An apology and a story:
I received an anonymous letter last week. … actually, John did. It referenced a moment at our Scott sale - which wasn’t my best moment - and the author of the letter mistook my frustrations as inappropriate anger, and thought that it was directed at her. I’d like to take a moment to not only apologize to her, and anyone else present, but to fill you all in on what was happening in our little estate sale world at that time.
The story actually begins Thursday, late afternoon, as we were about to leave the sale house for the day. Knowing that I had a longer than usual drive back home, I decided that it would be best to use the restroom before I headed out. After I flushed - as I was washing my hands - the toilet gave a big gurgle and huge bubbles rose from the bottom of the bowl. I eyed it warily. For in my experience, that’s a sign of bad things to come. The kind of bad things that require large rolls of paper towels, a mop, heavy disinfectant, and a disgruntled individual to fix. It may not happen on the next flush… but it was going to happen, and I was sure of it. Lord knows we didn’t need a mess like that in the middle of a sale day, so I immediately placed a nicely worded sign on the door requesting that no one use that bathroom - to use the one in the kitchen instead.
Fast-forward to Friday morning. It was a BEAUTIFUL day! It was 8:35 a.m.. I had just arrived and we would be opening the doors soon. I strolled into the kitchen and poured myself a hot cup of John’s famous coffee. As I took my first sip, my eyes were scanning the room to see what still remained after the first day. On tables along one side of the room, near the massive fireplace, we had displayed linens. They needed to be straightened, so I walked over and started refolding and tidying up. As I reached down for a pillow that was on the floor, I couldn’t help but notice that there were dozens of teeny, tiny paw prints all over it’s dark gray sham.
“That’s weird,” I muttered, just as Shawna walked into the kitchen.
“What’s weird?” she asked.
“Why are there paw prints all over this pillow?”
She walked over to look as Linda entered the kitchen. At this point we realized that there are little dusty prints all over the floor, as well. Linda’s eyes followed the trail toward the fireplace and then she exclaimed, “OH, MY GOSH, THERE’S A SKUNK IN THE FIREPLACE!”
Well, as you can imagine the three of us made enough of a racket that John was quickly drawn to the scene. After a moment of excited conversation that consisted of a lot of hand waving and speaking over one another at high volume, we took a deep breath and focused on the task at hand. We were three minutes from opening the door to dozens of shoppers, and there was a live skunk IN THE HOUSE.
Visions of it spraying inside that million dollar home (which was under contract) were of course the first thing that came to mind. Visions of it running through a house full of shoppers while spraying was, of course, next. So we blocked off the entrance to the kitchen and opened the back door as John called our client. Shoppers filed in and as they shopped (and of course offered their thoughts on how we should handle the skunk situation) we quickly and calmly started carrying merchandise out of the kitchen to other rooms in the house. After I had handed off the last of what I felt like we could relocate, I turned and saw … a shopper departing the bathroom that I had closed off the afternoon before… and I could hear the toilet running.
Well, this is the moment to which the letter was referring. I don’t actually know what expression was on my face. I’m not sure exactly what words left my lips. I don’t think I said any bad words, but I’m 100% sure that whatever I did do in the following seconds could easily be described by some as anger. For, I went from thinking that that person had simply ignored the sign, to thinking that maybe one of our Crew said to go ahead and use it anyway - since the kitchen (and access to the other bathroom) was blocked off, to staring in wide-eyed amazement at the LACK OF sign on the door and asking emphatically, “who the hell took the sign off the bathroom door?!”
Well, it turns out that John had taken the sign off the door after “messing with the toilet” and deciding that it was fine. A pest control professional did come to escort the skunk out - yes it sprayed inside the house during that process. We had a fantastic remainder of the sale despite the toilet overflowing… and the other toilet overflowing. The smell of skunk was miraculously gone on day 3, and the house was EMPTY at the end. A successful sale all around… except that I found out that I’d made a lady think that I was really mad at her for using the bathroom. Also, according to her, there were other people nearby that thought the same thing.
Since I couldn’t respond directly to the author of the letter (anonymous with no return address), I wanted to clarify for all. As long as John and I own Pennsylvania Trading Co., we will ALWAYS allow shoppers to use a restroom if at all possible. Some companies don’t, but we always have. In fact, I’ve only told one person that he could not use it in all of our years of business, and I had a great reason on that one occasion. It was also pointed out in the letter that a smile and welcoming attitude goes a long way. I couldn’t agree more!! We try so hard to be consistent in that. My limits were tested that day and I hate to know that a customer got caught in the crosshairs. I apologize and truly hope that you can forgive me. Please continue shopping our sales! We’ll do our very best not to let it happen again. We appreciate every one of our fans and are so blessed to have a crowd of followers who would drive the extra 20 minutes to do business with us. We couldn’t do what we do without all of you! We have some fantastic sales lined up and a summer full of great deals. Say a prayer that no more skunks find us in the meantime! As always, thanks for being great. We hope to see you soon.
A Vastly Imperfect Business Owner,
(posted Tuesday, June 5, 2018)