Four Years! (Issue 730)

In which we are reminded that, when we lose clients, the warning signs have been there for a while. We could have done something about it.

I was about two blocks from my hotel, taking an evening walk up an easy-sloping main street toward City Hall and the main center city square. Lost in thought and gently browsing store windows as I walked, I spotted a sign on the door to a gentlemen’s clothing store. (“Gentlemen’s clothing store,” meaning, custom tailored suits and v e r y high end Italian and English off the rack suits and accessories). The sign indicated that they also sold my favorite shoe brand, one not carried in many cities around the USA.

I’m due for a new pair so I can retire the shoes I prefer to wear when suiting up to more relaxed duty.

“Aha,” I thought. “After my meetings tomorrow…”

At 12:30 pm the next day, before heading to the airport, I stepped into the store, catching the store owner’s eye as he stretched a tape measure around a very burly gentleman’s chest.

“I’d like to buy a pair of shoes,” I said, motioning toward his display of my favorites.

“Sure,” he said, looking over the burly guy’s right shoulder, “they’re on sale. Which style do you want? I’ll see if I have the size. Not many left.”

“10D,” I said.

He poked at his computer keyboard. “Don’t have it,” he said.

“How about this style?” I said, pointing to another I liked.

Poke, poke. “Nope, not in your size”

“OK, I’ll try one more. How about this one?” I asked, pointing to a beautiful pair of cordovan slip ons.

“No.”

“Really?” I thought, then asked, “Are you dropping this line of shoes?”

“Yes,” he replied, impatient to move on. “I love the shoes and there’s nobody younger than 75 in the company. Difficult to get shoes, hard to get anyone’s attention.”

“How long has this been a problem?” I wondered.

“Four years,” he replied, shaking his head as he returned to measure burly guy’s arm. “And, now, we’re done.”

“Wow,” I thought, feeling great disappointment. “He’s been a very patient guy for such an impatient guy. The shoe company will lose this account…… and they’ve had four years. They’ll be surprised… they’ll think it was a sudden decision… and it’s been coming for four years.”

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