Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

by : 
Kim Perkins
April 1, 2014

Question: A customer called today very upset because her teenage niece had come into our store with a few friends, and they felt they were treated with prejudice. I really could not get the whole story over the customer yelling that we were hypocritical, but it seems her niece and one of her friends were not Caucasian, and somehow they were treated disrespectfully in our store. I am not sure how to proceed now. None of my employees remember any specific problems or incidence. The caller did not leave her name, so I am stumped about how to handle this. I feel awful!

Answer: Given the information you received, it seems you have done all you can at this time. You listened to the customer and then investigated the incident, asking your employees for input. The caller did not identify herself, so you can’t go back and ask questions or attempt to make things right. Just be aware of how your staff interacts with customers of various races, and consider establishing a nondiscrimination policy, which you discuss with your staff. That way, if there is a problem with the way a staff member treats customers and it surfaces again, and you will be ready to deal with it swiftly.

Kim Perkins is co-owner of Elysian Fields Books & Gifts for Conscious Living (, an award-winning store in Sarasota, Fla. Send your retail questions to