Open Letter to Designers in Retail: Get Off Your High Horse

I have always known that I don’t quite fit in with the typical interior design crowd.  We have common interests, obviously, but there’s a snobbery there that’s difficult for me to stomach. I’ve always wondered if there are some courses offered in design schools that teach you to relate to people in a way that purposely condescends.  The seems particularly common in designers who work in retail establishments. I know this may be a generalization, but I’ve had several personal experiences lately that lend credence to my seemingly sweeping judgment.  If this is you, I’m calling you out on it.



Stop sizing up a potential customer by the clothes they are wearing into your store.

Just because she isn’t carrying a designer handbag doesn’t mean she isn’t willing to fork out a few thousand dollars on a great sofa.  You are likely missing valuable sales when you treat a client differently based on what she is wearing or what car she drives up in.  I shopped with a lawyer once who spent $20,000 in furniture one afternoon in a pair of sweatpants and a Disneyworld t-shirt. I am fairly certain that if I weren’t with her, she wouldn’t have gotten the attention other well-heeled shoppers would have.

Women-with-handbag image via


Stop bad-mouthing customers among yourselves.  

Many who walk into your store don’t know your unwritten “rules.” I realize you work on commission, but many people don’t understand that they should only speak to or ask questions to ONE sales person in your store. They aren’t stupid, they just don’t know the unspoken etiquette if they are not in the design profession themselves.  If they speak to more than one sales person, don’t be rude and chastise them – just explain how things work nicely, like “Arleen is the designer that will be working with you – she will be able to help you with anything you need, let me grab her for you, ok?” And maybe you could muster a kind smile when you say it.

I recently met a client at a local furniture store. She got there about five minutes before I did. While waiting on me to arrive, my client got an ugly EARFUL from several of the catty designers who were ripping on a customer who had just left the store.  Apparently, that customer had the NERVE to ask more than one person for help while in the store!  The on-staff designers also made the assumption that the person probably wouldn’t even make a purchase because, well, did you see the shoes she was wearing? Guess what, you pompous jerks?  MY CLIENT HEARD YOU. And was utterly disgusted.  It left such a bad taste in her mouth, she told me she will never buy anything from your store again.

devil_wears_prada_the_2006_4604_wallpaper Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada


Stop being so overbearing and pushy.

Some furniture stores have TOO MANY sales associates or onsite designers.  You can be like a scary, pretentious hoard of buzzards, swooping in on nervous customers.  Then the pushing begins. Pushing the customer to buy the most expensive options the store has to offer, with obvious little concern for their budget or desires. Pushing for the upsale, for the add-on, to the point that you completely overwhelm your helpless prey customer until she either submits or runs terrified into the parking lot. Shopping for big ticket items can be intimidating for anyone, and you are just making it worse when you obviously care more about your commission than you do your customer’s satisfaction.




Stop treating your potential customers like they are inferior to you.

Why do you think it’s ok to look down your noses at the people who are putting money in your pocket? I don’t understand where the bitterness comes from. Drop the fake-y, high-and-mighty attitude and just try to be a nice person.  Your insincerity is showing, and it’s not pretty.



As many of you know, I’ve been doing a renovation in my own home recently.  I had to purchase many items for our new bathroom, so I made a list and headed to the Retailer-I-Shall-Not-Name.  I wanted to experience this retailer like my clients might, so I decided not to inform them of who I was or that I was an interior decorator at all.  I was just a customer, like all other customers that walk in their door.  An in-house designer greeted me, and I told her what I was looking for.  She was nice enough, but not terribly helpful when what she showed me wasn’t exactly what I wanted.  I always try to offer solutions to my clients problems, and this person didn’t seem to know how to do that.  Oh well, I kinda know what I’m doing, so I kept looking and searching until I was able to make some decisions.

I placed my order and was told it would be delivered to my home within 48 hours.  When it had not arrived by the following week, I called the store and spoke with the designer.  She told me it had been delivered and the boxes had been placed in the back beside the pool.  The bad news?  I DON’T HAVE A POOL. Ok, it had been delivered to the wrong address. Everyone makes mistakes, no biggie. When it was finally delivered to the right house (mine) and I opened all the packaging, I saw that the gold faucets and fixtures I had purchased looked more like rose gold, which was NOT the look I was going for and didn’t match the golder light fixture I based the whole design around (which I also purchased from the same store).

2014-12-04 13.05.49


I called and said I wanted to bring them back in and change them for something that would work better with the light fixture, but the designer said she couldn’t fit me in that day.  I told her I needed to make my decision quickly, since the shipment sat for five days beside someone else’s pool and my contractor couldn’t move forward.  She said to come ahead, but she wasn’t sure how she could help me.

It would take way too long to explain all the details of what happened next, but let me just say that the designer who made commission from the several thousand dollars of product I purchased offered no help in finding a better alternative for the bath fixtures. She was obviously irritated with me and told me I just needed to go with what I had because there wasn’t a better option if I wanted to stick with that light fixture. When I found a much more expensive alternative that was the perfect complement to my lighting, she told me they were special order and would take 45 days to get in.  Then I saw her turn to a store associate and ROLL HER EYES.  I literally watched her ROLL HER EYES.

lady mary eyeroll.gif


She obviously didn’t think I was serious about purchasing the much upgraded faucet in the finish I really wanted.  And she didn’t want to take the time to help me solve my problem. I was so upset, I walked away and tried to figure out what I was going to do on my own.  Reading the small print on the higher-end faucets, I discovered that some of them might be in stock if they are checked individually.  When I couldn’t find my designer, I had to enlist the help of someone else to help me, who found one in stock.  I thanked the other sales associate profusely for her help.  I left after ordering a much more expensive faucet and an additional hanging light fixture to finish out the whole design, but with the determination that I would NOT bring my clients into this particular retailer going forward.  And then I cried in the parking lot.

 hi-end faucetmy expensive faucet in just the right finish


Designers working in retail should treat their customers – ALL their customers – with respect. Catty gossip, condescension,and eye-rolling is unacceptable behavior.  Get off your high horse and try being kind and helpful to the people who put money in your pocket. You are not better than your customers, so JUST STOP.

You know where I like to do business?  Where people are nice to me.  Do you know the stores I choose to take my clients to again and again?  The ones who are nice to both of us.  That’s pretty much top priority to me. Just so you know.



  1. Laura Ingalls Gunn

    I too have had this same experience EVEN though I have a degree in interior design. I LIKE shopping at discount stores. I like clients who have budgets. To me I look at it as a challenge and it is SO wonderful when I give them the house of their dreams through DIY, sales, and second hand treasures.
    When I encounter such people I just think, “People like to tear down others when they themselves feel small.”

  2. Ksenia Valentine

    I am so sorry to hear that you had such a bad experience. My recommendation to you is Not to leave like that, and write an email or letter to the Corporate offices of that store explaining what had happened and mentioning that designer’s name. I hope you remembered her name or have her business card somewhere. Don’t leave like that, no one deserves such a treatment. Please help prevent other potential customers of hers be treated that way and had eyes rolled over on!

  3. Ksenia Valentine

    Sorry I submitted a comment without re-reading it. Had to edit it:-)
    I am so sorry to hear that you had such a bad experience. My recommendation to you is Not to leave it like that, and write an email or letter to the Corporate offices or management of that store explaining what had happened and mentioning that designer’s name. I hope you remembered her name or have her business card somewhere. Don’t leave it like that, no one deserves such a treatment. Please help prevent other potential customers of hers from being treated that way and having eyes rolled over on!

  4. JL

    This was fantastic and spot on. Luckily, the first memory that popped into my head was that a place I love to shop is probably somewhere I love to shop because the staff is NICE. They have been nice to me when I have that ‘new momma not showered and put together look’ and they have been nice to me when I was looking a little more stylish. They have been nice to me on high dollar purchases and nice on itty bitty things like ramekins. Thanks for this! For those of us that feel totally clueless with furniture and decorating choices, when someone is snotty, it makes us feel nothing but worse. The faucet is gorgeous!

  5. Mary

    Excellent and so true. It is refreshing to hear these words online, thank you for such a great post!!!
    I hope also that some online design bloggers get this message as well.
    Thank you.

  6. Mary Mausser

    I loved this!!!

  7. Lori Sawaya

    Sorry that happened to you, Kristie. 🙁 Renos of the scale your doing don’t come around that often in one’s own home and it should be a fun, exciting time full of welcome anticipation. I’m glad you got what you wanted in the end. Best of luck on the rest of it.

  8. Teresa

    I’m so tired of crying in the parking lot-maybe I don’t have alot of money, but I want to make my home look nice too! I’m so sorry that you had this experience.

  9. MK

    Well said!

  10. TKraft Art & Interiors

    Wow Kristie, I feel like I just heard my own thoughts and words echoing when I read this post. You’re spot on. Like many who will read this story I can not begin to count the number of times I walk into these same scenarios. Because of the general I’m-mightier-than-thou attitude of these sales associates in-house esigners I always scope out a new vendor or supply house before I ever take a client in. I really hope you enjoy the new faucet with out the bitter taste in your mouth from this encounter but rather as a badge of honor that you rose above the bitches and got exactly what you wanted. You rock my world! xoxoT

  11. Elizabeth

    This is in any type of business . We just moved back to the U.S. and I have been appalled at the horrid customer service I have received Everywhere. If the winters weren’t so awful in Canada I’d be back there in a heartbeat .

  12. carolanne

    so totally true, well said…. ( I have worked 10 years as an “In Home Designer” for Lazboy, if I treated anyone this way I would have not been there that long, for sure!) My fav client is the client with a very small budget and we do up their room amazing on 8-9000.00 … everything lamps art art rug included… their in tears at the end of the presentation and again on delivery day… x
    I have been shopping for a new kitchen, bathroom and all new flooring in my condo… I have been lucky so far but I totally have met the people your talking about… they are even worse if I mention I am a interior designer… I do not go there anymore! If your not a fancy designer with your own office you do not seem to count… I do at least 20 clients a month, some days I have to look at their before pictures to remember what room or home I am doing… x

  13. Shirley

    Loved this post. We were once turned away by a store that sold nice art prints and such. We were met at the door and told we could not afford anything and not to come in! This was NOT the case, but rest assured, we DID leave. There are always other stores. Kinda ruined the mood on our Anniversary (temporarily) though.

  14. Lisa

    You are so right Kristie. While you didn’t name the establishments here, nor would I expect you to, I hope you send a copy to the ownership/management of the stores in question. Thanks for being one of the good designers who makes the rest of us comfortable.

  15. applehillcottage

    ooh, i love the girl rolling her eyes. I hardly ever dress up while shopping, so i know of what you speak! And i think i would have had a conniption fit if my boxes were delivered to someone else’s house and put BY THE POOL! What were they thinking? Fun read. You tell ’em!

  16. Nancy

    I had a similar experience a few years ago at a well-known upscale furniture retailer. The designerr came to my home to discuss furniture options. Long story short, she made unsolicited suggestions regarding renovations we were doing which I did not take. However I still purchased thousands of dollars worth of furniture, and I’m sure she made a nice commission. But once I placed my order, she became very inaccessible. Any time I called with questions about my order, she was either not there or was with a customer and never returned my calls. I think she was peeved that I didnt take her advice, but that’s still no way to treat a customer. As a former realtor, I had many a client who didn’t follow my advice, but I still treated them respectfully and wouldn’t dream of not returning their calls, even after the sale was complete. And by the way, I receive many compliments on my home, so I’m sure I made the right decision to follow my instincts!

  17. Holly

    Whoah! Well said, Kristie. We’ve all been treated that way at least once before. I hope some of those retail furniture/design stores and employees actually read this. 😉

  18. Judy Willis

    Well, so glad that I am not the only one who gets treated this way. In the last six months I have been trying to do some redecorating and my husband has almost had to drag me out of several stores where I received such treatment. My remedy has been to contact their supervisor or corporate office and I have gotten several responses by doing so. Most store management insist on good customer service and do not want customers treated in this way. Have a feeling their bottom line will eventually tell the tale.
    Good to know I am not alone in my frustration with sales people.

  19. Michelle L.

    Unbelievable! I think you need to go talk to some retail managers or owners. Really. Or maybe I’ll do it for you! The cool thing about you, is that you are not naming names. And you could. Great advice, Kristie… I hope someone will read it and heed it!

  20. Kim Venable

    WOW! And add to that an “Amen, Sista!” Thank you so much for publically expressing what so many of us have felt at times. I plan to share this with my entire social network. Kudos!

  21. Carol Bowman

    Great post, Kristie! What a lot of us were thinking, you put into words brilliantly! Thank you and I hope “they” read it, too! 🙂

  22. Kathi

    wow-what a great,honest post Kristie-thanx for sharing the truth-I went into an expensive designer shop in Vegas one time and the girls who worked there looked like models with super high heels and were chatting about some customers defects so meanly-they gave me the hairy eyeball and were actually rude when I asked them a question–I’m embarrassed to say that i got really mad and leaned over and said,listen sweethearts-you can be as snobby and rude as you want to, but remember this, i am not the one working for $8 bucks a hour in stilettos on a concrete floor all day-I am staying in the penthouse at the Mirage and having the time of my life,but enjoy feeling superior standing around and clucking like chickens all day about your customers and I walked out without buying the super expensive bag I went into the store for, that they were sure i could not afford,ha-surprise-people don’t always look the way they think they should–There is a lot of false pride with people sometimes and i was ashamed that i stooped down to their level ,but I won’t let it ever happen again.So thanx for putting this out there in the universe!

  23. Cheryl

    OMG – did you ever…….OMG – this is THE BEST POST I have EVER read in our industry. You ROCK and THANK YOU for your straight forwardness. It is ALL true and I often am EMBARRASSED to be a designer because of just this thing.

  24. Janet

    Bravo! Well said…..but who am I to say….I’m just one of the lowly folks they would turn their noses up at :).

  25. Angel Rodenbeck

    I’m so sorry you were treated that way. I hope you never have to step foot in that store again and that someway that aweful sales person will find out who you are and be ashamed of herself.

  26. Rhonda

    I will agree wholeheartedly with your conclusions! Years ago, while shopping at a well-known, high-end furniture store, I was fortunate enough to be “assigned” to the most delightful and helpful designer. I’m not sure how she successfully worked with the other designers; she obviously had different character! I dropped a bundle at that store, but I’m sure that I would have left without any purchases, if any of the other designers had helped me. The past few years we have done some remodeling, and a patient of my husband’s who is a designer offered to help me. Of course, she knew how to handle these creatures, and I was certainly glad for her help, as I felt totally inferior in the many shops we visited.

    Reminds me of a story some years back. I had agreed to wear an old dress for a Christmas party if I could buy a new pair of shoes. After searching everywhere, I finally found a pair at Saks… way too expensive, but they were perfect! Now, even though I was dressed nicely, I waited and waited. When the salespeople obviously were not going to help me, I left. Very frustrated, I told my husband about the incident; I was also sad that I didn’t have those shoes! A few days later, he was having lunch in the area, went into the store, bought the shoes for me without any problem, and surprised me with them! (Not sure what the difference was in him and me!) Unfortunately, I only wore them once, as they killed my feet! I should have returned them, but just couldn’t, after his sweet actions! Boo on all those snobby designers and those snotty sales people, too!

  27. nancy

    Thank you. That really needed to be said.

  28. Vonnie Thomason

    Well Kristie you just made me feel better to know I’m not the only one! Last fall my husband and I were out on a rainy Sunday afternoon and decided to stop by a local furniture store. We were “sort of” looking for a new buffet for our breakfast nook and since 95% of the furniture in our house came from that store…

    We had not bought anything from them in several years since our furniture was all really great quality so we did not know any of their current salespeople. A salesman greeted us and when we told him what we were looking for, told us that most everything they carried in their store was pretty expensive. I was carrying my favorite LV bag, but being dressed for the rain outside must not have been proper shopping attire for him.

    He recommended that we go to the Amish country section. He only pointed and would not take us anywhere in the store. He said we could look around and he would check in with us. Did I mention that we never said ANYTHING about Amish or country?

    We looked around and didn’t really find anything. I think it was because we got madder with each step we took. We left and didn’t buy anything that day. After a few days, my husband called and talked to the store manager and they asked us to put everything in writing and send it to them. She was very apologetic and asked us to give them another chance.

    We went back to the store a few weeks later. We didn’t mention the previous visit, but decided that if we were treated the same way, we wouldn’t stay. We got a very helpful salesman and bought a red Chinese cabinet, pretty far from the Amish country look I think!

    I am always surprised that people who make their living on commissioned sales never seem to want to help the people who come in their stores looking like they could use the most help!

  29. Stella

    Couldn’t agree more, it is a shame when we are more surprised to be be treated with repect in a retail store, than to be either ignored or harassed. Well done for speaking out in your own industry.

  30. Ann

    I just had this happen to me last week! I was in (cute) sweatpants. I dress up everyday at work, and it was my day off and I wanted to be comfy! I had been saving my money (a nice little bonus helped) and Had CASH to spend on two leather chairs. I was literally sitting in the chairs when the “designers” walked past me several times! I was so frustrated, I probably would have bought them on the spot if someone had helped me. I ended up leaving and visited my mom. I told them what happened to me. My parents were so angry and drove me back to the store. I was a bit embarrassed at this point. My parents are good customers and knew the store manager. They asked for an additional discount on the chairs which the sales people and manager were bending over backwards to help out at this point. Even with an extra 500.00 dollars off per chair and all the perks that were offered with my parents I didn’t buy them. ( we never told the manager what had happened) I just was irritated with the way I was treated! I’ll spend my money elsewhere! What’s bad is I’m a fourty year old woman that shouldn’t have to dress up or be with my parents (or husband) to get treated well by sales people! I probably earn more than the salespeople do anyway! I just don’t get it.

  31. Diane

    Kristie, I totally relate to your situation. This happens in other retail situations like car dealerships and clothing stores. This is nothing new because my mom still tells me about how snooty (or snotty) the sales clerks were at a fancy department store when she was growing up. She realized that they probably didn’t even make that much money, but it still irked her.

  32. debbie

    Bless your heart, I’m so sorry you had that experience. I have had it and I’m sure plenty of others have too. There is no excuse for rude and classless behavior no matter what industry it happens to be. Treat people as you would always want to be treated with kindness, patience and respect. The people that act so immature and unprofessional need to attend an etiquette class. There can be millionaires that dress like they are not and people that are not millionaires dress like they are. You should never judge a book by its cover….what goes around comes around and will bite you in the end (no pun intended). It takes less muscles to smile than to frown and everyone looks prettier with a smile and pleasant personality. They are the ones that make the big bucks. Jesus does not approve of being unkind nor do any of us that were taught to always be kind by our grandparents, parents and our faith leaders. Everyone is important and they do matter a lot…sometimes just a smile can turn someone’s bad day around to being a better day.

    Take care

  33. Janet Voltaggio

    Thank you for putting into words what most of us have felt, but don’t have guts or words to explain. In this day, it is a very selfish, foolish and frankly immature sales person who makes these kind of judgements and has the nerve to eye roll! It’s a new era people, there is no more typecasted ‘well- heeled’ client….good luck to old school….hello to an eclectic new shopper & client!

  34. JoanneGizele

    I’m sorry about your experience, but I can’t help but think of how this will make you even more sensitive and understanding of your clients (not that you weren’t before, but there’s nothing like a horrible exchange as a reminder).

    As a college student, my son had the great fortune to work on a project for Sir Richard Branson, a multi-billionaire. Branson wore jeans and sneakers and never put on airs. At the end of the project, he took the time to look up my son–who worked behind the scenes–to shake his hand and thank him for all his work. It made a great impression. Here was a man who could have been demanding and entitled, but he was humble and appreciative. This is how quality people act–they appreciate others and treat everyone well.

    I used to allow snooty people to make me feel as if I were in the wrong–that I wasn’t up to their standards. Fortunately, age and experience have given me a different perspective. I am who I am, and if this particular store or salesperson doesn’t find me an appealing customer, someone else will.

    Thank you for this post. I’m sure every one of your readers has experienced something similar.

    • Cheryl

      Thank you Kristie. Kudos for sharing the same reactions I have experienced. Thank you for being so candid and honest.

  35. Jenny B.

    Wow! That sounds AWFUL. I was scared to go in a local design store for fear of this very thing, but guess what? They were super nice and down to earth, and I got a great deal! YAY!! I also have a friend who is an interior designer, and once at a game night at my house she won a prize that was a $20 gift card to HomeGoods. I thought she was going to cry she was so happy. She said she needed to buy some things there to show a client. She wasn’t even going shopping for herself! 🙂 Those are my people. Those hoity-toity folks won’t be getting my dollars.

  36. Peter Evans

    I’m a decorative artist by trade. I deliberately opened a showroom so I could sell direct to customer rather than have to rely on designers. You have to maintain a sense of humor. I could tell you some crazy stories about designers. Its a dog eat dog profession.

  37. Donna Frasca

    Good for you Kristie! The funny thing is most of these “Designers” just gave themselves that name because they are in the field and think they have an eye for design. Do they have a degree in Design? Probably not. Do they have the experience both in sales, retail and design needed to hold this job? No, chances are very low.

    Well some volunteers are needed for these jobs and unfortunately, they are not the right choice for the company and situations just like this happen.

    We need more Designers like you Krisitie 🙂

  38. Linda

    I have found there are nice and not so nice sales people in all types of retail. Sorry you found one of the not so nice. I think in home furnishing stores, some salespeople just don’t really like their job and end up taking it out on the customer. On the flip side, one of my best friends works at West Elm. Some of the stories she tells me about rude customers is shocking. Recently she had a customer who had a temper tantrum in the store because the item she wanted was out of stock. My mother always told me, “treat others how you wish to be treated”. Too bad we all can’t live by that rule.

  39. Marilyn

    I love you Kristie Barnett!!

  40. Susie T.

    Wow, Kristie, so many people can relate to your experience. Thank you for putting into words what it seems we’ve all experienced. Enough of this terrible customer service!

  41. Adele

    This is SO true! My sister, brother-in-law and I were walking around town enjoying the first warm day of spring when we passed by the storefront of an interior design firm. My sister and brother-in-law, both successful physicians, had just bought a very nice house in a very nice neighborhood and wanted to furnish and decorate it so we went inside to look at some furniture. Yes, we were in shorts and t-shirts (as was everyone else walking around) but we were presentable. The moment we walked in we could feel the condescension rolling off the saleswoman and every time my sister so much as looked at something she said, “That’s very expensive.” We walked out, vowing never to go back there. As my sister remarked when we left, “That was a bad move. We could probably buy and sell that woman.”

    My sister did furnish her house–with custom-made, down-filled filled sofas and custom-drapery from another firm, a living room carpet as large as the footprint of my whole house, and lovely antiques. That snooty store and firm is out of business.

    Another sister and I had a similar experience in Old Town, Alexandria, where she owns an historic row house. I picked up a small decorative item (lovely but something rare or antique, there were multiples of them) and asked how much it cost. Instead of being given a dollar amount, the response was, “It’s expensive” and she took it out of my hands. We were so shocked and insulted we turned on our heels and left. My sister, I know, has never returned.

    • Yolanda

      You could buy and sell that woman?? Wow that is snobby of YOU.

  42. Angela

    Word! Looks like we’re all in your corner girl!

  43. Cris angsten

    I have been the brunt of this many times. I have also tried going incognito and not mentioning that I am a decorator with many years experience. You for sure learn who will not treat your customers well! They also have this warped idea that designers and decorators are always dressed all fancy and in a fancy car. Some days I am junking and wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and driving my 21 year old Jeep around instead of my leather interior Mini and a pair of manolos (I do not actually own manolos but you get the point) . So silly.

  44. ceil tarwater

    Kudos for you Kristie! It’s about time someone spoke up and say something regarding SNOBBY designers & salespeople! Your article reminded me of a scene in the movie PRETTY WOMAN, where Julia Roberts walks into a Rodeo Drive Boutique looking ever the ‘call girl’ and wanting to spend major bucks on nicer clothes! BIG MISTAKE! Keep up the grand work Dear!

  45. Julie

    Thanks for “taking one for the team”! You could have just walked in and been treated like a celebrity, but you wanted to know the real story in order to help your clients and readers. Now THAT is customer service! (Although, very sorry that person made you cry, I have definitely been there 🙁 )

  46. ~syl

    “Do unto others…” Still valid today as spoken two thousand years ago!!!! Blessings!

  47. Nanci

    Never pre-judge, never pre-judge, never pre-judge. Words to live by.

  48. Rae

    Thanks for being so honest. I’ve never been in the position to spend money in a high end shop, ( Lowes and Home Depot are my Go-To retail). However, I did subscribe to a popular home decor magazine at one time. I loved dreaming and looking and planning at all the wonderful ideas each month. But I could NOT stomach the monthly article where they ask designers their opinions and what products they endorse. Snobs. Seriously! Does one really pick out the “plaid wool designer one -of-a-kind naturally dyed throw” because it reminded them of sipping cognac from a plaid thermos on the beaches of the Riviera? Or, my client painted her dining room to match the exquisite rug she picked up on a weekend in Paris, and it took 12 tries to get it that perfect tomato soup shade she wanted.
    Needless to say, I cancelled my subscription. Decorating should be bare bones enjoyable, honest and non- snobby!

  49. A different Holly

    Personally, I think it’s kind of fun to see them GROVEL after I have made my first selection, even though I’m only wearing jeans, moccasins, and a sweatshirt. Then I become the b*+ch . . .

  50. A different Holly

    Personally, I think it’s kind of fun to see them GROVEL after I have made my first selection, even though I’m only wearing jeans, moccasins, and a sweatshirt. Then I become the b*+ch . . .

  51. Melissa Allen

    Amen sister! I am so glad that you posted this. Snub the snob. All of these great comments and shared experiences show just how widespread this is which saddens me. I have experienced something very similar recently, but outside of retail (tho I’ve had that too on many occassions). I love my hometown dearly, but loathe the unfounded judgement, assumption and condescension that occassionally rears its ugly head in my zip code. Passed on from people who don’t even know me—OUCH!—in that aspect JUST like retail.

    After a good cry, I chose to stay on the high road, keep my joy and remove their power.

    My message to these folks:
    Revisit James 4:12… But you— who are you to judge your neighbor?

  52. Laura Bolen

    Great blog Kristie! You said what many of us have wanted to say for years! Good for you and Thank you!

  53. Sheri Bruneau

    What a great article! As some who didn’t start their business in the interior design world (I actually started out as a Professional Organizer and Professional Stager), I have felt intimidated many, many times. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in stores where I have felt so little and small (and honestly – worthless and dumb). I can totally relate to you crying in the parking lot. There’s nothing worse than feeling intimidated by someone who thinks they are much better at what you are doing. In my books, there is never a good excuse for acting that way. As a result, I have a little list of ‘banned’ stores where I will never take my clients to.

    You hit the mark with all of your points!

  54. Rebecca Dumas

    Great post, and hopefully a reminder to some of these retail establishments that provide independent type contractors that are commission-based. Courteous, helpful service is always the right response and will come back to you 10-fold.!! Thanks for calling them out.

  55. Lisa Lucas

    LOVED this post. So often I am dropping into stores in between staging homes and dressed casually for running around supervising an installation and setting up a staging instead of to impress. Carrying an expensive handbag and wearing fancy shoes to construction sites is an expensive mistake I learned years ago so I don’t fit with the “designer” look they are expecting. I get completely ignored in so many of these stores with in house design staff even though I spec more design work in a year than many of them do in five. So often they appear shocked when I purchase quickly usually already knowing exactly what I need for a design project. Especially here in the Seattle area, you would think that they would have learned the lesson with all the high tech companies we have whose employees dress casually but have high salaries — still, it happens all the time. I am so happy to hear someone finally say it and you captured how I have felt for years so well. Again, thank you.

  56. Hope

    HALLEUJUAH, Sister!!! I go through this alot as a consumer – and as a professional interior decorator. People need to relax and remember that everyone that walks in that door is potential revenue. Kindness, down-to-earth, professional demeanor goes so far in this industry. It’s called customer service!!!

    Thanks for the honest commentary. Very refreshing!

  57. Marilynne Rowlands

    Great post! My father, who owned his own furniture store and subsequently became a sales rep. for a number of furniture companies for 50 years, had a really bad opinion of decorators for this reason! I was a furniture buyer in a home based 8-store department store in the 70’s and personally saw both the good, the bad, and the ugly side!!

  58. kate

    Totally agree. I am going through a renovation and it is a frustrating experience at times when you don’t know where to turn for good help. A little courtesy in any of the trades/contractors would be appreciated as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people come in to give a quote, and then never followed up – no phone call, email, nothing.

  59. Judy

    Kristie, you are the BEST!!!!! This post went straight to my soul. I’ve cried in the parking lot, too. Every word you wrote was spot on.

    • Kristie Barnett

      Oh Judy,
      I can only wonder how many people have shed tears in those parking lots!!!

  60. Susan Patterson

    My gosh.. what a response to your posting here. It is truly amazing how ugly some people can be, on both sides, designers and customers. As a territory sales manager for a corporation in the home products industry I used to call on all types of clients, from small family run paint stores and workrooms all the way to high end multi designer downtown showrooms. As I got to know them I will admit that some of the “fancy” designers turned out to be quite lovely people who actually became my friends but overall my impression of the high end places was not favorable. If I felt intimidated calling on them as a wholesale rep, I can’t imagine how unnerving it must have been for potential customers.
    Incidentally, most of the high end furniture stores and design houses did the worst job updating their product offerings with new sampling, displays, fabrics, colors etc. to share with their clients. They often treated me like an inconvenience and rarely invested time or money in learning about or offering the newest industry developments. Their designers were usually the least knowledgeable of all my customers when it came to cutting edge design and trends. Meanwhile, the less pretentious, more approachable decorator down the street was selling thousands of $ of my high end products, servicing her customers and generating tons of repeat business.

  61. Cindy

    Amen! And thank you for writing this post. Having lived most of my life in Los Angeles I can assure you that the customer gets treated like dirt unless your dressed in Prada, Gucci and Chanel and you look like a walking label. It’s unbelievable. You’d think Pretty Woman would have taught sales people something, but I guess not. When I walk into a store I have expectations and they aren’t very high. Say hello…ask if I need help and then be friendly and professional. Never understood how the salesperson who works on commission can get away with being a jerk! Great post.

  62. Martha

    Looks like I’m going to have to quote a famous movie scene:

    “You work on commission, right??”
    “Big mistake. Huge. Well, I have to go shopping now!” (while holding up several shopping bags from other stores.)


    My own thoughts about this type of salesperson is “Do they even realize that they’re currently at work as a shop girl? They obviously had to show up at work to earn a living, just like everyone else….“ Clearly they don’t understand the difference between cost and class. Can’t wait to see your finished bathroom Kristie, it’s going to be beautiful – your girls are so lucky!

  63. Pam C

    I think when you get bad service or products in any industry, the people in charge should be made aware of it. Shoddy workmanship, poor customer service, what ever it may be. If people just leave and don’t let upper management know why, nothing will change. Just my opinion. I think too many of us do this. I also agree that when you get exemplary service it is the right thing to do in letting them know this also.

  64. Sarah

    Yeah, it stinks. If you’re an “easy” customer in that you decide quickly on something pricey, then all is well. But many seem to lose patience if there’s an exception to that neat scenario. Then why are they in service?! Some salespeople are patient and do the right thing, but that seems to be the exception.

  65. Brenda

    Well said, Kristie! And you knew what you were doing. Imagine how those of is who are amateurs feel! It definitely can be a blow to your confidence and cause you to second guess your decisions. Thanks for calling these folks out. Shame on them!

  66. Pam

    You are SOoooooo on the money regarding this! I wish your post could be disseminated to every single retailer in the business. I am starting to see more emptiness of some of the parking lots of these types of stores in my town. Frankly, I don’t know how some of them remain in business. I personally think that people should call out these businesses by name. No need to keep their nasty behavior a secret from future potential shoppers. No one needs that kind of experience ever – and, as you said, especially when you are giving them your hard-earned cash.

    • Kristie Barnett

      Times they are a-changing, Pam. As more options become available, less consumers are willing to put up with poor treatment. They’ll take their business elsewhere!

  67. Jean

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for posting this.

  68. Serena Butler

    Preach it, Kristie!!!!

    This is a lesson that people in ALL areas of retail need to learn, not just furniture & fixture stores.

    Years ago when I was single & newly working in the professional field, we were required to wear suits every day and I bought the majority of mine from a particular national retail boutique chain. Often I would drop in, right after work, to look around and see what was new and I was ALWAYS greeted and catered to and generally had my butt kissed by their staff because they recognized I was wearing their clothes.

    One weekend I was out running errands in casual wear, and I dropped in the store to look around. There were 2 or 3 salespeople working. I wasn’t greeted or acknowledged in any way. They stood around talking to each other. I decided to see how long it would take before one of the said something to me. I looked & looked and went from rack to rack until I was practically right next to where they were, and FINALLY one them reluctantly said me to “can I help you find something?” I turned to her and said “you know, 90% of my wardrobe is from this store and I come in here very frequently right after work and never have a problem getting help. Today I came in wearing something else, and it took you 10 minutes to even acknowledge that I was here. No, you can’t help me find anything.” and I turned around & walked out.

  69. LaJuana Gill

    You have obviously touched a nerve, Kristie! I found myself laughing out loud because you nailed it! I’ve been designing since 1978, have passed the NCIDQ exam as well as the LEED exam. I got so disgusted with the retail snobbery that I segued from residential design to commercial design. Trust me, commercial design resources have it in spades over residential retail! I wish every retail establishment could read this. I plan to share this post with all my interior design students!!!!!

  70. loroy

    You’re spot on Kristie!

    I’ve had many experiences like yours and after 30 years of furnishing and decorating my homes, and completing many DIY projects (with some help from a really good carpenter friend of ours), I’ve gotten to the point where I can size up the the person helping me in the store (or showroom or whatever) within 5 minutes. If they’re polite and knowledgeable, I engage and there’s usually a successful outcome with both of us smiling and laughing at the cash register (ching ching!). If they’re ignorant and/or arrogant or just plain lazy, I plow forward like a bulldozer and tell them exactly what I want and don’t really care what they think of me. If they can’t deliver, I leave and go somewhere else (and roll MY eyes on the way out the door!).

    It was hard in the early years when I was on a tighter budget and not as informed, but that’s when I learned the most, out of necessity. Now it’s much more fun… I’m working on a bathroom as well. So many decisions and so many choices!!! Hmmm, I wonder who will get my business?

  71. Susan

    I’ve often experienced this type of disrespect so I refuse to spend money at any establishment that does not treat me kindly. While this narrows my choices when I’m ready to purchase something, I just cannot force myself to support mean people. What I REALLY want to know, Kristie, are the details about that gorgeous faucet. I think it’s calling my name!

  72. Sandy

    Wow – you really touched a nerve with this one. I’ll just add that when shopping at L***’s I asked a salesman on the floor where to find something I needed and he turned to my boyfriend to answer. I stepped closer and said “Why are you telling him? I’m the one who asked…” How can they BE so annoying and still live?

  73. Geo C

    Oh boy ; (
    Sorry to hear this. I’ve experienced this sort of thing also. Sadly, this lack of civility is all too common! Customer Service has become a joke in this country. Though, it makes the good guys really stand out. I say, write reviews online to let others know and tell everyone! Better luck next time- Maybe get a referral before you shop. ; )

  74. Melody

    Since when does the sight of a designer purse or expensive shoes dictate how we treat another human being? For shame! You hit the nail on the head with this post. True wealth goes far, far beyond legal tender.

  75. Bonnie

    You said it perfectly! And it needed to be said. There is no quicker way to feel superior than to step on someone else. Please notify the store’s corporate office and give names.

  76. Tiffany

    Loved the post. I’d love it even more if you hand wrote a note to the store manager and wrote the link to this page. I’d let them know you are a local designer, and you will no longer return there. I admire your restraint in not naming them, but they definitely need to hear it. Heck, I’d even hand write one to every person who worked there. Maybe somebody will learn something!

  77. Mary CC from CA

    So sorry this type of experience happened to you Kristie. I know from reading your blog what a sweet lady you are and you did not deserve this. You did the right thing by writing about it. Like most who have posted here, I too have been a victim of this type of behavior which is not only snobbery and rudeness but it is a form of discrimination. No one wants to be discriminated ever, yet it happens in his world daily for no worthy reason. And yes, it hurts ! Years ago my husband and I were looking for a new car and we narrowed it down to two models and makes. We called ahead at dealership #1 to see if a salesperson would be available and made a quick appointment. When we got to dealer #1 the sales manager said they are never busy on weekends because the type of person who buys their cars only shop on weekdays because they spend their weekends on their yachts or golf courses. What a slap in the face to us. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Of course we took our business to dealer #2 and picked out a new young rookie salesperson who was so happy to help us. I have had many experiences like this in the past. Kristie, you did not deserve what this immature salesperson did to you, nor does anyone. Thank you for starting this conversation on this type of unacceptable behavior. I hope the conversation continues and something good can come out of your article. Women are not the only ones who behave this way, men do it too. Usually, people like this have never progressed emotionally beyond junior high for whatever reason. It is stupid that they take our power away from us with their behaviors. I have had to learn to speak up for myself as I have gotten older and assert myself on occasion. While I hate having to speak up, I know it is the right thing to do. I am choosing to not become a doormat for someone who is not worthy of my respect or my business.

  78. Diane

    I have money. I’m not rich, but I can afford to pay for high-quality items as necessary. But I don’t wear designer clothes or drive a fancy car. And when someone does not treat me nicely based on their assumption of what I can afford to spend, I call them out on it. I also speak to managers as necessary. I also do the opposite-if someone treats me nicely, I always try to speak to a manager to let them know about it.

    Don’t let the jerks get you down!

    You should’ve pulled a Julia Roberts/Pretty Woman on them-“Big mistake!” 🙂

  79. Devna

    Hi Kristie, Thank you so much for this article! Unfortunately, it’s all too true.

    Although, on the one hand, I can understand you not naming the retail establishment, on the other hand, I feel as though we should call them out, we should name them. And of course we shouldn’t shop there. Maybe, that can be the beginning of the end of such behavior. If they start to lose business, they will [be forced to] change – won’t they? Otherwise, when and how will it stop?

    Thanks again, Kristie.

  80. kathleen barry

    Yes, this is for all the snobs out there!! I had to laugh when I started reading this post…….I remember one face in the recent past. An old dude in Baer’s furniture store. He lost my business because of his attitude (and I was with my decorator). hahaha …it doesn’t pay to be rude.

  81. Leigh

    It’s precisely this snobbish behavior that sets them apart and projects the image of catering only to the elite. I’m guessing they can survive with a few visits from the customers that drop very big bucks while weeding out those customers that do not project their image. Those that view themselves as better or more elite than others do not want to shop at a place that caters to the masses. Notice how I said those that view *themselves* as better than others. As long as this *customer service* works, I doubt it will stop.

    I’m with you, I would stop shopping there, and since I love writing emails/letters, I would definitely be writing one, although I doubt it will make a big difference until they see a difference in their bottom line.

  82. carol

    Loved your letter ..its so on the money …

  83. mindy

    Your spot on… thank you for your comments! Thank you for voicing what so many of us feel while shopping at some of these places. AMEN!! 🙂

  84. Delores Jordan

    As an African American woman I have experienced this same treatment at work in restaurants but especially at the decorator show homes in Nashville and I happen to have very good taste and am very creative on a shoe string budget mixed with some very expensive French furnishings I am great with Amy Howard chalk paints and faux finishings I love home decor and so I have subjected myself to some really snooty designer sales persons I can’t stand bradfords and this 20 yr old right out of designer school snob she treated me horribly I gave it right back to her but I ruined my day I will never go in there again it’s just so painful I can remember this one decorator show house I went to in belle meadow near cheek wood in 2007 for some sort of charity and these elderly ladies looked at me and talked about there maids coming to work dressed like me last year I went to the decorators show house in Franklin omoore decorating schools and got several dirty looks one of the designers actually tried to run from me when I tried to ask him about the stencils he used a couple of the lady’s there made comments and one group of folks said she’s Pacific Islander which I am not just snobby I would just love to work with a designer to design my house and let me purchase thins at my own paced and just be nice all I want is a pretty French country English federal gustavian style furnishings with English garden I love design so no snob is going to keep me from dreaming and aspiring to created perfect heaven on earth

    • Kristie Barnett

      What unfortunate experiences, Delores. I really like the last thing you wrote, “I love design so no snob is going to keep me from dreaming and aspiring to create a perfect heaven on earth.” You can do that – I believe it!

  85. Rebecca

    Sorry about the bad experiences you have had. I managed a furniture store for years and can honestly say that I didn’t work with any of “those” people. We were very customer focused. But, we are in a generation that wants things handed to them. Customer Service isn’t for everyone. And more retailers need to do more training and accountability in this area. When I encounter someone like this while shopping, I will dismiss them and find someone else. Hopefully you can find someone there who is genuine. However, if the attitude persists throughout the employees, I will leave and most likely NOT shop there again. Or like another reader suggested, talk to a manager. They need to know why you won’t give them your business. I did go to O’More Design College ~ and snobbery wasn’t taught. But I did feel that some people think they are better than everyone else. Which is a shame. You can be a confident person and still have a heart. Love your blog!

    • Kristie Barnett

      Thank you for you input on this, Rebecca! I agree with you – confidence is NOT the same thing as arrogance.

  86. Erin

    I loved this post! I hate to be treated snobbishly. I am 99.9% of the time dressed in jeans, cardigans, comfy shoes and ponytail when I go out. We have a beautiful furniture store near where I live in Virginia called Dayton Interiors and even though I’m sure I am NOT their “target market,” every time I go in there I am treated beautifully. I don’t have a lot of money to spend on furniture, but I prefer to buy good-quality pieces so I save up to shop there because of the respectful and kind way they treat me.

  87. Doreen Jones

    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!! A few months ago I was shopping for clients in a very nice furniture store when a lady approached me asking if I worked there. I said no but would be happy to find a salesman for you . As we continued our conversation she said, I have been waiting for someone to help me for over a hour, I think they are avoiding me because I’m dressed in my sweats , tennis shoes, ball hat and no makeup. Feeling bad for her (but knowing she was probably right) I offered assistance. She said to me, I have money and planned to buy furniture today but not in this store.

  88. Trixie

    Thank you for this! I’m finding your post a year or so later, but it’s speaking to me today. I’m an interior designer who has been able to work with clients without having to use a major “showroom,” so far. I have a new client that has accounts at the big showrooms and has spent thousands and thousands there. I visited the Design Center recently to visit those showrooms on her behalf. Ugh. They treat you like something on the bottom of their shoe if you’re not carrying the expensive bag, and do not have a well-heeled client by your side. My client, like yours, is someone that favors yoga pants and running shoes, no makeup, ponytail. She would be ignored. I have had the worst time just trying to get information to make a very large purchase for her. Probably in the 30-40k range just for a few pieces of furniture and fabric. I visited one showroom and was ignored by every female employee in there, until I came across some wonderful men working in another part of the floor. They were delightful. They saved the experience, but I would not spend my client’s money there. After going through the attitudes, I’m going to a design center that is not part of the big “Design Center.” The funny thing is that I’m super-friendly, down-to-earth, design expert, who doesn’t believe in spending $1,500.00 on a purse or shoes, who happens to make large purchases on their client’s behalf. I never understood why people that sell furniture and fabric would act superior to the people who can actually afford it. Hmmmm….

  89. H

    I experience this snobbery and entitlement everyday at school. Design school and the industry people can be so rude. It’s like a bunch of catty, immature, pretentious teenagers run amuck.


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