Personal Lessons Learned

The following article published in Antique Trader’s March 4, 2015 magazine.

While closing down another year in antique paradise, I pondered what I’d done right, what I could have done better and what I flat out did wrong over the past twelve months.

But first I need to share some background information. What I have always done right is hire professionals to perform the jobs where I have no training. The bottom line is, I know what I don’t know, which is why I keep an attorney on retainer, a general contractor on speed dial and pay our accountant’s invoice within ten days of receipt. This last point is especially important because I do not balance our checkbook. Horror of horrors, I pay someone to do this. Why? Because I hate doing it, not because I can’t. And if I hate doing something, the chore rarely gets done in a timely manner. Knowing this flaw in my character, paying our accountant to perform this mundane task is not only a tax write-off, but saves me a lot of money on Excedrin. This is a fine example of self-awareness leading to an accurate assessment.

So let me get back to what I did right this past year.

I hired an SEO (that’s Search Engine Optimization) specialist to help me tinker with the website. Why? Again, I go back to my statement about hating to do something. Delegating this out has worked wonders for our website, building our visibility and resulting in some good new customers. Awareness and assessment at its best.

Which leads me to what I could have done better. Jay and I are a bit lax when it comes to capturing data on our random, walk-in customers. Because we’re in a tourist town, the effort to attain this information on folks who spend $50 to $200 would be fruitless. Most of these sales are “one hit wonders,” people who are buying a souvenir while on vacation. No matter how many email blasts we send out, we’ll never see or hear from them again. Another example of awareness and assessment.

However, we could get better about tracking those who spend $500 – $1,500. Gaining this data can be tricky however, and requires finesse because most people hate to give it out, especially at the point of sale. It’s kind of like being held hostage. “Give me your email address and home phone number, or else!”

Here’s a case in point. I hate it when I’ve been standing in line for twelve minutes at a big box store, lugging several heavy things without the benefit of a shopping cart. Because I originally stopped in just for a box of light bulbs I now find myself lugging two bags of ice melt, a 20 foot extension cord and the light bulbs, which I’m trying desperately not to drop. Who would have had the foresight to get a cart just to buy light bulbs?

Anyway, after what seems like hours, because I ALWAYS pick the wrong line, sweat begins to pool under my arms and trickle down my temples because I’m wearing a heavy coat, scarf and hat (remember the ice melt). When the cashier stops everything to ask me for my home phone number and zip code, I snarl, “No!” Everyone within ten feet takes a giant step back. This is another case of self-awareness and self-assessment. I get cranky when I’m hot.

But to get back on point, Jay and I need to improve how we can capture this information without seeming nosy or invasive. I just haven’t figured out how and I’m open to suggestions. So this falls under the category of being aware of a problem, albeit without a solution or assessment.

As far as what I did wrong, I’m afraid this list is longer than I care to admit. The most glaring thing is allowing an anonymous person to yank my chain via email.

It started off innocuous enough. She emailed me to say she’d been in the store the previous month, seen a ring and wanted to buy it. Neither Jay nor I remembered her, but that’s not unusual. We are baby boomers and we see hundreds of people every month during tourist season. She provided the inventory number, description and price of the ring. It was tagged at $795.

Then things started to get dicey or at least weird. She replied that she really, REALLY wanted to buy the ring. She LOVED it (her emphasis), but she couldn’t afford $795, she could only afford to pay $250, but because she really wanted it, I would sell the ring to her for this discounted price, right?

I don’t think so. And who writes like that?

I emailed her back with my best price. She replied it was still too much money and reiterated she could only spend $250 and I should be happy to accept this amount.

Happy is not the word I would use here. I wrote, “I’m not in business to lose money.” And yes, at this point I was very much aware of my tone.

She lashed back, “How DARE you reply in such a rude manner! And what a sarcastic witch (word substituted) you are.”

Knowing she’d gotten my goat and realizing I was getting hot under the collar, at that point I truly believed my response to her tirade was appropriate.

“You offer 70% off the tagged price and I’M the rude one? LOL.” For those who don’t know, LOL is short for “laughing out loud.” In other words, I mocked her. Some quick words of advice – never, ever, mock a member of the “millennial” generation.

Because after that, the proverbial poop really hit the fan. Calling me a rude witch was just her getting warmed up. In addition to the name calling, she promised to tell the entire world what happened. And true to her word, she has smeared me on several travel-rating sites, even using Twitter as part of her arsenal.

Admittedly, this episode was not one of my finest moments. I am now aware that using sarcasm on an unknown person wasn’t the right thing to do. In all honesty, it was a stupid thing to do. I am also aware that I shouldn’t allow anyone to irk me as much as she did. I wonder how many self-assessments I’ll get to reflect upon next year.


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