Respectful Treatment

by Charles Horner
Texas, USA

In the mid 1980s, I was enrolled in a travel agency school for entrepreneurs who wanted to operate their own travel agency. We got valuable information on the geography of the world. And we were trained on educating our clients to deal with idiosyncrasies and cultural habits of other cultures around the world. Some of the information gleaned from those classes has stuck with me to this day, especially on how to treat other people… no matter what they look like.

Respectful TreatmentThis period of time was also when many people in the United States dressed shabbily as a form of rebellion, not from necessity. One of our instructors, “Barbara”, owned a travel agency. She related the story of three scraggly-looking kids who’d come in one day. As was the custom in this part of one of the more affluent areas of Dallas, if you didn’t look like you belonged, you were shunned. Or the police were called to remove you from the premises without consideration as to why you were there in the first place.

One of Barbara’s travel agents turned up her nose at the unkempt kids, ready to call the police and have them removed. The employee dismissed them as bothersome troublemakers, unworthy of her valuable time.

Barbara, however, greeted them kindly, inquired as to their travel plans and suggested different travel options. They spent over two hours going over different ideas. Even though they looked like they didn’t have a dime between them, she gave them every courtesy, as if they were the most important customers that had walked into her agency that month.

They wound up booking (literally) around the world itineraries with lavish accommodations. As she booked their flights, hotels, cruises, and excursions, the surnames they gave didn’t sound familiar to her. But she went through all the motions, as if they were real travel customers planning a lengthy vacation.

When it got down to how the trip would be paid for, the oldest produced an exclusive American Express card. Barbara recognized the name on the card as belonging to one of the wealthiest families in Dallas. She quizzed them as to the different name on the card. They explained that they used their mother’s family name so they could travel safely, and not be targets for terrorists or kidnappers. A quick phone call confirmed their story.

After all transactions were completed and confirmed, they thanked her and said that hers was the fifth agency they’d visited that week, and because she didn’t treat them like they looked, she got their business. She made over $25,000 in commissions on their bookings alone.

One lesson Barbara imparted to us that day in class was that prejudice isn’t just about race and gender. She said: “No matter how somebody is dressed, or how unkempt they look, everyone deserves respect and kindness. Don’t treat anybody poorly — they just might pay for your new car.”

Originally published as HeroicStories #531 on July 15, 2004

5 thoughts on “Respectful Treatment”

  1. Ha! A similar story happened to a wealthy business man in my area of Switzerland.
    I guess he was between 50 and 60 when this happened. He is well known to wear shoes with holes and shirts without buttons or tears cause he just doesn’t care about this stuff.
    He went to main retailer for Porsche in Switzerland, gave his name and adress and asked them to send an offer for the then most expensive model including every extra possible. The weeks passed and no offer arrived. So he printed out his bank Balance, went there again, threw it on the table and said: Do I get an offer now as you clearly can see I have the money to pay it?
    They nearly bowed down in front of him.
    Unfortunately wherever you buy your Porsche it comes from this company, so you can’t shun them.

  2. A friend of mine went through the same treatment. When he walked into the Oldsmobile dealership with his grubby work clothes on, the salesmen told the newby on the force , he is yours, he won’t buy a thing. The young man did his best and when the palavar was over, Chet took out his checkbook and wrote a check for the full anount.

  3. When I was teaching, I had students from all walks of life. Some dressed very well, but some looked like they’d just come off the street. I made up my mind that I would treat them all the same, with respect and courtesy.

    At one school, a tech school, every new student would eventually be in three of my classes if he/she finished. One day, I saw a man, probably in his late 40s, walking toward me. My heart sank a little, because I knew he’d be in my classes. He had long scraggly hair and a beard and prison tats on his arms. He was obviously a biker and he looked like, as we say in Texas, “he’d been rode hard and put up wet.”

    I smiled at him and said hello, and sure enough, that afternoon, he was in my class. After I took role, he motioned me over to him. He pulled something out of his pocket to show me. “Pictures of my grandbabies,” he said.

    He was one of the best writers and speakers I ever had.

  4. I worked in a local bank in the early 1970s and one of the customers who came in on a regular basis was an old man who grew up on a local farm and only left the area when he went away to service in the Army during WW1. He always wore an old Army trench coat with other Army surplus gear underneath and always looked like he hasn’t shaved for a few days. Tall, thin and wiry, and many of the local thought he was a hobo (what we called the homeless people in those days). He also still lived in the house he was born in and grew up in on what was left of the farm that had been in his family until it got progressively sold off as the city expanded up to and around the farm. My job in the bank was to process the long-term investments that were being reinvested, and that included the monies he’d been paid for his family farm over the last 40 plus years. Our bank didn’t have all of the family investments, just a bit over two hundred million dollars worth, and what he grew up on as a farm was, by 1970, a major industrial and residential area of what is now an inner suburb of Sydney, NSW, Australia. – You can never judge a book by it’s cover.

  5. A friend of mine had a similar experience to those related by others here in a car dealership. It being the weekend, he was dressed very casually, in worn jeans and a tee shirt. He went into several different exclusive car brand showrooms, such as Jaguar, Porsche and Aston Martin, and the first one where the salesman treated him with respect gained a sale somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 UK pounds


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