Last updateWed, 19 Feb 2020 12am

The Retailer’s Perspective: Oh, I caught you at lunch

Yes, you did, so let’s wrap this up real quick…SAID NO CUSTOMER EVER! I swear, I don’t know what gets into people when they see someone eating their lunch that brings out the Chatty Cathy in them. They’ll tell you things that they wouldn’t tell their priest in a confessional booth. If you were just standing behind your showcase waiting for your next customer to walk through the door, they wouldn’t give you the time of day.  But, put some lunch in front of you, and its game on.

I eat my lunch at my front counter every day. I keep it on a blue tray so that I can pick it up and move it to the back on a moments notice.   Whenever someone comes in while I’m eating my lunch, they do the usual dance of: “Oh, just keep eating,” or “I’m sorry, I caught you at lunch,” or “Oh, that looks good. Where did you get that? It looks yummy.” 

I always keep my lunch ready to move at a moments notice, on my blue tray, so I can move it before they have a chance to sneeze or cough on it if you really want to know the reason I keep it on a tray. No matter what they say, I’m moving it out of their spray zone quickly.

Recently, I had a lady come in who drove past often and was curious what I had.  I picked up my blue tray and moved it to the back and asked how I could help her. Then she said my favorite thing to hear from a customer during lunch: “Oh, I don’t need anything. I’m just killing time and thought I’d stop in and see what you have.”

It was then that she produced the loupe on the chain around her neck. No! Not during lunch. 

See, I love to cook, and I always make my lunch the night before. For lunch yesterday, I made a chicken Alfredo stew over homemade biscuits which was at a perfect 162 degrees when she came in. You could see the steam wafting up off of the plate. I picked up my tray and moved it to the back, but I could see it and smell it from where I was standing. Somebody please save me.

I’m sure everyone knows what happened over the next 30 minutes or so. She wanted to look at everything.  And she examined everything with her dime-store loupe and proceeded to tell me what was wrong with it, or she’s seen a better one, or she used to own a better one. Nothing was good enough for her, and my chicken Alfredo stew was now somewhere around 98 degrees.

My favorite part was when she was telling me about the huge flaw in the VVS1 diamond. I just said something like, “all diamonds have flaws,” while I was really thinking about my lunch getting cold. Then she proceeded to tell me about the flaw in the flawless amethyst pendant I had. I just agreed hoping she would leave. The whole time she’s there, telling me what was wrong with everything, she didn’t realize there was a piece of lint on her loupe and that’s what she was seeing. I didn’t say anything because sometimes it’s the little things that get me through the day.

Then, after what seemed like 12 days with her, she puts her loupe away and says, “Well, I’ll let you get back to your lunch.” Gee thanks. I love a 68 degree stew with soggy biscuits. Thanks for coming in. Tell your friends.

And, what is it with people that refuse to acknowledge and abide by your business hours? I’m always at work an hour or more before I open, just doing opening up stuff. I’ve got two-way mirrors in the back so I can see the front of the store. I can’t count the number of times I have had people banging on my door and ringing my doorbell while reading my business hours and looking at their watch.

And it’s always the same. They ring the doorbell first, then stand there and wait. Then they ring the bell again, and put their face to the window and look into the dark interior of my very closed business. Then they put both hands on the window and put their face between them to get a better view. Then comes the knocking, just in case my doorbell isn’t working. 

Then they put their finger up to my posted business hours and read it like it’s written in braille or something. Then they look at their watch, look at the sign, look at their watch again, and then they start banging on the door again. Then up comes both hands against the glass so they can better see inside. Sometimes what they don’t know is I’m sitting in my car in the parking lot watching all of this, waiting for them to go away so I can go inside and do all of those things I have to do when I’m not open to the public, like work!

And it surprises me the number of people that do this that know exactly what my hours are, but they saw my car in the parking lot and by golly, they need to get a new battery in their Timex - NOW!

It gets even trickier, if I’m in the back ignoring them, and my mailman comes up and knocks because he has packages for me to sign for. How do you explain that you could hear his knock, but not their incessant pounding? Oh the joys of retail.

And don’t get me started about those people that show up 2 minutes before closing, just killing time.

Chuck Koehler is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, Tennessee. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide. If you would like to contact Chuck or need a speaker or instructor for your next conference/event he can be reached at 615-354-6361, www.CMKcompany.com or send e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.