Strange Re-tails: Odd Duck Customers

As rAVe readers all know by now, I spent a long, long time in the retail and custom installation trenches. As a result I’ve got my share of tales to tell. Here are some of them.

Every retail veteran can tell you about the regulars, and especially the odd ducks: individuals, whether they’re actual customers or not who come into the store on a frequent basis who are a little strange. Everybody knows them, for better or worse.

In the cases of the ones who aren’t so much customers as they are “tire kickers” some of them are known all over town. Having worked for several different retailers, and on every side of town, over the years I got to know several characters who made it a point to visit and be the odd duck for more than one store.

There was one guy I dubbed Moustache Guy. He was a huge, bull-necked guy who affected a big bushy moustache. His face was locked in a perpetual scowl, and in ten years I don’t think I ever saw him smile.

For that matter, in ten years, I don’t think I ever saw him buy anything.

His modus operandi never changed: he’d wander sullenly into a store, and look around, radiating grumpiness. When a salesperson engaged him, he’d ask the most far out, often completely irrelevant, and sometimes entirely made-up technical questions about a random product, such as pointing to a cordless phone and asking “How many Herz does the transmitter drift from the frequency it’s set to?”

If the salesman didn’t know (which was often) or if he didn’t like the answer (which was every time) he’d snort, turn on his heel, and leave.

Not every odd duck is a downer. Far from it; some of them can brighten your whole day. A perfect example of that was Appliance Guy.

His name was Sheldon, and he was a special-needs individual who bore an uncanny resemblance to Dustin Hoffman’s character inRainman, with one difference:

Sheldon had an encyclopaedic knowledge of major appliances.

He would wander in with his guardian in tow, point to a new washer, dryer, stove or fridge and in an excited chirp rattle off product knowledge. “That’s the Maytag MVWB950YW washer! It has PowerWash Cycle, PowerSpray Technology, 5.3 cu. ft. I.E.C equivalent capacity, Allergen Cycle, Oxi Treat Stains Option, NSF Certified Sanitize Cycle Using Oxi, Whites Cycle,Clean Washer Cycle with Affresh, Enhanced IntelliClean Impellar, Extra Rinse option, and SmoothClose, Wide Opening Washer Lid!”

And he would be right. He knew more about appliances than the salesmen, and he had a whole circuit of appliance stores he would visit on Saturdays.

Sheldon would always ask “Have you got any brochures?” And if you gave him some brochures for new models he lit up as if you’d given him a bag of candy.