host classes. After three years in business, he finally partnered with a good friend and seasoned dog trainer, Cory, to start offering individual dog-training services.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

NANCY E. HASSEL is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com

Saturday mornings are always the busiest at Shawn’s store, with pet parents out and about with their pups in this dog-friendly and popular area of the city. While checking out a customer’s purchase, Shawn’s cellphone was ringing. Looking down at the phone he saw it was Cory, who had left with a new client’s dog a half hour before. Shawn picked up, “Hey, hold on. I’m ringing up a customer.”

“OK, there you go, have a great day, and we will see you and Max soon!” Shawn said, handing a bag of dog treats to his customer, and then returned to his cellphone.

“Hey, how’s your session going?” he asked. “What? Wait, slow down, I can’t understand … what? How did that happen?” Shawn could feel his heart beating in his chest. Realizing that another customer was in the pet toy aisle right across from him, Shawn turned, walked a few feet away and quietly said, “Is anyone hurt? Is the dog OK?”

“Um … well, uh, I was evaluating the dog as we were walking, doing simple training along the way,” Cory said. “Remember his owner said he is sometimes leash-aggressive? But he was doing great with me … until someone walked by with their small dog on a retractable leash. The small dog rushed over right into Duke’s face, and that’s when Duke went a ballistic and tried to get the little dog.”

“Oh no!” Shawn exclaimed. “Where are you now? Is the owner still there?”

“The owner left with the dog, said they were to the vet around the corner,” Cory said. “I think that his dog will be OK. It seemed like more growling than anything else from Duke. He wouldn’t show me if the dog was actually injured, or they were just both startled. It didn’t look like Duke put his mouth on the little dog, but he was growling and the little dog screamed. I had Duke back into a sit stay very quickly.”

“Did he take your information, or did you get his information?” Shawn asked.

“Well he took my card, but I was not able to get his info because he was so upset and wanted to go the vet right away. I told him to contact me to let me know how the dog is.”

Shawn let out a big sigh. “Man, I hope the dog is OK, and they contact you, well, contact us, to let us know how the dog is …”

“Yeah, me too. I am heading back now with Duke,” Cory said. “We will see you in a bit and figure out what to do, and we have to call his owner,” Cory said.

“OK, see you soon,” replied Shawn. Shaking his head, Shawn was now worried what would happen next.

The Big Questions

  • How should Shawn handle this when the small dog owner calls?
  • If your store offered a training service like this, how do you deal with the legalities of a situation like this?
  • Shawn is nervous now about continuing offering this service, what should he do?

Real Deal Responses

Iva K. Stow, MA

The business owner must show genuine concern for the small dog and its owner. This will go a long way. I would suggest a policy about retractable leads on visitors as well. In the least, insist on them being locked as soon as you see one in your store. After the situation has calmed down, someone should try to talk to the small dog owner about their personal responsibility in this event. 

Dawn T. Vero Beach, FL

First of all, to evaluate a dog it should be in a controlled circumstance, not out in the public area. Second, once you are out in the public, there should be two trainers as to have protection if a small dog such as this came running up to a leash-aggressive dog in training. Third, have the business as well as the trainer insured for cases like this. 

Karen C. Delavan, WI

We have offered training for over 20 years. There really is no way to avoid what happened in the story if you are out in public training. The key is to know what to do when it does! Our training takes place inside until the dogs have good skills and the owners are confident in their handling skills. A dog going after another dog is real life and what we train for! We cover what to do if this scenario happens, and frankly it has happened in class with student dogs. To protect yourself as an owner is important. Have a policy in place and be prepared to pay some vet bills if there is an injury. The trainer should carry insurance as well. Luckily, these skirmishes aren’t usually serious but are a great learning experience.

Carolyn B. McHenry, IL

Personally, I would have immediately gone to the vet’s office. I would want to be present to see for myself what the injuries are or are not, so that I can better understand how to handle the situation. When/if the owner calls, Shawn’s first reaction should be, “How is the dog?” Shawn should then apologize for the situation and listen to the owner. Establish whether there was damage and to what extent. If there was, he should offer to pay the vet bill. If there was no damage, Shawn should offer a free service of some sort; assure the owner that he is handling the matter and reviewing protocol with his trainer. Review what happened to determine whether the trainer is competent and whether he could have prevented the incident. Review protocol with the trainer and discuss how to handle situations before they occur to avoid the current incident.

Bob W. Colorado Springs, CO

Since this did not happen at the store, why is the store even involved? If Shawn’s insurance does not include liability ($2 million/$4 million), he should make sure his policy does, should the incident happen at his store. His trainer is an independent contractor and needs his own insurance listing Shawn’s place as co-insured.

Marcia C. Springfield, VA

If your insurance pays a claim, have the injured party sign a non-disclosure agreement that prevents them from further claims from this injury as well as from making slanderous/libelous comments about your business in person or in social media.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. pet business serving the public, you’re invited to join the PETS+ Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the pet industry. Sign up here.

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Real Deal

When A Store Owner Politely Admonishes A Boy Wreaking Havoc, the Mother Threatens to Retaliate by Writing Negative Reviews

Here’s how members of our Brain Squad responded.

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DIANA ALWAYS LIKED to take part in her local Chamber of Commerce meetings to network with other store owners. At this event, the topic of out-of-control kids came up, and stories started flowing across the table of business owners.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at . nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com

“It’s not surprising how kids coming into our pet store can really think it is a toy store for humans,” Diana said during the meeting. She was seated next to the local hardware store owner, Tom. “The bright colors, toys modeled after cartoon characters, different types of balls — I can see how they may be confused by this. But you would think that their parents would pay attention to their behavior in any store.”

“Oh you are preaching to the choir, Diana,” Tom said. “We had two pricy items broken recently by a young girl who just knocked them off the shelf. Her parents acted like it was our fault!”

“Wow!” Diana said. “That is terrible. What did she break?”

“We sell handpainted ceramic accents in our garden section — and if I didn’t know any better I would swear this kid just smashed them on the ground to get her parents’ attention,” Tom said.

“I just don’t get it. If dog owners let their dogs act crazy everywhere they went, people would say something or call them out on social media about it!” Diana said. “The other day, one of our good customers, who usually shops alone, came in with her young son and her friend. Her son was completely out of control while there.”
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“What happened?” Tom asked.

“Her son, who was probably 8 years old, was bouncing one of the larger Kong squeaky tennis balls, and his mother was not even trying to stop him. Shocker, right? Then he started throwing it around the store. It bounced off of several displays and knocked over some merchandise and almost broke some of our ceramic dog bowls,” Diana said with a look of disbelief on her face.

“So I said to him, ‘OK, Steven, please stop throwing the ball — you are going to break something — and can you please give me the ball?’ This kid looked at me and threw the ball at me with a loud grunt! He missed me and hit one of our treat displays, knocking a couple bags onto the ground.”

Tom was shaking his head listening.

“And then his mother, who was talking to her friend and not paying attention to Steven, said, all while giving me a nasty look, ‘Let’s go! Steven, come on — time to go.’ And she and her friend and her son left the store. I couldn’t get over why she looked so mad at me. I didn’t do anything wrong, and I even said ‘please’ two times! But later that night I got the most passive-aggressive email from her,” Diana said.

“Really? Wow! What did it say?”

“She basically said how she loves our store, but it was unacceptable the way I spoke to her son,” Diana said.

“What?” Tom said. “No …”

“Yup, and went on to say that if I didn’t apologize to her and her son, she would give us bad reviews on Google and Facebook and tell everyone how rude I was to her and her son,” Diana said shaking her head.

“That is unbelievable — I hope they never come into my store!” Tom said, “But seriously, what are you going to do? What did you reply with?”

“I don’t know,” Diana said. “I haven’t replied to her yet. What would you do?”

The Big Questions

  • How should Diana reply to the mother?
  • What can a business do to keep kids under control
  • If the customer does begin bashing Diana’s store online, how should she respond?

Real Deal Responses

Marvin S.

Grand Junction, CO

I think she handled it correctly. I would have acted in the same way, only sooner and more firmly. As far as the reviews, I would respond and suggest that she pay attention to her son’s actions when they are out shopping. I would guess he acts this way wherever they are. If a review is written, she can do two things: Ignore it or respond with the facts. Customers will see all the good reviews and see the one bad and realize that there is something wrong with that review.

Terri E.

Salem, OR

I would apologize to the mother and explain that you were concerned about her son breaking something and accumulating a bill for her to pay. It’s not worth the fight to be right. When children come in with their parents, as soon as I can, I reach for the stickers and ask them to choose two to put on the back of their hands. The parents appreciate the attention we pay to their child. It takes the child’s attention off our inventory. I’ve also been known to pull a toy off the shelf, hand it to the child and ask them to find where it belongs and put it away for me. I tell them I need help. Recently, we had an anniversary party with a Hairy Potter theme. We gave the leftover glasses to kids who came in. Find a way to distract them. Talk to them. Ask them questions. Pay attention to them. Parents will appreciate it too.
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Chip B.

Black Mountain, NC

Directly, there is very little you can do. I try to address misbehaving kids with “Be careful, sweetie,” so that it comes from a place of concern rather than judgment. Indirectly, there are a number of things. I closed my fish room largely because of misbehaving or unattended children. Any pet beds, cat trees, etc. are put up really high where kids can’t reach them. I wouldn’t reply to a review at all. Perhaps the customer will either move on or share her story with someone and hopefully have her perspective changed. And if she is that unreasonable, there’s not much that can be said to her that will have a productive outcome.

Lisa G.

Millville, NJ

Here’s how she might respond: “I didn’t mean to make anyone feel unwelcome. I try to take care of my store, the same way that you take care of your home. Do you normally throw tennis balls in your living room, kitchen or dining room? I have a lot of merchandise for sale, and I like to keep everything in good condition. Unfortunately it’s not designed like a playroom. Some of the merchandise is fragile. Even if the stuff doesn’t break, people like to purchase new things that appear to be in excellent condition. If I offended you or your son, I’m sorry. Please accept my apology. I simply asked him to refrain from playing with a ball while inside of my store. A display was knocked over and it took some time to fix. Thankfully nothing was damaged. Please feel free to visit whenever you want something new for your pet.

Nancy G.

Fredericksburg, VA

First, she should respond to the customer within the first 24 hours. The longer people wait for a response, the worse it gets. I have had this exact scenario, and I responded immediately by calling the customer personally. I apologized to the customer and explained that I was sorry she felt that my employee was rude to her and her children, but I also explained that sometimes we have to ask children to not throw things or pull on items because we don’t want them or other people in the store to get hurt. If I were in this exact situation, I would have also pointed out that she may not have seen that he threw a ball directly at me. This is where cameras come in handy because I’ve also sent a video clip to a customer to let them see what actually happened in our store. Usually an apology for them being upset and explaining your side solves the issue.

Trace M.

Houston, TX

We provide a little free library, and I invite energetic kids to help me put things away or do a quick section of inventory. In this case, the online response should be the same or similar to the personal response: “Thank you so much for your feedback. I can tell how much this means to you, and I’m sorry I upset you with a tone that was unintentional. We operate with a grade-school philosophy when it comes to kids: I don’t go to your house and break your toys; please don’t break mine. When it happens, just as I would expect my child or your child to feel upset, we get upset. Our customers are like family, and so we address and move through an upset and then hopefully past it. Please come back and enjoy alternative activities to keep your child busy while you shop stress-free.”

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