“Having happy employees brings in happy costumers and then the businesses succeed.”

As a costumer, I find this a very hopeful sentence. Of course it isn’t what the student meant.

We all know what he meant, but let’s resist the impulse to blame SpellCheck and Autocorrect for changing “customer” to “costumer.” This is not an action a computer would take. After all, both are words; a grammar check would also be happy with either, both being nouns.

What’s interesting to me is that I get “costumer” almost as often as I get “customer” where “customer” is the intended meaning. The error is common.

Has the definition of “custom” as mercantile activity, business patronage, sales—the meaning from which “customer” derives—faded so far into the shadows of disuse that young people have no word to associate with “customer” and therefore no spelling reference that would prevent “costumer” from creeping in? Do they then think “custom models” and “custom-made” are related to someone’s traditions?—because I don’t get “costume” in those contexts.

Or are most young writers unfamiliar with the word “costumer” and its meaning? Even if they wear costumes on Hallowe’en or onstage, are they ignorant of the existence of someone to design and create those costumes?

Whatever the case, there is evidently an associational link missing for many students when they contemplate the people who buy things in stores, not merely a typo or spelling mistake.

Of course maybe this student actually means what he wrote and is onto something more businesses should take to heart. Picture it: A certain store develops a reputation for having happy employees. (For costumers, a fabric store with happy employees would certainly be a draw, but let’s assume that my student meant any store—perhaps a drug store, an appliance store, a supermarket, or even a big-box store with happy employees, although I know those are not common.) The word spreads among costumers: “You have to shop there! The employees are so happy!” (I subscribe to a very interesting international discussion list for costumers and clothing historians, and I can vouch for their eagerness to tell one another about vendors they like.) And so, the costumers rush to these stores, and then the stores succeed. I wonder why that would be. Do costumers generally dress in interesting outfits that then would attract other shoppers into following them? Are costumers big spenders, as a group? (On this one, I’d say Yes in a fabric store, Probably Not in any other kind of store.) Or do costumers carry with them a magic charm or aura that brings success just by their very presence? And would this work for other kinds of businesses too, not just stores but also electricians, building contractors, phone companies, lawn services?

The Green-World Lawn and Garden Service truck drives down the street, and other drivers, and people out sitting on their porches or walking their dogs or children, notice that the Green-World drivers are singing and smiling as they drive along. “Happy employees!” all murmur. The woman who lives in the mauve house hears the gossip, and hires Green-World to mow her lawn for her, since she is busy making costumes for an upcoming play and has no time to do her own yard work. Wearing an almost-finished Elizabethan gown, she does stroll out to watch them edge the lawn, though; and her cries of delight attract other costumers in the area, who happily join her, clad like her in costumes-in-progress. Her yard looks like a party of otherworldly creatures—Puck, Bottom, Algernon Moncrieff, Mrs. Malaprop, Lear, a bobby-soxer, a stripper, a monkey…. They all smile upon the employees of Green-World Lawn and Garden Service, and the employees smile back. And when the employees arrive back at the Green-World garage at the end of the day, they are met by the president of the company, who is bringing them glasses of Champagne to celebrate the news that the business is suddenly successful beyond all expectations. That’s how it works.

If you know of a business where the employees are completely (and justifiably) happy, please let me know. I will go there, bringing the magic staff that goes with the Prospero costume I made, and I will bring the business success. I say that such is the power of the costumer. And the costumer is always right.


About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

4 responses to ““Having happy employees brings in happy costumers and then the businesses succeed.”

  • Mary Jane Schaefer

    Trader Joe’s, just before Thanksgiving, had one employee dressed like a turkey, top to toe, so to speak, as he greeted arriving customers. (He actually looked like a chicken. Blame the costumer.) All the other charming young people who worked there wore hats following the holiday theme–I saw one Puritan hat, but mostly mini-turkeys and other things that I can’t recall off-hand. The workers all seemed amused, and the atmosphere was pretty jolly. I deeply regretted not having shopped in my Pocahontas regalia. Next year.

  • RAB

    I actually do believe that having happy employees is a key to success, since it attracts customers who are also good-natured. And yes, as you imply, happiness in employees sometimes expresses itself by way of costume! We SHOULD also wear costumes when we shop! Maybe once the Fairfield Trader Joe’s opens its expansion, with WIDER AISLES–then there will be room for my farthingale!

  • yearstricken

    I imagine you as the woman in the mauve house strolling about in your Elizabethan gown. Wonderful.

    • RAB

      Actually I DO live in a mauve house. The Elizabethans I make are too small for me, though. I wish they were my size: the loveliest clothes in the history of the world, I think….

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