crazies in the store?


Apr 12, 2006
Lynden, WA
Over the past few weeks, a loud-spoken young man has stopped in my store several times, asking about framing prices for items he describes. He tells me that he's starting a business down the street, a kite store. The first time he came in, I wondered if he was developmentally disabled, and so I tried to be as polite and understanding as possible. Once I referred him to the Chamber of Commerce to regisister his business there, and since that time, the lady who runs our Chamber told me that he is not starting a business and that he is apparently manic depressive and (she told me) not taking his medication. She also indicated that the police are familiar with his name.

He was just in again and told me things like: when he was 16, he fell in love with a 24-year-old Chinese woman, that he had been to China, that he owned 10 houses around the country because he was a surfer, that he was a doctor but lost his license because he stole a Hollywood actor's car, that he was homeless at that time, that he drinks rice milk from the food bank, that he's the most educated member of his family, but they're all rich, that his own income is $460 a month, but his brother makes $2500 a month, (upon asking me if I was a Christian any my saying yes) that he was proud to be a Christian and it was the only way, that he was also "part Catholic," and that he also accepted Buddhism and Daoism, that he hated materialistic people, and that he himeself was all about making money, and was I an Aries? Was I married? How old was I?

He left when my dog started to bark, and I told him the dog was jealous because I was talking so long at the front of the store.

From time to time, people of varying levels of oddness come into my store and engage me in conversations about themselves and their problems. I generally don't worry much about my safety in my store because I'm in the retail area of a small town, with other business around me and lots of people walking by. On the other hand, I am a woman alone in a shop with a 16-pound pug-bichon mix as her only guardian.

Two questions: How does one gracefully end conversations with people whose rationality you start to doubt? I strive to be a kind and understanding person, but I also have work to do. And. . . if I become nervous about my own safety due to someone's presence in the store, are there any recommended ways to deal with the situation? This manic depressive fellow may be harmless; he hasn't seemed threatening in any way, but he makes me nervous.

I'm sure this can't be a unique situation. What do you other storekeepers do?
The last truly crazy I had in my store, I just asked him to leave. He stood there and gave me this weird smile. About then, Mary came out from the back and asked him if he needed help. He just stared at her with the same weird smile. After about 30 or 40 seconds of this I just told him he had to leave. He just stood there.

I got as threatening as I could make myself look and walked around the counter and headed straight for him. He decided that it was, indeed, time for him to mosey on.

I followed him out on to the sidewalk, thankfully, he kept on walking. I'm just way to old to kick some young crazies butt. I'd probably just pull something, or worse yet, get my own butt kicked. He never did come back.

Don't underestimate the crazies.

Years ago, I stepped out to have lunch with my wife in the next block, leaving a very capable employee in charge. Before our lunches had even arrived at the table, I got a call that I might want to return to my store.

I stepped out of the restaurant to find the street closed and a SWAT team surrounding my store. (I didn't know Appleton HAD a SWAT team.)

The disturbed individual who caused all the commotion didn't hurt anyone, but he scared the crap out of my employee.

At some point, I started keeping a very large dog in the store. His role was certainly not that of guardian and protector, but I never met anyone crazy-enough to threaten anyone that dog cared about.

Try not to be too obvious about it if you work alone. The predator who scared my employee waited until he knew she was alone.

Also, make friends with your neighbors. The woman who called the police, and then me, worked at the typewriter shop next door.
wow! hey, a simular thing like this happened to me too!! after a few unwanted visits I learned to auto-dial my shop on my cell phone (concealed in my pocket) and usually that would be exuse enough to shoo away the guy...eventually he stopped coming around because it "seemed" I was always SO BUSY! hehe...
But I understand how it feels being alone in a shop and some weirdo tries to chat up an afternoon! If that doesn't work, definitely notify the police and they will have a talk with the guy!
If the problem is not someone who's dangerous to your personal safety, but someone who wants to stand around a chat all day (which is dangerous to your bottom line) you really HAVE to learn to say, "I'm really sorry, but I need to get back to work."

There are intelligent people who truly don't understand that we don't get paid to just show up at the shop every day. At some point, we actually have to frame something.

Otherwise, sic the dog on 'em.
There's one particular guy in town who creeps me out. He doesnt' come often - but I've been told that he's been charged before with exposing himself to people and stuff.

When he comes in I really try to look very busy and just say hello and go about my business.

Don't give him any more info about yourself - just say "hmmm - I like to keep that kind of thing to myself" and try the "I'm very busy - lots to do today!!" thing.

We were only open for a few months when a porn shop moved in next door to us - same building - two stores- and we thought that we would be innundated by all kinds of creeps and weirdo's. The truth was that we had great fun at times watching the comings and goings (some people who shocked us!) and for the most part people really wanted to get in and out without being noticed so they were seldomly seen! LOL!! We did have the occasional weirdo in but not too many. More just annoyances because they'd come to our store first and ask pointless questions and then when the coast looked clear they'd run out the door and into the porn shop.

Luckily there are usually two of us in the store together - but it can be kind of creepy sometimes.
Very nice post Mark. Boundaries are important, kindness even more so. Madness is not a choice, it is a tragic illness. And hey, many "crazies" do have a lot of cash, earned it too ;)

I was 16 when I started framing. My boss left me alone at night and a guy came in looking around then stopped way …WAY to close to me ( I was working at the counter). Thank god my boss called about closing up, I said “That’s the boss she would be real upset if I didn’t answer” He was thinking it over and every ring got him more upset, he started to reach out to grab me, so I ducked around him and picked up the phone, he ran out the front!

Then I was 19 at a store with a huge glass front window. I guy would call describe what I was wearing and try to say other stuff. Yuck!

Fast forward 17 years I guy comes in needed desperate looking for work. I have him get some leaves on the side of the store. He comes back in scares me, demanding more money and a ride to the liquor store.


1. Get on the phone and stay on the phone, get to know your neighbors and be phone buddies
2. Get an alarm with a personal panic button (ours was installed for $500.00 and monthly service at $25.00. (now keep the button on you) If you push it the system notifies the alarm company, they call if they don’t get the password, the police come.

NEVER underestimate the crazies. If you are uncomfortable, listen to yourself!!!
There are recordings of vicious sounding dogs:
Put a CD / tape in the backroom, volume on high, and keep a remote handy. One push on your remote and your crazy / potential ax-murderer will hear the dog lusting after his (or her - I hear there are female crazies too..) bones.

Or keep a real dog.

A visible camera also helps

Panic button / alarms are great.

Or put a sign: Protected by Smith % Wesson, nicely framed, of course... ;)

A shotgun below the counter will of course get any body's attention, real fast.
I have 3 cameras which runs into a time lapse video recorder equipped with a hard drive, plus a panic button behind the counter in case someone would get too crazy. If weird people come in that I know are not going to do business with me and they just want to jaw, I just tell them after their free dimes worth of time, that I have to get back to work. In the worst case scenario and if they would get hostile or I would feel threatened, I have a 45 under the counter, a base ball bat in the back, and a knife in my pocket. (yes, I have a personal protection permit for the 45 and know very well how to use it.) I'm kind of like John though, I'm getting too old to mix it up with some crazy, but if there was only one of them and they wanted to get physical, I'm crazy enough to try. Let's face it, we live in a crazy world these days. With all the drugs out there and so many people hooked on them, some people will do anything for money to buy them. The police are 10 minutes away from me, and that's more than enough time for most nut cases to either rob me, assault me, kill me, or whatever. Some are never bothered by any of the above. Count your blessings as I do. I've ran another business for 25 years dealing with mainly hunters, open in the evenings during the busy times, and lots of them celebrating with booze when they come in the shop. I've never had any major problems with anybody in that time, although I've thrown a few out of the shop. I have a complete security system in that business also, including a 38 in the work area. My framing business which is in a different location has never had any break-in's but they have broke in all around me. None of us in business are exempt from danger. Just got to be prepared for it is all. Now I'm not advocating people have a gun under the counter. Some people wouldn't know what to do with one, and others could have it used against them anyway, plus they could be against the law to have in your business in your state. 911, being calm, a dog, using your head, all these things are ideas that could help and people should think about them and what they would do in a bad situation. The main problem is a lot of people don't think anything will ever happen to them or in their business. Wrong thinking in today's world. Even though a lot of this is off the main question, it's something to think about, but not to worry about. I think security systems with cameras and recorders are a valuable asset to have. They not only protect you from anything that you would possibly have to do in your defense, but they have the bad guy on tape.

Before I became a picture framer, I was a SCUBA instructor at a shop near the Santa Barbara harbor. If Santa Barbara has a bad part of town, that would be it.

I'd be left (with my Irish Setter) to lock the place up and set the alarm after my evening classes. More than once, we spent the night there because the alarm was malfunctioning and I wouldn't leave the place unprotected.

My boss once told me that, if anyone ever came in and demanded money, I should empty the register and give him whatever he wanted. Then, as he left, I should shoot him the back with a spear-gun.

He was half-kidding.
Half-kidding? Does that mean he really wanted you to shoot the guy through the side piercing both lungs and eliminating South East Santa B one scumbag at a time?

The only crazy I had in any of the shops I worked in was a homeless looking bag lady who wanted me to frame a 4'x4' poster of a kitty.... her sister came in and said "go ahead" when she has paid the whole thing then deliver it to her house. Her sister was harmlessly demented, and would spend 3-8 days on the street where she was happy, then come home for a while, clean up and almost act normal... for a 6 yr old. She was sweet and would come in each week and pay about $5 on the job.

Oh, there was the crazy that used to come in almost every day to the store in New Orleans . . . but he owned the place. Seriously shatterpated.
The job went away one night when he took a pallet knife to his caratoid artery... "to let the cockroaches out of his veins, so he could sleep". His widow missed him, but was much better off.
Our store alarm system has a remote the same size as the keyless entry device for your car. You can keep it in your pocket and simply press the right button to silently call the police. It has a sliding cover so you don't accidentally activate it.
This Friday I have to cover for an employee because a lady we've had to kick out before has decided she's going to bring in someone for the employee to marry. Understandibly, the employee does not want to be there. The employee is married, but that's besides the point since the whole thing is rediculous on the face of it.