DEAR ABBY: I am the manager of a women's clothing boutique in a small, upper-class community. My staff and I have a problem with a customer who shops in our store almost weekly. She will purchase $300 worth of merchandise, only to return it all the next day, putting a huge debt in our register that can ruin our daily totals. These returns also cost the store owner a substantial processing fee, as all transactions do.
We have tried not assisting her while she shops, hoping to cut back on her purchases, but it hasn't helped. The woman will occasionally keep a piece or two, but not often.
There is the possibility that she recommends our store to her friends. We're a rather small but successful chain that caters to our ladies, but we simply can't afford to continue the relationship with this obvious compulsive shopper. We also do not want to make a scene by confronting her in the store.
We are all, the owner included, at a loss as to what to do. Should we continue to allow her to wreak havoc on our sales records? Please help. -- IN SALES IN LA JOLLA, CALIF.
DEAR IN SALES: Yours is a common problem in retailing. However, there are two ways to deal with it: First, insist that she pay for merchandise in cash only. Second, do not refund her money for items she returns; instead, issue her a store credit -- a voucher that is valid only in your store.