How Do We Get Rid of Those Customers We’d Rather Not Have?

Over lunch with the manager of a craft store, I learned of a customer who regularly brings her ill behaved children to the store. They deliberately break things, tear signage, and in general leave a mess wherever they go. The employees cringe every time this customer shows up with kids in tow.

Last week, the customer decided to take her children to the store’s restroom, and was stopped by an employee. She was told they don’t have a public rest room, and that no non-employee was allowed in the back area.

The customer got indignant, got loud, and harrumphed out. The question during our lunch discussion of this story was about word-of-mouth. Do this woman’s friends know how her children behave? When they hear her story, will they automatically assume the store is in the wrong, or will they understand that their friend has parenting issues?

And, if these hypothetical friends are like our customer, do we want more of these people in our stores?

I don’t shop in craft stores, but I do wish parents of ill-behaved children would be encouraged not to bring them to dine at my favorite restaurants. Hearing about a place that defended my dining experience, by insisting that the parents reel in their kids or leave, might result in great word-of-mouth for people like me.

In Website design it’s common practice to create an anti-persona which represents a vendor’s biggest time wasters, and in hopes of driving off others like him, design a less than optimal experience for that personality. Is there a parallel in the bricks and mortar world? Have you seen this happen? How has it affected the store’s word of mouth?

I welcome your comments.


  1. GeezerGeek

    In 20 years of brick & mortar retailing as a Mom & Pop, we have encountered a handful of customers that became perpetual problems. The most recent was a customer who used a product for 6 months, then brought it back with problems. We fixed it free, observing that it was mis-use that cause the trouble. After carefully explaining what happened, we sent her on her way. A few months later she was back with the very same problem. We again fixed it free, and again pointed out how she was mis-using it. A few weeks later she called, furious, saying that she had a lemon and wanted it replaced. I realized that this would be folly, since she clearly would never use it correctly. I apologized for her problems, refunded her entire purchase price, and suggested a dealer closer to her home for her convenience. She was very satisfied with this. I sold her product as used, and wound up with about a $400 loss. However I got no bad word of mouth, and one of my competitors now has to deal with her.

  2. Ankesh Kothari

    Have your customer try this: when kids come to the store – tell them that they will get a candy while they are leaving but onlt if they behave.

    It works for many doctors clinics. Maybe it’ll work for your client too. And you won’t have to fire any customer.

    Or because its a craft store, maybe instead of candy, you could give the kids free bubbles… (soap water with a ring). Keep the kids busy and they wont cause a riot.

    (I don’t understand why the restrooms are not open to the public. Is it a cleaning issue? Or a theft issue or something?)

  3. Anonymous

    Morning Chuck,

    Whenever I have a customer like this I use brutal honesty. Saying things like “I’m sure you’re not deliberately try to offend/insult/be disruptive or whatever it is they are doing and asking them WHY they are doing what they are doing usually works in my favour. If they don’t respond, I’ll eventually tell them someone else needs to look after them. Life’s too short and money isn’t everything. If they give me bad word of mouth, at least it came from me being honest.

  4. Bill of SW FLA

    I think it was because of me and my 5 siblings that McDonalds, Burger King and now even the big box stores have a playground for children to get involved. I am not sure if our mother even has a clue what we used to do… There are places that embrace these kind of children… Do you think McDonalds after advertizing to kids and even making a kids meal would ever want to chase them off? Who knows these kids might end up being our best customers one day. I like the post with the candy, if they are good… and for the hyper kids make sure it’s the high futose kind… may be mom and dad won’t bring them back on their own.