As a child, I remember what a treat it was to spend the night somewhere besides my own bed. A “sleep-over” as we called it, was always a fun event even when it came with my mother’s dire warning to “follow the rules of the house.” This meant the rules there might be different than those at home, but I should listen to and obey my hostess. Mom would then add, “Don’t let me get a bad report about you,” dangling an unknown threat that always worked.
We initiated some new “rules of the house” this past tourist season, which has rankled some people. For instance, our new sign has the store’s hours of operation as, “By Chance or Appointment.” Watching from the surveillance cameras, sometimes a would-be customer turns around and leaves, ignoring the “Open” flag flying from the porch. Several people have left phone messages such as, “What do you mean by chance or appointment? We’re here now and want to come in! Where are you?”
Where we are is not important. What is important is we’re not there. We may be at a show, we may be on vacation or just may not feel like opening that day. The hours (of lack of them) are clearly marked near the front door, stated on our voice mail and also on our website. What more can I say? Most antiques dealers are an independent lot and we rarely dance to anyone’s tune but our own anyway. After 23 years in business, we feel we’ve earned the right to say, we’re open when we’re open.
Another rule that has irritated some people is, “No food or drink.” As far as I know, this is standard in the retail industry. No merchant wants to run the risk of a soda or ice cream cone winding up on their merchandise. Folks who come in with just a bottle of water often refuse to relinquish it. Even after I offer to let their water bottle stay on the front desk, they get annoyed. Many people have left because of this rule, but I cannot risk having anything spilled or dripped on our antique weapons. My house, my rules.
But the rule that has incited the most violent reaction is, “No children permitted inside.” The reason for this is, in a nutshell, we’re tired of raising other people’s children. After having literally thousands of children running wildly around the store, beating on the glass cases, grabbing anything not nailed down, while their parents ignore the havoc they are wreaking, we’re done. Too many lazy parents have ruined it for everyone else.
Do we ever make exceptions? Of course we do. Not all parents are lazy and not all children are unruly. We can usually determine the difference with a quick glance. When we hear a parent say, “Hands in your pockets, don’t touch anything,” we usually give the “go ahead” nod.
This new rule came to a head a couple of weeks ago. A boy about 10 years old came busting in, followed by his bedraggled mother. It had been a hot and muggy day in Gettysburg and mom was clearly beat. The father stood on the front porch reading the “Rules of the House” sign. I watched him in the surveillance camera while I informed the mother and son that we did not permit children in the store but he was welcome to sit on the front porch if she wanted to look around.
You would think I’d just attacked her with a machete. She wrapped her arms around her son and yelled I had just scarred her son for life. Scarred for life? Come on, really? Several customers stopped their conversations as all eyes turned toward the overly defensive mother. Then the father came in and things really hit the fan. Mother told Dad what I had just said and the tirade began.
Did you know I was evil? That I should be arrested for cruelty to children? That I would burn in Hades for not cherishing children?
I kid you not (no pun intended). Fortunately for me, there were witnesses to this diatribe and for the record, I will not be screamed at by a hostile father, nor by anyone else for that matter, while in my house or as in this case, my store. The father finally ran out of steam and left.
Only he didn’t. I caught him rereading the “Rules of the House” and then he came charging back in, all wound up again. Now he was going to sue me for “damaging his child.” Really? To say my patience was wearing thin at this point is an understatement. In a very loud voice I told him to LEAVE RIGHT NOW.
And he did; except he didn’t. Again I watched him read the sign and again he assaulted our doorway, stomping inside. What part of the sign he failed to understand, I do not know. What I do know is when he came back the third time, I held the phone in my hand and informed him I had the police on speed dial and was one finger push away from having him arrested for trespassing. This stopped him dead in his tracks. His mouth popped open and then closed. He spun around and left, slamming the door behind him. My grandpa always told me bullies were cowards and if I stood up to him, he’d go away. This one finally did.
But for every complaint about the no children policy, which for the record has totaled three, we’ve had at least three dozen people thank us for having a child-free store. And they usually add that they don’t blame us. Why? Because there is nothing in our store that a 2-year-old will understand. There is nothing in our store that a 7-year-old will want. And there is nothing I can do to change this.
I can only control what happens in our store. So, like my mother always said, follow the rules of the house and things should be fine. If not, well, you don’t want me to give you a bad report, do you?