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My partner works in a book store. Because of the way the company is set up, she mostly works alone (95% of the working day).

She has a regular "customer" (I use quotes because he never buys anything) who will come in and hang around trying to talk to her. She's been working in book stores for a long time and knows how to deal with people like this pretty effectively, but this guy just won't give up.

She's tried variously:

  • Using short answers,
  • Telling him she's busy, or doesn't have time to talk,
  • Ignoring him and going about her work,

among other tactics. But this guy just doesn't get the hint. He'll follow her around the store, continuing to talk, if she's serving an actual customer he'll even stand to the side, wait for her to finish, then carry on. This usually goes on for over an hour, and regularly only stops after she's closed the store.

She's had plenty of creepers who are inappropriate or threatening who'll step over the line, and when that happens she's not afraid to be assertive to get it to stop (and it works), but this guy never pushes it that far, so it's never got to that stage. He's basically benign, but just won't get the message.

How can she get him to stop talking to her when all this has failed?

Is there a firm (and polite, if possible) way to tell the customer to stop bothering her?

Bare in mind this is a shop where she works alone. She can't shut the door, go out to the back room and wait (she'd have to be there for literally an hour), or deflect him onto another staff member.

While we can't rule out the possibility, there is no reason to treat this as if he is romantically interested, that is to say he hasn't made any advances.

Note: This happened several years ago and was only resolved after we moved to a new town. I'm asking because I'd like to know what she can do if this happens again in the future.

  • Are you in the US? Or is was this happening in another country? What was the man's age? Was it winter/cold time? How often would he come to the store? Could you clarify these points please? – OldPadawan Nov 23 '17 at 10:13
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    Well, you said that the problem was solved by moving, so you already have the solution : change city. (joking). You said that she was employee, her manager could have help her and ask the man to leave the worker alone cause it's not the time to talk. A cashier blocked my attempt to ask for her number by saying "Sorry, I'm not allowed to communicate any information when i'm working". EVEN if she took me for an idiot, she won I did leave her alone. Does your GF says the thing properly ? Cause it seems that she is not willing to be clear with that guy (fear ?). She has the right to be left alone. – Meow Nov 23 '17 at 10:25
  • @OldPadawan this is in Australia in a temperate area. It happened over several months so time of the year can't be to blame. He was roughly mid 20s and he'd turn up (I think) once a week usually the same day, but changing shifts didn't work because he'd just start coming on those days instead. – Phill Nov 23 '17 at 10:41
  • She's had admirers in the past, but this guy didn't seem to match the profile. Speaking to my partner more she says he had a girlfriend, didn't have a job, and lived with his parents, and was probably older than I said before, maybe mid 30s. He gave her a "home-schooled" vibe – Phill Nov 23 '17 at 12:50
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I experienced almost the exact same thing when I worked in a small shop some 26 years ago. Over the two years I worked in there on minimum wage there were a few 'customers' that would come in several times a week, ask stupid questions and then never buy anything. Only in my case it wasn't usually people of the opposite sex, and I concluded that they were just lonely. They had the time to spend hanging around a shop during the day because they didn't have jobs. Funnily enough, when I called into the old shop some years later as a customer myself I found one guy that had been a serial loiterer was now working behind the counter! Perhaps that was what he was after.

Onto answering your question - I related my story because this guy could have any number of motives for pestering your partner. It could be a romantic interest, maybe it's just loneliness, or perhaps he wants to work in a bookstore? Whatever she perceives his motive to be may determine the approach she chooses, but as he is disturbing her work she does have to get rid of him somehow.

If she suspects his interest is romantic is there any way that you could spend a day there? Seeing her partner might scare him off. Or next time he comes in could she text you, and you call her - have some domestic discussion and an 'I love you' (if your relationship is at that stage of course!) in earshot of the guy. I appreciate that this isn't exactly 'interpersonal' advice, but the guy's behaviour is kind of antisocial.

If she wants, or has no choice but to confront him then really there is no way other than the direct approach. Say:

Can I ask - what do you want? You don't buy books. Why do you come in here so often?

If he says that he is just browsing, follow up with:

That's fine, but please can I ask you to browse quietly and not disturb me while I'm working.

On the other hand if he does have romantic intentions, firmly state:

I am not interested. I think you should leave.

She should talk to her boss about it first. Whatever solution she finally attempts could backfire and result in a complaint, so it would be better if the boss knew about the situation beforehand. He/she might even have a solution - maybe having a second staff member there for a short time?

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    I agree with Anne, I'd probably make the point that it you're not comfortable with the situation. Something like I have a partner and your interest is making me uncomfortable, I'd like you to leave if you aren't going to buy anything. – Lio Elbammalf Nov 23 '17 at 13:15
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    There is no reason to treat this like he is romantically interested. He hasn't made any "advances", and he knows she's not available – Phill Nov 23 '17 at 13:33
  • Fair comments from @AnneDaunted - by 'sinister' I did mean that he had romantic intentions, I should have been clear and not used a euphemism. And you could be right, the stalker might go after the OP if he thinks he's standing in the way. Will correct. – Astralbee Nov 23 '17 at 13:47
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    I would suggest that when discussing this with her boss she specifically asks him to be there on the day - she should have backup just in case. – StephenG Nov 24 '17 at 7:25

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