Non Customers in your store

Have you ever had the following types of walk-ins:

Those who want change either to break a bill or just out and out panhandling
Those who want to use your phone
Those who want to use your restroom
Those who bring in “hot” goods to sell them
Those who come in and just loiter
Those who come in and use your wall outlet to recharge their cell phone
Those who bring in food or drink purchased at other places and commence to eating it in your store.

How do you (or would you) deal tactfully with those people

Need some ideas.


All depends on whether they look like a vagrant or a potential customer. It is a place of business (or potential business). I give them a benefit of doubt but am very firm when I find out they are just moochers. I have had people bathe in the bathroom, steal toilet paper and towels, etc.

If they are a potential customer, I would probably strike up a conversation.

Bring in other food and drinks? Again, parents sometimes bring in food from other places for their kids. Or someone might bring in a Starbucks coffee. I am understanding. If they are just using my dining room to eat a competitor’s meal, of course not.

The food from other places is one that I have seen businesses loose customers over. There is a cafe in my stripmall that lost 9 paying customers because they would not allow one of the crew to eat his sandwich from home. Sure he was taking up a chair but to loose sales from the others had to hurt.

There is a Dairy Queen across the parking lot from my store and when the students come in with DQ food and don’t order from me i jokingly say if you bring DQ to Daddio’s you have to bring DQ for Daddio. Once one got up and left and came back with an icecream cone.

I usually take them out a plate and ask them to get rid of the wrappers for me.

Outside drinks however I don’t allow in. I have a bar, and I can’t take the chance that someone brought in alcohol and is serving themselves, a minor or some combination.

We have a very limited bathroom situation right now, and one night with a full house, a kid from town dropped in with friends to use the bathroom. They are not and will not ever be customers for us, but that is beside the point. My wife refused them facilities and let them know we had a full house, and bathroom is for our customers . . . not a public restroom. (BTW, it is at the back of store past pantry, kitchen and dishroom). Girl threw a fit and stormed out.

The next week we got a phone call from the health inspector asking about a complaint of hair restraints, raw sewerage leak and something else. That girl tried to gig us, and definitely would have if we did not already have a good relationship with the inspector. Be cautious how you refuse people . . . repercussions can come from anywhere.

Well…suppose some people come in and order a pizza, they’ve also brought along some fried chicken to share from the joint just up the street. Now one of those people who have shared in the pizza and the chicken has come down with a food borne illness. What was it? The pizza or the chicken? How would you be able to trace it?

That’s my reservation about allowing people to bring in outside food.

Those who want change either to break a bill
We’ll do that
or just out and out panhandling
Those who want to use your phone
No pay phone. Sometimes will lend a phone if the person seems to need it badly.
Those who want to use your restroom
Goes on all day everyday. We have nice clean rest rooms…
Those who bring in “hot” goods to sell them
NOT ALLOWED. Immediately told “sorry, not in here”.
Those who come in and just loiter
Doesn’t happen much, unless with a customer, or at an outside table. We pretty much allow it.
Those who come in and use your wall outlet to recharge their cell phone
No conveniently located outlets for them
Those who bring in food or drink purchased at other places and commence to eating it in your store.
Allowed if they are with a customer - usually the only time we see that. No competitive pizza packaging though…

Aren’t non customer’s potential customers?

Feel free to come in our place. What do I care…Now if at capacity…sure I would say something but other than that…what do I care? But you better believe I am going to meet them on the way out with a menu, magnet and coupon.

I have a Subway with no seating 2 doors up from me and a Fish & Chip shop next door (with some tables).

We get people all the time just come in and sit down at our tables with Subway. We tell them that the tables are for customers only and ask them to leave the tables as they are for paying customers only. The reason - they NEVER buy from us and are constant Subway customers. People eating Subway seem to always make a mess on the floor with spilt fillings plus they then fill our bins with their rubbish, including the drink containers they bring in with them.

Don’t care if I offend them. I pay $1500 per week rent and these freeloaders don’t and won’t contribute to me paying this. If Subway is closed 99% of the customers will not buy a pizza but will go to another Subway outlet. It is a big no in Australia to take others foods into another eating place and use the tables. It is downright rude to do so and peole should be told to hop to it out the door. We often get people eat in with our pizzas and maybe have one of their kids eat a Subway or chips (fries to you guys) which is OK, but as far as just USING my facilities just because another food outlet is too tight fisted to supply sit down facilities, NO THANKS. I also tell don’t whinge to me about not being able to use my facilities but to complain to the Subway managment on their lack of sit down facilities.

Sorry guys but I tend to think you guys at times are a bit too focussed on being everything to everyone on the hope that one day they might buy from you. All you are doing is encouranging others to “use” you in the “hope” they will one day come to you because you let them freeload on you. I don’t believe in fairies either. Different strokes for different folks.

Good points raised about food poisoning - never thought of that.


Dave if it were me I would go out there and chit chat with them. I would ask if they had ever eaten at my place. If they said no I would walk back and get a gift certificate for a individual pizza (that way they bring someone) and take it out and tell them if they are going to bother eating why not eat the best.

I also wanted to tell you a story…I will try and keep it short…

The most recent… it was 3 in the afternoon and a group of about 6 eighth grade kids came in. (we are a couple of blocks from the school) They were all worked up…they had been asked to leave the place down the street because they weren’t all going to eat. I said ohhhhh well we offer a 16" One topping pizza for 7 bucks for kids after school. So you can all afford to eat. They were thrilled. I said I tell you what you don’t make a mess, or mess with the condiments or make a mess in the bathroom I will buy you each a soda.

When I went back into the kitchen the waitress and cook were like what the hell are you doing…I said trust me. The waitress said they won’t leave a tip. I said yup you are probably right. But I bet you 10 bucks they will be back. I bet you they will also be back with their parents. I bet when they are old enough they will be coming by looking for work.

They literally cleaned their dishes up in a pile. Not one crumb on the floor. They were so well behaved.

So the next day (and I promise this is the truth) they come in with double the kids. They said hey can we get the same deal? I said sure. They ordered 3 pizzas at 7 bucks each and a sub. 8 WATERS even though I offered soda…they had a game. I asked where they were from…they said basketball. They said they had to leave by 3:45. I told them to relax and I would tell them when it was time to go. I did they left and cleaned up once again. No Tip.

The next day about 10 kids showed up…same deal…asked if they won the game. They said yes. Ordered a couple of pizzas and got free sodas.

Friday night rolled around. 15 kids and 30 parents rolled in around 8:30 they had just won the basket ball game. They spent a total of about 300 bucks. The coach came to me and thanked me and handed me a 20 dollar bill. The parents thanked me.

The kids come in at least 2 times a week. And usually a few families each weekend. Any weekend they have a game they all come in.
The kids usually tip now. Some days there are 20 kids during a time we are lucky to have one table.

So to me everyone is a potential customer…potential worker…even kids. They will grow up and one day have families of their own and I know where they will go for dinner.


This isn’t completely on point but I’ll share anyway.

When I had my pizza joint, it was just the rental of an existing tiny kitchen in an existing bar. One night they had a private party, rented the bar out, ran a tab, whole nine yards. These were people who used to live in St. Louis and were in town for a meeting, as well as some locals. They wanted pizza, so they ordered some of mine. They also politely asked the bartender if they could order in from a local chain. They explained that they were visiting, missed x-brand pizza, and St. Louis style pizza truly is a different animal than “normal” pizza. I didn’t make, attempt to make, or even desire to try to make St. Louis style pizza. I told them to “go for it”. I appreciated them asking, understood completely what they were asking and why, and was glad to let them have a good time. They kept ordering from me as well. They knew they were asking for something quite “odd” and respected me enough to ask politely and at least split the business with me. Obviously, this isn’t the same as having your own free-standing store and someone coming in and having the competition deliver, but the folks who were local saw what was going on and some even apologized. I explained that I understood completely and since I wasn’t offering exactly what they wanted, they were welcome to bring in what they needed to make their party what they wanted it to be.

As far as the thought of them getting food poisoning and not knowing what caused it… people eat different foods normally at least three times a day. It’s no different than trying to figure out if lunch or dinner was the bad food.

Put things into a difffent view if you will… there are 8 people looking to have lunch somewhere. 7 want pizza, pasta, subs, etc, but number 8 just really wants Taco Bell. So, do I gladly sell food to 7 people or lose all 8?

I’m not sure what loitering is, but I’m pretty sure it’s what we called “hanging out” 20 years ago. How would you have reacted if you couldn’t hang out somewhere that wasn’t busy, you weren’t bothering anyone, etc? Sure, they should at least buy a soft drink while they’re taking up your space, but unless they’re taking up a table you need or are being obnoxious, where’s the problem? Heck, I used to have to wait for my mom to pick me up from jr. high football practice. I’d walk to the restaurant next to the school, order a coke and drink it until she came. It wasn’t much revenue for them, but the place wasn’t busy anyway. Had they kicked me out, I’d probably not ever returned there to eat. The kid you kick out may be the child of that daily lunch regular you’ve had for 5 years.

Exactly. What a few people here have failed to consider is that non customers in your store may deter your regular customers in some way.

I’ve had occasions where someone would come into the store and immediately start in on my dine in customers asking for spare change. I was embarrassed that my paying customers (though they didn’t seem to mind) were subjected to this.

As far as people eating outside food in my store, what kind of message does that send to people who come into my store with the intent of ordering from me when they see people taking up my table space eating McDonald’s?

Now I don’t mind letting someone use our phone if we’re not busy. But if we’re busy the phone is our business lifeline. I will, however, direct people the the nearest pay phone

I don’t mind making change. But if I’m in the middle of topping a pizza (for a customer) the person who wants change is going to wait until I’ve got the pizza topped and in the oven.

As for restrooms usually we get the spillover from the laundromat next door to us that lock their restroom doors at a certain time. Who I allow to use the restroom is at my discretion.

I try to be as accommodating as I can, but not if my accommodation comes at the expense of my regular customers.

As for these being potential customer situations, there’s been too many times I’ve heard. “I’ll have to come back and try your pizza sometime.” Rarely, if ever do I see those people again, and if I do, they’re just back to freeload, get what they want and tell me once again, “I’ll have to try your pizza sometime”

I do not let non-customers into my store unless they are very familiar to me. I do not want anyone CASING MY PLACE FOR A HOLD-UP! :shock: Sure, all these potential maybe customers are not hold-up artists, but these 15 to 17 year olds who hang out on the corner and have not been customers in the 4 years I have been open . . . . less likely to patronize me and more likely to burglarize me.

I am not at all a suspicious person when it comes to people in town. That said, a bit of simple caution is in order in today’s world and the fact that they get to tour the entire premises right now when they go to my staff bathroom (only one in shop until next year).

Non Customers are the biggest pain in my life. This could also be that we are in a state capital and every bum in the state is bussed in to the city. We have had customers harassed, hit on, and in general annoyed. We used to have some homeless clean up our parking lot for food, but it has now gotten to a point where all of them know that we give out food and so they come in at all times of the day instead of the end of the night looking for handouts. These same people have also been stealing our employees tip jar, which has led to the new fort knox tip jar that is chained to the front counter and filled with concrete. So we have had to introduce our no tolerance policy to anyone who is not a customer. Now if they come in and ask for free food or money we tell them that we do not give out any freebies and that we do not allow solicitation. We have had 2 guys arrested for harassing customers and for soliciting outside of the store. Im not saying that all non customers are bad but I have to deal with the bad ones all the time so maybe my view is a little jaded. But we try to maintain a certain professionalism with everyone that comes into the store regardless of their appearance because everyone deserves to be treated with some decency even if they are the scum of the earth. Anyway sorry for the rant, Ive had to many long nights with people who are trying to use me.

Hey Gumby, (I know this is off topic) just looked at your web page. Love the ordering rules section. Especially the credit card part and asking how big a 14" is. (can you see me, I’m holding my hands 14" apart?) I mean how do you explain the size of something over the phone?!!

Been thinking about implementing some similar rules including something I call “penalty hold”. Just out of curiosity have you had anyone either complain about or were offended by the “tone” of your rules?

We have a HUGE “drive-in” restaurant in Atlanta that has made a niche, legend for almost rude interactions with customers. On Saturday afternoon, when GA Tech has a football game . . . at the counter inside, you had BY G@D better know what your order is or they will holler at you and force you to the end of the line to start over. Don’t even think of being in the wrong line. “The Varsity” is a world-renowned place and everyone either just knows, or learns fast.

Dealing with drunk college kids can certainly lead to this sort of stern atmosphere . . . you gotta make it work for you and not against you.

In response to your question robozig, no we have not had any complaints about our rules to ordering. Everyone we have talked to has thought that it is hilarious. The only problem is that I need to start advertising the site more this new year because it doesnt seem that everyone knows about it. Then there is also the problem that once our customers get drunk, remembering the rules to ordering is not a top priority for them. Also maybe I came across as a little bitter. Dont get me wrong I was that drunk customer who would come in sloshed out of my mind trying to order food right before they closed. So maybe Im jealous that I dont live that care free life as much as I would like to anymore. Besides do you know what girls in this town will do for pokey stix.? (If you dont know what pokey stix are: Fresh baked dough smothered with mozzarella cheese, garlic butter, and italians spices served with ranch or pizza sauce for dipping.) Our top seller right behind our carryout large one topping pizza.

I love your rules!

You need another rule at the end:

“If you are the type of person who finds these rules offensive rather than entertaining, do not call. It only gets worse.”