Our business puts us in contact with a lot of different people; different races, different religions, different socio-economic statuses and backgrounds, different philosophies, different personalities. It’s like Forrest Gump’s mom’s box of chocolates — you never know what you’re going to get.
I think this is one of the reasons it’s nice to build a regular clientele. People you are familiar with, predictable. New clients are like first dates. Everyone’s busy getting to know each other and trying to make sure the other person likes them. It’s stressful.
Today I was thinking about these things — about clients and professionals I have known over the years — and something made me think about the crazy people I’ve dealt with.
I’m not talking about those people who just don’t make sense to you. The ones who think, believe, and say stuff that you just can’t wrap your head around. I mean the crazy people. The people who sneak in and start talking and you find yourself working on an escape plan in case they get violent.
I was once planning a vacation trip to Italy with one of my best friends (which never happened because we went on a cruise where she met a guy and eventually married him instead). It was going to cost a lot of money. But I did a lot of math and realized that if I really, really, put my mind to it, I could save the money over the course of the year and a half or so we had.
Well naturally, this was something that was going on in my life, so this was something I talked about at work. Most of my clients were interested, supportive, and didn’t bat an eyelash at the idea that their nail lady might be able to save enough money to go to Italy. We laughed about all the Starbucks trips I’d need to not make; we laughed about all the tents I’d need to not buy. The clients who’d been there told me what I absolutely had to see and what I absolutely had to miss. Nobody seemed particularly upset by this plan…except one lady.
One of my clients seemed personally offended at the thought that I was planning this trip. One day, I swear her head did a full 360-degree turn and her personality changed completely. I’d been doing her nails for a couple of years and up until that day she’d been one of my favorite “easy” clients. But that day, when she found out I was going to start saving for the trip, she narrowed her eyes and told me, “Your clients are not going to pay for you to go to Italy, Maggie.”
I kinda laughed it off — I didn’t realize yet how serious she was, how angry she was, how resentful she was at the thought that I might use the money I earned to go to Italy. I said something like, “Well, you never know...maybe I’ll put out a jar with a sign that says ‘Send your nail lady to Italy.’” But she was having none of it. She was adamant that all my clients were going to refuse to help pay for my trip. She kept saying, “Your clients are not going to pay for you to go to Italy.”
I might still not have quite understood where she was coming from when I tilted my head to one side and thoughtfully said, “Well, actually. Yes, they will. Because I earn my money from my clients so, essentially, my clients will pay for it.”
No really. I thought we were having a light-hearted little chat. I had no idea that she was about to turn into a fire-breathing dragon and freak out on me! She got quite irritable and started shrieking at me. She didn’t really offer any new information on the subject, just kept telling me that my clients weren’t going to send me to Italy.
I finally realized that we were not having a light-hearted conversation and this was not the same person I was used to dealing with. I don’t know if she was off some meds, had suffered a psychotic break, or was possessed, but I shut up right fast and swept her out of my appointment book altogether shortly thereafter.
It wasn’t the first time I’d had a client I was afraid of, but it was the first time one of my clients exhibited a personality shift so severe that I became concerned for my safety during her service.
So far, I’ve been lucky. I haven’t had anyone seriously get out of hand. There have been a few gang types who brag about what thugs they are and make me worry they’ll beat me up if they break a nail, there have been a couple who I’ve been absolutely certain are spun on meth, and there have been a couple who are just plain nuts. But thus far, no one has grabbed a knife, started smashing polishes, or tried to jump out the window.
How about you? How crazy has the crazy gotten? And do you have a plan if it gets out of hand?
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