"Little Lady"


Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D.

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A few years ago, one of my former students bought her first dive light for an intended night dive in the kelp beds of Southern California. She bought the light at the same time she and her friends picked up some rental gear for the trip. My student is quite bright (top student in chemical engineering at umich) and is one of those wonderful people who read manuals for their newly acquired toys. I saw her read the dive light manual during the several hour ride to the dive boat charter. As we suited up for the dive, she turned on her light to check its function. The light burned for about 30 seconds and then died.

My former student was severely bummed out. I was amused (and so was she) by the herd of young male divers who immediately came to her assistance. We all agreed that the batteries were in the  proper orientation and suspected the  bulb had been defective. While not an everyday occurrence, it does happen. The boat captain confirmed the open-circuit status of the light bulb with a multi-meter. She then borrowed a light from the ship's captain and we made our dive.

When we returned to her home town, I went with her and her friend to return their rental equipment. She told the dive store clerk that the recently purchased light was not functional and she had been disappointed. He said something like, "No, problem, I'll take it back to the workbench and examine it." A few minutes later he returned with the light glowing and said, "Little lady, there is no reason to be embarrassed, but next time put the batteries in right!"

She looked at me in total shock. We were both stunned. It was clear the clerk's remarks were not intended as a joke, but the oozing-across-the-floor manner of his words suggested  a sexist, condescending assault addressed to a woman a bit taller than himself.  As we left the dive shop, she looked at me (fuming a bit (and rightly so)) and said, "I will never again buy from this dive shop!"

You see, this "little lady" was an engineer (with a Bachelor's in chemical engineering and a Master's in electrical engineering) drawing a high 5-figure salary. She worked in a Silicon Valley type high-tech research facility just a short way from the dive shop. I SUSPECT the clerk's condescending remark ultimately cost that dive shop thousands and thousands of dollars  in lost revenue from rentals, new equipment purchases, dive training and travel sales. 

The points are: 

Lying to a student is never an acceptable practice.

There is no place for condescending behavior in our sport. Aside from being in poor taste, you never know the resources or sensibilities at the other end of a inappropriate remark. Such comments (while sometimes considered "cute" and "entertaining," especially in the so-called "tek arena"), destroy respect and lost respect turns into lost sales. As some one with a very good business mind once said to me,

"You make a customer happy and they will tell a friend," but

"You make a customer angry and they will tell the world!"


Upon returning to Ann Arbor, I wrote a formal letter of complaint to the dive shop. We both received an apology, but my student and her friends now frequent another shop.


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About The Author: 

Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D. is a biochemist and Diving Safety Coordinator at the University of Michigan. He has authored more than 200 scuba related articles. His personal dive library (See Alert Diver, Mar/Apr, 1997, p. 54) is considered one of the best recreational sources of information In North America.

  Copyright 2001-2024  by Larry "Harris" Taylor

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Use of these articles for personal or organizational profit is specifically denied.

These articles may be used for not-for-profit diving education