DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I co-own a handyman business. We both work full-time for the business, we are both competent and honest, and we have lots of repeat customers.
The situation often arises that when we are speaking with a customer, he or she will only address questions to my husband and not me, even if I have the greater knowledge and expertise in the subject. (In particular, I am an expert in paint, flooring and blinds, whereas my husband is excellent at building and repairing things.) This happens equally with male and female customers, and it’s very insulting and frustrating.
If I answer the question, I appear to be interrupting. If my husband defers to me, which he does in the unlikely event that he notices I’m getting blown off, they will still often turn to him and ask the next question, sometimes without acknowledging I have spoken.
At what point is it OK to interrupt this one-sided, maddening dynamic? What should we do in this instance? My husband sometimes notices it going on, but is often focused on making the customer happy, and just answers them out of a sense of efficiency.
GENTLE READER: Wait, isn’t this also a handywoman business? Must you always come as a pair?
If so, Miss Manners humbly suggests that you stop. It seems as if it would be twice as productive for the business -- and infinitely better for your marriage.
Take turns, with one of you talking to the customers and the other ... doing something else. Inventory, perhaps?
Then make a pledge that when a question comes up that one of you is better suited to answer, you will appropriately redirect your customers. Or if separating is truly unthinkable, get yourselves cute nametags that list your separate specialties on them -- and point to them often.