The Peril of Prejudging Your Customers

Two friends, who were jewelry shopping went into a locally owned store here in Kentucky. They were treated with respect by a knowledgeable sales person. They then decided to compare by going to a nationally owned chain.

The salesman at the chain asked them where they were from. When they mentioned an economically challenged city outside of Lexington, the salesman immediately blew them off. He didn’t want to talk to them and then pointed them the cheapest stuff in the store.

Guess who got the business?

It reminds me of Julia Roberts on Rodeo Drive in the scene in Pretty Woman. If the salesman is working on commission, he missed one that would have made his house payment. Or his car payment. Probably both.

In this economy, I can’t imagine how anyone would look down their nose at a potential customer but I see it all the time.

I see it at car dealerships, restaurants, and all kinds of places that ought to know better. You can’t judge a person by the clothes they wear or the city they live in.

People with real money are usually the last to flash it. As Dr. Thomas Stanley pointed out in the Millionaire Next Door, people with real wealth are more likely to drive pickup trucks than BMWs.

One of my friends is one of the most successful medical malpractice attorneys in the United States. He and his wife decided they needed a new bed. He rolled out of bed on a Saturday, unshaven and in old clothes, and went to a furniture store.

They started looking at beds suited for their very expensive home. The salesman came over in horror and tried to steer my buddy to stuff that people would buy for entry level houses or apartments.

My friend went to every expensive bed in the place. Tested them by diving on them and rolling around. Walked out and got what he wanted at another store.

I do a lot of business in small towns that don’t have much of a social registry. One of my friends who fixes up junked cars and drives them as a primary vehicle is one of the wealthiest people I know. He revels in the fact that no one knows about his wealth. He used to tell people he was a janitor.

He got ignored by a lot of sales people. The ones that did talk to him made a ton of money over the years.

A simple but good lesson to learn.

Don McNay, who lives in Richmond, Ky., is an award-winning financial columnist for Huffington Post Contributor. You can learn more about him at