Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Morning Quickies: “Should I Cut Off My Bigoted Client?”

I’m a self-employed hairstylist. While I pride myself on being a dedicated listener and keep an open and nonjudgmental mindset with each of my customers, I have one client who always finds ways to make me uncomfortable. She’s an older woman who is very high maintenance and has biweekly appointments. Every week she moves her appointment several times because she travels a lot. Not only does it feel like she doesn’t respect my time, but this makes me uncomfortable with possible Covid exposures. While I recognize I can’t control if people travel or not, she is always out of town and putting me at risk regularly. She often talks about the conferences she leads about anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality. She has no idea that I’m bisexual and side with pro-choice. This week she said that gay people deserve to feel deep shame. I don’t reply much to these topics and she eventually changes the subject.

Last week my city had a blizzard and the temperature was -19 degrees. My salon was losing power… like most of the country. She had already rescheduled her appointment twice prior, and her appointment fell on the snow day. When I asked if we could reschedule, she said she couldn’t wait any longer and needed her hair done that day. I got my car cleaned off and shoveled my path… and then she texted and said her street wasn’t plowed so we should reschedule. I feel like she doesn’t have any respect for my well-being or really just me as a person. I know this isn’t personal — she would do this to anyone. My conflict is continuing this client relationship. I feel like I’m compromising my integrity and self-respect to meet her needs. I’m afraid of bringing this up; I’m afraid she’ll publicly attack me. One part of me says, “Just suck it up; she pays you good money” and the other half says, “No money is worth this.” What should I do? — Making the Cut

It’s not that you simply feel that she doesn’t respect you as a person or care about your well-being. She *doesn’t* care about you. And it IS personal. It’s personal because even though she’s an asshole in general, when her asshole behavior directly affects you, that’s personal. And you’re right that no money is worth your well-being and health being put at risk. And, in fact, she may actually be *costing* you money when you are reserving time slots for her that she cancels at the last minute and those slots could have been filled by other clients. I would refrain from mentioning personal differences you have or your discomfort with her gross bigotry and simply tell her that you’re sorry but you can no longer see her as a client. Of course, as entitled as she is, she will push back, she’ll ask why, she’ll accuse you of being unfair and unprofessional, etc. Hold your ground. Tell her that her multiple schedule changes are not a match for your business. That doesn’t give her much to publicly attack about you, but she might still try. Fortunately, people who are assholes generally don’t command much respect for their personal judgment, and the kind of people who might consider her opinion important probably aren’t the kind of clients you’d want anyway. Think of cutting her off as a safety precaution. Doing so not only offers you another layer of protection against Covid, but also offers a protection against the emotional damage she and her ilk are likely to continue creating by their entitlement, selfishness, and complete lack of regard for others.

I know that my issue is not a major problem or the need for immediate attention and that it can be put in the back burner, but I don’t know what to think or do at the moment. I asked my trusted coworker, and he just yelled at me and called me a name and he wouldn’t even listen to my whole story on the phone. He just cut me off. Normally he would listen to my other stories as a friend and would give me some kind of advice. Now I don’t know what to do or say.

There is a customer who always gives me candies and chocolate whenever he sees me at work. We don’t talk much — just the basic polite greetings. But he seems really friendly because he gives me the sweet treats. He always looks for me to give me candies, and even from a far distance he calls out my name and waves his hand at me. My coworker told me to be careful with this man because he could follow me home without my knowing (potential stalker?). He had asked me about my working schedule and I told him. Then on my last work day, he didn’t give me candies or chocolate but he instead gave me a HALF-CUT COOKIE! I thought it was weird to give someone half a cookie. And he told me to write down his phone number on the cookie bag. He hasn’t said much more. My coworker told me to throw away the cookie and I did, but my coworker didn’t say anything about the phone number when I asked him. I have not called that customer because I don’t know if I should or not. I mean, I don’t want to have any problem at work because he is our customer and more likely he will continue to shop at our business.

The problem is my mouth speaks faster than I can think. — That’s How the (Half) Cookie Crumbles

 
Don’t engage with this customer. Stop accepting sweets from him. Simply tell him “No, thank you” if he offers anything again. Keep saying “No, thank you.” Don’t call his phone number. Don’t give him your number or any personal information, including your work schedule. If he asks, say “No, thank you.” Or, “No, thank you, I don’t share personal information with our customers.” The next time he harasses you, report him to your manager. And keep your distance from the coworker who called you a name. That person is not a “friend.” He is not a “trusted coworker.” He’s just another dude who isn’t interested in your well-being or comfort. Any advice he’s given you is likely self-serving, and any help to you that has resulted in said advice is likely coincidental and not purposeful. None of the men in this scenario have your best interests at heart. In the future, go to your real friends – or an unbiased advice columnist – for advice and not to a coworker who has been disrespectful to you.

***************Follow along on Facebook,  and Instagram. If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

20 comments… add one
  • avatar

    FYI February 22, 2021, 11:18 am

    LW1 — Cut her off without a shred of doubt. Just say, “Sorry, I’m all booked up.”

    LW2 — I don’t know whether the co-worker is self-serving. I think he may have become annoyed about all of LW’s questions on what to do. Co-worker warned her (accurately, it seems) that the customer is a creep, and now LW is asking co-worker, “Should I call his number?” I mean — what? Why? Why would you call a creep on the phone??! It’s like she’s intentionally walking right into Creep City and wants co-worker to do — what? Listen to her talk about it? I wouldn’t call her a name (not cool), but I might be irritated too.

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  • avatar

    LisforLeslie February 22, 2021, 11:22 am

    LW#1- yes, please fire your client. You don’t have to tell her why, you can just say that you won’t be able to fit her in. Just make it impossible to schedule with her if you think she might damage your reputation.

    LW#2 – if a customer is making you uncomfortable, you are allowed to say “I’m sorry, but I don’t feel comfortable accepting gifts from you.” you can also tell your management that this person is making you uncomfortable and that you’d like some management oversight when he’s around. If management won’t do anything, they suck at protecting their employees and you might need to look for a new job.

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  • avatar

    ron February 22, 2021, 11:49 am

    I can see co-worker getting tired of this saga with customer, in which LW seems to swing between liking and not liking customer’s attention and dithering over calling the number. So how good a friend he is depends upon what name he actually called her. You’re being an idiot, or fool, gullible, or risk-taker, or drama queen do not seem inappropriate to the situation. Harsh, but very much on point. LW should talk to her boss/HR about this customer.

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    • avatar

      Sea Witch February 22, 2021, 12:31 pm

      I get the impression that LW is very young and was brought up to always be “nice”. It’s common for young women, even in this day and age. They’re taught from early childhood that saying no or setting boundaries is rude.

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  • avatar

    Sea Witch February 22, 2021, 12:29 pm

    LW1: look at it this way – all those appointments that she’s cancelled at the last minute could have gone to OTHER paying customers who were not so high maintenance or vile and hateful. Stop taking her appointments. Find some reason that works for you.

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  • avatar

    Rebecca February 22, 2021, 12:32 pm

    LW2, where are *you* in any of this? The customer asked you for your schedule, so you gave it. The customer told you to write down his number, so you did. Your coworker told you to throw away the cookie, so you did it.

    What do YOU want? What are YOUR preferences? If your mouth speaks faster than you can think, tell people to slow their roll, decide what it actually is that YOU want, and then do that!

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    • avatar

      Anonymous February 25, 2021, 5:48 pm

      @Rebecca, Thank you for the great advice. Your questions making me think and realized WHY did I never put me first but always put others and their feelings before me. I rarely do what I want to do but I always do what other want to do and do what other tell me what to do. Sometimes I feel I’m losing a piece of me. Growing up FREE WILL and INDEPENDENT are not given or encourage or taught when young but something I now must fight for myself along the way.

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  • avatar

    Kate February 22, 2021, 1:58 pm

    For the people that are saying just tell her you’re busy – The thing is, she’ll just keep calling back and taking it out on the receptionist. It needs to be stated, like Wendy said, that the salon can’t continue to serve her. Just gently but firmly. And that’s because of all of the changes in scheduling, the salon just can’t accommodate that, particularly with covid restrictions in place. The owner may have to get on the phone and communicate it. Don’t leave it up to the front desk staff.

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    • avatar

      Kate February 22, 2021, 2:00 pm

      Or if it’s really just you, no salon staff, then you tell her, but make it clear it’s not just about this one appointment, it’s that you can no longer serve her.

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    • avatar

      ele4phant February 22, 2021, 3:47 pm

      Yeah, I don’t think she has to “pretend” she’s booked.

      I think she can just be blunt that “Sorry, it’s not working out for me to have you as a client anymore. From here on out, I cannot create any new bookings with you, and am going to cancel ones we already have down. Best of luck finding a new stylist.”

      If she wants to explain why, she can, but she’s well within her rights to say “I’m not going to work with you anymore” and nothing further, if she doesn’t feel up to it.

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  • avatar

    Karebear1813 February 22, 2021, 2:30 pm

    LW1 – when taking on new clients( and old), I would suggest creating a zero tolerance policy for timeliness/political/ and discriminatory topics. If you ask someone how their week/weekend went and they mention they went to a Pro Life/Pro Choice Seminar, you can easily redirect and change subject. Even if someone has the same opinions as you and you agree, I wouldn’t discuss such topics with clients, PERIOD! People are their to get their hair done and you are not paid extra to be a therapist. Maybe redirect your business environment to a more relaxing environment where it’s like a SPA and they just relax and unwind.

    But with that being said, you need to learn to put boundaries in place. It’s okay to let clients know that you have different views and the topic makes you uncomfortable, so therefore it will not be discussed. This client is confident in her beliefs that she is willing to be vocal about it so you should be too!

    I don’t recommend saying you all booked up. That could backfire in a lot of awkward ways. IF you send her the “new zero tolerance policy” it could be a win/win for you. She shuts up and you keep getting her money.

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  • avatar

    ele4phant February 22, 2021, 3:43 pm

    LW1 – you can fire a client for any reason you want.

    Even without her awful personal beliefs, she just seems like a bad client.

    Stop booking her without guilt.

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  • avatar

    mrmidtwenties February 22, 2021, 4:32 pm

    LW1- Whether or not you keep this customer, as a business decision you should consider adding a 48hrs re-booking fee- tons of similar businesses have them. You can discretionarily waive it for customers that haven’t inconvenienced you.

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  • avatar

    Ange February 22, 2021, 7:45 pm

    I had a friend who got fired by her personal trainer for always switching appointments, late changes or plain old just not showing up. I think it’s a perfectly reasonable way to do business when your time and earning potential is at stake. You don’t even need to mention the politics, just that you can no longer accommodate her. My friend was convinced she was hard done by but you’ll never convince selfish people that they are so don’t waste your breath.

    Now if you think you might miss the income you make from her in the future I’d start thinking now about how you can market yourself in the local area to cover the shortfall. If you have to keep her on for a bit until then so be it, times are hard.

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  • avatar

    Moe February 23, 2021, 12:04 am

    LW2:
    Does this nan’s behavior seem strange to anyone? Calling your name from far away and always giving you chocolates and candy? Does this happen, like daily? I have a hard time seeing this in my head without details. My responses would be anything from, “No thanks.” To being super freaked out. What guy gives a woman candy every time he sees her? Weird. Anyway, I agree that he has no right to make you uncomfortable but might be clueless you are not into him unless you say something.

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    • avatar

      Sea Witch February 24, 2021, 9:23 am

      Yeah, he’s a bit creepy. LW seems to be a very passive naive person who just as what she’s told without question.

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  • avatar

    Bittergaymark February 24, 2021, 9:54 am

    LW1) Oh my — Yes! Drop her as a client. But first — REALLY fuck up this nasty person’s hair.

    LW2). I also don’t this the coworker has bad motives. He’s just a guy who is fed up with an airhead who repeatedly refuses to heed his very sound advice regarding this creepy customer. Rarely is a creep ever THIS obvious. And yet — somehow, the LW refuses to see it. Hell, I’d blow my stack, too. What does the customer need to do? Show up in a T-shirt reading: Hi, I’m a Creep! Let Me Stalk u! Even then the LW would somehow miss it. I mean — c’mon on! The whole constantly giving candy thing is off as hell but the half a cookie thing was somehow even more demented. That the letter writer fails to see this doesn’t exactly make me think they have much going on in the way of brains. Wake the FUCK up, LW.

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  • avatar

    minikitty86 February 25, 2021, 10:19 am

    Hi! I am Making The Cut. I suppose I should have lead with the part when I’m self employed and wear all the hats in my small salon suite. Scheduling is done mostly through text message on my personal line. (I tried two phones but that’s costly and annoying 😅) My entire career has been filled with stories from myself and coworkers with horrible stories of customers who are less than ideal. It’s sad, most of us have been trained to think we don’t get to be individuals with standards and boundaries while at work. We’re supposed to accept all customers and be grateful. (Generally I do and I am!) but I’m so relieved knowing I’m not being petty or overreacting to the situation. This gives me courage to stand up for myself in a professional way. The thought of just firing her gives me so much anxiety. So to start, I will implement the late cancel fee, something I feel guilty about and have gotten push back for in the past. As for the political discussion, everyone is so right, I don’t talk about my personal beliefs with clients. I think she knows by my lack of responses, that our beliefs don’t align. She usually changes the subject on her own. I will come back to update after her next appointment and let you know how it went.

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    • avatar

      Kate February 25, 2021, 10:50 am

      If you think putting that policy in place will piss off other “good” clients, don’t necessarily do it. Maybe just message HER about the “policy.”

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  • avatar

    Anonymous February 25, 2021, 6:21 pm

    @Dear Wendy, Thank you for your great advice and for the solutions. Thank you for not judging me in your advice column or make me feel more bad. I agreed with you Wendy that I feel these men in the scenario don’t have best interest at heart. I put their feelings before mine and in the end I feel like a fool and undeserved. I wish you good healthy and prosperous each day and continue helping unbiased advice to those in need.

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