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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Customer Haggles the Rude Way

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I own and operate a small antique and vintage store in our neighborhood. Our shop is beautifully curated; items are well displayed, clean, and free of defects -- i.e., we are not a secondhand store.

When two ladies were in the store, Lady No. 1 was purchasing four vintage glasses and I commented on her excellent choice. Lady No. 2 asked me, “Can we get a discount?” I offered 10%, which is standard practice. Lady No. 2 said, in a pseudo-hushed tone, “Well, I suppose that is better than nothing,” and called our prices ”very expensive.”

I replied that, in my opinion, she would be hard-pressed to find these at a cheaper price, to which she replied, “Well, I collect this type of glass.” I had nothing nice to say back, so, following my parents’ sage advice, I said nothing further.

I could see that Lady No. 1 was uncomfortable with the exchange, especially when I tried to present her with a receipt after she had specifically told me she did not need or want one (“I have no intention of returning these”).

We do not make any money until the sizable rent, utilities and supplier costs are paid. We purchased most of our inventory many years ago, as we planned to open this shop in our retirement, so our prices are incredibly competitive. These glasses were $10 each, not $100, or anywhere in between.

I, of course, thanked them and wished them both a good day, but I was tempted to chase Lady No. 2 down the street and give her some feedback. I wonder if there might be an acceptable retort if a similar future encounter occurs.

GENTLE READER: It will, and Miss Manners hopes you will continue to restrain yourself.

In antique stores, it is often customary to bargain. You know this, because you offer a discount when asked.

Lady 2’s method of bargaining was unpleasant. The charming way is to praise the coveted object, not to denigrate it, and to plead one’s own constricted budget, not to accuse the seller of greediness. But you should not allow a customer’s coarseness to allow you to become so.