Customers are a trader’s lifeblood. They not only finance our involvement in the precarious world of retailing but they stimulate us every day with their requests, challenges, chit chat, and general interaction. They stir the blood, frustrate, and please with delicious uncertainty. When a customer walks into your stall you never quite know how the adventure is going to play out.
Famous customers add a new level of involvement and Richard Pratt was a welcome visitor to my stall on a number of occasions. Mr Pratt (I always called him that) was a prominent Australian businessman, head of Visy Industries, and noted for a colourful and sometimes controversial history in business and Melbourne society. In the year before his death in 2009, he was declared Australia's fourth richest person, with a personal fortune of over $5 billion.
All that wealth belied a very personable man, at least in my experience. He was friendly, and patient, yet focused on what he wanted. I sell model ships and boats. He would walk into my stall and quickly issue a greeting. Not for him the lengthy period of browsing, and product examination. He came straight to the point. He was usually buying a gift for a friend or business associate and would give me a ballpark figure on what he wanted to spend. He would ask me what my best choices would be in that price range and listen patiently as I identified three or four products that might suit his needs. He would quickly make a decision, invariably choosing the product I identified as best value. While I prepared his purchase we would chat casually about retailing conditions, or football (Pratt was Chairman of the Carlton Football Club).
I can remember always feeling a sense of satisfaction after dealing with Mr Pratt and was often left wondering why others could not display the same sense of respect and civility. Not all our customers are going to be famous but in the rich tapestry of life at The Queen Victoria Market every day creates many opportunities to show respect and be respected. Customers are indeed our lifeblood and creating productive relationships can be good for the soul as well as the hip pocket.
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