Can You Spot the Bad Business Model Here?

Last year I was given a sewing machine.  Well, most of a sewing machine.  The electrical cord and plug and the foot pedal had disappeared at some earlier time.  But I gamely took the machine, did a little research on it’s model and went to a quilting store to see if I could order the missing parts so I could sew myself to a blissful, hand-made nirvana.

This particular quilting store was run by a man who looked like the grandfather of the old man from Up.  He was very old, white-haired, impeccably dressed, and practically ran around the spacious store finding fabrics and bobbins for similarly old ladies.  When I presented him with my incomplete machine he made a couple of calls where he had to yell model numbers and part specifics into the phone to his assuredly just as old colleagues at the warehouse.  The parts, he told me, were going to be over ninety dollars. That was too much for me to invest in a machine that was made by a European company better known for their toasters and electric kettles.  Parts cost so much because few people this side of the pond had a machine from this company.

Anyway, seeing I was disappointed in the price he offered a compromise.  He had just had a machine returned by a client who had become so enamored of sewing that a month after she bought her first machine she wanted to get a more expensive and fancy model.  He was planning to sell her first machine, which was practically new, for a discount that brought the price to about a 120 dollars.  It was, honestly, a good deal.  But money was tight at the time and since I was planning on moving to a different state in a few weeks it didn’t seem very wise.  I told the store-owner that I’d have to think about it.

He said, “I understand, you have to ask your husband first.”

“Ah, that’s not really what I meant,” I replied, pretty shocked.

The owner pushed a little harder, “If you give him a real nice smile I’m sure he’ll say ‘yes.'”

I felt like I had stumbled into some 50’s sitcom.  I’m pretty sure that at that point I looked around me, to make sure that it was me he was addressing.  Did I look like I was a retiring, submissive wife who would ask permission to buy a sewing machine?   And I was going to get that permission by smiling?  Because, you know, in all good marriages all affection and positivity is held hostage by one partner to wring material benefits from the other.  That sounds fun.

What was I going to do?  Argue with the oldest man in the tri-county area about mutuality and equality in relationships?  Convince him that I was patronizing a shop supported entirely by gender-stereotype-conforming Mennonite ladies in prayer bonnets and newly married evangelical women but that my marriage didn’t work like that?

It was true, I would ask my husband before I dropped more than a hundred bucks on something other than groceries or car repair, but he would ask me before buying anything that expensive too.  Because we have a modern, egalitarian relationship.

If I hadn’t been talking to the oldest man I’d ever had a cogent conversation with I would have had a few choice words about the insulting assumption that I wasn’t empowered to make wise monetary decisions without the helpful overseeing of my husband.  I went into the store looking to buy an electrical cord and left wanting a powerpoint presentation on third wave feminism to share with this guy.  Also, he never saw a cent of my money, with or without my husband’s permission.

The moral of this story:  It’s a bad business model to assume your primary patrons aren’t allowed to spend their own money.

This entry was posted in America's Confusion and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Can You Spot the Bad Business Model Here?

  1. janineyork says:

    Just from a different era I guess. I am so glad that we don’t live in those times anymore, even though we still battle the prejudices of them. Still, I know it is hard to hold your tongue, but somehow harder still to be anything but gracious to your elders. I doubt it would have done any good, but wouldn’t you have loved to have told him why you couldn’t spend money in his store now that he had insulted your equality? Just be glad that times are changing, and that we know the difference right?

  2. I’m not sure why you would assume disrespect. He is simply a man from a different culture, and it seems your lack of respect for his culture is not much different from his apparent lack of respect for yours. Wouldn’t there be a better way to address this clash of cultures than walking out fuming and vowing never to return? Are you only interested in dealing with people who conform to your cultural expectations? We all meet people on a daily basis whose points of view we find grating and offensive, and if we can’t learn to work with each other and communicate without preset conditions, we’re all in a heap of trouble.

    • I did my venting here on the blog, not to the store owner. I know he didn’t mean his words to be personal or offensive, but nevertheless they were. Notice I didn’t tell you what store this was, if you have a good experience there then you should spend money, I won’t libel the store or the man by giving any specifics. But a good business model doesn’t look to offend customers. I was offended by his suggestion that my gender determined my access to the checkbook. That is offensive no matter how old or well-meaning the source was. I can be a civil and cooperative member of society without spending my time or money at a store that I feel uncomfortable in.

  3. Dan says:

    i totally understand your aggravation, sara. i’ve been in quite a number of situations where it was assumed that i was ‘babysitting’ my daughter, and how cute that was…when in fact there are weeks that i spend more time w/my daughter than my wife does! the world is a different place for many people these days, with equally-shared parenting and egalitarian relationships. it is also very correct that it is a bad business model to offend one’s customers.

    yet…not to jump on the bandwagon here, but…as you’ve reminded me many, many times, sometimes it’s all about choosing your moments, and deciding when it’s better to be right, or to be kind. i think that this could definitely have been a time to gently play w/this kind old man by saying that ‘yes, i will need to speak w/my husband about this, it is a lot of money! although, he wouldn’t THINK of spending $100 on books w/o asking me…or he’d risk my ire!’ you get your point across, and can turn it into a joke. although…we are all armchair quarterbacking this, and telling you what you COULD have done. i totally understand your surprise, and am very glad that you just left w/your politeness, and dignity, intact. 🙂

    • I’m the one who spends money on books dan, don’t you know us? August would spend money on, I don’t know, sweaters maybe. He’s a big fan of sweaters.

      • Dan says:

        yes, he does seem to be a big fan of sweaters! (and is liking sweaters, a problem, my dear?? hmm??!!! I LIKE sweaters! harrumph.)

        although, i have seen him drop a few dollars on a book, from time to time….:)

Now it's your turn...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s