There’s an old proverb that says, “Outward appearances are not a reliable indication of true character.” In other words, you can’t – and shouldn’t – judge a book by its cover.
One of my favorite examples of this is from the movie Pretty Woman starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. This classic movie from back in the 1990’s was about a wealthy man, Edward Lewis, on a business trip in Beverly Hills who falls in love with a prostitute, Vivian Ward. Edward wants Vivian to attend some of his business functions throughout the week, so he gives her some money (as in thousands of dollars) to buy some conservative, less revealing, clothes.
In her “working clothes” Vivian walks into an upscale store where the employees won’t sell her anything and asks her to leave. Dejected, she returns to the hotel. The next day, the hotel manager takes her to a different store and gets her outfitted in some beautiful clothes. As she is walking back to the hotel, dressed in one of her new outfits and carrying several bags with different Beverly Hills store logos on them, she stops back into the store that asked her to leave. She asked the salesperson if she remembers her from yesterday. She reminds her, and then comes the famous line from the movie: “Big mistake. Big. Huge! I have to go shopping now.”
I experienced something similar years ago when I was looking to buy a new car. I was just 22 years old and driving an older car that had 170,000 miles on it. I’m not exaggerating! I walked into the dealership and none of the sales people would talk to me. I knew it was the car. They saw me drive up in an old car and decided I didn’t have the money to buy a new car.
The next day I went back, but this time in my father’s car, which was quite nice. This time I was approached by numerous salespeople. I had no trouble finding a sales person who wanted to sell me a car. I shared the story with the manager of the dealership, who was quite embarrassed. As a way of apologizing, he sold me a car at a fantastic price.
Related: 5 Ways to Focus on The Customer
In business, it can be economically dangerous to make a snap judgement based on someone’s looks, what they are wearing, the car they drive and more. The founder of Walmart, Sam Walton, used to drive a pick-up truck. He didn’t look like a man who was worth billions of dollars. How many times did he “fool” people with his unassuming looks. It wasn’t intentional. It was just who he was.
Unless they prove otherwise, customers should be treated like… customers. Don’t make the mistake of judging a book by its cover. As Vivian Ward said in Pretty Woman, “Big mistake. Big. Huge!”
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