Have you walked into a restaurant or a hotel lobby, reception or a banking hall or an airline lounge and the attendant appraises your appearance, your dressing to determine the level of courtesy, respect or politeness you get?
It seems that customers get treated nicely, if the attendants assume them to be very wealthy, based on their dressing. Conversely, if a customer dresses very simply or casually or even shabbily they get cold treatment. No smiles. No courtesies or politeness. Such a customer is assumed not to be affluent and as such the customer gets a rude off handed and impolite treatment.
Oftentimes, such a customer might be seen as wasting the time of the attendants, because the potential customer may not have much to offer and may not even buy the items, it may just be window shopping which to the shop attendant, is a waste of their time.
Some years back, I travelled by greyhound from Johannesburg to Durban. It was my first. I had underrated the weather in Durban based on the heat at J’burg. So I was clad in an army green combat shorts with a camouflage tee shirt. I also spotted a sun hat that was no longer necessary when I arrived Durban.
My host had booked a hotel for me, but it was only going to be available by 12.00noon. This meant I was going to be awake all day after traveling for over six hours.
So, I wanted to do some sight seeing. I noticed very nice hotels along the Durban Beach side. I asked how much it was to lodge in these hotels. My host seemed bewildered that I was looking at and asking for rates four star hotels which to him also was far above my budget and status.
I noticed the way the receptionists and managers of Southern Hotel looked and me and rolled their eyes when I walked into the hotel reception as though I was a lost sheep and I was in the wrong place. They looked at themselves again and rolled their eyes. Some even chuckled at me.
Have you ever walked into a place casually dressed and the shop attendant has already prejudged that you are in the wrong place and can not afford their items?
Have you walked into a banking hall and you were casually dressed and noticed that the customer care people only have due regards and attention to those in suits and corporately dressed? They tended to show them more courtesy than those who were dressed perhaps like traders?
Shop attendance and customer care officers even in hotels decide whom they want to smile for, open doors for sometimes and greet politely.
This is because they assume those very flamboyantly dressed must be the very wealthy ones from whom some tips would come. The causally dressed ones aren’t likely to be wealthy and so, it was a waste of their time and a waste of their smile.
I was delayed for nearly two hours at Dubai airport by immigration Officers because I was wearing just jeans and tee shirt with my hand luggage. I nearly missed my flight when they were finished with me. I decided I would always travel in suit because the perception was different and somehow you got treated nicely if you dressed very corporately.
I can imagine how people like Bill Gates or Mark Zukerburg or Late Steve Jobs would have been treated if they were not facially recognized at some of these outlets.
Oprah recounted once how she was shabbily treated at a shop in Europe because she wanted to price a bag.
She wasn’t particularly interested in buying it, but the shop attendant told her, point blank that she was pricing bags that were beyond her financial reach that she should go to an area that was within her purse range.
Oprah got upset and insisted she wanted the bag. The lady was shocked to she Oprah paying for the bag simply because she was casually dressed and she didn’t know who Oprah was. Clearly.
So, I told the manager of the hotel because of the condescending treatment I got that I wanted to stay in their hotel for four days. The manager’s pen dropped from his hands his jaw dropped open and he started trying to be polite and courteous to me. I asked for his supervisor and wanted to report them for treating a customer without respect and courtesy because they assumed he couldn’t afford the hotel rates. All through my stay at the hotel, everyone tried to make up for their wrong presumption that I couldn’t afford to stay in the hotel because I was wearing combat shots and tee shirt.
This wouldn’t have been the case if I had just walked in dressed in a very expensive suit, but same person.
Here’s is my advise to business owners. Please carry our mystery shopping on your businesses. Disguise to see how your shop or business attendant treat those they assumed were not very well off financially.
I watched a program called “Bosses”. In the program, big franchise owners for gyms, Funiture companies or coffee shops would disguise as potential customers seeking for help to do business with the attendants.
This particular attendant was taking selfies and talking on the phone. She completely ignored the boss who owned the franchise, unknown to her. And when she decided to attend to him, she was very rude. I need not add that she was sacked.
I entered a shop at Heathrow Terminal 5 and a shop attendant was practically walking out customers because her teller machine was faulty. Whereas she had another shop upstairs that she could have politely asked the customers to come upstairs for payment.
I mentally calculated over £25,000 she had lost within a span of 30 mins. I just wanted to buy ink for my pen which cost just £10. I couldn’t walk past this. I cautioned her and she talked back at me. I told her she didn’t know if I was the owner of the shop and she was letting businesses walk past her. That was when she came to her senses.
This is another reason businesses are going down, because shop attendants and employees take it upon themselves to prejudge customers who are wealthy to treat nicely and those who they assume don’t seem to have the means, they assume from their dressing they treat shabbily.