Who are the people in your neighborhood?

I would venture to say that the customer types we encounter in our businesses are as varied as the colors in the rainbow. And like a rainbow, they span the horizon and go from one extreme to the other. After 26 years in the tool business, I've experienced a majority of the customer types.

One customer type that comes to mind immediately is the tech that buys on a regular basis and pays according to agreed terms. I look forward to seeing him weekly and know there is a decent chance of selling a tool and the payment will be there. I have dealt with him for years — but in the back of my mind I know if he leaves the area and no one picks him up it is the end of the money trail. He doesn't have much in the bank, counts on that paycheck and uses money orders to pay bills. He is a great guy and not a crook; however he will not pay through the mail. He just won't do it, though he will pay the tool dealer every week. It's best to keep his balance on the low side with a low turn ratio.

I love dealing with the tech that looks up to me and respects my opinion. He listens intently to my presentations and gives me fair consideration. He takes me as a person who can be trusted and doesn't even care about reviewing his bill. He always makes up a missed payment and keeps track of arrearage on his own. He is not overly concerned on price and likes to buy. (Let's get some DNA and clone him.)

Opposite of that is the show-and-tell freak who always wants to see everything I'm toting, but maybe spends $200 a year. This tech is a real time-waster, but to tick him off is bad as he indirectly influences other buying decisions in the shop. He wants to be greeted each week and is vocal when missed.

The scrutinizer examines his bill like a hawk. It's best not to make an honest mistake with this guy — if you do, he will discover it. He is usually a receipt freak and even when you are behind makes you run the receipt back in. If you offer to bring it in next week instead, his body language says no way before his mouth even opens.

The monopolizer wants me to spend a certain amount of time with him each week and a quick visit does not satisfy. Ten minutes is the minimum, and at the end he may not have any money. I'd like to say, "Dude, let me know up front when you are wasting my time on a visit." He usually is reluctant to reach for his wallet each week; by the time he hands over his payment your anxiety is way up.

Similar to this is the guy that makes me chase him around for money. He avoids the subject of his payment and places every possible distraction in the way. I don't want to play his game as his shenanigans consume valuable time I could be spending with people who are "players."

The opposite of these is the guy who can't wait to pay and never needs to be asked for money. His balance can come in any size and he knows what to do. It's a pleasure dealing with him on every level.

The pay-everything-off-at-once tech is great to have. I think his mind set constrains his purchasing however. I wish he would open up a truck account with an ongoing balance. He is a careful shopper and doesn't purchase anything he can't afford. If only he would "let it fly" one time. There is always hope he will. (It has happened.)

Mr. Risky shows up in chain stores and high turn-over shops. It's hard to know the right thing to do here — I go with my gut feelings and they usually prove correct. It's always a gamble and you roll the dice, so minimize loss exposure by keeping the turn low.

There are dozens of other "Misters" we encounter that keep us sharp and our chameleon skin working overtime. A quick list of others I have include: Mr. Cheapskate, Mr. I–can-get-that-online-for-less, Mr. Look-what-I-bought-on-eBay, Mr. Pricematch, Mr. Bounced-check-again, Mr. Dirty hands, Mr. Bad jokes, Mr. Broken promises, Mr. Can-I-catch-you-next-week, Mr. Look-what-I-was-able-to-break-this-week, Mr. Roadtest marathon, Mr. What-do-you-mean-you-didn't-get-the-check, Mr. I-wasn't-prying-with-this-screwdriver, etc. The list never ends. If I missed any on your hit parade, let me know which ones. The tool business, you just have to love it!

Nik Satenstein is a mobile distributor based in West Chester, Pa., for Matco Tools. You can contact Nik by email at nikmrhemi@comcast.net.

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