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Hiring in Accordance With the Americans With Disabilities Act … and More of Your Questions for May

Plus, a few ideas for a custom store’s tagline.

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Several years back we hired a young woman who mentioned during the interview she had a “genetic heart condition.” She was affable and seemed competent so we took her on as a salesperson. In turn, she took to falling sick every three weeks, citing her “heart condition” and telling us each time “I told you about it.” How can I avoid this recurring without falling foul of the ADA?

Such stories are disheartening, not just because of the disruption this person caused you but because there are so many people with genuine disabilities who are desperate to work but can’t get a job because of scared business owners. To be sure, the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t make it easy to avoid such situations, because you are not allowed to ask whether an applicant has any health-related conditions that will prevent him or her from performing the job (so don’t ask whether they have ever been treated by a medical or mental health professional, ever had a certain disease or are taking any prescription drugs). You also can’t ask how many days the person was absent from work because of illness in their last job. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that enforces the ADA, you may, however, tell the applicant what your attendance requirements are and then ask whether he or she will be able to meet them. And this should be your guide to dealing with the ADA: Ask people what they can do (their abilities), not what they can’t (their disabilities). It’s thus a good idea to attach a detailed job description to the application or describe the job duties to the applicant during the interview. Then ask how they plan to perform the job. “This approach gives applicants an opportunity to talk about their qualifications and strengths. It also allows them to let you know whether they might need reasonable accommodations to do the job,” says employment lawyer Amy Delpo, co-author of the Manager’s Legal Handbook.

I’m looking for a tag line to support our store’s name. We want to highlight that our store is the one-stop destination for all your jewelry needs. Any ideas for something original?

We actually looked at this in our 2015 Big Survey, which found an overwhelming preference for tag lines that underscored the jeweler’s credentials or offered some sort of social endorsement (“Where Wilmington Shops for Bridal”). Perhaps not that original but we’d argue effective. We definitely think you should stay away from the term “one-stop shop.” Jewelry customers look for expertise and someone they can trust. You don’t want to come across as a jack of all trades and master of none. For inspiration, check out that Big Survey story here: instr.us/6162

When doing a repair job, is it better to give a specific date you will finish or a general time range, to avoid disappointing the customer?

A specific time is always preferable, but only if you can meet that deadline every single time. One of the things every business owner eventually learns is the importance of managing customer expectations. Promise a 90-minute turnaround — even when everyone else in your market is doing three days — and your customers will be less than satisfied if they are forced to wait an extra 15 minutes. Several years ago, Zappos stopped promising free overnight shipping on its website. The reason wasn’t cost or an inability to meet that promise. In fact, the company still ships almost every order overnight, but CEO Tony Hsieh wanted customers to be surprised when they got the item the next day. As the saying goes, under promise and over deliver.

My accounting software doesn’t include interest as an operating cost. But it certainly feels like one, a major one. What’s the deal?

Yes, you have to pay real money to cover that check and it takes real money out of the business, but there are two main reasons accountants do it this way: The first is that in the case of a retailer, interest isn’t part of your business operation, so to include it along with rent, wages, advertising, utilities and so on would muddy the expenses of actually running your business and the comparisons you could draw against the last quarter or previous year. The second is that interest is a good indicator of your financial status: If you’re feeling the squeeze from interest payments, it’s often a sign you’re undercapitalized, not that there’s something fundamentally flawed with your business.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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