Social Etiquette and Good Manners/poor customer service


Hello N. Mitchell

I went into a store just to pay a bill granted that i was dressed poorly because I was in a rush from home. I entered the store and the cashier extended her hand out to take my payment and I put the money in her hand. Well my change of 7 dollars she put on the counter 2 feet away from my extended hand. She made a rude comment when I asked to have the money put in my hand she refused so I asked for my money back and then she did the strangest thing she held the money up to the light for a 2nd time, so i retrieve my money and walked out of the store.

Dear JB:

Thank you for sharing your question and concern with me.

The unpleasant experience that you describe should not have happened. No matter how you were dressed while conducting business in the store, the clerk should have treated you with respect. That is basic customer service.

You may want to register a formal complaint about the clerk's rudeness.  You could do this by speaking with the store's manager or writing a letter to the manager or owner. To get into a dispute with the clerk is a waste of time. Your complaint should be registered farther up the chain of command.

Management needs to know how employees treat customers and to take corrective action when necessary, because surveys have shown that good customer service is one of the top reasons shoppers return to a business. We want to feel valued and respected, and we want to receive the assistance that we need. When an individual behaves as inappropriately as did the clerk you describe, management needs to know and to take action or their customers will trade elsewhere.
Regarding the exchange of money, I caution you not to jump to conclusions when a clerk does not place bills or coins into your hand. The nationality of the clerk may dictate that to do so would be inappropriate. This is a cultural nuance that often leads to misunderstandings in retail transactions.  That said, what transpired following the exchange of your money--checking the bill a second time--was rude and offensive on the part of the clerk.

One thing has not changed in centuries of retail sales--the customer is always right.  When a sales person forgets this basic rule of service, a customer needs to not only take their business elsewhere but to register a complaint with management so that the offending clerk is corrected and re-trained or things will never change.  

Social Etiquette and Good Manners

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Nancy Mitchell


Social etiquette; Business etiquette; Entertaining etiquette; Wedding etiquette; Protocol, domestic (US) and international; Flag etiquette; Dining etiquette; Restaurant etiquette; Spa etiquette; Travel etiquette


Nancy R. Mitchell is a nationally recognized etiquette and protocol consultant and trainer with more than 30 years of experience in the field. She owns the firm The Etiquette Advocate and is an owner and founding partner of the firm Protocol Partners-Washington Center for Protocol. Currently, she is an adjunct faculty member at The George Washington University, where she developed and teaches protocol courses in the School of Business and the Career Center, and at Stratford University, Falls Church, VA. She serves also as protocol and special events consultant to the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library and cultural center. For 23 years, Mitchell was director of special events and protocol at the Library of Congress where she and her staff were responsible for planning and managing over 400 events each year. She coordinated the institution’s major special events, visits of heads of state and other distinguished visitors, galas, conferences and meetings. As the Library’s chief protocol advisor, Mitchell served as liaison to the White House, U.S Department of State, the Congress, the Supreme Court and other government agencies, embassies, academia and corporations.

Protocol and Diplomacy - International Protocol Association

Mitchell is quoted on matters of etiquette and protocol by CNN, ABC Nightline, Martha Stewart Living Radio, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Washington Business Journal, the Associated Press and Washingtonian magazine, has been featured on ABC Good Morning America, Fox News and National Public Radio, and is an etiquette columnist for, etiquette consultant to Alexandria Woman and to Engaged! magazine, and technical editor of Wedding Etiquette for Dummies (Wiley, 2010).

B.S., University of Utah, 1969

Past/Present Clients
America Online (AOL), American Bar Association, American Society of Interior Designers, Asian Development Bank (Manila, Philippines), Association of American Indian Physicians, Association of American Medical Colleges, BAE Systems, Inc., Capital One Financial Corporation, The Catholic University of America, Clark Construction, LLC, Choice Hotels International, Coppin State University, D.C. Bar Association, 40 PLUS of Greater Washington, Dress for Success, Inc., Emerging Leaders Institute(Fairfax, VA), Fannie Mae, General Dynamics Corporation, Georgetown University, George Mason University, George Washington University (Admissions Office, Career Center, Department of Athletics, School of Business, MBA Association), Grant Thornton LLC, Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, HITT Contracting, Inc., Howard University, Howrey LLP, KTA Group, Inc, Library of Congress, Life Technologies, Lincoln Military Housing Corporation, Marketing Directors Support Group (Baltimore, MD), Miss DC International Pageant, Montgomery County Commission For Women, National Center for Children & Families, National Press Club, Oberlin College, Orphan Foundation of America, Professionals in the City (Washington, DC), Ragsdale Liggett, PLLC, Ritz Carlton Hotel (Pentagon City, VA), Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, SOC Enterprises, Stratford University, Team Enterprises, Inc., Travel Industry Association, Trinity University, Umstead Hotel and Spa, University of Virginia, Washington and Lee University, The World Bank, World Travel and Tourism Commission, Year Up, Youth Business Initiative.

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