For most people, if you ask them about pawn shops, they’ll imagine something like the store from the TV series, “Friday the 13th” where everything sold is cursed. Or the shop from Stephen King’s “Needful Things.” Also cursed.
In reality, very little sold in pawn shops is cursed. Avoid the monkey’s paw, and you’ll be fine. To help illustrate the more interesting side of pawn shops, and to share stories from pawn shop owners, we’re starting this erratic series of … (cue scary music):
The question was asked: Who was the most difficult customer or potential customer that walked through your doors?
Answers this time were variations on a theme. They all became angry, although with different levels of hostility.
- A woman who lugged in cans of wheat pennies was so angry the pawnshop wouldn’t give her thousands of dollars instead of face value stormed off, leaving the cans of pennies.
- A man tried to pawn the bathroom in his apartment, and became indignant when the pawnshop said no.
- Calling a 1970 tube television set “vintage” does not make it worth anything. And yelling doesn’t either.
- A stack of 50 unopened copies of Fargo. Promise they aren’t stolen.
- Why won’t you take the gold fillings right out of my mouth? Are you saying my mouth is dirty?
Sometimes people shout and curse at you, sometimes they get aggressive, sometimes they throw a tantrum. The reason is a combination of desperation and a belief that sentimental value easily equates to cash money. No matter how much you may feel justified, try not to kill anyone.
So what should you do?
1. Remain calm. When a customer starts yelling or being otherwise rude, there is nothing to be gained by responding in a similar manner. In fact, that will probably escalate hostilities. Maintain control of yourself, even if the customer’s tirade makes you feeling like yelling yourself.
2. Don’t take it personally. Remember, the customer is not angry with you, they are displeased with the performance of your product or the quality of the service you provide. Your personal feelings are beside the point.
3. Use your best listening skills. The first thing an angry customer wants is to vent. To do so, they need someone to listen—and, for better or worse, you are that person. Listening patiently can defuse a situation, as long as the customer feels acknowledged in his or her complaint. Hear them out. When they are done talking, summarize what you’ve heard and ask any questions to further clarify their complaint. Body language can be critically important here. Keep eye contact. Stand or sit up straight. Keep your arms uncrossed. Show how closely you’re paying attention to their problem.
4. Actively sympathize. After the customer vents, he wants to know you understand where he’s coming from and how he or she feels. Express sympathy for their unpleasant customer experience. Respect and understanding go a long way toward smoothing things over.
5. Apologize gracefully. Whether the customer’s complaint is legitimate or not is really irrelevant. If you want her to stay a customer, you need to express an apology for the problem they are having (or perceive to be having). A simple, straightforward statement is often all that’s needed: “I’m sorry you’re not happy with our product. Let’s see what we can do to make things right.”
6. Find a solution. Once you understand why the customer is unhappy, it is time to offer a solution. Ask him what he feels should be done or put forward your own fair and realistic answer to the problem. In most cases, that’s all the customer is looking for—and may result in providing some degree of satisfaction.
7. Take a few minutes on your own. After the situation has been resolved and the customer is on her way, it’s helpful for you to take your own “time-out.” Even if you’ve handled the situation in the most professional way possible, it’s still a stressful experience. Rather than let that stress linger inside you, take a short walk, treat yourself to a snack or find someone to talk to who makes you laugh. Then you’ll be ready to once again engage with your customers.