About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.


  1. The customer is always right! If you took the opposite approach to defend your staff, they would not have come back and they would have spoken badly about the gallery.

  2. Interesting I think you were caught off guard ,who knows if you responded differently what would have happened . People can be difficult….All in all it turned out fine. Maybe treat the staff member to a lunch 😉

  3. My hat goes off to you for an honest and great podcast.
    I have been in your galley many times and it is the best. I usually will announce that I am an artist, but on times that I have not for one reason or another the staff has been great. This really helps me for I am not a sales person but I have learned a lot from this…

  4. Despite what some people think and continue to say, the customer is NOT always right. Sometimes, customers can be incredibly rude and treat those that are providing them with service like absolute trash. I don’t think this is any more acceptable than a customer service agent being rude to the customer. I used to work as a front desk agent at an airport hotel, and we got a lot of angry people who were bumped off their flight or had to delay. Once I had a customer who was incredibly rude to me as soon as he stepped up to the counter. He took all of his frustration out on me, arguing when I couldn’t give him exactly what he wanted because we did not have it available. I did not treat him any worse or less than our other guests, but I guess it was just in him to take out all of his frustration on me. I was eight months pregnant, and he got so bad, it brought me to tears. So I told him I could no longer provide him with service, and that I would go get a manager who would complete the transaction and assist him. He asked why I refused to help him, and I told him because he was being incredibly rude and I no longer felt I was in a position to assist him.
    When the manager came out, it was as if the man was a completely different person. I don’t know if he snapped out of his anger, or if he was simply pleased to have a manager attend to him. Either way, he was taken care of, and went on his way. I, on the other hand, was left with the stress and anger all night. My manager handled it well, treated the guest fairly, and supported me and my actions. I am grateful he didn’t dismiss my side of the story for the sake of the customer.
    Again, the customer is NOT always right, at least if you care about the people who are working with you every day. If all you care about are sales and numbers, and the people who work hard to provide good service are expendable in your eyes, then go ahead and sacrifice their dignity for that sale.
    I don’t think there is any right way to handle an irate customer except with as much respect and patience as you would expect for yourself. When they cross the line, then perhaps it’s best to just step away. I think Jason did the best he could given the suddenness and rarity of the situation. He politely handled the customer, reassured his staff, and that was all he could do. Whether they came back or not was truly out of his control; that is all in the mind of the customer and how they feel about the situation in retrospect. Maybe they thought, “You know, I was kind of hard on that associate,” or, “I truly was bothered, but I really want those pieces so I’ll go back when the associate isn’t there.” Who knows.
    Jason’s approach to engaging customers is friendly and social, and works most of the time. We can’t win them all, and just because a few experiences go south doesn’t mean they have to rewrite their whole approach.

  5. Jason,
    The truth is, no matter what kind of service industry you’re in, from an art gallery to zipper salesman, you are going to run into unpleasant people. Most of us, at one time or another, have had such a job and have been at the mercy of other people’s anger, hostility or superiority complex. Why is it necessary to take out aggression on those serving you? It’s a mystery to me. And, when faced with a rude, angry person it’s very hard to come up with the well reasoned response they deserve. In hindsight, yes, but in the moment…
    The ability to ‘read’ clients is not that easy, precisely for the this reason. Every person who comes in the door (for the first time) is an unknown. I’ve learned the hard way too that you will never please everyone–so keep on doing what you seem to be doing so well.

  6. A tale of two extreme galleries. Gallery one. My wife and I had spent the better part of the day at a beach in L.A. We somehow ended up driving down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. We were not Rodeo Drive people! But in a gallery window, a sign said “Norman Rockwell Exhibit.” He’s one of the artists who have influenced my own artwork, and we could see that they had some originals in the gallery. We parked the car and went in. The young gallery host did stay rather close to us as we wandered from painting to painting. Like I said, we weren’t, and didn’t look like, Rodeo Drive people – though gallery hosts have since told us there’s no real “look.” Anyway, when we had seen all of the art, she asked us, “Which, out of all the paintings in the gallery, are your favorites.” My wife liked a horse race piece by Azoulay, and I liked a Rockwell print. We were surprised when the host took them right off the wall and to a secluded room in the back, where she hung them under the spotlights. Then, when we said we didn’t have the cash to pay for them just then, she graciously explained about several ways we could pay for them. Bottom line, we bought both of them!
    Gallery 2. We wandered past a gallery in Europe. The door was open, and we walked in. A little buzzer announced our presence. We were “camping Europe by rail” – not the high-end travel itinerary and again dressed like it – and not planning to carry anything else along. We didn’t see anyone around, and were taking our time, examining every painting. Eventually, a lady appeared from the back of the shop and practically shouted, in perfect English, “THIS IS NOT AN EXHIBIT!” We couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

  7. Thanks jason. I like that you are humble enough to admit you’re not perfect, but you and your staff try to do their best. Perfection scares me. You were very diplomatic and it paid off. I also think your treatment of your staff was very affirming. I still think the client was a bully on a power trip. I also doubt he would have done the same to a male.

  8. Having been on both sides of the customer service desk (a different evil airline), a short stint in a gallery setting, other life experience, I know people can purposely be contentious … it’s their personality. It has nothing to do with the company or the product … they just want to pick a fuss with someone. Maybe they skipped lunch or got a traffic ticket that morning.
    Some customers appreciate the attention, others want to be left alone. It’s tough to find an appropriate balance meeting someone for the first time. Personally, I feel the worst experience is to be ignored. When staff identify me as an artist they usually smile and walk off to a more obvious “buyer.” My most pleasurable experiences in a gallery is staff talking with me purely for the shared love of art. So gratifying!
    Neither do I feel the customer is always right. That may have been policy in a simpler time but the sophistication of retail customers today is such they know every trick in the book … displeasure can often translate into discounts. People do that? You bet they do.
    It’s too easy to verbally abuse valued staff … depending on the gallery one salesperson may have more authority than others to negotiate a sale. If the client does not get what they want they may demand the owner/manager thinking they can get a better deal.
    My art rep sells more than I do. She is sales focused and can close a purchase better, quickly, more than I can. I may be pretty good but my art gets in the way. 🙂 Never underestimate a talented salesperson. Invaluable. However they are compensated is well deserved.
    I am pleased you stood behind your salesperson … he/she deserves support for handling a difficult personality. They are the face of your organization and are your best PR representative, lifeblood, and sales rep.

  9. Excellent examination of this issue, Jason. If only every business owner/manager would model the same thoughtful and reflective approach for their employees. I agree with Marcela R. that the customer is not always right, but their behavior should not change our own respectful, diplomatic response. Anyone who has dealt with the public for any length of time knows that some people walk through the door “looking for a fight”.
    I appreciate your response on another level, and that is your affirmation of the fact that we are in the business of selling art. As someone who is just beginning to exhibit at art fairs (I recently retired from dentistry), I’m experimenting with different approaches, learning to read visitors desire for interaction, and aiming to find that balance of informing and engaging discussion vs. overstepping the client’s need for space. From my experience, both with art and 35 years of dentistry, I totally agree with your “default” position of erring on the side of informing and assisting. Thank you for this discussion!

  10. You gotta make calls if you want to get results.
    As far a titles go, yes, I do find them difficult to come up with. I seem to manage but suggestions are always welcomed.

  11. That was a very interesting and refreshing perspective that our gallery, art booth or whatever venue we are in is not a museum. We are there to sell. I like it!
    If someone is upset that we are trying to make a living by actually selling our work, then that is their ignorance (and I don’t say that to be disrespectful).

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