Ooooh, I’m just so angry. Grrrrrr.
My trip to the South was 98% wonderful – even places where there seemed to be a disconnect between myself and the shop owner (only one of those, really…) proved fruitful in that there were such wonderful students I met along the way.
Except for one shop [ominous fanfare]
One snitty little shop, with a terrible selection of yarn and a shop owner who took me back to the bad old days of the 1980’s when some shop owners felt you owed them big time for the fact that they’d gone to the trouble to open up a yarn shop.
I hadn’t written about it because it just seemed small to do so – so call me small, I’m writing about it now. Why? Read on…
Allow me say that I taught a really good class at this shop – the students were wonderful, they were engaging and engaged and participated fully! Many of them hung around after class to tell me how much they enjoyed it, and the one employee at the shop was just lovely, very helpful.
So where did the problem come in? Poor communication between the shop owner and myself.
Before I leave on a trip I send a confirming email to the shops and venues where I’m teaching firming up the details (what I’m teaching, where I’m staying, when I’m supposed to arrive, etc.) so that there are no nasty surprises. This is basic business communication 101, and it seems like a good, protective measure.
However, when I wrote to this shop owner to tell her that I would be teaching X class and Y class, showing up at X:00 and leaving at X:00, I also mentioned that I never heard back from her on accommodation arrangements so (if I didn’t hear from her) I’d be making my own.
I received no response to this email, which isn’t unusual. Many shops don’t reply to this unless there’s a problem.
Since no accommodation was promised, I took the safety measure of making other accommodation arrangements. The last thing you want is to finish a class at 10:00 pm and then have to look for a motel. I made arrangements to stay with a cousin in Fayetteville, GA (a 1-1/2 hour drive from the shop, but a wonderful chance to visit with family) In fact, I’d stayed there the night before so I’d left my suitcase and other stuff at my cousin’s house, and told her I’d be back that night after class, so I was pretty much locked into this arrangement.
Imagine my surprise when – arriving at the shop – I was told by the one employee there that I’d be saying with Mrs. Z.
Mrs. Z showed up for class I explained that I couldn’t stay with her because I’d promised to stay with my cousin that night.
She was pretty upset (angry?) at the turn of events. I apologized for the confusion, I even tried to make a joke, “I’m sorry if you cleaned your house for nothing – but now you have a really clean house!” which went over like a lead balloon.
– “My husband cleaned the house – I’ve been on bed rest!”
Oops. Mrs. Z left in a huff (she was pretty angry, she didn’t stay for the class – it makes me wonder why she was so anxious for me to stay with her…?).
A few minutes later the shop owner arrived, barely nodded to me and walked to the back room to eat her dinner. This marked the first and only time on my Southern trip that – upon arriving at a yarn shop – the owner didn’t try to feed me. In full disclosure, her employee – let’s call her Kay – had kindly offered me a diet coke when I first arrived 1/2 hour earlier. But jeeze – this was the first time the shop owner and I had met face to face and not even an “I’m so glad you found us okay!”
Later I figured out that Mrs. Z had probably called the shop owner on her cell phone, and appraised her of the disappointment (insult?) that I wouldn’t be staying with her – what is the big deal about that? – and this might have been the source of the shop owner’s disappointment. But this is just conjecture on my part, not a word was said to me about it. Once again, not the greatest communication I’ve experienced.
It would have been so easy for the owner to come into the shop, greet me and say, “I heard we had a misunderstanding about your accommodations…” at which point we could have had a very pleasant conversation, we could have both taken responsibility for our part in the miscommunication (“It was my fault – “, “No, it was MY fault…”) in a very Southern way. But that didn’t happen.
Suffice to say I felt about as welcomed as General Sherman.
As the students arrived for the class and settled in, the shop owner was still very distant with me. There was a stereo playing which was running off of an i-pod, and at the exact second that class was to begin the owner went over and pulled the i-pod out of the speakers, clipped it onto headphones, and sat down at one of the tables with her headphones on! acting, for all the world, like the 10th grader who’d rather be ANYWHERE but Algebra Class.
I taught the class – it went well – although I will say it was unnerving to look over and see the woman who owned the shop off in her own little i-pod universe and paying little or no attention. Oh, well, can’t please everyone!
At the end of the class Kay offered to help me move my stuff back out to my car. Guess what? Not a peep from the shop owner. Surprise!
She did walk over and get an envelope and hand it to me – still wearing her headset – at which point I told her that it was the first time on my trip that I had been treated so rudely.
Yes, I said it. Now you know, butter WILL melt in my mouth, and I am a Jersey girl (from Ohio) and we speak plainly.
This incident was so unnerving that unfortunately it spilled over into my next teaching gig, which is such a disappointment because the owner at that shop is a very good friend and I was so upset by the “owner in headphones” incident that it colored my behavior when I arrived at the next gig. The teaching went well, but I wasn’t at my nicest when I first met the co-owner of the shop, and for that I’m very sorry. In fact, I still need to make amends for that.
Funny how meanness grows (kick the dog syndrome) – and I have no excuse for my own behavior at the next shop. (The fact that it was near the end of 2 weeks away from home probably contributed – and the really nasty motel with dirty sheets and broken toilet seat didn’t help, either…)
But I never wrote about this on my blog. It just seemed very unhelpful, and not a good way to put the incident behind me. I chalked it up to shop owner inexperience, or lack of basic business etiquette, and filed it away under, “Lesson Learned” in the big database of experience in my soul.
I had no intention of writing about it – until I opened my mail this morning and had a note from my bank telling me that this shop owner has STOPPED PAYMENT ON THE CHECK
Ooooh, I – am – pissed.
I know we all have skewed ideas of ourselves. I try to be frank with myself, but I think we tend to think of ourselves both as better and worse than we truly are. From comments by shop owners, though, I’ve had the feeling that I’m not a terribly demanding teacher when I come to a shop.
I may be wrong about this, but I try to be as accommodating as I can be when I visit someone’s shop (their home, really…) or stay with someone on the road. I was kind of blown away by this incident – and I’m just furious that this teacher had the nerve to – basically – take money from me. I love to teach, but I don’t do this for my health.
By the way, this owner charged $50 per person for the class – there were 13 folks in the class so she made $650. My fee? $180 + expenses. She made much more than I did on this evening, and now she’s trying to get out of paying m
e for my teaching. Not cool.
I’ve called the shop and left a message. I’ve also called my laywer. If I don’t hear from the owner by the end of the day today I’ll have my laywer send her a nice letter – more communication – which she can ignore if she likes, but she shouldn’t.
Have I mentioned that I’m really pissed off?