This just isn’t good business

I’ve got to admit that I was more than a little taken aback upon reading that a trio of Fairfield drug dealers had recently opened fire on a potential customer when he seemed reluctant to make a purchase.

A hard sell to be sure…

According to Fairfield police, the spirited sidewalk solicitors approached a Berkeley tourist on Phoenix Drive last month and offered to sell him drugs.

(Somehow I get the feeling that we’re not talking Extra Strength Tylenol here…)

The visitor declined and the eager entrepreneurs proceeded to chase him from Phoenix Drive to East Travis Boulevard and finally San Diego Street, apparently trying to convince him to purchase some illicit pharmaceuticals by repeatedly shooting at him.

The hapless tourist suffered a nonlethal flesh wound during the gunfire and later was treated at NorthBay Medical Center for his injuries.

Let’s face it, this is not the way to build a strong consumer base and it’s quite unlikely that this fellow will ever be a repeat customer. It’s also pretty obvious to me that these would-be business people have never bothered to attend a Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce sales seminar (nor an NRA firearms safety course).

Remember, the most successful business people follow the tried-and-true principle of sales that says, “The customer is always right.” There is no known corollary that says “If he isn’t, shoot him.”

It would make a lot more sense for these guys to, like, offer a free toaster or compact disc to every customer who buys at least a half-gram of product.

Free key chains, T-shirts or ballpoint pens – preferably engraved with one’s pager number – also make for satisfied customers and repeat business.

Offering samples also is a good idea. This time-honored practice says, “We like you and you’re going to like us.”

And remember to diversify. Not everybody wants to buy crack cocaine. Some customers may prefer marijuana, ecstasy, heroin or just a soupcon of methamphetamines. This is, after all, California. You never know when you’re going to encounter a picky customer who wants Lebanese hashish, only Lebanese hashish and nothing but Lebanese hashish.

Admittedly, good Lebanese hashish isn’t always that easy to obtain these days, but if you’ve got a gram or two stashed away, think how impressed your new customer will be when you produce it.

And if you don’t have that special item on hand, always be prepared to offer a reasonable substitute at a slightly discounted price. Or, if there’s no immediacy involved, offer to special order your customer’s request at your earliest opportunity. Being flexible always pays off in the long run.

The one thing you don’t want to do is start shooting at a new customer.

That’s like saying, “I’m armed, I’m whacked and I don’t belong to the Better Business Bureau.”

Read my lips: No return business – particularly if you manage to hit your would-be patron with one or more rounds…

Originally published May 5, 2002