The New Guy by Chris Collier
by Chris Collier
July 28th, 2021

The New Guy—Who Was Your Toughest Customer?

Last week, I highlighted difficult customers and their various forms through several film shop owners. We saw owners retell run-ins with customers that displayed traits of perfectionism, impatience and control. For Sharyn Volpe, co-owner of Frederick Window Tinting in Frederick, Md., her negative interactions with customers have intensified since the onset of COVID-19.

“I think COVID changed a lot of [customers’] mentalities,” Volpe says. “I feel that during the 16-month shutdown, folks were more understanding and were extremely sympathetic to small businesses within the towns. Once everything reopened, people—in general—have less patience.”

Volpe implements thorough communication and written documentation into customer engagement to ensure she has a proper defense against erroneous reviews and complaints. This system came in handy during community events sponsored by a local radio station during the pandemic’s peak.

“If a customer calls after hours, I generally send a text message stating we’re closed and asking how I may be of help,” Volpe says. “About a month ago, I had a customer call us at 3:56 p.m. [during] an event [on] Saturday when our shop closed at 2 p.m. I was super busy but still took time to reply to him frequently. At 7:40 p.m., he was still texting with questions and at that point I was eating dinner with the family and decided to shift my focus to them. I text the customer back the next day, on Sunday, at 8:30 a.m. before we even opened to confirm the appointment request from the evening before. He told me to cancel it [and] that he felt I was ignoring him.”

The customer left the shop a one-star review on Yelp, citing “atrocious” customer service and unreasonable response times. Volpe replied and detailed their entire chain of correspondence, including time stamps for every response. Today, Volpe ensures the business is run by its owners, not its customers. It starts with clarifying expectations at drop-off.

“If the vehicle was previously tinted, if they are having a windshield done, if they want legal versus illegal tint—whatever the case is, I have a ‘been there done that’ for almost every situation,” Volpe says. “So I simply try to cover our bases before the work is done. If I feel like the customer doesn’t vibe with us or has unrealistic expectations, I let them know before the work is done that we may not be the right fit for them.”

In an increasingly impatient time, it seems as though difficult customers are becoming the norm in every facet of society. What is the toughest customer that you’ve had to deal with? How did you resolve the situation and did it strengthen your shop’s operations? Share your story in the comments below or email me at

I look forward to hearing from you.

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