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How to Handle a Barefoot Customer

December 31, 2012

A List of Helpful Suggestions for Retailers, Restauranteurs, and Others Who Relate to the Public

In an ideal world, an article on How to Handle a Barefoot Customer would be very short and read like this:

“Good morning [afternoon, evening], sir/madam. May I help you?”

The End.

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However, we do not live in an ideal world. There are, unfortunately, people who still consider being barefoot in public something of an anomaly. There are some who still see it as somehow unclean or unhealthy or inappropriate.

This article is for those people.

How to Handle A Barefoot Customer: The Approach
1) Remember that the Barefoot Customer is in your place of business to purchase something or to obtain a service. They are there to spend money. It would be extremely unusual to find a barefoot customer with any other purpose in your establishment.

2) An appropriate greeting should be extended: “Welcome to Bloomingdale’s. May I help you?” No other comment is necessary. No attention should be brought to the barefoot customer’s shoelessness. No good businessperson makes a comment about any other customer’s appearance, do they?
– “Why, Mrs. Black, have we forgotten to wear a brassiere today?”
– “Mr. White, your baldness seems diminished by how grey your hair has grown.”
– “Excuse me, Ma’am, our section for women your size is, well, we don’t cater to women your size.”

3) After discerning the barefoot customer’s need, do what is necessary to meet that need. It is courteous to end such a service with a remark like, “Is there anything else?”

How to Handle A Barefoot Customer: Safety
1) Safety is everyone’s first concern. No one wants to hurt their feet less than the barefoot customer. Most barefoot customers will appreciate the retailers’ concern for their safety.

2) A case might be made (by some) that someone being barefoot in a place of business is somehow unsafe. The thoughtful proprietor should do the following:
– Be sure all the shards of broken glass that normally lay about most places of business are cleaned up
– Mop up all the spilled chemicals and other hazardous materials that are so common in public areas
– Extinguish all piles of burning substances in the store
– Secure shelves of product to be sure that items stay on the shelves rather than falling off as they always do

3) If the business operator is unable to provide safety, as suggested in #2 (above), be sure to acquire safety shoes, gloves, goggles, etc., for all customers entering the store.

How to Handle A Barefoot Customer: Policies
1) Prohibiting barefoot customers is merely a loss of business. There are no state health department rules against bare feet. The common expression, “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service,” is just that: a common expression.

2) Customers are not subject to the same OSHA regulations that employees are. Barefoot people should follow OSHA guidelines when they are in the workplace, but not when they are customers.

3) A barefoot customer is bringing nothing into an establishment on their feet that a shod person is bringing in. There is no need to be concerned about spreading germs or disease whatsoever.

How to Handle A Barefoot Customer: Unruliness
1) In the unlikely event that a barefoot customer becomes unruly, see your policy book regarding how to handle customers that become unruly. Flip to the “Unruly Barefoot Customer Section.” Follow company policy.

I hope this article is helpful for those who provide services and other business for barefoot shoppers.

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3 Comments
  1. Well I guess it should read “that a shod person is NOT bringing in”

  2. incu permalink

    If there is an extraordinary danger (for example a broken bottle not yet cleaned up), you can give a warning to the barefoot customer. On the other hand/foot, as a barefoot customer I have sometimes informed supermarket personnel of dangers (not complained, not made any threats) and they thanked me for it.
    “Good afternoon madam, there’s a broken bottle in the drinks aisle, could you please clean it up?”
    “Ah thank you for telling me, sir”

    Anyone who doesn’t believe it’s a totally normal option to go barefoot anywhere is welcome to visit countries such as much of Africa, India, Australia or New Zealand and see for themselves.

  3. Great article… Unfortunately, the people who actually SHOULD be reading this – e.g. store owners, managers, employees – are the least likely audience here… Hopefully someone who works in retail will take the time to read this.

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