My father and I went to LA to see a Samuel Beckett play called “End Game.”  We’re both of a certain philosophical/existential bent, so we enjoyed it, but that’s not what I wanted to tell you about today.

What happened after the play was far more interesting.

Walking to the theatre, we happened upon a type of store I haven’t been in for years: one of those chic, upscale places that sell off-the-wall greeting cards, cocktail recipe books… things I don’t need, but now want.

I said to Dad, “Let’s stop in there after the show.”

Lunch was fine—Brussels sprouts had bacon and an apple gastrique, a word I needed to look up—and we enjoyed the show. Time with Dad is always great and this was no exception.

We headed to the store, which has me feeling a bit excited and expectant of what treasures we’re about to behold.

Near the checkout counter, my eyes stop on a collection of necklaces in a glass case. They’re not exactly what my wife would wear, but close enough. Plus, it’s a “just because” gift which, as we all know, just about everybody appreciates.

So, I see one I like. Sure, she might like it. Price tag reads $50. Not too steep so, I figure, “why not?”

Apparently, my glasses weren’t on that day.

When I asked the shopkeep to show me the necklace, she instead said, “well, you know this is $350…”

With her tone of voice, she might as well have ended the sentence with “…and we both know you can’t afford that.”

Now, a few things flew through my head in that moment…

First, a little bit of sticker shock since, frankly, seven times what I thought was the price is enough to exhaust the “just because” budget and put us squarely into “you spent how much?” territory.

More than that, I’m more than a little put off by her assumption that I wasn’t planning to spend that much.

The fact is, she’d only known me for 90 seconds before sizing me up and assuming a $350 necklace would put me in the poor house (though, my wife would have looked fabulous).

In reality, she didn’t know me. And she made enough of a negative impression that I’m telling you about it today.

Here’s the point:

Know Your Audience.

If someone is in your store, on your website, or asking you about your business, don’t assume they’re dumb or making a mistake. Answer their questions, help them out and make them feel like they want to return to you for their next question.

Your clients and customers want to like you and trust you. The right messaging in the right tone can build that trust. The wrong messaging will alienate your clients and prospects much like the necklace lady.

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