"Every single one of my regular customers was delightful– it felt like a community and I generally had a great time in the shop. It was a plus-size store, and we offered free alterations, so everything that left my shop fitted beautifully. This was the cause of great customer loyalty, as the women become accustomed to their clothing fitting them perfectly. However, it was not a cheap shop; it was premium clothing for special occasions, meaning that dresses could be very expensive.
This particular lady was someone I had never seen before– she didn’t normally buy designer apparel, and had come in to buy a dress for her son’s wedding. All went well, she picked out a gorgeous silk dress and we had it altered. The lady had curvature of the spine, meaning that the alterations took several painstaking fittings. The process actually cost me about a £100 (making the dress a financial loss for me), but I didn’t care. I offered free alterations for all, and everyone got the same offer, no matter what it took. I was only too happy to see this lady look just as superb as everyone else and pay the same price. She looked amazing and she was blissfully happy (for possibly the first time in her life). It was almost impossible to see that she had any physically diverse shape.
However, her blissful mood didn’t last long. During the protracted period this tailoring process took, the store went into our annual summer sale, where our discounts were substantial. That dress, had it been bought during the sale, would probably have cost perhaps £200 less (no free alterations, though). The lady spotted this and was furious. I tried telling her I wasn’t able to warn everybody about the sale a month before; I never even knew myself when it was going to start (it was all down to sales figures). Also, her particular dress was actually sold out long before the sale. She wouldn’t have got it at all had she waited. However, she told me she wanted the difference between the sale price and what she paid refunded. She was incandescent with real rage, something I had never seen before and was very surprising under the circumstances. However, money can be an extremely motivating force to some people.
When she realized that wasn’t going to happen, she started to say she wanted a refund or substantial discount because there was something wrong with the ‘hang’ of the finished dress (it was immaculate). She said that with it looking ‘substandard’ and ‘embarrassing’ (she actually said it would be an ‘insult’ to her son to wear it to his wedding). She saw no inconsistency when she told me she was prepared to take it (and presumably ask her son to swallow the insult by wearing it to his wedding), but only at the sale price.
After I had politely demurred (and she had failed to show the dress to 'Trading Standards,' even after I had found her their contact details), she decided to become a 'Saturday Shouter.' This is a person who comes into a store on what they know is the busiest day, shouting for all to hear about their grievance. It works because the unfortunate retailer realizes that the loss of custom from upset customers can outweigh the refund amount, meaning that they decide to cut their losses.
The lady was obviously very experienced at this and came storming into my store whilst it was full of customers at the busiest time of the day. She may have done this kind of thing before, but never in MY store.
The two assistants that were working with me looked at each other and braced themselves– this was something that only usually happened in OTHER stores.
She immediately launched into a tirade about the poor quality dress, badly altered. My regulars (for they were her audience) gathered round in a state of sympathy, shock, curiosity…many differing emotions. When they saw it was an Anna Scholz dress, they earnestly assured her that, far from being ‘rubbish,’ it was of the best quality. They also reassured her that any problems would be instantly rectified in 'this shop.'
They then set about trying to get the lady to try on the dress to show them all the defects. She was extremely unwilling to do so, but the peer pressure she had wanted to use on me had become targeted on her, so she went into the changing room and tried it on.
When she came out, a small crowd of women had gathered– 8 pairs of eyes greeted her as she emerged, wearing the dress. There was an audible intake of breath. Often, the transformation when someone puts on a gorgeous designer dress can be breathtaking. One goes from an everyday person to ‘red-carpet-ready.'
There was audible disbelief the lady felt anything other than gorgeous, beautiful, elegant, and lovely in every way. The customers, all wonderful women (and, if I am honest, not people who really concerned themselves with money, and didn’t recognize that as a motivation in others), really couldn’t understand what the problem was….until the 'penny dropped.'
The women concluded the lady, far from being a 'Saturday Shouter' (the customers had never heard of such a thing) was actually someone with body dysmorphia, not an unusual situation in a plus-size store. They believed she was so self-critical that she couldn’t see her own beauty. It became their mission to encourage her to see how lovely she was. She was hit with a tidal wave of love, as women implored her to see herself for her true qualities, relax, and really enjoy her family celebration. They tossed aside any thoughts about any faults in the dress, the gorgeousness of which they felt only illuminated the woman’s problem.
One customer (a beautiful lady who, notwithstanding being a size 24, no one would ever think could have had a problem with her looks), with tears in her eyes, revealed to the warmhearted group her whole life had improved once she had decided to be kind to herself. There was a murmur of appreciation, but my eyes were fixed on the disgruntled customer. Her expression resembled a bulldog chewing on a wasp. I just about stopped myself from laughing.
I busied myself with putting the kettle on and one of my staff started to arrange a little mid-morning snack.
Looking impatient and frustrated, the lady went back into the changing room, changed back into her usual outfit, and tried to free herself from the self-appointed counseling team. She wriggled through the throng to get to me and was greeted with a smile and an offer of tea and a piece of cake.
Ultimately, she left the store still clutching the dress we all knew would make her look knockout at her son’s wedding. Had she ever suffered from any anxieties about her looks (I hadn’t spotted any, actually, and it was a problem that I was accustomed to watching out for), she would have been cleared of them for life.
The wave of love and admiring comments followed her all the way down the road to the car park."