Top 5 reasons why “The Customer Is Always Right” is wrong

The customer is always right?

When the customer isn’t right – for your business

One woman who frequently flew on Southwest, was constantly disappointed with every aspect of the company’s operation. In fact, she became known as the “Pen Pal” because after every flight she wrote in with a complaint.

She didn’t like the fact that the company didn’t assign seats; she didn’t like the absence of a first-class section; she didn’t like not having a meal in flight; she didn’t like Southwest’s boarding procedure; she didn’t like the flight attendants’ sporty uniforms and the casual atmosphere.

Her last letter, reciting a litany of complaints, momentarily stumped Southwest’s customer relations people. They bumped it up to Herb’s [Kelleher, CEO of Southwest] desk, with a note: ‘This one’s yours.’

In sixty seconds, Kelleher wrote back and said, ‘Dear Mrs. Crabapple, We will miss you. Love, Herb.’”

The phrase “The customer is always right” was originally coined by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London in 1909, and is typically used by businesses to:

  1. Convince customers that they will get good service at this company
  2. Convince employees to give customers good service

Fortunately more and more businesses are abandoning this maxim – ironically because it leads to bad customer service.

Here are the top five reasons why “The customer is always right” is wrong.

1: It makes employees unhappy

Gordon Bethune is a brash Texan (as is Herb Kelleher, coincidentally) who is best known for turning Continental Airlines around “From Worst to First,” a story told in his book of the same title from 1998. He wanted to make sure that both customers and employees liked the way Continental treated them, so he made it very clear that the maxim “the customer is always right” didn’t hold sway at Continental.

In conflicts between employees and unruly customers he would consistently side with his people. Here’s how he puts it:

When we run into customers that we can’t reel back in, our loyalty is with our employees. They have to put up with this stuff every day. Just because you buy a ticket does not give you the right to abuse our employees . . .

We run more than 3 million people through our books every month. One or two of those people are going to be unreasonable, demanding jerks. When it’s a choice between supporting your employees, who work with you every day and make your product what it is, or some irate jerk who demands a free ticket to Paris because you ran out of peanuts, whose side are you going to be on?

You can’t treat your employees like serfs. You have to value them . . . If they think that you won’t support them when a customer is out of line, even the smallest problem can cause resentment.

So Bethune trusts his people over unreasonable customers. What I like about this attitude is that it balances employees and customers, where the “always right” maxim squarely favors the customer – which is not a good idea, because, as Bethune says, it causes resentment among employees.

Of course there are plenty of examples of bad employees giving lousy customer service. But trying to solve this by declaring the customer “always right” is counter-productive.

2: It gives abrasive customers an unfair advantage

Using the slogan “The customer is always right” abusive customers can demand just about anything – they’re right by definition, aren’t they? This makes the employees’ job that much harder, when trying to rein them in.

Also, it means that abusive people get better treatment and conditions than nice people. That always seemed wrong to me, and it makes much more sense to be nice to the nice customers to keep them coming back.

3: Some customers are bad for business

Most businesses think that “the more customers the better”. But some customers are quite simply bad for business.

Danish IT service provider ServiceGruppen proudly tell this story:

One of our service technicians arrived at a customer’s site for a maintenance task, and to his great shock was treated very rudely by the customer.

When he’d finished the task and returned to the office, he told management about his experience. They promptly cancelled the customer’s contract.

Just like Kelleher dismissed the irate lady who kept complaining (but somehow also kept flying on Southwest), ServiceGruppen fired a bad customer. Note that it was not even a matter of a financial calculation – not a question of whether either company would make or lose money on that customer in the long run. It was a simple matter of respect and dignity and of treating their employees right.

4: It results in worse customer service

Rosenbluth International, a corporate travel agency, took it even further. CEO Hal Rosenbluth wrote an excellent book about their approach called Put The Customer Second – Put your people first and watch’em kick butt.

Rosenbluth argues that when you put the employees first, they put the customers first. Put employees first, and they will be happy at work. Employees who are happy at work give better customer service because:

  • They care more about other people, including customers
  • They have more energy
  • They are happy, meaning they are more fun to talk to and interact with
  • They are more motivated

On the other hand, when the company and management consistently side with customers instead of with employees, it sends a clear message that:

  • Employees are not valued
  • That treating employees fairly is not important
  • That employees have no right to respect from customers
  • That employees have to put up with everything from customers

When this attitude prevails, employees stop caring about service. At that point, real good service is almost impossible – the best customers can hope for is fake good service. You know the kind I mean: corteous on the surface only.

5: Some customers are just plain wrong

Herb Kelleher agrees, as this passage From Nuts! the excellent book about Southwest Airlines shows:

Herb Kelleher [...] makes it clear that his employees come first — even if it means dismissing customers. But aren’t customers always right? “No, they are not,” Kelleher snaps. “And I think that’s one of the biggest betrayals of employees a boss can possibly commit. The customer is sometimes wrong. We don’t carry those sorts of customers. We write to them and say, ‘Fly somebody else. Don’t abuse our people.’”

If you still think that the customer is always right, read this story from Bethune’s book “From Worst to First”:

A Continental flight attendant once was offended by a passenger’s child wearing a hat with Nazi and KKK emblems on it. It was pretty offensive stuff, so the attendant went to the kid’s father and asked him to put away the hat. “No,” the guy said. “My kid can wear what he wants, and I don’t care who likes it.”

The flight attendant went into the cockpit and got the first officer, who explained to the passenger the FAA regulation that makes it a crime to interfere with the duties of a crew member. The hat was causing other passengers and the crew discomfort, and that interfered with the flight attendant’s duties. The guy better put away the hat.

He did, but he didn’t like it. He wrote many nasty letters. We made every effort to explain our policy and the federal air regulations, but he wasn’t hearing it. He even showed up in our executive suite to discuss the matter with me. I let him sit out there. I didn’t want to see him and I didn’t want to listen to him. He bought a ticket on our airplane, and that means we’ll take him where he wants to go. But if he’s going to be rude and offensive, he’s welcome to fly another airline.

The fact is that some customers are just plain wrong, that businesses are better of without them, and that managers siding with unreasonable customers over employees is a very bad idea, that results in worse customer service.

So put your people first. And watch them put the customers first.

UPDATE:
This post has spawned a great discussion here and one some other websites.
Digg
“One of the consistent back up statements of “The Customer is Always Right” is the amount of dollars it costs to replace a customer. It costs more to replace a customer than to retain one most times. However, it also costs a lot more to recruit, hire, and train a new employee than it does to keep one happy.”

Kinkoids Unite – a site for Kinko’s workers
“In my region, when an employee is mentioned in a customer complaint, he/she has to apologize to all 11 center managers in a conference call whether they were wrong or wronged.”

AdultDVDTalk (huh?)
“Unfortunately though, most companies in the customer service arena no longer even teach the basics of customer service. They just assume that it is a common-sense thing. Having spent 20 years interviewing job applicants, I can also say that there is no such thing as common sense! Just take a look at the high school and college grads showing up for job interviews in jeans and tee-shirts or chewing gum…or my favorite was the young lady who excused herself to answer her cell phone and carry on a brief but totally unnecessary conversation!”

Reddit
“On a very, very small number of occasions in my various service roles over the years, I’ve asked customers to leave the establishment because they were incorribly belligerent, hostile and abusive, and flat-out refused to accept any attempt to satisfy them. In these cases, the people were shopping for a fight rather than a commodity.”

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478 thoughts on “Top 5 reasons why “The Customer Is Always Right” is wrong”

  1. In “Losing My Virginity“, Richard Branson outlined his philosophy of taking care of his employees first, so they would take care of his customers.

    It was counter-intuitive and yet made so much sense to me. You can’t force good customer service. An employee must have an intrinsic desire to do the right thing on behalf of the company, and the only way to encourage that intrinsic desire is to treat employees right!

  2. This fact was never more apparent to me than when I compared my job as a camp counsellor teaching sailing to my job as a sales clerk at Wal-Mart. Teaching sailing, I never had problems with my kids, since I had the full authority and trust of my managers behind me… I had more troublesome *adults* at Wal-Mart because they have been led to believe they could act like children whenever they pleased, and there was nothing I could do about it since management would invariably side with the customer.

    Guess what job I liked more and worked harder at?

  3. A moment of truth for this philosophy comes for those firms with a small number of clients holding a large percentage of the revenue. You cannot simply tell a top 5 client to “fly someone else” when there are satisfaction issues. In some respects you are forced to cater to those large clients, sometimes to the detriment of your relationship with your employees.

  4. You might as well argue against barking up trees because you’ll loose your voice from all that barking. The phrase “The customer is always right” is an idiom. Arguing against its literal meaning exposes a certain illiteracy in the author.

  5. I live from 9-5 on number 2. My boss said to our costumers that they can ask whatever they want (ooops) for our software and that we would implement it in days, if not in hours (oooops number 2).

    In fact, my boss gets super-mad when a client complains that something they asked is late. Not that we give deadlines, or document, or have any kind of follow-up to requests. I don’t have time to do these stuff. It’s always code, code, code.

    We can never scale this way. 3 of our clients are *very* “abusive”. They want their stuff, their way. Up to the point that I had to code some conditions, “if client = 1 do ‘X’ else do ‘Y’”.

    These 3 clients take the majority of my daily activities. When a nice client asks for something and I tell my boss about it, he says something like “But you gotta do X because the client is screaming at us”.

    So the features asked by the nice clients are put away, until they start to complain.

    I tell ya, It’s a vicious circle of evil.

  6. All good points, for mine, point 2 deserves some more attention.

    As a consumer and/or business partner I was taught early on that the ‘squeaky wheel gets the oil’. This can be taken at two levels, and there is an important distinction between the two.

    Face Value = Good customer interaction: At its base level it’s reasonable to assume that speaking up if something’s not as expected is a positive. By another name this is called ‘feedback’ and a clever organisation will act on it appropriately.

    Manipulation = Bad customer interaction: A caniving customer will use this to accentuate their own service. They do this at the expense of your staff and by extension your other customers. An employee spending time responding to an innapropriate request can not respond to appropriate ones.

    If a higher level of care is factored in to cater for ‘manipulating squeaky wheels’ this must come from your profit or higher prices imposed on good customer.

  7. @ Osmanthus:

    Wrong. Illiterate is someone who A) uses “loose” improperly, and B) confuses “idiom” with “axiom”.

    It’s rather the pot calling the kettle black. Now *that’s* an idiom.

  8. Excellent post and I agree with everything except the last Continental exec’s excerpt. He/the company have the right to tell the customer to shove-off, every company has that right. However, no matter what you think of the offensivness of the cap, the FAA regulations argument is a pile of crap. When I fly, and I do on a regular basis, I do not give up my first ammendment rights as part of the ‘crew-member instructions” clause.

  9. Bruce Barr you have the right to walk as well.
    If you were on my aricraft that is what you would be doing if you think your right to free speach overrides other peoples right to comfort and dignity under my watch.
    If 20% of my customers are taking 80% of my time, I get rid of them and then have lots of time for my respectfull customers.

  10. No kidding.

    Ages ago, I worked customer service for a hardware store (nuts, bolts, ladders, paints, nails, etc.). One customer had the tenacity to argue “isn’t the customer always right?” when was dead wrong about a particular scheme. He was about to injure himself and/or someone else. This clearly falls under #5: “Some customers are just plain wrong.”

    If a customer wants (even unintentionally) to harm his or herself or someone else, they can go to hell. They still get excellent service, but not assistance to do something stupid. This is not up for debate – nobody has time or the soul for lawsuits that attempt to hold some poor schmuck at $7/hr at the local True Value culpable for the insistent actions of the idiotic customer who really wanted to use his Ryobi nailgun for something other than its approved purpose.

  11. In my line of work – we used to ask people the question – “Is the customer always right?” – The point of the question was actually that the real answer is that being “right” is rarely the point. Treat people fairly – both customer and employee – and you’ll come out a lot farther ahead than just listening to griefers.

  12. Osmanthus,

    “You might as well argue against barking up trees because you’ll loose your voice from all that barking. The phrase “The customer is always right? is an idiom. Arguing against its literal meaning exposes a certain illiteracy in the author.”

    Your comment exposes a certain naivete. You obviously have not had to work for managers or companies that do take the idiom literally. Such as the one above, WalMart. This article strikes at the root of a huge problem in the U.S. Companies do not value their employees, everything now focuses on next quarters profits instead of long term goals, which includes treating your employees with dignity and respect so that the company can in turn benefit from the employees increased productivity.

  13. Here’s a twist to your article. I am a salesman at a company which always tells it’s salesman not to give in to customers requests, complaints, gripes and such. So they put us on the front line to draw the fire from the customer, but the instant the customer gets past our defensive line and gets to a manager the company policy becomes “THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT!!!!”. This makes us look like the bad guys and the manager as the company hero.

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  15. You got some very good points. I usually say “the customer is always right” but I should probably say “the customer is usually right”. I love good customer service and value it highly. But I don’t like stupid and arrogant people to abuse it. And as your post mentions, it happens every now and then

    I think it’s great to put the employees first as long as it also means great customer service. Some of your quotes in the post are from people famous for outstanding service and working hard to give customers what they want. That gives a lot more credibility to the faulty argument that customers are always right no matter what.

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  16. Customers, like employees are humans who are a mix of good and bad. The fact that employees are screened but there is little choice in selecting customer leads to instances where some customers can be unreasonable. So, it’s always a matter of good judgement when it comes to serving an irate customer.

    As important as it to treat employees, it’s equally, or more important to ensure the customer service processes are improved. At least twice when I had episodes of bad service due to the ‘process’, and terminated my account, the rep’s final question was ‘Is there anything else we can do for you?’

    Osmanthus:…Never mind…

  17. Very interesting debate, I agree that the Customer is Always Right approach probably isn’t.

    However I have been looking at reputation recently and it seems that we need a customer reputation engine so that the abusive customers can be readily identified and avoided by all businesses, while great customers can be treated properly by all businesses without having to “earn” the right to great service through loyalty to each business.

    Just a thought…

  18. I used to work in a service department. Well that’s what it was called, when indeed it was more of a repair workshop.

    I was constantly frustrated because the management wanted me to please everybody but didn’t give me the ability to do that quickly and painlessly, without fear of repercussion later. This is because they were in actuality more concerned with stock levels- having enough stock to supply to potential customers that might possibly pay them, rather than satisfy the people whose money they had already taken.

    The adage “The customer is always right” should possibly be retaught as “Most customers are worthy of listening to, because they don’t know or care about all your paperwork and procedures, they have just bought something that has ceased to work properly”

  19. we were told in school that the customer isnt always right, you just need to let them think they are. this makes me feel a lot better when i think of it as a customer is having a fit.

  20. Thanks for all the great comments. I find it interesting that some people say that “This was never meant to be taken literally” while other can tell stories from work where things go badly precisely because it is taken at it’s face value.

    I agree that it should never be taken seriously – but then why use it at all? I think this is one business maxim that needs to go.

    Joe Idar: Thanks for your example. That is precisely one of the worst results of “The customer is always right”.

    Toby: A customer reputation engine. What a great idea! Why are we only rating suppliers and products?

  21. In India you have public sector units – Owned by the Govt. The employees are Govt employees paid even if the company is making losses.
    The customer is right started because of those organisations which did not have to compete.
    In acompetitive environment interests of employees and customers balance like guns vs butter. You pamper employees you lose customers, you pamper customers you lose employees.
    Organisations will find their own level depending on the competition and availability of necessary labour.

  22. Actually, the author is missing the point. The Customer (notice the caps) is always right. Not “A Customer”, meaning a single individual, but The Customer, the group.

    Having held customer service positions for a half dozen companies over a dozen years, in every capacity from front-line-grunt (my characterization) to VP of Customer Services Worldwide, I can agree with everything this author is saying in principle.

    There are certain situations where A Customer is The Customer and as a result, A Customer is always right. Without that customer, that project, endeavour or initiative is dead on arrival. Granted, sometimes that is not a bad idea. There are situations where your company should never have pursued a project in the first place, but then you need to calculate the costs of abandoning that project. Sometimes costs don’t appear as a line item.

  23. One more reason: for any consulting to be of interest, the customer is in need of being right but is currently wrong (at something). That doesn’t make the customer a moron or somebody unworthy of business, but the contrary.

  24. This is actually why Starbucks is so sucessful. They have a very employee oriented company policicy, but at the same time do what is needed to make customers happy. At my old job, running photo for a Walgreens, I got chewed out every day, my coworkers as well. And there was nothing we could do about it. However, at Starbucks, I think we’ve had maybe 5 really unhappy people once or twice in my time there. Even those people we were able to get out of the store quickly by just remaking their drinks or whatever the case was. What it boils down to is happy employees= happy customers. Which means the profits the company wants.

  25. About the customer review idea, the one where customers can be identified as someone you should avoid:

    Here’s another reason I wish that I’d gone into law instead of technology. I would sue the owner of the website into the stone age for slander, libel and a host of other charges.

  26. Instead of “The customer is always right”, I always liked the idea of giving the customer the benefit of doubt. Give them a chance, and see if their demand/request is appropiate and responsible, and then help out the best you can. That is what customer service is really about. For those customers that are always happy, you just do every properly and by the books, and a good employer will protect their own.

  27. I agree with everything on this page. I used to work in a bar in London. A cheap bar, where people would come in to have their skinfull of beer and go clubbing. It was the type of pub where people would demand the earth but pay for dirt.

    This was the type of pub where the customers were *never* right. Unruly, rude customers would promptly be refused service and shown the door. Polite customers would be served quickly.

    After a few months of this policy, our number of nice customers went up exponentialy. The nasty ones found elsewhere to get drunk.

    I ended up working in a very pleasant (but still cheap) pub, with customers I liked. All for telling one or two (or ten) customers to leave.

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  29. There seems to be a lack of understanding of what the phrase “The Customer is Always Right” means.

    If your customers want to fly to Wichita, then they are right — and you are wrong if you insist on flying planes to Tacoma instead.

    If your customers prefer Pepsi, then they are right — and you are wrong for providing Coke instead.

    The entire idea of a business is to exchange your goods and services for their money. Therefore, if you want their money, you need to listen to what they want. That is, they are always right.

  30. Osmanthus….dude…why argue with about semantics, and put down the author. If you don’t agree, great. Don’t agree. Whether he was responding to the literal meaning, the implied meaning, the idiomatic meaning, or the voices in his head, doesn’t change the truth in what he was saying, which was….treat people – specifically employees – the way you want to be treated, and you’ll get the best results – specifically then, for the customers. Did you even read the entire article?

    I’m going to somehow get this article to the principal of our school. We are loosing excellent teachers left and right because she believes the…ahem…idiom/axiom/cliche/call-what-you-want-it-still-doesn’t-respect-the-employees. No one with a healthy self-respect will stay in an environment like that.

  31. What does “corteous” mean? It’s not in my dictionary.

    English is not my native language, and I can’t figure out if it’s a typo.

  32. There are some shirts, hats or people I find offensive, but if that flight was in the USA, the first amendment takes precedence over any FAA regulations and the guy should sue the airline for violating his right of free speech.

  33. Starwood Hotels and Resorts should take a look on how they treat their employees. For this company its all about revenue first, customers second and employees last.

    No wonder so many good employees are leaving this company!

  34. Andy B:

    They probably meant “courteous,” which means “polite, respectful, or considerate in manner.”

  35. Oh my stars! You are sooo right! People these days grow up with the notion that the customer is always right and they abuse customer relations with that myth! After I’ve started working in a customer relations job, it has showed me that the customer is not always right. In fact, the customer is often stupid, irate, and confused! More power to you!

  36. Chaz said

    “In some respects you are forced to cater to those large clients, sometimes to the detriment of your relationship with your employees.”

    …but rarely…and if handled deftly, probably never.

  37. Osmanthus, it’s not an idiom. The meaning of “the customer is always right” is most certainly deducible from the phrase’s individual words. An idiom’s meaning cannot be deduced in this way. The reader knows what a customer is and most likely understands what it means to be right. The definition is literal and obvious, and can be extracted by simple examination of the subject and predicate. “Raining cats and dogs” does not mean that there are literally cats and dogs involved. “Barking up the wrong tree” does not mean that there are literally trees involved. “The customer is always right” does in fact mean a customer is involved.

    It is as the author correctly stated, a maxim: “a short, pithy statement expressing a general truth or rule of conduct.”

  38. @Bill Nelson:

    Bill, I think you’re missing the whole point of the article. Yes, the whole point of the old line TCIAW states that one must listen to their customers, but the point of the article is revolving around customers who abuse it (or are, indeed, just plain wrong), or companies who cater to said customers. As a for instance, FedEx is well known for their overnight deliver services in the United States, but there are a few stipulations: for instance, they’ll deliver by 10:30 tomorrow to Los Angeles from New York (or you get a refund), but if foul weather holds up the planes in Memphis, you can pretty much kiss that guarantee good-bye. Anyone who would argue that point doesn’t understand that it’s just not safe to fly into, say, a hurricane.

  39. For everyone screaming about First Amendment rights, you might recall that those aren’t absolute. Certain types of disruptions are not protected, and that concept applies to an extreme in situations like airports and airplanes. You will also note that hate speech is also pretty much not protected. You could be refused service or entry into a public place for wearing the same type of hat or shirt.

  40. Alex,

    I agree, in part, to what you say. As a business owner and a “Mom/Consumer”, I believe 90% of the time cusomers are right (see my recent blog posting if interested) and I’d say 10% the client is typically right. It’s a fine balancing act, and within the last 2 weeks I have 2 excellent examples where the customer was right (me, of course).

    The tricky part is when you have customers who make complaining a hobby, or a habit. I personally prefer to tell Catalogers who aren’t happy (after I’ve tried to make them happy & satisfied at least 3x) “Thank you for your initial interest, but I don’t think this program is for you. I wish you the best of success for the future.” And I cut my losses and my headaches, all at the same time!

    Leslie

  41. Well if you don’t like the saying you quoted then how about this one:

    “He who pays the piper calls the tune”.

  42. Thanks again for all the great comments.

    Deva: Good point. Governments, and indeed all large monopolies, have a tendency to be indifferent to the needs of their customers. In other companies that compete in the market, pampering the employees means better customer service means keeping you customers.

    Ernie: Interesting distinction between “A customer is always right” and “Your customers as a group are always right”. I think that last one can more accurately be phrased as “The market is always right”. Which is of course a tautology because “right” in this case means they select which products become succesful – which is part of the definition of a market.

    Edd, seedsoftherebellion: Thanks for the great stories!

    Bill: That’s a nice definition of the maxim. This is how it SHOULD be.

    Leslie: Exactly! Some customers are just not right – at least for your business. Somewhere out there, another supplier may be a perfect fit for this customer. And if not, at least they will be making life hell for one of your competitors instead of for you :o)

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  44. In most businesses, one should at least give the customer some sort of security in order to keep them loyal; however saying that all customers are alike is a fallacy. Some customers are much better to service than others and some customers you may not want at all.

    This is escalated in the fact that as a web based service provider I have no clue who my customers really are— sure I can check the information they give me when they register, but how many people do you know that lie?

    Anonymous users have no right to complain, and as long as there are preferred customers there will be dissatisfaction somewhere, from employees or even from other customers.

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  46. I tend to find that the level of customer service provided, is based more on the cost effectiveness of the resolving the situation the customer is complaining about.

    I have worked in a situation where I have to tell a customer they are wrong at least 40% of the time, as they have not understood the product/service they have used. The pricing of the services, the economies of scale, and the logistics mean they don’t get the service they were expecting when they encounter a problem.

  47. Neil- > I can see the wisdom of what you’re talking about, however, as an executive in charge of customer services, I see what you describe as a failure of sales and/or marketing (depending on the market you serve). When customers purchase a product or services with an incorrect understanding of the required performance or deliverable, that creates stress on the customer service organication who are put in the unenviable position of trying to be mediator.

    This is generally (in my experience) caused by a sales staff who is undertrained or has unrealistic sales quota expectations placed upon them.

    At the enterprise tools level (software, hardware, whatever), this is most often caused by the sales staff having an incomplete understanding of the capabilities of the product. Often, they are talking with highly technical individuals who may or may not have a tremendous amout of contextural experience and present questions to the sales staff at that level.

    Some people in sales may answer questions which they are not qualified to answer as they are afraid to appear ill-informed and thereby fail to “punt” to the sales engineers in order to get a signature. Worse (and far more dangerous) is the supervisor (“decision maker”) who feels they have a grasp of the technologies involved, feel very informed and make a decision when nothing could be farther from the truth.

  48. Ernie > I absolutely agree with everything your saying, and part of the problem could be put down to sales/marketing, and to the companies credit they are trying to improve that.

    They also have plenty of problems having being a state run monopoly into a profit making company in a deregulated industry as well to deal with.

    However it is a little bit more complex in the situation I am in.

    A little difficult to describe without revealing who I work for.

    This would be a service that almost everybody has used domestically for most of thier life, and taken for granted, an institution. Have used it sometimes Internationally, but it’s usage has increased internationally over recent years.

    As the customers are so used to using the service domestically, they use it internationally without seeking sales advice, and fail to understand what thier responsibilities are in regards to our company, and the regulations of other bodies/companies involved. Let alone our responsibilities to the hundreds of other countries involved in the service.

  49. I manage an athletic footwear store, a franchised chain that is regarded highly throughout Australia as one of the best customer service providers in the country. We have a system of fitting athletic footwear that is tried and tested and 95% of the time ensures the customer/athlete/whatever is in the correct footwear for their particular foot type and whatever their particular requirements for their activity might be. This involves a certain amount of the caveat emptor logic though – sometimes the customer doesn’t like the colour or shape of the product we recommend. In every circumstance that involves this, we inform the customer that… “no, sorry the pink ones won’t be suitable for your foot type. You are certainly most welcome to try them on if you like, but I can guarantee the shoes won’t be as good as the ones you are currently trying on.” At that point, our guarantee of fitting correct footwear is essentially null and void. If the customer persists and decides against all logical argument to buy based on fashion rather than function, it is on their own head. We guarantee our product and service when the customer buys a product we suggest (and we are only ever suggesting product suitable to their needs) after an involved foot-scanning, measuring and qualifying process, when they decide they want something else, they are welcome to it, but the guarantee goes out the window and we put an “SF” on their receipt for “Self Fitted”. What I’m saying here is that the customer is almost always wrong in my industry. I spend most of my time with customers educating them and correcting their misconceptions about feet/footwear before I’ve even looked at their feet. And they welcome it.

  50. Andrew: I would say hat is a great way to balance the customers’ needs and your staff’s expertise.

    Imagine the problems “The customer is always right” would cause in such a system.

  51. Andrew,

    If you subscribe to Bill Nelson’s definition of ‘the customer is always right’ then I don’t think you can argue that the customer is almost always wrong. Rather, you should be making the pink ones in their size/fit.

  52. Said Ernie Jenkins : “About the customer review idea, the one where customers can be identified as someone you should avoid:

    Here’s another reason I wish that I’d gone into law instead of technology. I would sue the owner of the website into the stone age for slander, libel and a host of other charges.”

    If you’d gone into law you’d probably know that it’s not slander to make factual statements.

    On privacy issues, you might be able to make an argument.

  53. The thing is, we don’t have to have the pink ones in their fit. We control the sale from start to finish. In time, eventually feedback to our suppliers indicates that some colourways are more positively received than others, but on a case-by-case basis, no one colour scheme is ever “better” perceived than any other. We sell on function, not fashion. Our largest selling product (and by that I mean a shoe in M and W fit that suits a variety of foot types) has come in varied colours and styles over the last five years. Technology updates, colour updates etc. have not hindered the shoe’s sales one bit. If the sales person is confident and well-trained/informed on their product, they will be perceived (generally) as knowing what they are talking about, certainly having superior product knowledge compared to other retailers, and be perceived as an expert in their particular sales field. This inspires a trust in the customer that they will be purchasing a product that suits their needs, regardless of whether or not it matches a gym outfit. How many times have you bought something, or not bought perhaps, where you’ve left a store not entirely confident that you got what you needed, because the sales staff couldn’t give you a direct and confidant sales pitch regarding their product?
    I digress, but us selling the product in the colour they want gives them a little too much control regarding the actual sales system we use, so we recommend against picking on aesthetics. We rarely, if ever, lose sales based on the colour of the shoe when sticking to the sales system. In summary – the customer is always wrong. WE are always right, because we know more about their feet by looking at them standing than they could know if 50 years of walking around on them, and we have the knowledge and werewithal to make sure that the customer is in the right footwear.

  54. In reference to this post. After having worked in customer service and running my own small business I have concluded that the customer is often wrong and needs to be asked to leave or declined further business. I will no longer tolerate being spoken to like a bad dog, nor will I allow my staff.

    Customer who want to breach privacy laws, have special treatment because they are rich, poor, can shout and jump up and down, throw things around, cause a public disturbance are all welcome to take their business elsewhere, I don’t care if it costs me a commission any more.

    Resonable people will get great service and great service/compassion when thing go wrong and need a resolution.

    With reference to a few comments about freedom of speech issues.
    This wasn’s a discussion about freedom of speech. The world is bigger than Amercia and the rest of us (non Amercians) can feel at time that it is plain silly that you defend the indefensible with a reference to 1st Amendments rights.

  55. Lozza:

    The thing is, I’m not sure where people get off talking about the first amendment when a private citizen tells ‘em to shut up. It says, after all, that CONGRESS shall not pass laws that impinge on ones’ freedom of speech. Now, if I tell somebody to shut up, I ain’t congress – let alone passing some gedankin’ law.

    Do forgive the rantishness of this, it’s just that when people throw the first amendment out like you point out they do, I get upset at the stupidity of it all.

  56. Lozza

    I would not say that the customer is often wrong. But yes, he is sometimes. However, for companies which have few high worth clients it becomes very difficult to say no to demanding customers. My personal experience something to talk about. The client being a big business group always did things their own way. They wanted us to be at their office whenever they had an idea (no matter how irrelevant or wild they were) to discuss. No talks via telephone. Moreover, whenever we worked on their brief they would insist us to be available throughout the night so they may contact us anytime to give their feedback. I spent many nights on the office lounge in the reception waiting for that fax which gave instructions on what to do further. It was very frustating. No one had the courage to tell the client how we work and ask him to mend ways. The end result I quit the job and took up something which was low paying but did not stretch beyond normal time.

  57. Since I started the whole First Amendment point, I will point out to Mr. Carr that I, at least fully understand his point about individuals. I fully believe that the OA (Offended Attendant) and the 1st Officer were making a personal decision about the offending item. What I objected to was the FEDERAL AVIATION AUTHORITY regulation on which they based their order. I do believe there is congressional oversight and that the agency in question is fully part of the government. When does it end. Put it this way:

    The crew doesn’t like your political candidate and tells you to take off the campaign button. Is that ok?

    OR

    Suppose Continental decides that they are incurring personal-injury lawsuit exposure when passengers wear flip-flops on flights. Something goes wrong, passengers get cuts on their feet, they sue the airline (deep pockets) for not warning them. The big C then decides they can force customers to wear alternate footware as a safety issue, based on the FAA crewmember telling you so. Is that ok?

    At least the last supposition has the pretense of safety, and that is important. Safety is the reason for the regulation and the basis for my relinquishing certain control over my own person during a flight.

    Period.

  58. First thing…..I really enjoyed reading the 5 points and ALL the comments that followed.

    Perhaps the phrase should be altered slightly..as we used to say….”the customer is always right……….Except when they are WRONG!!”

    Re:The First Amendment and the FAA….

    Perhaps if the object was so offensive, other customers on the flight might have been getting angry and upset. In this instance, the object may have been the cause of an “air-rage” incident, which may have put ALL of the passengers and the crew in danger. Surely in this instance, the FAA rules would have come into play.

    (Also, depending on the age of the child, I dread to think of the kind of life they must lead, if the parent saw no problems with them wearing that.)

  59. I worked for Starbucks for a while, and when I was promoted to a supervisor, I let my baristas know that I had their back.

    Once, when coming out from the back where I’d been washing dishes, I heard the beginnings of an argument between one of my best people and a customer. I stayed out of sight for a moment, to see what the matter was without my interferene. The customer wanted something that–in the time frame she was demanding– violated basic thermodynamics (it had to do with the amount, stiffness, and heat of foam). At least, with the mere espresso machines we had (I’m sure lazers might have helped. . .). I came out and put my hand on my barista’s shoulder, right about hte time the customer said “Well, I don’t have any problem doing it at home!”

    At which point I responded, “Fine, go back to your home in the Twilight Zone where your expresso machine warps the rules of physics. Rule breaking is against company policy, and I’m sorry we couldn’t help you with this. Would you like a free coffee?”

    There were many other instances of customers who would steal things, then “bring them back” for a refund, or customers who would come in on our busiest days– Thanksgiving, for one– with the sole purpose of picking a fight so they could get a free drink. Or a lady who wanted us to hurry her drink (after a long line of people) because she’d left her baby in the car. Which is, by the way, illegal in this area.

    I agree with those who say “Give the customer the benefit of the doubt.” Most of the complaint we got were valid, caused by simple human error, we were properly chagrined, they were polite, and they got coupons and a free drink. But at the Starbucks where I worked, about one in thirty was an ass. Maybe it was just there area (full of aging yuppies), but there you have it. The market may always be right, and one should give the customer the benefit of the doubt. But the employee (if trained at all) is the expert, and is paid because the customer wouldn’t otherwise know what they were doing.

  60. Coyote: Thanks for the great stories, I really like your approach.

    It seems like Starbucks is one company that gets this and backs up its employees. Is that fair to say or was that just you? :o)

  61. This has been a valuable discussion. The maxim ‘TCIAR’ is certainly only a useful rule insofar as it appears to address the majority of customers. But the question here rides on the minority of customers who are NOT right. They ask for the impossible, or their behavior is unacceptable. And so far, the advice here has been laudable.

    However, their is a problem. Some customers are clearly not worth it, and can be easily sloughed off, to the benefit of all. Yet some customers are the lifeblood of the enterprise and need to be catered to, even when they behave like prima donnas. The employer must answer whether it’s worth it in the end, and treat the employees forced to deal with such painful people with extra care (via pay, benefits, etc.), because it’s harder and more valuable work. Otherwise, people who are good at dealing with the demanding customers you want to keep end up getting “rewarded” by receiving MORE such customers. Employees who are bad at it don’t have to do it. (The Tome Sawyer approach, where insolence is rewarded). Good employees leave, and then, likely, so do the painful rich customers.

    So it depends. An obnoxious customer who can be “fired” without consequence SHOULD be expelled. But how do you manage the obnoxious RICH customer whose work you need, without alienating or buringin out your workers? There’s where true genius lies.

  62. When you agree with a customer, you reconfirm their notion that they were right and you were wrong. This confirms their bad impression of you. Sometimes firmly stating the truth about how things are (and the fact that you are not wrong) can change the relationship around for the better. We have found that blunt truth instead of lots of apologise makes things better.

  63. Very cool site. I think I’ll bookmark it.

    Crusader Coyote brings up a very good point, i.e. the illegality and/or impossibility of some customer requests.

    I worked at a gas station while going to school (I also managed one for a number of years back in the 1990s). One day, a grungy looking chap saunters in demanding a pack of cigarettes. No problem, right? Well, he wanted to pay for them with food stamps. This is blatantly illegal. But the customer is always right, right? I should of just handed over the smokes in exchange for the stamps and wished him a happy day? Get out of here!

    In the time I worked in retail, I told a very, very small number of people to get the hell out and never come back. These were folks that became emotionally and even physically violent (swearing like a drunken sailor, throwing items in the store at me or the cashier, etc.). My favorite incident involved a shrill young woman who, after flinging packs of cigarettes about, demanded to speak to the manager. I responded, “I am the manager. Now get out before I call the cops.” The look on her face was priceless. The fight went right out of her when she realized she wasn’t going to bully anyone at the store. Fortunately, these folks are the exception. I had far more customers who were friendly, appreciative, and fun to joke around with. I had several who would come in because they knew we could trade good-natured barbs and have a lot of laughs. Then there were the really hot chicks…

    Anyway, the customer is NOT always right. Not even close. There are limits. If you don’t think there are, you’re either:

    1) One of the people who cause problems in retail establishments.

    2) Dumber than a box of rocks. Go ahead and throw a fit about your meal at the local restaurant. I shudder to think what will happen to your food back in the kitchen. Go ahead and scream at that clerk who just happens to know your credit card number. Bad behavior can cause some unintentional consequences, let me tell you.

    Many retail establishments are already cracking down on TCIAR, at least around here. I see more stores adopting the “you MUST have a receipt policy for returns” policy. Why? Because the “always right” customers would take stuff they didn’t even buy at the store back for a “refund.” It’s long past time to discard this hoary old falsehood.

  64. The boneheads that act as if they discovered a dead-sea scroll when they say not to abuse their own employees are laughable. Typical US MBA types. Literal minded as all get out. (I am american in California). The phrase was coined in a day when “carriage trade” meant something. The customers were for the most part rich enough or prominent enough so they yes, they were always right. They weren’t one of millions. They weren’t wackos wearing KKK uniforms. They were Mr. Bemis who insisted he had paid when he hadn’t and would be treated well, and come back when he realized he was wrong. No one ever said it meant “treat your employees like crap.” The “customer IS always right” in most businesses for the 20% that pay the 80% of the revenue. We’ll do backflips to keep someone like that happy. But no one with a brain ever should have assumed it meant to endlessly indulge the jerks or .000001% revenue generators who are jerks (but we are very nice to the .000001% who are nice). Are you all going to discover now that CPA’s arent the best CEO’s like you thought in the 80′s and that employees aren’t fungible? And maybe the law of gravity? What other blinding discoveries are made here?

  65. This is an extremely interesting article. As one who sells product on the net, I’ve had my dealings with various customer types over the years, and I have to say, in the last 20 years I’ve only blown away one customer who was truly obnoxious.

    Anyway, someone above mentioned that time-worn phrase “…the squeaky wheel gets the grease…”. Well, I like to follow that up with “…and sometimes the squeaky wheel gets replaced!”.

  66. I loved the article. I used to work for KMart and I remember there would be plenty of customers who came in on a regular basis and abused the employees and complained every time they were there. Why do these people continue to go to places like that? Because the employees getting paid minimum wage try to do their job and when the customer doesn’t get what they want, they throw a fit and the manager of the store comes and gives them whatever they want. As an employee, I always felt betrayed when a manager would step in and go against policy to keep a rude customer.

  67. Kevin F: Good point. In the case where your best, biggest and most important customer can’t figure out how to behave my solution would be:
    1) Try to educate them about what they do wrong and how it affects others
    2) If that doesn’t work, fire them. I’m serious. They’re draining your company’s energy, motivation AND they’re distracting you from finding new, fun customers.

    If 1 and 2 won’t work, I suggest being open with the employees as in “Hey, we know that customer X is generating all these problems, but without the revenue for them, we’d be out of business in 3 months. Please keep that in mind when dealing with that customer”.

    Ken: Great point. I remember one situation where I finally blew up at a difficult customer. From that moment on I had their respect and I became their favorite contact at our company.

    Frank Drebbin: I agree. No one should be taking TCIAR literally. And yet some do, both customers and companies, to the detriment of the employees, the customers AND the bottom line.

    KrankyOldGuy: The squeaky wheel gets replaced… you’re cracking me up, here! I’m going to remember that one for my presentations on this topic!

    Qbert: Thanks for the real-life confirmation that these things go on in the real world. That’s exacty the betrayal that Herb Kelleher was talking about.

  68. I used to work at Mazzio’s, which stressed the “customer is always right” angle. I thought then, and think now, that it was horseshit.

    Come on, it’s common sense–the old 80/20 rule. The customers who cause the most trouble are people you’re losing money on anyway.

    At Mazzio’s all the company literature talked about the cost of the dissatisfied customer’s word of mouth, with elaborate stats about how many friends he’ll tell about it and how much they would have spent otherwise. What the propaganda didn’t mention was that the guy’s “friends” are probably well aware of what an asshole he is, and roll their eyes through his litany of complaints. And if not, they’re probably money drains themselves. A business would be better off *paying* these deadbeats to tell their worthless friends to stay away.

    We had two regular customers that complained about everything every single time they came in. They complained they were shorted on cheese with their nachos, even though the cheese was weighed on every order. And they were rewarded for those complaints with lifetime 20% discounts. Way to make money!

    I knew a guy who took a test to become assistant manager. One of the questions involved a group of people who bought pizza and then sat out in the lot with a cooler full of beer, harassing other customers and throwing empty cans on the lot. My friend said he’d warn them of the penalty for loitering. The regional manager, in grading the test, wrote in red ink: “They’re not loitering, they’re *customers*.” In other words, they’re God and you’re shit.

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  70. I was talking about this article and someone told me this story:

    “I was working as a waiter, when one of the clients asked for the check. He payed me with a 50, but when I gave the change to him, he said he paid with a 100. I had to double check but the results were the same.Then he started yelling and complaining all around. I went to the manager and explained the situation. He told me that I shouldn’t worry about a thing. He then went with the client. When the client complained about the missing money, he tooked a 50 from his wallet and gave it to him. When the client left the restaurant, he went to the guy in the door and said -don’t let this guy enter here again-”

    That’s elegance!

  71. As a small business owner I have always held the philosophy that the customer was always on the scam.Make your worse customer someone else’s customer.

  72. My experience in the Wireless Industry, in particular in my current position as store manager has shown me a lot of these examples. I have gone as far as to tell a customer threatening me that I would accept his challenge and go outside with him. The guy comes in once a week now, brings me coffee sometimes, and he has even refered business to me. Sometimes putting your foot down at the right time, and the right way will actually win you additional business. Other times the customer is upset and will not return – I take care of my guys first and foremost. They’re the guys making the company money, they are all intelligent, reasonable people – and i’m not going to have anyone being rude to any one of them. I’d rather have my guys selling than dealing with some idiot who doesn’t understand that they signed a contract and should have read it before they signed it..

  73. Wise words, Biggie.

    Axiom from my time in the geotechnical/environmental consulting business: “If the customer was always right, he wouldn’t need a consultant.”

    I got paid to keep people out of trouble. You wanna stay out of trouble, do as I tell you. Or you’ll end up having to do as your lawyer tells you instead; and he charges more for his time, and has more expensive instructions.

  74. LOTS of replies, but I just wanted to put my two cents worth. This is an awesome article, and after my experience working fast food for 7 years (5 of which as manager while going to college) it is totally dead on.

    The way I look at it, the customer is choosing to use the services of the establishment, whether it’s a restaurant, airline, train service, store, whatever, and not unlike I have rules at home each business should have their own rules and guidelines. If someone comes into my home and acts like a turd they will be asked to leave, so why don’t businesses do the same?

    It does go both ways though, and if I go into an establishment and get bad or rude service (without any action from me), I simply leave and choose smoeone else.

    Sam

  75. A business dependent on a few customers has a business-plan problem unless those are great customers. (Great business and great customers are a solid combination.)

    Some very large companies are too dependent on a few customers. For example, if you make parts for very large airliners there are only two makers: Airbus and Boeing. Some companies do bow out of that squeeze, instead concentrating on smaller makers and military airplanes though those big-two are in military markets as well.

    But it can happen – years ago in Seattle electrical building contractors were shunning Boeing despite hard times in their industry because Boeing was not treating them properly.

    …..Keith

  76. Greatly misled thoughts.

    The customer IS always right.

    It is up to the manager to address the feather-smoothing with the employee after the fact.

    “Sorry you had to deal with that. You were in the right and that guy was being a total jerk. Try not to let it get to you. If you want to take an extra half hour off to unwind however you want, please do, and let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

  77. OK, try and get the employee to pay the bills instead of the client.
    The squeaky wheel gets the grease but the quacking duck gets shot but business goes where it’s wanted and it’s cheaper to keep a customer than to find a new one. Truisms. I would suggest to my problem customers that my competition could help them better – I liked to share the pain.

  78. I’m glad somebody finally addressed this.

    I used to work at a hardware store, and like cmc said in a previous post, customers would demand unreasonable and in some cases unsafe things.

    There is a difference between a customer who has a legitimate and reasonable complaint and goes about lodging their dissatisfaction in a manner that is consistent with a basic respect for civil ethics (ie. being courteous, refraining from swearing etc.) and a customer who feels that he has been “wronged” and proceeds to rave at the company in question with both guns blazing.

    In my former job, I spent roughly 40% of my day dealing with “problem customers”, that is a small percentage of customers who cause as much trouble as they can because they know they’ll be catered to — discounts, free stuff, and so on to keep them quiet. My superiors never understood that these people were abusing the spirit of customer service, and that ironically by taking up so much of my time, are in fact hurting customer service as a whole.

    One fellow, a self-professed “handyman” would come into the store at least once a week with some new problem… usually the door he bought wouldn’t fit properly due to a “design flaw” or the windows were deficient in some bizarre manner, like the glass was “too brittle” because the windows I was trying to sell him were “too old”, even though the date of manufacture was clearly stamped on the spacer bar. I would spend two hours out of my week with this one customer who was never satisfied with any purchase he has ever made with the company I worked for. But somehow he could make the doors and windows he bought “work” if we applied a discount or free items. One day I told him to shop my competition because obviously the products we sell aren’t satisfactory. He cried to management and they gave him gift certificates! I ended up quitting.

    What most consumers don’t understand is that they end up paying for this in the long run. Most stores have a percentage of their budget worked in to placate unreasonable customers, but it is also reflected in the prices you pay, like the same principle with shoplifting. Most stores aren’t going to let these customers eat away at their bottom lines, they’ll just raise prices or cut staff to compensate.

    All in all, as a consumer I feel that when I go shopping it is an equal exchange. They have something I want, I have something they want. If I feel that the good or service they have is worth my money, I’ll buy it. If not, I’ll shop elsewhere.
    If I have a bad experience, I won’t complain. I’ll just not patronize their services anymore.

    Consumers need to educate themselves as to what they want when they go shopping. If I walk into McDonald’s, I don’t expect gourmet cooking. I expect cheap food delivered quickly. I don’t expect service beyond a hello and a thank you. If I go to a five star restaurant, then I expect another level of service, but I also expect to pay for that service.

  79. Btw, Alex, your observation that disrespected employees provide bad service is right on the mark. When I worked at that same Mazzio’s, we mightily resented the company ethos of “The customer is God; you’re lower than dirt.” An awful lot of obnoxious regular customers got some “additives” in their food from people who were sick of their demeaning behavior and not being backed up by management. One guy who worked there was a former bartender, and he used the old trick of putting Visine (tetrahydrozyline is a powerful laxative) in his customers’ drinks.

    As for the “Nacho Lady” who kept complaining about her nachos (despite the fact that all the ingredients were weighed to spec) until she got a 20% discount, one of us (I’m not saying who) serendipitously discovered where she lived. Needless to say, she got a lot of extra orders of nachos (topped with dog turds, fish hooks, and a lot of other stuff) left at her house.

    Contra Jeff above, no, the customer is not always right. Commerce is an exchange between equals. And it’s not cheaper to keep a customer than to get a new one when you’re losing money on the one you got.

  80. Kevin,
    That’s the stupidest thing anyone has ever written in a public forum and this is the reason the customer is always right and not the employee. Would anyone want this guy working for him?

  81. Kevin: That’s horrible – I’m never complaining about my food again ever :o)

    When people are put in a bad situation that they feel powerless to change or escape from, you often see them becoming either apathetic or covertly rebellious. It tends to brings out the worst in people and make them behave badly, immaturely and spitefully. The worst part is that this rarely, if ever, brings a solution any closer.

  82. Some customers are really just not worth keeping. One of my friends is a customer account manager with one of the major telcos, and when I was with him once, I actually witnessed him telling the customer off and informing the customer that if he should continue to make unreasonable demands, the company regrets that a business relationship will no longer be possible.

  83. I’m printing a copy of this article and taking it to work with me tonight! This theory absolutely needs to be applied to healthcare. So many people come into the hospital with demands that are in direct opposition of what my patients “need” in order to get better and go home quickly. Hospitals are even coming up with “service recovery” gifts that we (nurses) have to take to patients if they have a complaint. Now tell me this… with staffing always at critically low levels, would you rather I spend my time being a handmaiden fetching coffee, snacks and making “Dr, I know it’s only 8am, but when will you be coming to see Mrs X today?” calls OR taking the same amount of time to check labs and assessing my patients in order to catch the hemorrhage that’s just starting and the infection setting up?

  84. God bless you, Nurse J.

    I work in a hospital myself. The critically low staffing levels are the same here–and it’s deliberate. The census got low over the summer, and the administration (who all have the MBA Disease of milking the organization and running it into the ground to inflate the quarterly balance sheet) decided to let the staff go down by attrition. And now, even when the census is still pretty low, they’re desperately calling prn people to come in, without luck, because “there’s almost no orderlies left.” And they often have to turn patients away from admitting because there isn’t enough staff to handle them. Of course, the census NEVER goes back up. Stripping an organization of essential categories of personnel when the census is low, and counting on building staff back up “somehow” when the census rises, is a lot like selling your TV at the end of every month to make the rent and then buying a new one after the first of the month.

    They downsized not only nursing staff, but the night shift ward secretaries and an employee health nurse who had been there for 30 years. “Take your $50 off the dresser and get the hell out–we’re done with you.” And they’ve decimated lab and respiratory tech staffs, that have already been downnsized repeatedly, and were already hurting from the enormous work load.

    And yet they have the utter gall to spring this filthy, demeaning, manipulative Fish! Philosophy bullshit on us to try to jolly us into enjoying being screwed.

    The worst of it is, their cost-cutting measures are pennywise, pound foolish. Orderly care amounts to $0.03 on the dollar or less for the daily cost of a bed. Yet we’re the patient’s first line of contact in evaluating the quality of service. Patients are more likely to judge a hospital by how long it takes to get a call light answered than by whether the building looks like a palatial hotel or the landscaping looks like the hanging gardens of babylon.

    And guess what–all they “save” on staffing is more than made up for by money that they foolishly pour down a rathole for stuff like ill-advised remodeling projects. They spent untold sums of money building a luxury “ACE unit” (Acute Care of the Elderly, the latest gimmick–er, excuse me, “industry trend”), at by far the highest per room building cost in the hospital, and then decided not to open it because it wasn’t designed quite to the doctors’ specs.

    If they increased orderly staffing by 50% and raised pay by 50%, it would only add another three cents on the dollar to the cost of a bed. And the offsetting savings from that alone would probably make it a net efficiency: the main cause of hospital-acquired MRSA infections, falls, and the like is understaffing. Yet they try to solve all these problems through everything BUT adequate staffing: slogans, cheerleading, micromanagment, more tracking forms, in-services, handouts, revival meetings. Never mind all the crap (like said ACE unit) that they deliberately waste money on instead of staffing. And frankly, the costs from employee disgruntlement probably amount to more than the cost of adequate staffing. I’ve heard more than one employee admit they don’t bother to swipe bar codes to charge supplies to patients. They figure, rightly, that the hospital is saving enough on staffing costs that they might as well save themselves a few seconds of precious time when the call-lights are stacked up six deep. And if they can save themselves even one second at the cost of $100 to the hospital, who cares? After the shitty way management treated the downsized people, casting them off like a bunch of used-up whores, they’re the enemy.

    God damn them all to hell.

    I’m about ready for a Pol Pot to come to this country and take out everyone who sits behind a desk or wears a necktie to work.

  85. The problem is that in many customer-contact organizations such as McDonalds or Wal-Mart, is that the employees are considered as expendable as the customer (I’m talking about the U.S. where I live). The difference is that the customer spends money and so it makes some bit of sense to “always” side with the customer.

  86. I work for a major achitectural hardware manufacture as a tecnical services representative. I was recently disciplined for hanging up on a customer who looking more for a fight than he was help with his issue. He was verbally abusive and according to him we were all idiots. I asked the customer twice to calm dowm and be civil as I really did want to help him with his problem. His response was to launch into another tirade at which point I terminated the call. The customer did not give up. He called into the company through another channel after which he was redirected back to me. I informed the csr on the other end that this customerwas on record as being abusive and i would not help him.

    I almost lost my job for that !!

  87. Ron: That seriously sucks, and it illustrates precisely what is wrong with “The Customer Is Always Right”. An half-way decent option would be to placate the customer while telling you, you did right. An even better option would be to fire the customer.

    Threatening to fire you is unfair and bad business. Thanks for sharing the story.

    Dave: You’re exaclly right, as illustrated by Ron’s story. They put all customers, incuding the abusive ones, over their employees and then wonder why they can’t get the employees to give good customer service.

    NurseJ and disgruntled: Thanks for the input from the health sector. I had never thought it might apply there, but it seems it does.

  88. I agree that there’s a time and circumstance when firing the customer is the best decision. Unfortunately, in today’s world, too many employees are firing the customer before the transaction gets started. In a two-hour visit to a large mall today, I faced:

    1) a shoe store sales person who was annoyed with me because I couldn’t identify her as the employee while she sat on the banquette with a coat on her lap chatting with friends

    2) multiple cashiers who turned their backs to me (and any other customers) so they could continue personal calls on their cell phones

    3) a clothing store employee who became increasingly irritated because it took her four tries to fulfill my original request — a pair of dress trousers in wool in the right size

    4) a cosmetics clerk who insisted they were out of an item I had called ahead and confirmed was in stock (and which a different clerk found)

    5) a luggage salesman who walked away to talk to other people three times in less than five minutes after I had explained that I had to buy a suitcase today

    And, why was I on such a shopping spree? US Airways lost my large suitcase on the first day of a 17 day business trip…5 suits, 4 pairs of shoes, a brand new briefcase and a variety of other items have to be replaced. I might add that the customer also is right when she insists that outsourced customer service be limited to locations where the employees have sufficient English language skills that they can form grammatically correct sentences — for the anxious owner of lost luggage there is a wold of difference between a sentence about a bag that “was” missing or “is” missing. Abbot & Costello’s “Who’s on First” routine pales in comparison with on my conversations ofthe last five days with customer service reps in Central America!

  89. Here! Here! to Nurse and Disgruntled!
    I am a nurse and work in a busy ED where the wait to be seen grows longer and longer. We are now reqired to see those who complain and are the most abusive, first, instead of those who are the most ill. This “policy” is the most ridiculous one to date and just plain wrong. This policy flies in the face of what we, as trained professionals, are trying to do in order to ensure the sickest of our patients are seen first. Business people have now become self-proclaimed medical experts and exert their control over every field of medicine and nursing. So much of what “nurse” and “disgruntles” says is true and is the dirty little secret of our industry, of which the public is unaware.

    Customer service has gone too far in our industry. We are not dealing with faulty merchandise of poorly made retail items. Our product is human beings with serious diseases. No two are alike and not everyone who enters the ED is at the brink of death, quite the contrary. Our primary job is to take care of those who are at the brink of death and not listen to the rantings of irrational individuals who think their stuffy nose or toothache that started 20 minutes ago is a priority.

    Patients can demand tests and drugs and we are obliged to provide this even if the physician and nurse do not think this necessary. Staff and hospitals are now judged by customer service surveys and have to bend over backwards (or forwards) to comply with obtaiing positive ratings. Sadly, the medical professions have handed over control of patient care to a group of wealthy businessmen who can only see the color green!

  90. Great Article….and the comments that follow. This has all proven to be very helpful in researching and writing about customer service.

    Two comments of my own:

    To Ken (7/26/06) — EXCELLENT theory…to confirm to your customer that you were wrong, can’t be right. That is not to say that they should not have their concern(s) addressed in some manner; it just doesn’t have to be by acknowledging a “wrong” (whether real or not)

    To Alexander (7/20) — your comment concerning government and large monopolies rubbed me wrong. As a government employee in an agency that issues permits and licenses to practice a profession, I know that our agency is basically “the only shop in town.” However, poor customer service or demonstrating indifference to a customer’s needs is not tolerated (we all answer to someone)…they may not be able to go elsewhere for what they want, but they still deserve proper customer service. On the flip side, if the “customer” is abusive we need only to inform them that we do not have to tolerate their abusiveness and then end the communication/contact. If they really want or need what we’re offering, they may want to rethink their behavior.

    Positive communications and fair treatment (customer to vendor, or vendor to customer doesn’t much matter) is just a decent, positive, healthy attitude to proceed with.

  91. When is this outlandish term going to be abolished? I work in customer service for a living, been doing so in the telecommunications industry for 15 years now. Before that, I worked for three years at a major grocery store. In all that time, I have seen and heard so many outlandish requests from customers, and will back up their request with “The customer is always right.” That just doesn’t fly any more.

    Good example: I was at the local Publix the other day, and this lady was holding up the line because her Nestle coupon was not acceptable to get her a discount on Haagen Daas ice cream. The two companies are not related, yet she insisted and quoted “The customer is always right”. Lo and behold, the managers let her have it! When I questioned them on this, they stated that she did this every week, and this was the best was to get rid of her and get the lines moving again.

    It’s time to put this ridiculous phrase to rest. Companies worry about losing customers, but this can also hurt the company anyway. If one abusive customer can get away with something, then every one of them will catch on and be allowed to do it as well. This leads to loss of revenue, thereby putting a company out of business.

  92. I had earlier mentioned outlandish requests from customers, but did not cite any examples of what I have dealt with over the years. There are two incidents that come to mind, dating at least back within the past ten years or so.

    I was a toll operator for a major phone company. This lady, who I will never forget, called him totally upset and ugly, demanding that I interrupt a busy line for her. It turned out this was her doctor’s office, and every time she called it, she was immediately routed to an answering service that picked up only when the line was in use. I, trying to keep calm for her, told her it was not a problem, but we could not guarantee the party on the line would agree to clear it for her. I then asked for her name, to which she would only say “Valerie”, but would not provide her last name. I advised her I may need her entire name being the parties on this line may not be familiar with just the first name and therefore may not agree to release the line to call through on. She became enraged and demanded that I provide my entire name. I told her my first name only being due to hostile customers wanting to look up people, I could not provide my entire name. “Well, you said you needed my whole name, so I should be entitled to yours!” She then in an ugly tone of voice demanded I clear the line for her. When I went into the line, the parties would not agree to hang up being it was a patient dealing with an emergency with one of the doctor’s nurses. When I came back to Valerie and advised her, she demanded a supervisor, which I was happy to connect her to.

    The next thing I know, because “The customer is always right”, I was written up for “abusing” Valerie. She had advised my supervisor that I was rude and condescending to her, saying I was refusing to provide my entire name to her when I “demanded” hers. Of course, I fought it and had this black mark removed, but it took nearly six months of meetings to do it.

    Meanwhile, it had also turned out that Valerie not only made me pay for her upsetting day, but had also done everything she could to have that nurse fired, the one who would not release the line. It didn’t matter what the nature of the emergency was that this nurse was dealing with, somebody was going to pay with their blood because this woman was having a bad day. She was out to even cost one or more people their careers because of her bad day. Meanwhile, our managers coddled this woman to death, no matter how wrong she was. (It should also be mentioned a month or so later, I got her again, and when I got her, I immediately gave her my supervisor without any preamble).

    The other incident I recall is the man who had his phone shut off for not paying his bill. My job was customer service, not collections, yet this man did everything he could to get around being connected to that department. I politely advised him that the phone had been shut off for non-payment and that I could connect him to the appropriate person to help him. He interrupted me, saying he had a statement in his hand showing his bill was due later in the month and that we had no right to shut off his service. I explained the bill is correct in that the current charges were due later in the month, but the past due amount was unpaid and needed to be paid to restore his service. He became hostile, told me to stop interrupting him and let him talk. Okay, not a problem. He again proceeded to read the bill (conveniently forgetting a past due notice had been mailed to him) and insisted the bill was showing it needed to be paid later in the month (pause). I responded again with the fact that it related to the current charges. Next thing I know, it was like a bomb had gone off. “You keep interrupting me and calling me a liar!” Trying to keep cool, I advised him that we could connect him to collections to resolve it, to which he said “no, you will deal with this yourself or you will give me a supervisor”. I again told him billing does not handle this type of issue, but collections could. “You’re doing it again, interrupting me and calling me a liar! Get me your supervisor.”

    By this point, I gave up and went to hunt for a supervisor. It took ten long minutes to do it. Every two minutes, per requirement of the job, I had to come back and tell him we were still waiting to get a supervisor. Each time I came back he would tell me to stop talking to him and get him what he wanted. After ten minutes, one came on to the phone, and I got to listen in. This guy advised my supervisor that I was calling him a liar, kept overtalking him, and kept speaking to him after placing him on hold to tell him about a supervisor was on the way when he told me to stop talking to him. It took five more minutes just for my supervisor to explain the policy of hold times, and employees could be terminated if the customer was on hold for a lengthy amount of time. But, after that, my supervisor apologized for my behavior on the phone, assuring him I would be dealt with accordingly! Also, she agree to turn on his phone, not require him to make a payment, plus waived the reconnect fee normally billed for non paying customers. Meanwhile, this man’s phone history spoke for itself. Every month, he would call in after the phone was shut off, and the moment a courteous person would talk to him, he would purposely become hostile, would not allow the rep to transfer him to collections, and would do the same thing about how rude the rep was to him. In nearly five of these calls, supervisors all sided with this customer, and all of them agreed to provide outlandish things, like two months of free phone service, and no reconnect fee be billed.

    It didn’t matter in either of these cases how outlandish and unreasonable these two customers were. In each case, managers also sided with the customer for fear of losing their business. As with the second story, that man had cost the phone company a few hundred dollars with the free services he received for his ugly, nasty behavior, and Valerie in the first story got her way no matter what. It makes you wonder if these are the type of people who would commit murder to get what they want.

    “The customer is always right” should be thrown out the window. It’s costing companies revenue, plus employees careers are being raked over the coals because of it.

  93. One thing I wanted to clear up on the Valerie story, I wanted to let you all know I don’t always proofread my remarks. I should say that I did not tell Valerie that she was being hostile and therefore I could not provide my entire name. I only told her that because of company policy, we did not provide our entire names to customers. The policy we did not tell customers was due to security and the possibility of hostile customers wanting to look up certain company employees, we only will provide our first names, and if the customer demands an entire name, we were to refer that to a supervisor.

  94. How about when you are the customer? Are you ever wrong? How about when you are trying to get the government to do something and you are the customer, wouldn’t it be nice if the government workers thought that you, as the customer, was always right. It all depends on who the customer is. Just maybe you mean, “I’m always right,” and this doesn’t have anything to do with the customer.
    Do you see what a good company Publix is and how they are a major grocer in Florida. Don’t you see that?

  95. I just printed out your terrific article “Top 5 Reasons why ‘The Customer is Always Right’ is Wrong.” I am going to give copies of it to our administrator, our director of nursing, and to the clueless empty suits at our ivory tower corporate office.

    I am a licensed practical nurse at a long-term and rehab facility. Most of our patients and their families are wonderful, considering their circumstances. However, we have our share of rude and obnoxious patients and even more rude and obnoxious family members. When they complain about a staff member, the administration always sides with them and the staff member gets disciplined without recourse. No one advocates for us.

    Granted, they are under immense physical and emotional stress, but that is no justification to abuse people whose job it is to help them or their relative. I feel like taking some of them by the shoulder, showing them the sign on the front lawn, and telling them, “See that sign out there? It says _______ Health Care, not _______ Hilton.”
    (Except at the Hilton the food is better and it probably costs alot less!)

    If the facility had any balls, they would tell these people, “It’s obvious that you feel that your mother isn’t getting the type of care here that you think she requires. Therefore, we will be glad to assist you in placing her in another facility.” Is keeping a bed full worth subjecting your staff to abuse?

    Ironically, the worst offenders are often health care providers themselves! We had one visitor, an LPN who works for a doctor’s office, blowing up all day at the staff yesterday. Last night, I caught her reading her mother’s chart after apparently going behind the nurses’ station to retrieve it. I told her that this was a violation of HIPAA, the laws that govern confidentiality of patient information, and that if my mother was a patient of her employer, I would hardly be allowed to go into the office to look at her chart. Dragon Lady apologized and said she thought that as her mother’s POA, she would be allowed to look at the chart. This was unprofessional behavior and she completely overstepped her bounds. I left my unit manager a note about this.

    Thanls for giving me the chance to vent. I’m sure there are countless other health care providers out there who could provide even worse horror stories!

  96. I just printed out your terrific article “Top 5 Reasons why ‘The Customer is Always Right’ is Wrong.” I am going to give copies of it to our administrator, our director of nursing, and to the clueless empty suits at our ivory tower corporate office.

    I am a licensed practical nurse at a long-term and rehab facility. Most of our patients and their families are wonderful, considering their circumstances. However, we have our share of rude and obnoxious patients and even more rude and obnoxious family members. When they complain about a staff member, the administration always sides with them and the staff member gets disciplined without recourse. No one advocates for us.

    Granted, they are under immense physical and emotional stress, but that is no justification to abuse people whose job it is to help them or their relative. I feel like taking some of them by the shoulder, showing them the sign on the front lawn, and telling them, “See that sign out there? It says _______ Health Care, not _______ Hilton.”
    (Except at the Hilton the food is better and it probably costs alot less!)

    If the facility had any balls, they would tell these people, “It’s obvious that you feel that your mother isn’t getting the type of care here that you think she requires. Therefore, we will be glad to assist you in placing her in another facility.” Is keeping a bed full worth subjecting your staff to abuse?

    Ironically, the worst offenders are often health care providers themselves! We had one visitor, an LPN who works for a doctor’s office, blowing up all day at the staff yesterday. Last night, I caught her reading her mother’s chart after apparently going behind the nurses’ station to retrieve it. I told her that this was a violation of HIPAA, the laws that govern confidentiality of patient information, and that if my mother was a patient of her employer, I would hardly be allowed to go into the office to look at her chart. Dragon Lady apologized and said she thought that as her mother’s POA, she would be allowed to look at the chart. This was unprofessional behavior and she completely overstepped her bounds. I left my unit manager a note about this.

    Thanks for giving me the chance to vent. I’m sure there are countless other health care providers out there who could provide even worse horror stories!

  97. Bill, from November 9th. You apparently missed the point I was making. Yes, I am at times also the customer, but I also know the different between right and wrong, and what is reasonable and what is not. I’ve been a disgruntled customer myself on things, and if I paid for something that I was not satisfied with, or I dealt with a rude employee, I would expect some sort of restitution, like an apology or a refund. I use common sense when I am the customer and do not make unreasonable demands such as, “Well, I paid $50 for this product, I hated it and now I want a $100 refund” or “I didn’t get my credit card bill, so I expect your company to just wipe off that $1,000 balance I owe.”

    Yes, Publix is a great company and my favorite grocery store to shop at. My point on that was it is also the major grocer in South Florida that deals with many of these type of people, and much of the time they give in due to the fact the customers know this.

    Perhaps you’re a believer of “The customer is always right”, but more into “The customer is always right no matter what and NEVER wrong”

  98. Having myself subjected to 6years of customer service line has made me realize that that phrase is bullshit.

    And having employers who side with unreasonable buggers, firing their employees because the customer couldn’t even provide basic details to their problems, is just too much.

    From clueless idiots to unreasonable buggers, and even people who cuss at you because they are having a bad day or not getting what they want immediately.

    These people are missing a major point, aren’t we all on a equal standing?
    Being in service line doesn’t mean we are of poor education or wannabe servants, but yet nowadays even domestic helps are getting more respect than any of the customer service people.

    I went back to school and during one lesson, my Marketing lecturer stressed on the phrase: “The Customers are ALWAYS right”

    He even explained an incident where he picked on a receptionist, being unreasonable and stuff, so that he could ‘train’ her to be a more customer-oriented person. After which, he called her superior and complained about not having his calls transferred within 5mins.

    He’s sick, in my opinion, to actually do all these to someone who’s there to earn a living and feed her family.

    Humans err.
    Through communication, we could understand what each individual need and what could be the best solution. But it takes two hands to clap, i hope that both customers and customer service officers could make the effort as well.

  99. The nurse again. i showed the article to several of my co-workers and
    it was a revelation to them. Finally, someone is on our side!

    Yest the customer is always right, except they’re rude, offensive, or insist that you do something unethical or illegal.

    Just a follow up regarding the guy who wouldn’t remove his son’s KKK/Nazi cap: Suppose the hat enraged another passenger so much that he kicked Hitler, Jr. in the family jewels. What would the father do then?

  100. The idiom was created in the first place because customer service was universally bad at that time. Companies picked up on it because it gave them a competitive advantage. If competition isn’t too bad, CS isn’t going to make or break the company and the employee as the ‘internal customer’ is more important. It seems that the pendulum is swinging back to another equilibrium point – that is, until people get fed up with bad service again, and service once again becomes a competitive advantage.

  101. I too am currently scourged by an antagonistic and boorish purchasing agent (a ‘customer’, I’ll refer to him as ‘John’) that only finds fault with anything myself or my company does as a course of daily business.

    A little insight; I actually worked with this ‘John’, a miserable s.o.b., in the same company, for the better part of 10 years. His M.O. was to bully fellow employees and vendors into his way about everything under the sun…I was one of the few that had the balls to stand up and not take the bullshit. Vendors, unfortunately, are not so quick to do that for obvious reasons.

    Now that I have left that company and sell product to them, ‘John’ has made it a point to break my balls every chance he gets. He gets off sending emails detailing how I could do my job better. I guess seeing as though he has so much time to do this, he MUST be incredibly efficient at HIS job (see the ‘I don’t have time’ excuse below). He has been rude to a really nice Customer Service lady that helps me on the inside. He insisted that my company fly in product he wanted from Japan (at our expense, of course) to meet a very short deadline, only to cancel the order after the product he wanted was already en-route. He routinely places PO’s with ‘or else’ style threats if we don’t deliver what he wants on time; numerous requests to this a-hole for project planning sessions (to avoid his ‘emergencies’) and so-forth are routinely met with ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘I don’t know’. I’m not sure this person could successfully plan a birthday party.

    I have great relationships with the 3 other purchasers at this same place, and they and everyone else can’t stand the guy. ‘John’ went as far as to lecture a sales rep for a different vendor that he better ask for him next time and not an engineer, even though the engineer called this vendor for his assistance. Needless to say, ‘John’ has a reputation.

    Recently, I let ‘John’s’ supervisors know of the continued harassment ( 2 years now) and that I would no longer respond to his constant haranging. My supervisors have been kept copied on all emails and call details with regard to this person. My supervisors are well-aware of ‘John’ and his reputation, as are all of my competitors. Many of them have left the building humiliated and angry because of this man.

    The customer is always right? I call BULLSHIT. Those that uphold this ridiculous maxim, I submit, are the same ones that would abuse it for their selfish purposes.

    Lets face it, customers that routinely MANIPULATE others behind the guise of this maxim do it to cover up their own shortcomings, and rarely deserve the ‘hall pass’ they get from disconnected managers/supervisors that often do so because they don’t want to/don’t know how to deal with these dysfunctional people. I have had great success at 99% of my accounts, and am not going to let this prick proceed as he has. He is costing my company money in the long run and doesn’t deserve the attention he demands.

    Love to hear your suggestions/input.

  102. I think the ‘customer is always right’ saying is indictitive of what goes on a lot in many companies today, that is to take what is in reality a complex and important task (customer service) and compact it into one saying that doesn’t allow the employee any movement at all to actually do his/her job (serve customers).

    I work as a materials estimator for a medium-sized building supply company. Everyday I am dealing with customers who want to do their building on the cheap, thus sacrificing quality and safety for the sake of dollars. I have constant battles with the higher-ups because I adhere to one simple policy: I service the customer with what he NEEDS, not what he WANTS. I refuse to put my name on something I know will be unsafe or unsatisfactory. Doing this in the past when I was far more inexperienced cost the company time and money, voiding the initial benefit of the sale by a mile. Working in any customer-related industry, there is a desire to keep customers satisfied. But there is a difference between that and knowingly giving in to a customer’s unreasonable demands.

    I often have to remind customers that we are in business to make money first and make people happy second. When a customer walks into my office, I view our relationship as a mutually benefical one: he has something we want (money), we have something he wants (materials). I am confident that I can service the customer better than our competitors and that is why I feel the customer has chosen to work with me, rather than someone else. But by sticking to my ethics and not just simply heaping platitudes upon the customer and then selling him whatever he wants, I feel that I am giving him the best customer service for what he is spending.

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  104. This is a great post. Now, of course we as business owners can also be wrong, sometimes we are at fault when customers get upset. I know my company’s customer service could definitely be improved.

    It’s when it becomes a pattern, when you keep seeing the same name over and over again, that you have to let them go. I personally don’t care so much if people are rude, if they don’t cost me money, it’s when they cost you money and are insulting it’s tough to take.

    On a related note, I just don’t understand why companies almost seem to encourage returns, even offering free return shipping. I find the customers that return things, for the most part, are the most difficult ones and cause my company to lose money. Rather than offering free return shipping and other incentives to convince them to buy, I do the opposite. If people aren’t really sure they want the product, I’d much rather they not buy it. It’s the old fashioned big company mentality, try to make every single sale you can and remove whatever obstacles necessary to do so, without considering if it is actually worthwhile.

  105. Sadly, a lot of the customers who use the whole “The customer is always right” excuse are either a) complete morons who’d have trouble finding their own front door b) people who are ticked off at the employee cuz they refused to go against company policy for the customer or c) scammers. That’s how it is in my experience anyway.

  106. This page has been a breath of fresh air. I have worked at Dairy Queen and a local bank here as a Client Service Representative, and I can tell you I have lost hairs and my health in this stupid client services business. People are totally unreasonable, iodiotic and seems to me that they come from another world.
    I am trying desperatley to get out and get a job somwehere else, where there will be not much requirements for client services. If I have had it, enough is enough. Seems to me that people find anything to complain about.

  107. I worked at a Petco.

    There was one customer who had been special ordering a certain hard to find dog food from our store. After I was hired I was placed in charge of the responsibility of ordering her food. She expected us to always have the food in stock, but no hold it for two long. She expected it to be placed onto a cart from the back room, loaded into our car, and rung out while she stood by the door.

    One time we didn’t have the required food in stock because our regional distribution center was out and all hell broke lose. This is not very available dog food. The total amount of stock in the entire district is less than 10% of what she orders.

    Regardless of the fact that I had a months worth paperwork detailing the 3 orders, transfer requests, and estimated delivery dates for her dog food she decided to call the company headquatrers and complain about me. I was enraged because there was nothing I could of done besides drive to 500 miles round trip to get her dog food. Apparently that was the appropriate thing to do.

    So I gathered up the products margins, estimated delivery costs based on national transportation averages, gas prices, etc, time spent ordering and preparing her order and even with conservative estimates found that Petco was actually losing money with her transactions. We even gave her special discounts for the pleasure of her doing business us and the margin of the product was lower than 5%.

    I threw my docs together and emailed them up the chain of command to receive back more stupid “customer is always right” mantras than I knew what to do with.

    My attitude and customer service was never the same. Bad customers fuck up your head in retail and the good ones aren’t given the service they deserve.

  108. My own experience is right on line with the debunking of the The Customer Is Always Right myth.

    I worked as a floor support technician in a certain large entertainment company (cannot reveal any more info other than that!) There were clear layers of customer support escalation from 1st level, 2nd level, dept management, on up.
    We lower-level employee techs were pretty-much dictated to by our immediate managers about TCIAR for the other floor employees we provide technical service to. In reality, we had to satisfy four groups:
    1) our “regular” customers — e.g., low to mid-level company personnel, 2) the real mid to high-level company VIPs 3) those troublesome/demanding”squeeky wheels” every company seems to have, and 4) our immediate and higher-level managers
    Our immediate managers certainly MENTIONED TCIAR for groups 1 to 3, but very clearly made it known to all that THEY, group 4, were the ones we really had to please EVEN ABOVE OUR SUPPORTED CUSTOMERS.

    We floor technicians handled every technical service call from customers coming our way. Usually, service calls were prioritized and handled by the actual needs of group 1′s regular non-VIP company personnel. If a VIP needed any sort of attention or hand-holding for a technical issue, though, we had to drop any other service we were performing for the company and RUN to do the VIPs bidding. This made a certain amount of sense since such VIPs were the “customers” that presumably generated the most company business.
    We attempted to deal with the constantly-calling employees in group 3 by fanalyzing how many times they called to complain/vent, how many times they tried asking us “to just take a look” at their service issues, and by diagnosing the actual importance of their service needs.

    A frequently occurring “company politics” issue at this company was trying to balance the trivial needs of a VIP and/or a non-VIP “squeeky wheel” with the urgent and sometimes CRITICAL needs of our company’s regular employees.

    Managements’ TCIAR slogan was repeated for troublesome “customers” constantly pestering we floor-technicians for attention, and of course for VIPs. In the former cases or where VIPs needed coddling at the expense of non-executive employees with ACTUAL urgent needs, the latter were pretty screwed. By the manager’s dissatisfactorily changing the TCIAR myth for their own uses — in such cases — not only were standard employees sometimes left helpless, but ultimately we floor-technicians who had to revisit these employees had to answer for why we could not help them in their hour of need (and these employees were more often than not ACTUALLY CORRECT in the urgency of their service requests!
    This management’s pecking chart prioritization of which customers SHOULD be right, ultimately resulted in some bad feelings from the company’s various departments towards our own management, which was then shoveled right back down unto we lower-level floor techs. We were employees too — treated poorly at the expense of troublesome “squeeky wheel” loudmouths — and many of us good floor techs quit the company due to the managers twisting The Customer Is Always Right for their own uses.

  109. My own experience is right on line with the debunking of the The Customer Is Always Right myth.

    I worked as a floor support technician in a certain large entertainment company (cannot reveal any more info other than that!) There were clear layers of customer support escalation from 1st level, 2nd level, dept management, on up.
    We lower-level employee techs were pretty-much dictated to by our immediate managers about TCIAR for the other floor employees we provide technical service to. In reality, we had to satisfy four groups:
    1) our “regular” customers — e.g., low to mid-level company personnel, 2) the real mid to high-level company VIPs 3) those troublesome/demanding”squeeky wheels” every company seems to have, and 4) our immediate and higher-level managers
    Our immediate managers certainly MENTIONED TCIAR for groups 1 to 3, but very clearly made it known to all that THEY, group 4, were the ones we really had to please EVEN ABOVE OUR SUPPORTED CUSTOMERS.

    We floor technicians handled every technical service call from customers coming our way. Usually, service calls were prioritized and handled by the actual needs of group 1′s regular non-VIP company personnel. If a VIP needed any sort of attention or hand-holding for a technical issue, though, we had to drop any other service we were performing for the company and RUN to do the VIPs bidding. This made a certain amount of sense since such VIPs were the “customers” that presumably generated the most company business.
    We attempted to deal with the constantly-calling employees in group 3 by first analyzing how many times they called to complain/vent, how many times they tried asking us “to just take a look” at their service issues, and by diagnosing the actual importance of their service needs.

    A frequently occurring “company politics” issue at this company was trying to balance the trivial needs of a VIP and/or a non-VIP “squeeky wheel” with the urgent and sometimes CRITICAL needs of our company’s regular employees.

    Managements’ TCIAR slogan was repeated for troublesome “customers” constantly pestering we floor-technicians for attention, and of course for VIPs. In the former cases or where VIPs needed coddling at the expense of non-executive employees with ACTUAL urgent needs, the latter were pretty much screwed. By the manager’s dissatisfactorily changing the TCIAR myth for their own uses — in such cases — not only were standard employees sometimes left helpless, but ultimately we floor-technicians who had to revisit these employees had to answer for why we could not help them in their hour of need (and these employees were more often than not ABSOLUTELY CORRECT in the urgency of their service requests!)
    Management would often not listen to such customers until their service issues were more forcefully emphasised.
    This management’s pecking chart prioritization of which customers SHOULD be right, ultimately resulted in some bad feelings from the company’s various departments towards our own management, which was then shoveled right back down unto we lower-level floor techs. We were employees too — treated poorly at the expense of some troublesome “squeeky wheel” loudmouths — and many of us good floor techs quit the company due to the managers twisting The Customer Is Always Right for their own uses.

  110. RE: why-the-customer-is-always-right-results-in-bad-customer-service

    In some cases, certain companies how been known to quote “the customer is always right” mantra at the same time as they get away with doing the opposite extreme.
    Yes, its true!
    The IT Support person who wrote the above is no doubt aware, as others reading this certainly are, of the great Microsoft company’s reknown negligence of the customer. One circulating quote is how Microsoft redefines the term “customer”. A customer, according to Microsoft is “A thief in possession of money which is rightfully ours”. (see the piece “Busted! What happens when WGA attacks” at
    [http://blogs.zdnet.com/Bott/?p=113] and whisperycat’s 08/10/06 talkback on this piece). Another Microsoft anti-customer piece is appropriately called “Microsoft: Screw The Customer”, by The Argoknot.com
    [http://www.argoknot.com/index.php/site/comments/microsoft_screw_the_customer/]

    And it is not just Microsoft which is out to completely debunk the “customer is always right” mantra beyond any shred of a doubt.
    Even as this comment is being written a Diggable blog about the RIAA called the “Recording Industry vs The People” is being highlighted, [http://recordingindustryvspeople.blogspot.com/]
    Although this blog is subtitled “A blog devoted to the RIAA’s lawsuits of intimidation brought against ordinary working people”, you can just as easily substitute “the customer” for “ordinary working people”.
    Note that there are other large institutions already noted by other commentators above that practice the same attitude.

    Again, these widely known current examples will show that certain companies are actually pushing their success based upon presuming that the customer is always WRONG WRONG WRONG, completely opposite from the historical “pro-customer-at-all-costs” position debunked w/in the Top 5 Reasons listed on top.

  111. I worked at Wal-Mart, in the sporting goods department, while in school. One day a customer called in about a certain shotgun wanting to know the price. I looked through the cabinet’s glass door and told him. Within an hour he was standing in front of me ready to pay for the gun. Only when I removed it from the cabinet did I discover the tag was twisted around another. The actual price was significantly higher than what I’d read to him over the phone. In fact almost double. No wonder he’d arrived so quickly! Well it didn’t take long before the manager was involved. I tried to explain that the tags were twisted and it *appeared* that the price of the gun next to it was actually the one attached. He wouldn’t hear it. The manager agreed with me, but had to take it up the chain to the district manager. The district manager made the decision that I was at fault and the customer should have the gun at half the regular retail price. I was demoted. Then, I left the company with no more respect for it.

  112. Great post. This is real fact. In my 22 years experience in Customer service I have seen that its leteraly impossible to satisfy 100% customers. Some customer’s demand, wish list and requirements are so impractical which is not possible to serve. Therefore its very right not to try to satisfy them with cost of our employee’s satisfaction.

  113. I always buy pampers nappies and have done for 4 years now but i was discusted when i bought a box as usual from my local morrisons store only to open the box to use one an find that most of the nappies were stuck together in the wrong shape, they were size 4 an a box of 88 and only 51 of them was i able to use. i dont expect this to happen as i want quality thanks

  114. Quite frankly, I agree with the phrase; “the customer is always right”…because I define ‘customer’ different than simply someone who shows up to spend money at my establishment.

    A customer is NOT just someone who shows up to spend money at your place of business. It’s someone who shows up OFTEN.

    My employees KNOW who my customers are, and my customers KNOW my employees! A TRUE customer would NEVER give attitude to an employee, and they’d NEVER take that arrogant “I’m always right” stance.

    Many a corporate bottom line has been damaged by companies that adopt that mentality.

  115. Had a weird day a work today. We blame it on the full moon.
    I’d love for all those poorly paid employees at places like Walmart in the USA or Zellers/Bay(Target) in Canada, and I know there are THOUSANDS of you, to just not buy anything from your employer. Just one day a month, all of you choosing the same day. Not one penny spent, not even lunch or coffee or a pack of gum. Buy what you want, but pick it up from a place you know is friendly and respectful to you and to their employees. (Most likely a small, local business)
    Remember, you are also customers, and hey! the customer is always right!
    Isn’t that right, Boss?
    Having said that, most of our clients are lovely, intelligent, reasonable people. A very few, on the other hand, are obviously very unhappy campers. Miserable, selfish, illogical, mean, overbearing, and just plain wrong, wrong, wrong. When a confrontation brews, I’ve figured out that most of the really horrible stuff isn’t about me, or even the product or service. I take great delight in diffusing the bomb by just agreeing with them ‘yes, I understand, I really appreciate how disappointed you are, etc, etc’. (Then I stick to my guns. I’ve been in trouble a few times, but have other plans that don’t include staying with the company much longer).

    I’ve worked retail, and now I’m in an office environment. And customer service is part of my job. In my 35 years of employment, I can only think of two bosses who actually backed up their front line people when the client clearly had unreasonable expectations. And if we screwed up, or lost our cool, we’d know about it in no uncertain terms. BUT never where the customer could hear. Those two bosses treated us with respect. The issue would later be reviewed, discussed, and possible alternatives were offered. And there was no threat of firing. I think we would have died for those two guys. The other companies lost so much market share from the ‘TCIAR’ policy that they ended up with warehouses literally packed to the rafters with useless, returned product. One was a paint company, so disposal of perfectly good product cost a fortune in expensive, specialized chemical waste treatment. Another went bankrupt because of it. The ex-employees all found work elsewhere or created their own, and we get together once in a while to laugh at the stupidity of middle and upper management. We tell a lot of dumb boss jokes. We think of them with the same contempt and disrespect we were subjected to, when we think of them at all, then we have another beer and go home.

  116. I enjoyed the article, but you missed something.

    The Number 1 reason that the customer shouldn’t assume that they are always right is that the expression “The Customer Is Always Right” isn’t a generic rule of thumb or policy for businesses.

    It was a policy that the founder of Nordstroms came up with when he opened his first store in Seattle, WA……in 1911.

    The notion that “the customer is always right” is a disease which has caused customers to stop listening to what they’re being told.

    In particular, Americans abuse people in the service industry, because they incorrectly believe they are above reproach. And I’m an American saying that.

  117. Employees should come first. The dodge that it costs money to get new customers doesn’t take into consideration the fact that by trying to keep that customer who insists on bringing a full cart through the express line is that you are potentially losing all the well-behaved customers who see that and decide to shop elsewhere.

    Send the problem customers to your competition! That’s an incredibly smart business move.

  118. Very interesting posts. I was in the furniture business for almost 20 years, working for a total of 3 companies in that time. I have done everything from cleaning bathrooms to general manager. I used to say “This would be the best job in the world if it weren’t for customers and employees”. There was a lot of truth to that statement, even though it was usually said in jest.

    As a hiring manager, I always told new employees that if they wouldn’t take it from a sibling, spouse or friend, they don’t have top take it from a customer either. Our mantra was when the customer is right, they’re right and when they’re wrong, they are wrong. Rude and abusive customers were intentionaly given the very minimum service, if any at all. It allowed us the time, energy and MONEY to go above and beyond the call of duty for those that deserved it. I averaged about two calls a year to the police to remove unruly customers. The ones remaining in the store were more than appreciative to see the abuser get the boot.

    Also, as a manager in an industry that has a tremendously high employee turnover rate, I lost a total of three employees during a ten year period. One was fired for cause. One left to become a full time Mom after the birth of her second child. The third moved out of state. I NEVER lost an employee to a competitor. Why? Because we treated our employees the way we wanted to be treated…with respect and civility. We demanded the same from anyone wanting to do business with us.

    To illustrate, I’ll give you one example: Saturdays are always a busy time in the store. We rarely delivered on Saturdays, but usually did before most holidays to do our best to get things delivered on time for the occasion. A winter storm had dumped three feet of snow overnight and was going to continue throughout Saturday. Before we opened, I called everyone on the delivery schedule to tell them we would do our best to make it if conditions allowed, but I could not make any promises.

    One customer re-scheduled and the rest politely accepted the attempt at delivery, knowing we might not make it. The store became very busy throuout the day, despite the weather. Early deliveries were made okay, but as the day ensued, the conditions worsened. I offered my drivers the option to cancel. They declined and kept plugging away. I called each customer on the schedule with an update as the guys made their slow progress.

    At 4pm, we had only two deliveries left when our truck became stranded in the snow. The first customer understood. Then I called the last customer. Mind you, my store was busy and I had to conduct these calls from the counter in full view of of our customers. The last customer waiting for delivery blew up at me. Fine, I always let someone blow off steam for three to five minutes. She DEMANDED we deliver! RIGHT NOW! I explained I had a tow truck en-route to ours, but I could not deliver RIGHT NOW when my truck was buried in the snow 25 miles away. This went back and forth, on and on to the point that customers had stopped their shopping to listen in. After about ten minutes of this I put her on speakerphone so they could hear her tirade. I had to go back to the handset when she began throwing the f-bomb every third or fourth word. I immediately told her our business relationship had ended. I would not allow her to talk to my employees the way she had talked to me. I was mailing her a refund check for her deposit and she would be arrested for trespassing if she came into our store. Thern I hung up.

    The store exploded into applause! For two weeks afterwards, the owner recieved calls and letters about how happy they were to see abusive and rude conduct NOT be rewarded. (This was a whole house, $25,000 order…not small change!)

    The end result made it all worthwhile. The husband called back 15 minutes later to apologize for his wife’s conduct, ask if my guys were ok, and also ask if he could still get his furniture if not that day, then on the next available, I thanked him for his apology and concern for my guys stuck in the snow. I then told him that we would make the delivery on ONE condition: if your wife says ONE NEGATIVE WORD to my drivers, they are out of there, period.

    Not only was the wife silent during the delivery, but he helped my guys carry-in and set-up and then tipped them each $20. After they left, he again called me with another apology and his appreciation of my guys efforts and professionalism. The only thing that would have been better is if that 2nd call had come from HER.

    Treat your employees like crap and they will get you back ten times over. Treat them like gold and theyll do handstands for you and your customers.

  119. Lucas,

    Your post should turn on a little light bulb in ANYONE’S head that reads it – you have nailed it!!! Civility, like freedom must be defended. The way you handled the abusive customer was something any manager should learn and embrace. Sometimes in this world you have to demand respect from people that have no idea what it is.

    Here-here!!!

  120. I work for a direct selling company as a technical support analyst, in our company no matter what these consultants or customers are always right no matter how much disrespect they have for the people who are trying to help them. This has made me despise my job to the point where I am looking for other opportunities whether that means relocation or not. I believe your power is in your people and agree with all that was said in this article.

  121. I believe in everything said in this article. I work for a direct selling company who believes that the customer or consultant is always right regardless of how badly they treat those of us trying to help them (I am a technical support analyst). This has made me hate my job so much I am looking for employment elsewhere even if it means relocation.

  122. What you are saying is ” we should only do business with nice customers” or if you are not nice to us we will not be nice to you! If you have a customer that is not “the nicest person” but you can “find a way to deal with them” and be profiatble over time – that is the challange! It’s easy to deal with nice customers…….A good service company should be able to deal with almost any customer. It sounds like you are advocating that the employees should be picking and choosing the customers……..wrong!

    The old saying that the customer is always right is true……..but, it is a lot harder to deal with. Just because at times it is harder to deal with – doesn’t make it untrue.

  123. D, Gallo…you missed my point. We never failed the attempt at selling difficult customers. Quite the contrary, we were very good at it. However, there is a BIG difference between a difficult customer and an abusive one. Just as much as there is a big difference between a difficult spouse and an abusive one.

    Our staff was able and eager to sell everyone, secure in the knowledge that the one or two people a year that became abusive would be shown the door. We didn’t pick or choose who to sell. We just empowered the staff to come to us about situations that were detrimental to the staff and the other customers in the store. Would you tell your daughter to remain in an abusive relationship? Of course not, anymore that I would let ANYONE be abused in my presence.

    It should NOT be a requirement of employment to put up with that. And, quite frankly, the cutomers that would observe such situations were always quick to thank us for dealing with said behavior.\

    The customer is NOT always right. The challenge is to have the courage to speak up when the customer is wrong.

  124. I understand that there is that exceptional “nut case”…….There is an exception to every rule. That doesn’t mean we have to “junk the rule”.

    For the most part – the customer is RIGHT is true! Learning how to deal with difficult customers, and how to diffuse and handle sometimes difficult situations that arise is important. I have seen irate and sometimes irrational thinking customers brought around to become
    satisfied and long term customers.

    For the exceptional abusive customer that is creating a threat – yes I agree all company’s should have a policy that is documented to deal with that! It is important to protect employees but, hopefully it is the exception……

    I have seen many times when the customer service person helps to push a customer toward a negative encounter….Alternatley a well trained and happy customer service person can and should steer the customer away from confrontational behavior…….that to me – is the biggest challange!

  125. B. Gallo: Agreed. Successfully turning a difficult customer into a sale is the ultimate challenge in retail. Competing against other retailers is easy. Competing with perceived negatives is truly the crux of successful selling. Well said, D.G..

  126. I worked in customer service in a large telco, we had to obey the privacy laws of the country which prevent disclosure of information to anyone but the person themselves or certain government authorities (the police basically). Penalty was/is 250 000 dollars and five years in prison. Got a customer who refused to say who he was but who wanted information about “his” account. Stayed polite throughout (which he didn’t, then again perhaps I am an arrogant pipsqueak with a hitler complex) and explained that I couldn’t help him without him identifying himself. (full name, password) He asked for my name and I gave it (company policy) and he complained about me. I knew I’d done exactly the right thing exactly how I was taught so I wasn’t worried. Well the customer was right and I was formally reprimanded and told that another instance like that and I would be sacked. So from then on whenever a customer asked for my name or looked like they might complain about something I didn’t try to win them over, I just asked them to hold and hung up on them (and I spent my off time looking for another job). The reason I asked them to hold was because the hold button and release button were both red and right next to each other and I figured if I got caught I’d say I hit the wrong button by mistake.

  127. We used to have a sign under our counter that said “The customer is always right…and usually ugly too.” It helped give us a chuckle when someone was being completely offensive. I have to say though that I had an amazing boss at that place who would do what she could to make the customer happy but then look at us and say we did the best we could or just remember you don’t get paid enough to take that kind of abuse so call me, etc. She was wonderful at trying to maintain both relationships.

  128. I’ve always had the motto:

    “The customer isn’t always right, but they are always the Customer.”

    I try to treat people with respect, hear them out, address their issues (if I can). But I am their equal, not their servant, regardless of how much of my income they provide. I recognize customers have the RIGHT to try to get what they want, they just might not end up getting it from me.

    I think it works because I AM the company… Could it work if I had a staff? Who knows…

  129. describe how you would deliver World Class service to our customers? Provide details of how you would sell a product to a customer from start to finish???

  130. Thank you SO much for this. My boss apologized to an irate customer I’d stopped from going into a staff area to use the rest room. Since the customer rest rooms are clearly marked and nearby, I thought the customer was confused and escorted her to the bathroom. She took exception, sent my boss a rambling, confused letter and threatened to go to the local paper to complain about her treatment. (I do believe the poor creature is senile since she mentioned in her letter that Jesus told her to take this up as a cause.)
    She’s written the letter and my boss is concerned. I feel unsupported and could have told her there was nothing we could have done for this poor lady to make her feel better.

  131. I’m appalled by the lack of good CS in all manner of business these days.

    In the last few years alone:

    I have been hung up on.

    I have been given the wrong information and fake names-(first names are ok, just don’t give me a fake one).

    I have heard rude comments and time-killing talk when they thought they placed me on hold to “go look into that” for me.

    I have been told absolutely and completely different versions of company policy by each and every different person who answered the phone at the same company.

    I have had people pause while helping me to turn their backs to me and finish conversations that, again, were not work related-yes I could hear every word about her boyfriend’s hair gel preference and how good it smells.

    I had a clerk refuse to let me use a public restroom that his co-worker had just come out of, while I was 8 months pregnant and after we had just spent $35 on gas-I don’t know if it was because I am not white or because he didn’t like my shoes, all I do know is that suddenly the restroom was okay for me to use when I said I’d be calling his supervisor about it-and I still called.

    I’ve even had fraudulent withdrawals attempted on my saving account that I happened to close the day before because I knew the supervisor was being shady–The short version of that story is that I paid off an account for my daughter but didn’t trust the company because of how they spoke both to her and myself, so I got my bank in on it, had them open a special savings account with only the exact amount of the settlement amount.

    For every customer horror story, there is at LEAST one customer service horror story.

    Part of the cost of whatever the product or service is decent to excellent customer service. Too many companies cease to think about ongoing service; they sold their product and now it’s on to peddle the next useless thing we don’t need. That is not how consumers think. If I’ve taken money from my account and it’s gone into your company’s pocket, and eventually trickles down into your paycheck…then I’m not going to be okay with being condescended when I call.

    A CSR is PAID to deliver decent CS. It’s not my problem if you chose a job that doesn’t pay you well or appreciate you enough. If you don’t have the temperament to deal with people, who probably wouldn’t be contacting you at all if there weren’t a problem, then you shouldn’t do it.

    And it’s not like I have never been in the position of doling out good customer service to people who are pains in the arse. I have done fast food, retail and bartending for many years. I have done childcare where you have to smile and say nice things to parents of horrid little monsters. I’ve dealt with drunks, racists, sexists, the elite, the poor, the liars and the best customers around…and I was kind-at times through clenched teeth-because that was my job. When I grew weary of it, I moved on.

    A lady (I use the term loosely) who was upset with me because I insisted she hadn’t told me a key bit of information that I needed in order to complete a task in time, told me that I needed to speak to her in a professional manner. Mind you, I hadn’t called her any names or raised my voice–but I was irritated with her calling me a liar. I told her that with all due respect, I wasn’t at work, she was, and it was she who needed to kick in the professionalism. She hung up on me. I called back, told the receptionist that that “lady” and I didn’t get along, could I speak to someone else. The next person listened to my issue with the first lady, handled the situation created by the first lady’s negligence with key information and, GASP, apologized for any inconvenience. All was well.

    Last but not least, I also notice when I receive outstanding CS. I call to commend good CS, I refer, I fill out the praise cards and I joke around with the really helpful and friendly ones. I’m the same with everyone, so if you think I’m just a pain in the arse customer myself, you would be mistaken, I just mightily dislike inefficiency.

  132. As someone who comes across tales of customer misconduct on a daily basis, I definitely agree with your article. Painting customers a single color and expecting to service all of them is foolish, both to the bottom line and for morale. Customers are obviously human, but so are the humans that run the businesses that service them. Fail to address the human factor (on both sides of the coin), and the business itself will suffer.

  133. shouldn’t this discussion end? it’s stupid, when the person standing across from you is your customer, visiting your business, you will have a different way of looking at this. When the customer standing across from you just dropped in and you are selling crap that doesn’t work anyway, now in that case everyone is a pain in the ass.

  134. I cannot but smile at this article , the Great Chef who teach me the trade some 40 years ago once told a very deamnding customer with ever changing last minute decision and yes Madam we will also have yellow toilet paper…..{the colors of that Customer’s Co.} it was a large piece of business for which most would have crawled under the floor , He never second and the business went throughour recession , various economic changes without effect to the contrary , it seems the mmore difficult the situation was the more customer we would have.
    On the other hand thetre was never ever a compromise for quality …..

  135. I absolutely love this post, and I agree with every word. I was in customer service for a while, and that damn phrase gave customers the license to aggravate me.

  136. Customers who complain or disagree with me ARE ALWAYS WRONG. I do my job every day, I know what I’m doing. They come in once and don’t like something and then complain to me because they’re idiots and somehow I’m supposed to cater to their idiocy at the expense of other customers and co-workers.

    I work at a coffee shop (one of the big ones, you know it) and constantly have people asking me “why did you get rid of this?” or “why don’t you have that?” or “why don’t you do this?” as if I own the company. I’m standing there in an apron making drinks and getting pastries for people and thanking them for bothering me… do I really look like someone who has ANY control over the business? Even my store manager barely controls any aspect of the business.

    Customers need to not only remember that WE’RE only human, but that they’re supposed to be mature adults and not stupid impatient ill-mannered children. We folks behind the counter are working hard and we’re NOT enjoying ourselves, even when we have to act like we are, so when they stroll in and have to face the task of simply ordering something, paying for it, and getting it, the least they can do is show some manners and respect, or for god’s sake some sympathy for the fact that the person helping them is at work and doesn’t get to be out having a good time shopping and drinking lattes like they are. This is how society is supposed to function, and somehow they’ve strayed from the path of decency.

    I never complain when I’m at a restaurant or store or coffee shop, it’s not like I own the place. As long as they’re sanitary, honest, and not rude to me, they can run it however the hell they want. It’s about time companies start showing more respect for loyal employees than stupid customers. They need to stop accepting disrespectfulness, and stop apologizing.

  137. your all ignorant. Customers should get whatever they want if they complain enough. Thats what my two dads tought me. I kicked over a movie stand because Walmart wouldnt give me a free movie for my pain and suffering of waiting in line so i pushed over the stand. They gave me the movie for 5 bucks.

  138. Phatty ! thank you oh so true ,
    I got most of the movies for my kid for free from our local video store just for being a good Customer , As for Walmart and with all due respect in 56 years never been in one and never missed them either, they are only a company that promote a form of slavery by looking at the cheaper end of the bargain , this aside they have simply sold out the USA to the Communist Chinese which made no concession on Human right , they will most likely take this post down hopefully you will read it in time . You might want to check out other retailers , if they respect their Employees they will respect you .

  139. Phatty and Joel,

    You 2 dimwits are exactly why this thread exists. In this country, you have a right to say whatever you want, but you DO NOT have a right to be heard. Phatty, if you really did what you say you did then your picture should be included with the entry of ‘loser’ in the dictionary. If I was waiting in line with you (one thing I never do if I can help it) I would have slapped your sorry ass all over that store for embarrassing yourself and other civilized humans. People just shouldn’t conduct themselves like spoiled children and expect ‘service’. You deserved a spanking, one you probably never got as a child. Ignorant, you say??? Look in the mirror….. Joel, I hope you refrain ‘teaching’ your uninformed and media-biased views of Wal-Mart. I never met anyone that said they were FORCED to work there. The only thing Wal-Mart is guilty of is providing just another choice for people and making some things affordable. Not everyone is a millionaire or can shop at Macy’s. If you have a problem with China’s human rights policy I suggest you take your concerns to their embassy and see how far you get with it. Wal-Mart is not the place for that. Slavery? People are limited only by themselves. Maybe if you left Blockbuster video once in awhile you just might form some intelligent opinions of your own, spawned by your own thoughts, not spoon-fed by Hollywood and the media at large. Put down the remote once in awhile and go outside and do something constructive for Pete’s sake.

  140. Nobody is forced to work at Wal-Mart and there is a need for entry level jobs.
    When Chicago balked at Wal-Mart’s entry in the Chicago market a few years ago due to Chicago being a union town, Wal-Mart built their store in the bordering suburb of Evergreen Park. When Wal-Mart went to staff the store, they needed 325 employees. What was not surprising is that they had 25,000 individuals for those jobs, most of the applicants coming from Chicago.
    Chicago wised up and Wal-Mart is now in Chicago, providing jobs that lead to something better in some cases, or at the very least, putting a few bucks in the pockets of people who might never hold any job.

  141. Thank you Deb , you just made my point.
    Defining entry level job at Walmart ….entry level definition is usually attached to position with a good future , architect , lawyers and the like , unfortunatly by definition and sadly due to the lack or incomplete education they have no where else to go and at large will be stuck in that grove for their life. I have never been in any blockbuster ever and will not miss them either now that they are closing their store …I do have a TV and rarely watch it because of the washed out news,instead I rely on the various news paper ansd publication I recieve , having worked and leaved in 4 differents countries speaking reading to business level 5 languages,ran 1000 plus Employees Business etc… by the way if you care to look closer the largest world holder of US bond and the like is China ,unfortunatly they have slowed down considerably and like the oil producing Country are now investing in the Euro , more than before we need better education and today we rank 14 among all western Country and dropping , India is catching up so fast it is not even funny . Please for your own sake dropp Fox news and read the wall street journal at least it is in English .

  142. Joel, entry level can also be defined as any job that gets you working, creating experience that can be applied to a another and better job. While attending college,I worked in the book department of a very prestigious department store (There was a book about the store titled, Give the Lady What She Wants-hint, hint) and was paid minimum wage though the expectations for customer service and professionalism were high.Previous to that, I had worked in a factory and as a waitress, both stepping stones to my job at the store. This led me to higher education and a profession as a librarian. I was the first college grad on both sides of my first generation American family and five of my eight siblings also went on to college and on to advanced degrees. If there had been a Wal-Mart in those days, I would have applied for work there. I respect any employer willing to give an uneducated and unsophisticated individual a chance since the rest is up to the individual.
    As far as being on topic, the customer is mostly right except when they are wrong and after 35 years of experience in customer service, I can count on both hands the times I have run into true wack jobs and that ain’t bad after thousands of transactions.

  143. Thanks Deb for further stating my point ,
    Yes the Customer is aways right and yes give the Ldy what ever she want , hint pay up to the nose for it .
    There is a very Famous Judge who once said to a defendant in court as He was stating customer is always right , she went balistic and told Him if this was His defense He was a Sucker to which she slsammed the gavel and said pay up or else case closed .
    Obviousely this Gentleman had listen to well to that stupid sentence.
    Shoul;d customer be always right the house I bought should have come with a valet a banquet room , my vehicle should have been a Bugatti and my Wife would have married the Pope ……

  144. Joel, not everyone goes right into the job of their choice. Many of us ‘peons’ worked our way through ‘entry-level’ jobs of various kinds through ‘higher’ education (leftist indoctrination) and eventually gravitated towards better positions. If there were no such jobs, then tell me just who would clean up after all the ignorant pigs that exist in this country? The ones I speak of are the ones that empty their car cigarette ashtrays/trash in front of small children at stoplights, or just the ones that can’t wait to get back to Blockbuster or kick over displays in WalMart because of an overdue diaper change. Deb is right on the mark. I don’t know what ‘famous judge’ you are talking about, but it must have either been you or Phatty in front of him bleating about the customer always being right. I would have thrown your sorry butt out of my court, too, had it been me. Lets agree on at least this point, considering carefully what ‘who really cares’ had to add, above; as a business owner myself, I am willing to take a CERTAIN DEGREE of your crap. I realize that your crap is usually accompanied by your money. Most everyone’s money is green. However, if you become abusive, disrespectful, or downright ridiculous or unreasonable, it is my right to politely tell you that you can no longer be helped and that the ‘conversation’ is over. Repeat-offender problem customers should be sent without delay to your competition, so that their time can be wasted. Thats economics 101 folks, don’t waste your time on time-wasting activities.

  145. Thanks, Laughing too hard–you’ve hit the nail on the head. My experience at those lowly jobs made me respect people regardless of economic status and made me a better person and, may I say, a wonderful employee. I can relate to the the welfare mother and to the VIP and my customers (patrons) appreciate me and have made me a success in my field. I never could have imagined that a peon like me could choose a career instead of having a job. Happiness in your profession is catching and people know when you love what you’re doing and care about them. (PS I leave huge tips when I eat out–being a waitress is hard work and I appreciate a great waiter or waitress as I would anyone who has made their job/profession into art.)

  146. I agree that there is a need for entry level jobs. There is a need for pretty much every job in the world, including the most miserable of jobs. Someone has to do them. No one has argued otherwise, at least that I’ve read. Therefore, my entire point is, and always has been, that those who are fortunate and lucky enough to have good jobs (YES I AM IMPLYING THAT THERE IS OFTEN A LEVEL OF LUCK INVOLVED, THERE’S NO SKILL OR HARD WORK IN BEING BORN INTO A RICH FAMILY THAT HAS CONNECTIONS AND SENDS YOU TO A TOP COLLEGE), ought to at LEAST be kind and respectful to the people who have to do miserable or demeaning jobs every day. Otherwise, you’re kicking people who are already down, and that’s just low.

  147. I still say that the majority of you are missing the point. If you are a CSR in any capacity whatsoever, it is your job to deal with ALL types of people in a courteous and professional manner. Even the jerks. I’m not saying to be nice to people swearing at you or throwing things, if they are acting like that you should call the appropriate people to handle it. Unless bodily injury is imminent, you should still remain professional and try to detach yourself from the situation; YOU are the one at work, not the person freaking out.

    But if a customer is “merely” difficult and/or hard to please that does not change one’s job description, it actually heightens it and calls upon you to bring your best game; which, granted, does not always work. It’s often a thankless job and if you don’t like it or aren’t good at it, then you need to find another field. There are plenty of jobs that don’t deal with the public that pay the pittance CS does.

    There is pride in knowing you gave your best effort from the CEO down to the janitorial staff. It is bothersome that so many people these days don’t care to do their personal best no matter the position they hold.

  148. Pingback: Cheryl
  149. to the spell check expert , thank you for calling me on my spelling , no I did not pay my wat through as your nice email said , however in 40 years of working I have never put any business under to the contrary , the smallest business I ran was 24 Employees , the largest was one thousand one hundred….I have done it in 7 Countries each and every time upgrading without cutting the staff to the contrary which mean aside of english I am fluent in 7 languages and yes I make a typo here and there . What have you done for your fellows co workers , employers and share holder,I made them far more wealthy and happier than they EVER WERE . It’s nice to be able to give all your staff one extra week of paid vacation for their cooperation and performance .come back in 40 years and look back at you work track record , judging by the amount of holidays card I recieve I have not done too bad ……

  150. I know several people who work a sporting goods store that have been told flat out “If a single customer complains that you did not smile at them and ask if they were having a nice day, we’ll fire you.”

    The company also searches employees when they leave, and once searched my girl-friend’s purse twice in a row because it “felt heavy”.

  151. Matt yes ! searching Employee is common practice in the retail industry ,I do not believe it is legal however, the reason for loss prevention Employee to search terminated employee is more to humiliate them than recover stolen goods, on the other hand the bulk of theft in the retail industry are inside job.
    Some major retailer do not even search shoplifter by fear of very costly law suit ….I Dpdo not believe body search are legal in most States .

  152. Cassandra,

    It is you who is missing the point. The point is that it is not worth dealing with a rude customer. As the research plainly shows (do your homework) this type of customer is a detriment to the bottom line. As well no company or CSR has any obligation legally, morally, or as a result of company code or rule to suck it up and eat crap from a rude customer. To reiterate: the very important reason why it is a good idea to “fire” these types of customers (who overwhelmingly happen to be the stupidest people on the planet) is because it is a direct cause of employees giving bad CS. More importantly the ultimate result of appeasing these ignorant childish human beings for the sake of fulfilling some archaic notion of that this is what CSR’s are supposed to do is a direct hit on the downside to the company’s bottom line. It’s just smart business to eliminate the “bad” customer. In the long run this strategy benefits the “good” customers, the company, and its employees. Again Cassandra, do your homework and get a clue. Or perhaps you would rather not because it would blow your notion to bits that dealing with such idiots is a good thing. And why do you feel this way? Probably because you yourself, as you intimated in some of your statements, are one of these self centered, ignorant, consumers who is so deluded that they feel they have the right to act like a child to get what they want. As a marketing consultant for a good number of companies, some of them Fortune 500, I can tell you that twenty years of focusing on your “good” customers and firing the “bad” ones has shown to be an extremely succesful approach to business for a company no matter what type of retail that company may engage in. Again, do your homework and please behave yourself when you go shopping. The world owes you nothing and that includes all those CSR’s who have to deal with you. The good thing is I know that if you do care to take the time and do the research you will find that the companies that have taken this approach have become hugely successful while the others that have chosen to kiss the ass of the rude (aka the B-type customer as labeled in most of the marketing research) customer are either out of business or barely afloat. You might want to start with Bill Gates and Microsoft one of the most successful companies on the planet. Their mantra, one of them, by way of a paraphrase, is that the customer is almost always wrong. Have a nice day and if you are rude we are better off without you-really.

  153. John Henry,

    Bravo, you get it!!! See my last post above….sending your ‘problem’ customers to your COMPETITION is a good idea. Let them waste their time. There will be those of you who correctly point out that a difficult customer could potentially be a loyal one; well, difficult is not necessarily the same as stupid, rude, or otherwise. I’ve turned many a ‘difficult’ customer my way by following through and ultimately earning their trust. I’ll usually let someone be rude only 1 time – if it happens a second time, I like to tell them that perhaps they might need to speak to someone else and that my professional standards preclude me from absorbing further abuse. Being a punching bag is generally not in the job description, if you think it is then its likely a ‘you’ problem that suggests a mutual respect deficit.

  154. Customer is always wrong! period
    You as a customer go to any business for a specific need,you deliver the good and they pay for it that’s it.
    Abusive customer are not customer but people who need mental counseling , unless your trade is counseling you do not have to deal with it . Can you fire the Customer , absolutly you are not a prostitute , yes they will go somewhere else which will do the same thing, in a long term these customer will be alienated regardless which trade you deal with and regardless the dollar amount , usually all the other customer love it when uou fire these kind of walking garbage = better return .
    and this make you more profitable.
    If you choose to work in the trash then don’t complain.

  155. I’ll tell you something from the software development industry. A bad customer can jeopardize the entire project.

    Software development is an extrememly complex and brittle process, and a customer who constantly demands new features will put the project at high risk.

    All you can do is be polite and informative to the customer, but if they are unreasonable, sometimes the best course of action is to fire the customer.

  156. It was very satisfying to read a discussion on customer service and it’s interaction within the diverse public. I am a 24 year old medical student who is working part time as a cashier in a convenience store. Since being hired, I’ve endured things I never imagined could happen in a public place. Since I only work part time you would think things shouldn’t be that bad-well sadly that belief is mistaken. I’ve been sexually assaulted physically and verbally by men who are “regular” customers and even been called the “N-Word” by some of the most outrages people. What makes things worst is that I cant seem to get my boss to understand that something needs to be done about this. Everything is merely talked about and swept under the rug, and I’m left feeling as if it’s only me speaking in defense for myself. Why haven’t I left? Because I feel that I do need the job for the time being listed as a current job on my resume until I graduate in June. If it weren’t for that, I’d be long gone. What advice can you provide on hanging in there until then??

  157. Courtney, it sounds like it is completely not worth it. Life is too short to put up with the type of abuse you have shared. Your ‘boss’ is complicit in terms of protections he might be able to provide but seems unwilling or unable. If this ‘job’ you have causes you to question what it is you are doing, I suggest you try to find something else. There are plenty of good people to work for (plenty of crummy ones too) and you deserve better. Surely you can find something better, try an upscale department store. Usually you will find a more respectful class of person that goes there than you would in a convenience store. Ask yourself these questions; what is it people are buying in this convenience store? If the answer is lottery tickets and beer/cigarettes, then thats the type of people you will deal with. Are there bars or metal grates on the windows? Probably you should look elsewhere. Do people loiter outside this convenience store? Not a good choice. This is a ‘you’ issue, you don’t have to put up with it. If you don’t want to have fleas, don’t hang with dogs.

  158. it was a huge mistake on the part of corporations to sponsor this phrase. It’s like a sign saying: SMOKING IS DISCOURAGED; once you mention it, people start thinking about it. And when they notice it doesn’t say prohibited, they decide to whip out a smoke. Even if you were to say: THE CUSTOMER IS USUALLY RIGHT, people will still think that they’re right, and the salesperson doesn’t want to say no and risk complaints. And don’t even think of saying the customer is never right. Anyone with a brain knows that that would make business plummet. So either way you go, you’re going to get the short end of the stick. Neutrality is the only true answer… its really more of a play be ear instance now. If the employee gets backing from management once, the employees will get a feeling of security, a sort of fall back(‘if you think you’re right, why don’t we ask the manager?’). And if the customer gets backing from management, then the customer goes home happy. It takes one manager to really sort it all out; see who’s really right… a sort of neutral party.

  159. Great post!

    I strive everyday to give top notch customer service. All of my staff is human, when we make a mistake we correct it and apologize. However, when we do not and a customer is unreasonable I have given all my employees the right NOT to reward a nasty customers bad behavior by giving in to unnecessary demands.

    “NO – we will not take back the 4 potty training pants you used for six months on your twins because the elastic has worn out on one pair and you fear the other three are on their last legs as well.”

    Ugg!

  160. I work in the airport shuttle transportation industry and there have been times that I know the guest is totally wrong and wish I could tell them so. Most of the complaints that I deal with are from guest that just do not understand our system. And when you try to expalin it, they just don’t care and want their money back, even though it was not our fault. On the other hand, yes some of our drivers do not provide excellet customer service (they are more interested in how much money they are making), and it shows in the complaints agaist them. They fail to see the bigger picture, that is 1upset guest tells 10 friends not to use us.

  161. Hi Mitch,

    Sometimes I wonder though, if the customer is a jerk, chances are he or she is a jerk with others, including friends, family and co-workers. In which case your company and it’s workers probably have their deepest sympathies!

    There’s another saying to keep in mind: “Consider the source.”

  162. Barb,
    That is so true! I’m able to gauge a persons character by the way they treat service people since I have a cousin who is a total jerk I will not appear in public with him since it’s dreary to have to apologize for his rude behavior, thoughtless remarks, and casual cruelty to anyone he perceives as lowly. Since he’s such a loser, is 56, has never been able to keep a job, and is mostly supported by his mother, I don’t get it. He’s the kind of person you can imagine as a little boy pulling the wings off flies and torturing small animals.
    He’s a burden at family parties and this past Christmas, he asked my cousin’s 10-year-old son how his father was. Since my cousin’s husband is a drunk, living on the streets, and hasn’t contacted his family in a year, it was just calculated cruelty. He made the little boy cry just because he could.
    I will no longer attend any family function this slime is invited to.

  163. I just wanted to say that in my time working as an average, upper middle class grunt with no college degree I never had as good a job experience as I did when I was working for my local YMCA doing childcare.
    I felt like the Y really cared about me as a person, they had my back when I would have conflicts with parents, helped me do my job better and consistently tried to help me be happy and successful, even if it meant making a few parents a little miffed.
    When I would get job offers for more money, or when I would become frustrated with that job I would remind myself that they supported and cared for me.
    I stayed with them for 3 years and was a real asset to the company. I might have lost them 10 customers over the years but I think I was worth it. I like to think they did too.

  164. I worked at a print shop where my manager would occasionally fire customers. In four years, I think it was 3 people. He told one person, “I won’t have you abuse my employee.”

    I would have crawled through broken glass for him. It was one of the best employment experiences of my life.

  165. Filchyboy’s fuzzy ‘explanation’ only further muddies the water. Granted there are cases where business people are rigid and short sighted; however, the subject matter here is the acceptance/rejection of the misnomer ‘The customer is always right’. This in itself is a very rigid ‘corollary’ that does not allow for customer ignorance or boorish behavior. The fact that this misnomer even exists has emboldened many people to attempt to ply their wants even when they are baseless, leaving many business owners/employees in no-win situations. It is quite to the contrary NOT nonsense to question this misused jargon. Suffice it to say that a business transaction should not be grounds to prove correctness in terms of either the customer or the business owner, but an equitable exchange of goods and services. The customer is only ‘right’ if he/she holds up their end of the transaction (fee for service) and the business person is right if they reciprocate in kind with goods or services expected. The customer is ‘wrong’ if they expect/demand more than what they rightfully deserve for their ‘fee’ voluntarily offered and the business owner is ‘wrong’ if they do not deliver goods/services for said fee. Disputes arise when one of the parties either expect too much or do not deliver. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that the ‘customer is always right’. Would anyone ever accept that ‘The business owner is always wrong’????? Now that of course is nonsense but it makes the point.

  166. I have a lot of sympathy for people working in customer service. I didn’t before I actually worked in it myself. Now, if I complain, I do it very plainly, simply stating what I think is wrong and see if there’s anything they can offer or that I can suggest. I find that usually works fine.
    After training people in customer service, I realize that a lot of people, as someone mentioned, do not have the common sense and impulse control to handle a lot of unpleasant situations, and stir up a customer from mildly uncomfortable to be complaining in the first place to angry that they’re made to feel wrong about it.
    I think it’s terrible when companies don’t properly set up for customer service, but still expect under-trained employees and customers who’ve had to complain about the same issue several times beforehand to play nice.
    I know I’ve phoned in at a major phone provider, and it was obvious that there was no memo system set up. I would tell them “The last time they told me the same thing, and it didn’t work.” and all they could tell me was “It should have worked, it should work this time. It must have been a fluke last time”. I responded that it didn’t work the last four times, that they should escalate the process. “Well, it couldn’t have been four times, sir” was their response. I said “It was exactly four times before this, over the last two weeks. I’ve been keeping track, I have it written down, have you guys kept track?” They obviously hadn’t, and that was absolutely ridiculous to me. If I blew my top at them, it probably wouldn’t help, I wouldn’t feel good about it, and I’d run the risk of them cutting the service off, apparently.
    If a company is going to decide whether or not to cut my service for complaining too often, they should properly train and coach their people, have a system to keep track of complaints and how long it took to do anything about them, and first blatantly say “we can’t/won’t do this, we don’t want to do it that way, if you keep tying up man hours on this, we’ll cut service”. It shouldn’t be the whim of a “used to having people listen to me, I’m the alpha male type” Ceo cutting vital services off on a whim – What a jackass that airline ceo was. I’ve seen the documentary show about them, and I’m not impressed.

  167. I think this page is great; so many points of view.

    To those clients who take their frustrations out on the kid behind the counter – your anger, frustration, confusion, cussedness over whatever the issue may be with the product or service of the company, manufacturer or service provider, or simply that you woke up on the wrong side if the bed. Regardless, the kid behind the counter or on the other end of the phone is often the person with the absolute least amount of power in the corporate structure, highly expendable, constantly fearful of dismissal, probably very poorly paid and most likely poorly trained. This is not their product or service, it is the company’s product or service, and you know it!. Their lack of power to change the circumstances and correct the issue is often frustrating for them, too. They may be well aware of the faults of the product but due to pressures you know nothing about, that employee is often behind a rock and a hard place. Wanting to do the right thing and not being able to do it, repeatedly, can wear down even the most honourable and upright employee. Callousness, deliberate ignorance, malicious retaliation or plain indifference to your plight may be the only defence an employee has in order to save their sanity.
    Sometimes, the client’s expectations are unreasonable. Sometimes, yes, they are subjected to a rip-off. Blaming the messenger for your woes, especially to senior management, may get the kid fired for doing exactly what he or she has been repeatedly told to do. It certainly doesn’t help the next person. And guaranteed, the company is not going to change a multi million dollar machine, labelling process or overseas shipping contract just because you want the widget on the left instead of on the right.
    I’ve worked in customer service. It sometimes doesn’t matter what you do or say, if management insists there are no exceptions to ‘the Rule’, and you have to tell that to an irate client, believe me the letters and phone calls to upper management can come fast and furious. And then guess who gets the blame?
    It sure as hell isn’t the supervisor the employee asked for instructions and was told to enforce the rule. Guaranteed, it will be the kid behind the counter or on the other end of the phone, who gets a notation in their file, and is passed over for a raise. This keeps company costs down, right?

    My advice? When you want something, start as high up the chain of command as you possibly can. Foot soldiers are just there a cannon fodder, they are the shield behind whom the generals hide. Show them some respect, understanding and appreciation and it’s amazing what that same employee will try to do for you.

  168. Danny Meyer, owner of Union Square Café and ten other NYC restaurants has said the customer isn’t always right. But they do want to be heard.

    I think this is a thoughtful and very true turn on the old adage. I’m a reasonable man who thinks good service starts with knowing that I’m valued and heard.

  169. I work in a call center and showed this article to my boss. I’m told that senior managers view the ideas presented here as “silly.” Is it any wonder employees think our company is out to get them?

    Customers are allowed to verbally abuse our employees and this is supposed to be a sign of great customer service. All the while, lower level managers are directed to keep turnover down. The company doesn’t understand that people are not satisfied in a job where the company supports abuse towards them.

    Get a clue.

  170. As a call center employee I can completely relate to all of the topics mentioned above. The pitiful thing is that the company I work for almost seems to have taken everything that this article says not to do, and did them.

    “Also, it means that abusive people get better treatment and conditions than nice people. That always seemed wrong to me, and it makes much more sense to be nice to the nice customers to keep them coming back.”

    That is the honest truth and I know first hand. There is an infamous customer of my company that honestly gets just about anything they want.. The reason for this is they were extremely abusive and kept demanding more and more. Which ultimately resulted in them receiving things that we would never do for a nice customer in a million years. Frankly in my opinion it is absolutely absurd, and I somehow inherited this customer and their outrageous requests from upper management because I am good at my job. Thats a hell of a way to say thank you.

    Frankly if there are any employers out there reading these responses to find a way to improve their business my suggestion is that a happy employee = a happy customer. I know that first hand and have always said that. I’m no business major or upper management of some fortune 500 company, but I do know this, if im not happy at work, I could care less about the damn customer at that point. Pretty much every job I have ever worked the company treats their employees poorly, doesn’t see the necessity to “waste” money on properly training them, finds it necessary to keep their employees in the dark about things, along with an endless list that ultimately pisses their employees off. Which I can admit makes me not want to go to work everyday, or be bugged by petty customer requests.

  171. Pingback: Disconnected links
  172. At least one management book I read cites Nordstrom’s as an example or good customer service, because they gave a guy a refund for tire chains he returned even though they don’t sell tire chains. I always thought this was ridiculous and nothing but a reward of abuse.

    There are plenty of ways to give good customer service without this kind of pandering. All this does is increase prices for the honest customers.

  173. What refreshing reading! Finally, something on this subject that I have been thinking since I’ve been working at my current employer. When one works for a company of 12-14 employees, including the cleaning people, they begin to think of ways to make it better themselves than look toward the boss for resolve. My present employer (company started in a basement I believe) has minimal people management skills and doesn’t really seem to want to better his skills in this particular area. I have refused to deal with one customer on the basis of bad behavior, bad manners, unreasonable demands, etc. I am getting too old (48) to deal with people who do not respect me as a person.

    The account was taken away from me and given to another employee. Not my intent for her sake. My boss sheepishly informs the bad customer how his employees are afraid to talk to him. WOW…yeah! My boss said the right thing!

    I could go on and on…but love the articles here and will return for peace of mind knowing others feel the same.

    How can a customer be right when they are disrespectful?

    Sincerely empowered,
    Steve

  174. It doesn’t matter. Everything will be made in China, managed in India, transported through Mexico into the USA by highways leased to multinational corporations and dumped onto a middle-class void Latino wasteland that used to be the heartland of America.

    Just do your job for minimum wage and don’t complain lest they replace you with a newly arrived immigrant.

  175. Are cuctomers always right?, is just plain wrong.It is simply and absolutely W R O N G!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  176. Nicely put. But if the customer isn’t always right, who makes the decision if they’re right or wrong? Do you really want your customer service team making this decision. And if you do, what if they make the wrong decision. So while I don’t believe the customer is always right, I think it’s essential that you have something that guides your decision making process. I just blogged about ours at Billtrust.

  177. “The Customer Is Always Right”
    for me, it means that you have to treat the customer and choose your words as if he is right; whether true or false.

  178. WOW, after coming home and being yelled and abused at by customers this was a very refreshing read. I wish I could print this and stick it in the tea room at work.
    The thing that REALLY gets up my backside is that my store has set policies and guidelines we all follow. Easy. BUT when a customer is not happy about one of these policies they call head office and they honour the customer, even though we are told to folllow these strict guidelines. It makes us look stupid in the end because that customer got their own way. Why bloddy have these in the first place!

    The abuse we cop at work is due to one simple thing: STAFF! We are so understaffed, therefore leaving customers waiting long periods. Apprently 3 people waiting per staff member is acceptable. PFFT!!! How can this be right when in my job you can spend up to 45 mintues with one person! They really have no idea. We are right at the bottom of the chain so they don’t listen to us.

    Sadly my retail job of 5 years has made me hate people. I am only there for my family- to support them.

    I agree with Steve Spaeth above…. how can they be right if they are disrespectful?

  179. Every employee has the right to an abusive and bully-free workplace. We sign agreements at the beginning of the year that we will abide by these rules with each other. Why is it ok to allow customers to bully and abuse us in our place of work? It’s no tollerated amongst employees and it should be the same with customers.

  180. A few years back I worked for a theater, selling tickets on the counter. I have always had a perfect customer service record and would never be rude to a customer. I had one lady who wanted something she couldn’t have and was not happy with my reply. So she wrote a letter. That was bad enough. What was worse was that a secretary at work took it upon herself to reply to this woman, apologizing for my bad behavior! Never asked me about the incident, nothing. I happened to find a copy of the letter in the trash can of a communal office and I filed a formal complaint against the secretary. She was ‘spoken to’. Big deal. I quit not long after and they lost a good employee.

  181. I think many of you are forgetting that it’s often far easier to replace an employee, than to replace a customer.

    I’m reading messages by irate Wal Mart and K Mart clerks and laughing my butt off here. Sorry to burst your little self esteem bubbles, but just how long do you think it would take to replace you? Getting customers to come into your store can be hard, getting folks to line up to push cash register buttons is not..

    Let’s face it, nothing in life is absolute. And I’m quite confident the originator of this saying had that in mind when he coined it. So, no the customer is not ALWAYS right. The sky is not green because a customer says so. However, the customer IS paying the bills (including your wal mart clerk wages). And if you want to succeed in business, you will never forget this.

  182. I hate that I found this article a little too late. I agree with every word!

    I work in the F&B industry as a part-timer. And the horrible customers we get, let me tell you. Argh.

    A good example would be the time this customer and her son came to the restaurant. There was already a line and several people in front of her and right then and there, she demanded that she wanted to sit outside. So my manager had no choice but to quickly attend to the others and then her.

    My friend, F, gave her the menus and usually we give customers time to decide on their choices. Then and there, she demanded that her order be taken. Okay, so F went to take her order.

    And then, out of the blue, she says that she wants her meals to be vegetarian. WITHOUT EVEN ORDERING ANYTHING YET. So F told her that and painstakingly explained to her the vegetarian items on the menu. The customer then demands her food to be served immediately. Yes, as if the food can be magically made and sent. We had a full house that night so by all accounts, it would be impossible to get the food out immediately.

    The customer was a great example of an abusive customer. She complained about everything. Even when an ice-cream order was mistakenly placed on her table, instead of a simple “Sorry, I did not order this”, she snapped a “I want this out of my sight NOW.” to my friend.

    The last straw came when my friend, K, was clearing tables. And the woman’s son demanded something from her and she was unable to attend to his demands because a) she was clearing the table and b) it was a full house, customers were waiting so she needed to clear the table. He blew up at her and started shouting at her to the point where K actually fired back and asked why they were being so rude when she didn’t even do anything wrong. According to F, it stretched K’s limits beyond the point where she was crying.

    Does that kind of customer deserve great service? Especially when they were rude from the beginning? HELL TO THE NO. These customers are the reasons why I hate working sometimes. Do they think that we enjoy standing around with our feet and back aching? They, of course, don’t feel the pain. They’re too busy sitting down, their butts comfortable and shit.

    There are definitely more horror stories. Like F getting the bill thrown to her and such. Heck, I myself have been complained about but I’m not too bothered. I’m just glad that my workplace does not believe in the customer is always right motto. Maybe the fact that I haven’t been fired yet is because the restaurant needs more workers. But I’ll just convince myself that it’s because I’m a good worker.

    Always right? More like rude, selfish and obnoxious.

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  184. I have worked in customer service for over 20 years. I have done customer service training and management.

    I currently work in a call center for a nationally-renowned bank in the US.

    I have told my co-workers repeatedly that “the customer is always right” is wrong. The correct attitude is “The customer is never wrong.”

    The customer wants overdraft fees reversed? “Yes, sir, you are correct, it would be nice if we could reverse those fees. However, the fact is…”

    The customer wants X service for free? “Yes, ma’am, I can see how that would be a good idea. However, that service costs us…”

    It would be nice if my company backed up their employees. We get abuse all day, from people whose biggest problem is that they refuse to keep track of their own purchases, or do not have the slightest ability in simple math, not to mention budgeting.

    We get sworn at, we get threatened, we get called names. I’ve been accused of racism (by people who can’t even see the color of my skin).

    And then we go into a meeting with our manager, and get more of the same.

    Customer service is dead. Few people want customer service (I would estimate less than five percent of our callers); they want punching bags, scapegoats, and welcome mats to scuff their feet on.

    More and more companies are demanding that customer service be “profitable”. It doesn’t matter how many customers we retain by fixing problems or educating them on how things work. It doesn’t matter how many customers we “talk off the ledge.” We have to sell new products and services they don’t want or need or just plain can’t afford.

    Companies don’t want to offer better products or services anymore, they want to make money. They’ve lost sight of the fact that better products and services attract more customers, and more customers mean more profits.

    And they don’t care, either.

  185. When you’re a furious customer go to: furiouscustomers.com

    Don’t complain in a basket!

    At furiouscusomters.com:
    * Post your complaints
    * Make a real impact
    * Get your situations resolved

    THERE IS NO POSITIVE POST @ furiouscustomers.com!!

  186. I have friend who work n a travel agency here in tagum city philippines, my company name is OKEY TRAVEL CENTER AND QUEENSTAR TRAVEL AND TOUR the okey travel was operating a philippine airlines while the queenstar travel was operating a purely cebu pacific but ii was owned and managed by only one owner., sad to say the manager or the owner of this company belived that customer is alway right., i barely disagree with even though i was’nt work there they used to hurt the feeling of some of their employees come to think about this scene (the have a customer who brought a ticket of cebu pacific it was booked and fulled recaped by her co-worker adnd after full recaped the customer was advice to go to the cashier and after the has paid customer the cashier advice to wait their ticket cause they just going to called you., but you know when the reservation called other family name not the customer’s name who wait on there was the one who stand and sudenlly the releaser do not know who was the passenger cause she’s not the one who booked and entertain the passenger she give a full recaped and give it to the customer., on their company they segregate their work the releaser is the one who print the electronic ticket of the passenger but maybe suddenly she might pick-up the wrong record locator to retrive in the system., she print it out then called the passenger and the passenger who was their was nnot the one she’s calling it stand up and so the releaser give the full recapped and that’s it!, how could you belived the passenger come back that the cebu pacific don’t allowed him to ride the plane., ofcourse they explain him why even though the plain can give a copy and allowed him to flight he left by the schedule and the plane already flown they said i was’nt our fault why you stand-up while your not the called up he said “i beacuse i was just the one alone here”, okey were going to rebooked your ticket but your going to pay this amount but he don’t want to pay he keep-on digging that it was thier fault to make not the story long they rebooked it and the company shoulder the penalty”., the employees thought that the acting manager understand them they don’t expect that it will bring on the owner or the manager so her it happen now by the exact date 19jul08 the manager come to the office nagging and shouting with disrespect to her employees from the front door she until she go inside the office and keep saying why they argue with the customer!,and keep on saying that customer is always right you don’t have a right to fought at them! ) my god what a hill she belived on that fucking idea., she might not consider the customer fault and other part of that respect her employee., for me how could she became a manager cause for me if you are a manager or a owner it’s means that your going to consider even they have mistake i’m just trying to out it that if you are a manager or a owner first your going to protect the dignity of your company and by protecting the company image your going also to protect the image of your employees cause the employees are the soul of the business and they have also a right to be respected., but as far as i see the manager the nag her employees because customer is alway right how could become in that situation., for me it’s was undegreedable and for me the word customer is always right is not a good always right cause it undegreed the employees

  187. You know, I find it amazing that a post from over two years ago stirs such strong emotion and thought that it is kept alive to this day. Here I am, thinking that I would be digging up an old topic and I would never get to share my story(ies).

    I am a young fellow, 26, who looks even younger, 15-18. It’s a mixed blessing. I work in sales with product that I know, love, geek out on, live, eat, breath, etc, etc. I “started” my education in this field when I was 14. My love for the field goes so far that I can tell you about discontinued items from the early 60′s to present as if I owned the gear itself. That said…

    Every month or so, I get a fellow who reads up on these vast internet user groups and gains enough keywords and phrases to be dangerous. This fellow will sit back and argue with me about product that doesn’t exist and is impossible to exist in the sense that they want. Example, MIDI to 1/4″ cable. Sure, I can make one for you, but it won’t work. These same people will then complain to my boss that I don’t know what I am talking about and down right lying to them. My boss, who will actively tell the customer that he, my boss, knows very little about whatever it is that product pertains to, saying that I am one of the most knowledgeable guys he has, which, in turn, makes the customer even madder.

    So, that’s the guys that really have too much pride to admit that some “snot nosed kid” knows more about them. I can see that they are afraid of me looking down at them or making fun of them, but really, I have to sell to grandma who knows NOTHING about what they are looking at.

    So for a story about firing a customer. I should go ahead and say that I work for a large music instrument retailer. We have the list of people that we share with each other that will always be trouble. Three pop into mind, BL, JL, and CP. As an assistant manager for the store, BL would always insist that I hold product for him, with no money down, for up to three or more months. He claimed that others have done it for him before, and I politely told him that the reason why we did that one time was because of the bad travelers checks that he used. We held onto those pieces because he brought them back with the express intent on buying them upon paying off the bad debt. He would have none of it. Then he would ask if I would sell it for X amount. Barging on price is/was part of the game, so no biggie with the exception that the price was way to low of the item and he claimed to have known the true “cost” of the item. When I asked him about how he knows what the “cost” was, he would always say he has a friend that would give him the hook up. Well, I suggested that he stop wasting his time here and go with his friend. After some more back and forth, he finally left. I thought I had rid of this fellow, but he came back a couple of weeks later looking to sell some gear that we could not buy in due to policies. I explained this to him, which he threw a big huff over saying that he talked to someone about us buying in said product. I asked whom he spoke to so I can make sure that everyone is on the same page and he refused. Threw the gear into his car, drove off and called up the store. My boss told me not to deal with BL again. Fine by me.

    JL was one of those “10 up” guys. If you don’t know the lingo, 10 up means 10% above base cost. Secret to all of those guys who might read this, you don’t know what cost is, and saying you are 10 up to the random guy, with whom you have no relationship with is useless. So after getting this over and over and over again with him returning everything, to discourage him from shopping with us, I made sure that everyone in the store knows who he is and that the tag price is the tagged price. One day, he asked one of the other assistant managers for the price of something. She told him what it was and that’s that. He asked if he could speak to a manager, which she politely told him that she is a manager. “Well, who are you? I’ve never seen you before! And who made YOU manager?” Well, this lovely lady worked there long enough for JL to have seen her, bought from her and in general knew who she is. I over heard this and went around the store telling everyone not to acknowledge this fellow. He later apologized in a round about way, bought what it was, and left.

    JL came into the store a month after this and talked to my boss asking why he was getting the cold shoulder from everyone, and why no one was willing to deal, read discount, anything for him. My boss at the time told him what all happened. JL, shocked, said that she must’ve been over sensitive because she is a woman, referring to a month earlier, and my boss said to only deal with his “buddy” who work back where I worked. His buddy hooked him up and he left the store again. I was angry, but as my boss explained it, we treat the rockstars like people and the people like rockstars. Makes sense. Not thirty minutes after he left the store, JL called my boss and talked about what kind of price he got. My boss told him that he cannot tell JL what anything cost and that he got a very good deal, which he did. JL asked what if he brings it all back, then what, my boss said, go ahead, but we are done after that. Saw JL recently, and he was extremely polite, Didn’t buy anything.

    CP is a whole another issue altogether. He was/is what we call a renter. We have a fairly liberal return policy, and he would abuse it. As a “DJ” he would “buy” a whole PA system on Friday, and then have his wife return it on Monday. There’s a restocking fee involved which doesn’t get invoked too often. CP’s kind is the reason why there’s a restocking fee. Since his wife was returning everything, she claimed to have not heard of this fee, complain loudly, and eventually got the return due to us not wanting to put up with it. The last straw for this guy was when he sent in a friend to buy something, two light systems. Another customer had called looking for these system, but we just “sold” them. Two days later, CP’s wife is in the store with the items to return them. I was upset to no end, and not because it was getting returned, but because someone who could have used them and would have kept them missed out. I talked to my boss about this, the same one that delt with JL, and he said to print out a list of every transaction that CP has ever done with us and wait. The next time he comes in, suggest that they go else where due to us loosing money to them. I did. They never kept anything with but the microphones since health code prevents us from taking back microphones. All total, spent $500 bucks with us. Presented the list to them, suggested they take their biz elsewhere and of course, she blew up. My boss said fine, here’s the last transaction. If this comes back to any store, we are done. The items never came back, and neither have they.

    Sorry for such a long post. There’s a lot really. One thing I learned early on in life is to treat others as you expect to be treated. Treat me like an ass before I open my mouth and you’ll be treated the same way. On the same token, respect is earned not given. You have my respect as a human being, but as a person, that’s different. I always respect any waitress, waiter, sale person, salesclerk, bartender and anyone in the service industry. They have it harder than most people out there job wise. Since I do this, I usually get my drinks faster than anyone else, comped desserts, quicker service times etc. It’s not that hard, if people like you, no matter what the situation is, people will go that extra mile for you.

    I personally believe that everyone should work at a retail, waiting, CS job for at least 3 months to see what it is like.

  188. I was surprised the article didn’t mention a few times when the customer is parasitic onto a business. A few replies have mentioned some of these.

    1. Stealing. You might have purchased something in the past, or even today, but if you have merchandise stuck under your jacket you better return it all pronto and get the h#ck out of the store.

    2. Safety. Although the average human being would not consciously put him or her self in danger, some people aren’t too bright. It is always, always better to tick off a customer or even alienate them than to have to explain to the reporters why an 18 year old male was found dead on the property. Check the notorious “Darwin Awards” for examples of ridiculous ways people have caused their own fatality (or injury).

    3. It isn’t always feasible. Please, do not request someone answering the phones to be connected to “uh..what’s his name… I don’t know what department…” at “I don’t the…” extension number. Unless you are greeted with “Hello, my name is Nostrodamus” the customer service rep needs some kind of name, department, or extension number.

    Also- The customer is not right if:

    -You work at Motel 6 and a guest wants a suite befitting of a European Palace. OR You work at a world-reknowned-five-star-resort and a customer requests to only pay the price they would for a taco bell value meal.

    -They ask you to defy Gravity–and you don’t work for NASA

    -They want a product that exists *only* on Star Trek–and they are dead serious about it.

    Also,

    As a customer I HATE the complainer who holds up the line for 15 minnutes. With verbally and physically abusive customers they are damaging to a business beyond the fact they run off valuable employees. If someone is screaming obscenities do you really want to be in line with them? If someone is throwing merchandise at the employees, do you want to be within 10 yards of them? Bad customers are just not worth it because too often they make a store unpleasant for good customers.

    As for wealthy clientele– no business should ever, ever be dependent on an overly narrow customer base. Whether the customers are good or bad doesn’t matter. Customers (when speaking of individuals and not firms) are mortal. If “Mr. Burns” keeps your business afloat and you base your entire profit margin on him, what will you do when he kicks the bucket?

    And for the comment on changing your production to meet the needs of the customers- this is not always plausible in terms of the costs to produce goods and services. If we have learned anything from the era of diversification it is that companies can go under for over-extending their capabilities. Cost analysis must always, always be done before dramatically changing one’s production.

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  190. Companies who put their customers first, before their employees, are just plain wrong. I work for a hotel, and had to throw a guest out due to illegal activities occuring in their rooms. The police came, found them engaged in said illegal activity, and took them out (1 of which in handcuffs). On the way out the customer threatened me, an assistant desk manager, vowing they would “get me”. The General Manager, fearing the loss of $35 per night, accepted these people back! When asked why he would hang me out there like that he informed me that he felt as though they were due a second chance, so I got to work in fear because he wanted their $35/night, plus lose all credibility to the guests who were around at that point. I personally do NOT agree at all with the statement “The customer is always right”, and I think it’s time that that statement got put to bed once and for all, for everybodys sake.

  191. Wow, how sweet it is.

    In the age of declining sales & revenues, the hardest thing you can do is fire a customer.

    In my industry, not only is the customer right, they tell you how they are going to buy your products.

    We, thankfully, figured it out and raised prices and forced adherence to our terms, not theirs. The pain customers (who really cost us more than we could make in profits) fired themselves. Yeah! Recently the “customer” we fired was Chrysler.

    The sound of shock in the voice of the buyer when we said, “thanks, but no thanks” was a very pleasing sound.

    Old sales adage: harder the sale, the lousier the customer.

  192. It’s simple, guys. Just like everything else there is a balance. 99% of my customers are very agreeable, but there are some that just can’t be pleased. Often, these are the customers that you don’t really want in the long run anyway. What the author is saying is that when you’re dealing with a customer that is tough to get along with it’s better to spend your time on customers that are reasonable or other improvements in the company. If I have a customer that is unreasonable (and by unreasonable I mean absolutely wrong, and not only wrong – wrong, demanding, rude, and childish) I will do everything I can to rectify the situation in order to keep my reputation in good standing. I do believe that a bad experience with a company is shared 10 times as much as a good experience. However, if by some stroke of oddity the customer returns for business later, I must assume that he or she was never really that upset in the first place and was simply being unreasonable in order to abuse our good customer service. This puts them on very thin ice – one hiccup afterwards and we promptly discontinue service.

    As the owner, it’s a balance between these needy customers and my employees. All one can do in this situation is tell the employee that the customer IS WRONG, but that we are going to meet his or her demands this time and only this time in hopes that the customer doesn’t return and that we can at least salvage our reputation (typically with these kinds of customers it won’t matter anyway).

    In summary, I do agree with the author. Because we live in such a customer service based nation, it’s easy for the customers to take advantage of the retailer. However, it’s ultimately bad management and lack of owner intervention that has caused this. If the manager or owner took the time to intervene with unruly customers the customer would never have an advantage over the employee. Some customers (roughly 1%) don’t deserve to be taken seriously and the extra time it takes to deal with them should be spent on customers that do deserve special care for being great customers.

    Just my opinion.

  193. Some really good points of advice here. I think it’s important for companies to remember that there are customers who can be wrong, as they’re just humans like the rest of us.

  194. the author brought up some pretty good points.. however, i feel every sales person should know how to handle a bad situation without becoming a mean person.

  195. I work for a large not-for-profit association in their Member Services division. I found this page because I just got off the phone with a guy who was definitely more interested in picking a fight with me than resolving his (non)issue. His membership packet was delayed because of the Christmas/New Year’s holiday period and he was LIVID. We were shortchanging him an entire month, dammit! He demanded a refund for a membership that SOMEONE ELSE bought for him. If he had been NICE to us, we might have comped him a couple of months on his membership for the inconvenience…

  196. I am a General manager for a fast food franchise. I wish they would support me once in a while. It is to easy for a customer to complaine and get someone into trouble. I have even had video proof, because the company I work for is so affraid of loosing a sale when a guest was being totally out of line cussing at me so I told the guest to quit being an “asshole” and I got suspended with out pay and made to appologise to the guest, give him a refund and free coupons. I feel like Do they even care about me?

  197. Absolutely love this post and article! I could not agree more. Don’t know if you heard about the site called Business Beware, but you can actually file complaints against customers, it’s great. Once again, great post, could not have said it any better!

  198. As a manager in a customer service based industry. I have been beaten up by the term “Customer is always right”. The younger associates are always pushed around by the squeeky wheels, but those who understand it was one man’s motto for a single company that was taken up by consumer advocates to beat up on companies and employees of those companies to get there way. Those are the same people who might have bullied you out of your lunch money during your school years.
    I can’t believe how many people try to leverage free or extra privledges everywhere you go. It is sad.

  199. I find it amazing that people come in to solicit a service or come in to an establishment for food and totally abuse the staff, complain, and are outright rude. Last time I checked this was my place of business and YOU were the quest. We have overly empowered guests with complaints that will go all the up the ladder until they feel like they have won, once someone complains they do not stop until they get resolution or some sort of gift to keep them as a customer and further empowers them to know every time they throw a fit they will win.It’s competition and fear of losing revenue that scares many companies into bending over and taking one for the team. It ultimately hurts the industry overall by encourging people to be confrontationl assholes to get what they want. America excels in this subhuman treatment of retail employees. Heres an update: Go to Eurpoe and try and pull the same crap, you will be politely (or not so politely) asked to get out and go bother someone else. Those people that are always complaining eventually find no on wants their business and tone down. I’ve always said that to buy from a retail shop or eat in a restuarant you should have to work there first. You’d have a whole new perspective. In the interest of capitalism and greed we have lost our integrity.

  200. I’m a sales representitive for a computer company. I believe in treating customers in a friendly and fair way. That is why the idiom “the customer is always right” – is a terrible way to run a business – because some “customers” SUCK! You are friendly – they throw the phone down. You smile, they frown. You bend over bankwards for them, they kick you. I know from experience NOT TO TAKE CUSTOMERS SERIOUSLY. Just to do your job.

  201. The phrase isn’t about weather they are always right or not. It’s about how the customer wants to be treated which is “always right”. It’s not to be taken literally, and it’s taken years in customer service for me to finally understand that. It’s to help the clerk or whoever is dealing with the customer to remember that they are dealing with a child who understands nothing yet wants everything to go their way.

    The employee and especially the company should never take this phrase literally or it will be their undoing.

  202. The customers are never right because they always find the wrong things even when you try to make evrything right for them. They are nevr satisfied with what they get, but these kind of customer are the ones that always come back to the same stores after they may have complain that they will never return because they were not satisfied the service they had.
    These kind of people make it very difficult for employees who always try to follow they values of “the customer is always right”. I say this because I have been doing this for five years.

  203. Proof that when you have a policy of “the customer is always right” it just leads to headaches:

    Walt Disney World now keeps a list of the complainers and what they receive as compensation for how they were “wronged.” They have to do this because they found out that they were getting the same complainers over and over again AND were giving them lots of free stuff! So now they have to keep track of it to keep the freebies to a minimum. What a nightmare!

    And the second item of evidence:

    A fellow cast member of mine at Disney World was listening to a vacationer complain and couldn’t get a word in edgewise. The guy said, “The customer is always right, and I’M the customer.” My co-worker replied with, “No, you’re a GUEST. Now ACT like one.” He got in trouble from management when the “guest” complained, but he was the hero of every one of us who heard the story.

  204. My business has been much more successful once I realized that “The customer may be right”.

    This is not to be dismissive of the customer, but to realize that when they call in with a complaint it is often due to some fault of their own, most often abject laziness or general incompetence with regards to our industry. Of course there are times when we’re wrong and we move quickly to fix it.

    With those that are operating far behind the pack in terms of the skills of our normal clients, we work hard to help bring them up to speed, but we also realize that at a certain point, we’re fighting a loosing battle. Those that we’re able to educate usually stay with us forever as we do actually provide great customer service and a quality product. But those who insist on the impossible or are irrational, we’re much more happy to give them referrals to our competitors.

    While it’s sometime necessary to fire employees, there are also times where you gotta fire the customer too. Fire the bad employees so that most customers get excellent product and service and file bad customers so that our good employees can provide excellent products and services without wasting resources in a bottomless pit.

  205. My supervisor told me of a time when he worked for a corporate hotel chain that was doing a “satisfaction 100% guaranteed or your money back” campaign and since they were corporately owned they could see what everybody else in the chain was doing. His hotel quickly spotted this couple that was using the campaign to get free rooms right across the country. Needless to say that campaign didn’t last long.

    At our current hotel we get people trying to ask for rates before Motel 6 or Super 8 or invoking owners who havn’t owned the place in years of think think just because they are customer we HAVE to let them stay if we have rooms.

    Every business even if doesn’t have the sign out can refuse service to anyone especially if they have been disturbing the other guests before trying to get the room and want to haggle on the price when you are full.

    Such “customers” are bad news–they will find something to get a reduced rate or even free night. They are simply not worth it.

  206. As a former Executive Chef , most of my former Employer , most still in business and when sold still profitable , they always , always analyzed the fine line between customer satisfaction and prostitution. Flatlely denying service to some arrogant millionaire or polititian,or newly superstars that wanted every employee at their feet . One in new york used to simply throw them in the street telling them they were an insult to his Customers , Establishement and Employees that extremely succesfull high priced restaurant ran some 30 years on cash basis only. was sold and still in operation while the competition went with the recession. {it was most likely the most expensive restaurant in the 60′s 70′s 80′s } hard to work there but fun …..

  207. Recent experience that demonstrates that ALWAYS giving in to the customer is not a good idea. Guest wanted to swim in our outdoor pool way past operating hours (like 2:00 AM in the morning!) and when they couldn’t get their way they wanted a “code” (only known to the maintenance staff) to get in. Had another person on the line so tried to put them on hold and accidentally hung up on them. They call back to complain and wanted manager’s name and when told he wouldn’t be around for a several days wanted someone else.

    In short they were looking to create a problem so they would get their way despite their request being in violation of state ordnance regarding Certified operators of public pools and if they had gotten hurt the hotel would have been libel.

  208. Wow, that was some read! I’m fortunate to work for a company that cares about its employees and takes that customer-is-always-right junk with a grain of salt, like it should be. I’ve got about 25 years experience in retail and retail-like sales (including call-center style sales). I pick and choose my customers. Problem customers have distinctive earmarks that they cannot help but display during the sales process. There is an old adage that works about 99 percent of the time: The harder the sale, the more problematic the client. When I get the distinct impression that I’m getting into a high maintainance/low yield situation (and that takes a fair bit for me), I start to UNsell my product. “Well, it isn’t for everybody…” I do so with the full knowledge of my managers and VP of Sales (who has heard me do it!).

    Essentially, what we have decided is that the perpetually angry and abusive customer is better served elsewhere. And we’re in one of the most competitive industries on the planet. (That’s all I can actually say.)

    Further, if one of my customers becomes abusive with support staff, they get a WTF call from me and I’m not afraid to lose their business. I’ve never sworn or become abusive with a customer or prospect, but I make the rules of engagement known in no uncertain terms. If they continue to display abusiveness to me, I give them one warning-you curse at me again and I’ll terminate this call and close your account. If they curse at me again, I hang up and close their account. I’ve had to make the threat 3 times in 4 years. I’ve never had to actually do it. I have had a single call in 4 years legitimately escalate to my supervisor because I was not in the office. He has the same attitude I have. And that was a really large account that he took that attitude about…and we STILL have that customer.

    Sometimes it’s not about right or wrong. It’s about the rules of engagement. I treat everybodey with respect and dignity. If they can’t do the same in reciprocal fashion, I don’t want them in my book of business – and I’m not afraid to lose their business over it. And for all you sales guys out there – in 4 years, it hasn’t happened yet. Though I can think of one time where I had 4 support reps standing around my desk begging me to get a guy banned from the service. It was one of their supervisors who stepped in and saved the account. And this guy is a real piece of work.

    What they customer wants to feel right about is that their problem is being worked on and solved. I’m very clear when something happens – I will call when I have updates. If they call in before I call them, I won’t have any updates and all it will do is frustrate both of us. Our support department is very good at what it does, and I can count on one hand the number of times they haven’t gotten back to me in a couple of hours with an update for the customer.

    Customer service isn’t dead at all. It’s alive and well…and isn’t afraid to tell the customer when the process isn’t worthwhile any longer. When everyone knows the rules, things go a little easier. Try to take stuff out of the area of who is to blame and try to get it into the area of how do we fix this…it goes a long way. And we have other ways of catching the sneaks that call in off hours and try to bully support for credits. That’s a whole other class of customer.

  209. Thanks Jerry B.

    Someone at the aviation air-movement-machinery company Garret-Airesearch once said something to the effect that people understand problems but they don’t understand people who don’t care about problems. Unfortunately it took a long time and serious competition emerging to really get people’s attention there.

  210. Just for clarification, I believe the phrase originated with César Ritz in 1908: “Le client n’a jamais tort”. It is unclear whether it was Field or Selfridge who later coined the American version.

  211. I really appreciate this article. I am the office manager at a dental office and sometimes no matter what I do, I cannot keep a patient happy. I have gotten to the point where I have to warn my staff to go the extra mile with patients that I know are consistently unhappy, yet keep returning. Then, the entire time the patient is in the office, I am on pins and needles trying to keep them pleased. The worst is when at the end of a wonderful appointment, I find that one in particular STILL had something to complain about. In the end, the patient was dismissed from the practice. I have come to realize that I will always try to keep the customer happy, but at the same time I have to let some go as well for the good of my practice.

  212. To me, the question to answer seems to be “about WHAT is the custumer supposed to be right?”
    What people have in mind as the “What” seems to determine on which side of the right/wrong side they are.

    Lets take some statements:
    1) “Everything in this store is for free, so i dont need to pay”
    2) “I’d like to have a coffe”
    3) “a ticket to the spaceshuttle, please, i want to visit my relatives in europe”

    Obviously, the first statement is wrong. If you grant the customer the privilege to be right here, you’ll go bankrupt. The statement is exxagerated, but basically the examples in the comments about customers bitching until they get something of a monetary value are this. In my opinion this are the customers you want to send to the competition: they do not have a problem you can solve. You calculated your prices, according to the product, they basically want the product, but do not want to pay. Yes, maybe one could calculate, that there is still a profit if you give this customer 50%, but i think there are some hidden factors that are mostly ignored this way, besides the impact onto the workers, you send a signal to anyone that they should be bad customers in order to get better prices.

    The second statement is, in my opinion, the kind where TCIAR should be applied. Do not tell him “no, you want tea, it’s much better”. The customer has a problem, so solve it. You are not the judge of the customers needs.

    The third statement is a little more complicated, and more real life. The customer has a problem (he wants to visit europeans). This is not for disposition; to tell him, he should visit his chinese friends instead does not help. But he has a wrong idea about the solution (you do not need a spaceshuttle for that). The tricky part is to determine if the customer is one of kind 1 or 2.
    Simplified, if you rephrase the Problem as something like “i understand you want to go to europe, but a spaceshuttle doesnt bring you there. i could however sell you these flights”, and a discussion about what exactly the problem is and what solutions apply, he is a good customer that should be catered to. If he starts bitching about that he knows better than a peon how to get there, loose him. you wont make any money with him anyway, because after the spaceshuttle did not bring him to europe, he is more likeliy to sue you than to pay you.

    So, basically, the customer is always right about the target, but, simple things like coffe aside, rarely right about the way.

    In consulting, in my experience, abusive behaviour comes from the customers who insist on “their” way. It is not only acceptable, but important to fire those, because you cannot solve their problems, and therefore they will never pay you. Abusive behavior is more an indicator than the real reason to get rid of them.

  213. Loved the article. I have one more posting to add.
    :)

    “One of the consistent back up statements of ‘The Customer is Always Right’ is the amount of dollars it costs to replace a customer. It costs more to replace a customer than to retain one most times.”

    D’oh!… Here’s how it goes…
    :))

    1. You get an unreasonable customer.
    2. You stick with your employee, because the employee is right.
    3. You lose the customer.
    4. It costs you a lot to replace the customer.

    I can understand that. But let’s put it this way; if all business owners would think healthy and not butt-kiss customers when customers happen to be WRONG, then… for whom would your customer leave you?
    Go where?
    Go to “not being a customer anymore”?

    The reason for which now an unreasonable customer leaves is because somewhere else some business owner will be more than happy to take anything from his clients.

    NO! The customers actually isn’t always right. How could he be? What?… are we selling to Goethe, Einstein, Freud… and I didn’t know about it?… Some customers are plain stupid and could never ever be right. Simple as that. Fair enough, with all my apologies if anyone feels offended.

    My regards to all.

  214. I just wanted to say that this article is brilliant and I have had it bookmarked ever since you wrote it… I come back to it time and time again. Thank you so much!

  215. Right on, Parfumuri! Don’t employers ever consider the cost of replacing employees? Obviously not, since it’s standard MBA practice to downsize staff with years of tacit, job-related knowledge just to massage this quarter’s numbers, and then wonder why nobody knows how to do anything three months later.

  216. Hi,
    Excellent article! I agree that Customer in not always right. I’ve forwarded it to my manager.

    However, I want to point out that even the nicest customers get really frustrated sometimes (like being on hold for ever or being transferred 10 times around) and landing on an innocent customer service representative. Who’s fault is it then?

  217. Kelly: It’s management’s fault IMO. At every hospital I’ve ever worked at, we get force fed official happy talk about how patient care is our number one priority, the hospital exists to serve the community, we’re all just one big happy family, and all the rest of that happy horse shit–and meanwhile they’re gutting patient care staff to get as much work out of as few people as possible, and then giving themselves bonuses for “increasing productivity.”

    Management lives in what Scott Adams called “Boss World: where the laws of time, space and logic don’t apply.” There’s no such thing as inadequate staffing levels for the objectives the company assigns us, because by definition the staffing levels the company sets are correct and any failure to achieve our objective must reflect our own laziness and incompetence. If the company devised a staffing matrix with one orderly per hundred patients, if all one hundred of them didn’t get a bath we’d be “counselled” on our “need for improvement.”

    The company’s objective is customer service, and us peons can provide that service no matter what staffing levels and workloads we’re given–and if we can’t feed five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, or make bricks without straw, we take the blame for doing a bad job.

    They actually warn us never to tell a patient that we’re understaffed. They want the patients to think they went five days without a bath or lay in their own shit waiting for a bedpan because we’re just lazy assholes doing a shitty job–not because the hospital administration is a bunch of goddamned fucking human filth who used the money for patient care to fund their own third vacation homes.

  218. Kelly at one time we had 70% turn over and nobody care because they kept replacing them with entry wages employees , until they realized shrink cost them millions of dollars in our facility alone , so they enforced the discipline even more creating more turn over , to this day they still have no clue how much that turn over really hurt them . because they have the phylosophie we are the biggest

  219. I did my time in the retail sector and had to put up with abuse, customers deliberately scamming, etc. and “the customer is always right” mentality. (Harry Selfridge had a much higher calibre of customer 100 years ago, by the way) As a result, as a customer, I am much more likely to speak up when I see another customer behaving like a jackass. Several years ago, I witnessed a woman being downright abusive to a clerk in a supermarket. She exclaimed loudly “I’ve never had a problem with this before!” and I piped up “Lady, if you are this stupid and rude all the time, I should think you have problems everywhere!!!” She looked at me – mortified. (I think the fact that I’m 6’5″ and towered over her helped). She practically ran out of the store, and there were other people clapping as she left! I only had a couple of items, so I was only a moment behind her as she was loading up her car – I was parked on the same isle, she looked up – and I just gave her the glare of death. She looked so scared, I think she thought I was going to murder her and stuff her in the trunk of her car. She high-tailed it out of there, and I just laughed! I think she thought twice about bullying clerks after that!

  220. I totally agree with this article 1 million%. I’ve only been at my job for a month and my store manager swears and swears to his grave by this terrible motto. To make matters worst, one associate even confided me in on a shocking incident where I was appalled. One night, an associate,who is also a cashier, saw a customer just pulled something off the rack and try to play it off as a return without a receipt. The associate was stunned and did the right thing by refusing the return. But the customer/shoplifter hadn’t had enough and demanded to speak with a manager. So, when the manager arrives, the associate explained the situation and what does the manager do? Accepts the stolen return w/o receipt. So, what does the associate, who is one of the few employees that has an ounce of integrity/ethical principle left and a brain, when both detrimental business elements leave the scene? Post void the return w/o receipt.

  221. I work for McDs and I saw this customer taking/ stealing coke ( he asked for water) I told him to pay for and then he got upset and told me “f*ck u” and also left the store yelling in front everybody, he called to complaint about it!!!! he was mistreated and abused!!!!! OMG!!!! I am the store manager and I was in shock.

  222. The customer is not always right. If they are always creating problems, then its best ot let them go elsewhere and cause problems for another company. Its best to side with employees. They are your main people.

  223. I’m an American and spent some time in England. One thing that really caught my eye, in the best way, was that front line customer service areas had posters saying, against a picture of an employee getting yelled at, “Our employees are here to help our clients, not to take abuse. Let them do their job. If you treat them in an abusive manner, we will put our foot down.”

    I’m not sure that was the exact wording, but it impressed me, and across the board the employees at those places seemed to try to offer good customer service, including dealing courteously appropriately with a customer whose feathers were genuinely quite ruffled–and the customer was honestly mistaken–and this was not a case of someone acting abusive for free stuff.

    I don’t work in customer service, but as a customer I miss seeing those posters as a signal that I was working in the place where the management at least gives the impression they treat the people I’m dealing with respectfully.

  224. It stands to reason, Jonathan. When employees constantly receive the message that “The customer is God, you’re not worth scraping off the customer’s shoe, and if you ever complain because a customer spit in your face we’ll apologize to the customer for your face getting in the way,” guess what happens? Employees, rightfully, resent the customer and see him as an enemy, and start looking for every way imaginable to sabotage customer service (in a passive-aggressive way, with a smile on their face). Extraordinary performance in any kind of business requires the employee freely contributing all their skills and hidden knowledge, rather than the bare minimum to avoid getting fired. If you want to find out what it’s like to get cut off at the knees, just turn employees in your customer service business into your enemies.

  225. Hi, all. I have partly reworked my thoughts from this thread and thought you might like to have it available to share, maybe with your boss, if you think it would help.

    “An open letter from a customer: I don’t WANT to abuse your employees and be rewarded for gaming the system” is at:

    http://JonathansCorner.com/customer/

    Hope this helps, and fearing it won’t,

  226. Know why public utilities in the Philippines don’t perform well? Or why online game companies are struggling?

    It’s because some of their customers are rude and impatient, and they make the employees of those companies feel like crap, so these employees wind up slacking off or go into flamewars.

  227. Again, this can’t be stressed too much: you can’t get good customer service by treating your employees like some kind of shit that you scraped off your shoe. When employees feel degraded and powerless in the face of customers, I absolutely guarantee they will find some way to get even with the customer.

    I saw several local pizza franchises destroyed, for example, when a disgruntled employee collected a giant wad of order slips out of the trash and then called the customers anonymously and claimed to have jerked off in their pizza before he delivered it.

    If you force people to smile through gritted teeth and behave in a cringing, servile manner while you shit on them, you’d better not turn your back or let your attention waver for a second, or they WILL find some way to fuck you over.

    If you’re a flaming shitheel to the wait staff at a restaurant, I don’t care how spineless and accommodating the manager is — I would bet my immortal soul that you go home with enough strange DNA in your belly to start an FBI crime lab.

    It doesn’t matter how intrusive or totalitarian the internal surveillance is, there’s always something the boss can’t track or measure. And employees are experts at finding it. COUNT ON IT.

  228. The backlash may come out somewhere, beyond just inefficiency thus less profit for the owner of the business, however that does not justify your pizza case which is heading into criminal behaviour.

  229. I’m not saying it’s justified, Keith. But if you create an atmosphere in which employees are viewed as shit and the customer is God, and they’re expected to respond to abuse by showing their belies like a whipped dog, you’d better believe it WILL happen whether it’s right or wrong. “The customer is always right” is a sure-fire recipe for making employees loathe the customer with every fiber of their being.

  230. Wish my place of work thought the same way. They agree with the “customer is always right” crap. Well, guess what?….they’re not! Customers lie to get what they want. I agree with #1 in saying it makes the employees unhappy. I feel like there is no loyalty and don’t feel valued when they kiss the customer’s ass. I wish I could put a sign up where I work that says “yelling or screaming will not be tolerated. If you do so, you will be thrown out immediately”.

    I do not come to work to be verbally abused. It lowers the morale at the workplace. It’s profit over people where I work. They would rather me take crap from a customer than lose money–really nice! I applaud the Jet Blue flight attendant that didn’t take any crap from the passenger who was giving him a hard time. He did what so many of us would love to do.

  231. Rude customers can actually cost you your good customers if you always side with the customer whether they’re right or wrong. Good customers may see that as a turn off when they’ve been loyal and polite to the company’s workers and go elsewhere. But good customers can also be your defense as they will often stick up for the employees who are treated wrong by a rude customer. I’ve been irritated by how I’ve seem other customers act and said to the employee who was the target of rudeness that they should not have to tolerate that. I say companies should have a costomer code of conduct as well as an employee code of conduct.

  232. The “customer os always right” maxim is the reason why customer service these days is “customer no-service” or “customer dis-service”, because you have to put on the fake smile even for the rude customers you really don’t relish coming into your store. I’m a nice guy, but that doesn’t mean I should have to put up with bullcrap from some jackass.

  233. We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. That can make people behave themselves as a business is private property, although the difference between a business being private property and one’s home being the same is that a business is open to the public.

  234. Remember, we’re all employees at work and customers where we shop, and sometimes we’re both at the same time. H.E.B. Grocery here in Austin treats its employees well, and the main reason for that is this: being a grocery store, their employees are also their customers, as they shop their own store for groceries with an employee discount.

  235. A little off topic, but when commissioned salespeople don’t think like a customer, that’s bad for business, especially if the salesperson is seen by customers as trying to coerce them into purchasing more expensive goods or services. Would they want to be ripped off or deceived?

  236. I believe that the primary role of any sales or customer support people, to remember that you are dealing with people like you, without seeing the money sign on their foreheads, but look into their eyes & see what kind of help you can assist them with..

    Money is only and automatic reward for honest help or given service!

  237. I work in healthcare, and that industry has taken the “customer is always right” philosophy to the worst imaginable extreme. With the emphasis on Studer Group manipulation to game satisfaction surveys, the tyranny of the Press-Gainey metric, etc., most of us work in terror that someone might complain about us. I can remember as recently as two years ago, at the hospital where I worked, that I didn’t have to be afraid to tell a really abusive or psychotic patient/visitor that their behavior was inappropriate. Or I could call the night shift nursing supervisor, and she’d have a “come to Jesus” talk with them. If i tried that now, the administration would throw me under the bus to appease the patient. Any complaint at all, unless there are actually witnesses to them spinning their heads and spitting up pea soup, is prima facie proof of your guilt. So no matter how abusive and degrading your treatment at the hands of the patient or visitor, your only permissible response is “Thank you very much, sir. Would you prefer I spit or swallow?”

    I can tell you from personal observation that such a policy is counter-productive. It breeds resentment and causes the employee to see the customer as an enemy.

    Once again — you can’t have good customer service if you turn your customer service staff into your enemies. You can bluster all you want about how “that doesn’t happen in MY store–I know!” But if you really believe that, you’re just stupid. If your employees hate you bad enough, they’ll find a way to make you pay — and there’s nothing you can do about it. If you believe otherwise and resort to bravado, you’re just living in a fool’s paradise.

  238. The reason customers become disgruntled is because they have reason to.
    a) They did not get the service or quality they expected.
    B) They were ignored or wasted time and energy dealing with people who only punch a clock and do not care to listen to the complaint.

    I have been in the retail and sales for over 40 years. If you treat people right and you sell what you advertise, you will not have disgruntled customers.

    Yes there are people that no one can please, but they are few and far between. Approaching customers as “complainers” is a big mistake. The loss a company may face with that one in a million complainer is minimal to the loss of those customers because of lazy employees that do not go that extra mile to please the customer.

    I do not shop at Saks 5th Avenue, because the sales staff treated me as riff-raff and went over to Macys and dropped $2,000. So Saks lost the sales that day because of their employees attitudes.

    I don´t shop at Safeway because they make one feel like they are a shoplifter and have people watching every move you make.

    I shop at Walmart, because no one cares or bothers you. I know this up front and don’t expect any help, also I know their quality is iffy and don’t expect things to last very long. So I get what I pay for.

    I seldom make returns, but when I do, I expect to be respected and valued. If I am mistreated when making a return or exchange – I never make another purchase in that store.

    so How much is a company willing to lose? My return or exchange item, or my continued business?

    the problem in todays world is a lack of respect and courtesy!

  239. sfpanama: It’s interesting that you view the customer as presumptively right and abusive customers as “few and far between,” while almost always blaming sales staff for problems. Do obnoxious and disrespectful sales people come from a separate planet, or are they recruited from a different demographic group than customers? Are they never customers at some other establishment? Or do they suddenly stop being obnoxious when they shop on their day off just because a customer, by definition, can never be wrong?

  240. I’ve had to learn to laugh at a lot of this stuff when I get home for the day. First of all, considering the difficulty in getting enough hours for health insurance or anything of the like, I have bigger concerns on my plate than the customer being mean to me.

    I’ve also learned to remind myself how little control I have and how the customer is taking advantage of that (in bad situations). For instance, I had a customer yelling at me today about a ‘bad display’ that ‘deceived’ them, asking how I would feel, what I would think, why did I set the ad that way, etc., etc. But I work for a big corporation at the lowly status of a cashier. The person knows I have no control over the things they’re yelling about. I’m a cashier. They’re just venting. Even if they had yelled at my employers, they also do not control this stuff. They are given plans and told what to do by higher ups, who got those instructions from people higher up in corporate.

    When I was younger I got so incredibly upset. Nowadays I realize most of the time things turn out really well, normally I have pretty good customers and they seem to like me, and in the case where the situation deals with things out of my control I learn to get through that best I can and laugh it off later at home. I’m not going to let someone that takes advantage of my lack of power to refuse their attention ruin my day.

    Of course I agree with the article – just saying problems with how things work today aren’t going to get in the way of my enjoying work. Of course, in this market (especially where I live) I see the world through the rose-colored glasses of someone who was incredibly happy to realize they had a job, any job at all.

  241. Also some “customers” use the always right mantra as way to way to retaliate for their own abusive behavior not working out as planned (ie resulting in the “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” clause being invoked). They want your name so they can complain to your supervisor about not getting what they want because they are being abusive jerks.

    Phone customers can be the worse as unless you have a policy of recording call it becomes a game of he said she said.

  242. Customer always right? Yeah sure. With all the mentall illness, narcissism, unmedicated bi-polar, entitlement issues, etc. I don’t think so, not always.

  243. The customer is not always right. I work at a job where the bosses blame the employees if a customer complains. Because I and a few others are the first people a customer speaks to to set up an appointment to come in and see us. I have a speech that I automatically start saying every time the customer tells me they’ve never been here before. I tell them everything they need to do and everything they need to bring before they come in. It’s like a reflex because I’ve said this same speech a thousand times, so I KNOW I don’t miss anything. And I stress it’s importnant for them not to forget those things. Then the boss will come up to me after the customer has had their appointment and they will say that we employees are not doing our jobs by not mentioning those important items the customer brings in. Our boss will ask the customer for those items and the little lying you know whats will say, “Oh, I was never told to bring that!” when they could have just come out and said they forgot them. I told her flat out that’s total baloney because all of the calls are recorded and you can go back and listen to them and find out we DO stress for them to bring those items. She ALWAYS sides with the customers instead of us. Why? Because she wants her money. We do tell her that customers can be little liars because we have the recorded evidence.

  244. I was at the grocery store and was behind some d-bag with his left leg amputated but still has his right foot. his right foot was bare, had no shoe on it clerk attempted to enforce the no shoes policy explaining to him he needed to be wearing a shoe on his right foot citing the store policy sign on the door. Before the clerk even finished with what he had to say. the guy interrepted using very foul language and rambling about how they are discriminating against him and how he fought for this country. Many stores have a policy requiring patrons to wear shoes on any feet that come into contact with the floor for safety. This is part of what’s wrong with todays society. Nobody has any respect

  245. Rules apply to everyone, I agree. The grocery store I frequent cards everyone when you purchase wine or beer with your pot roast. I am wrinkled of visage, silver-haired and obviously an older babe. Do I argue? I do not and have my ID at the ready since I’m not going to abuse a minimum-wage worker for a store policy that, if the checkout clerk does not apply to everyone, can get them fired. Your customer was wrong in both instances for displaying their footsie and abusing the clerk. In only one instance did I see a manager spring to the defense of a clerk being lambasted by an abusive customer and I cheered. I will continue to shop at that store since the manager did not do the PC thing but the right thing.

  246. I work in a hospital, and things have gotten much, much worse — almost beyond imagining — over the past year or so. For several years, they’d been parroting the Quint Studer Kool-Aid Kult. But with new management sent in by corporate last year, they’ve doubled down on it — as well as worshipping at the altar of the Great God Press-Gainey. I mean they are absolutely obsessed with doing whatever it takes to manipulate the patient into filling out a positive satisfaction survey, no matter how irrational their demands or how abusive they are.

    A year or so ago, when a patient (or visitor!) became really unreasonable or abusive (including screaming and cursing at us) we could call whoever was on duty as hospital nursing supervisor that shift, and she’d have a little “Come to Jesus” talk with them after which they’d either be properly chastened or get escorted out by security. Now, when they pull that crap, we’re afraid to complain, because mgt. will assume that anytime there’s a problem, (in the words of the Bob Jones University slogan) “No doubt the fault lies with you.” Our only proper response is “Thank you, sir. Would you prefer I spit or swallow?”

    Needless to say, being so devalued and degraded doesn’t do a lot for our ability to empathize with the patients.

  247. IMJ that manager handled the jerk properly – such people live by intimidation, the only thing that works is to intimidate them back.

    Beware however that there is risk of violence, and today legal risk for the manager as the jerk could complain about harassment. Best to document the incident afterwared, with names of witnesses.

  248. While I agree with the author, I’ve personally experienced being abused by company representatives because of this logic. If the company feels that they can get away with abusive behaivor they will sometimes do so. Thankfully I was able to file a complaint with the BBB, funny thing is though that the company refuses to resolve the complaint regardless of how blatantly “wrong” they actually are. Thankfully there is a third party out there to decide which side is right. My complaint has cost them more money than it was worth. Just saying we cannot put a blind eye on employee’s or companies practices either!

  249. Recently at our hotel we had a guest complain that his key didn’t work–it turned out he misremembered the room number and made a new key duplicating the one he had. A while later a room calls and someone says their key for the room next door doesn’t work and wanted us to go up and bring them one. Turned out it was the same guy as before STILL trying to get into the WRONG room. We told him that we have to cross reference names with rooms numbers and that someone ELSE was in the room he kept claiming was his.

  250. Another example from our hotel was a customer who couldn’t get into his room. Turned out he was trying to get into the wrong room. Several minutes later another room called and it turned out the guy had gotten mixed up again and first gave a room number we didn’t even have and then gave the wrong room number again.

  251. I love this site, I’am a Belk employees and we see all kinds of customers to come in the door.

  252. Great article! I’ve been at both ends of the scale. I’m currently in a call centre where I must do all I can for the customer, but if they are unreasonable, abusive or being massive dicks then we can terminate the call and I get a lot of support as an employee. On the other hand, I once worked in a retail store where I was asked out by a customer who made several inappropriate comments. When I turned him down (as politely as I could as I was at work), he later complained to my my HO. Who did they side with? Not their employee…

  253. While I certainly don’t agree with the saying “The Customer is always right”, I also don’t agree with companies immediately siding with employees. There needs to be a balance. Each incident needs to be looked at carefully, in some incidences the customer is completely wrong, and in others it is the employee who is in the wrong.

  254. I absolutely love this article.
    There’s so much truth in it.

    When you work in the food industry, you see this everywhere. It’s easy to spot the same customers coming in, ordering the same things, and complaining about random things because they know your policy is to comp/discount the item. Some complaints are genuine and that’s 100% OK, but you also have to realize that some people know how to work the system to get something free out of it.

  255. ” Alexander” I love to ciomment on this , should my Employer ever find out , I will be immediately terminated without unemployement as it is against their policy.” the Home Depot USA .
    A book could be written about it , an encyclopedia .

  256. I’ve worked in the service industry for seven years. I’ve seen all sorts of customers and all sorts of customer service policies. I believe that Harry Selfridge’s slogan “the customer is always right” has dealt damage to the industry that may never be repaired. I also believe that finding and sharing these positive points about supporting your employees is only the first step to finding a solution. We also need to identify the obstacle that prevent us from dumping this tired maxim in favor of something better. Were I to present this article to upper management tomorrow, I believe this is what I would be told:

    1. People are more negative than we often give them credit for. Your average person is far less likely to share the story of a good customer experience than they are to share the story of a bad one. If we were to “fire” this abusive customer, chances are he will tell the story to all his friends and family – who are good customers and have not been abusive in any way – and we then risk losing their service as well.

    2. A healthy portion of these abusive customers are created by service that is perceived as poor. We would rather push ourselves a little harder to prevent an angry customer before dismissing them becomes an option.

    3. In a time where the market is fully saturated and virtually everyone is someone’s customer, sending our customers to the competition puts us at a monetary disadvantage. Doing away with “the customer is always right” can only be fully realized when doing so is universally accepted by all competitors in the industry. And if that arena were to be leveled, we would then gain an advantage if we were to re-adopt the maxim.

    That last point brings up circular logic that would be especially difficult to overcome. We need reform on a major scale to reach a better customer service experience for both customers and employees. But then that’s just me playing devil’s advocate.

  257. Used and Abused:

    2. I actually heard the first point made in a training film I watched at a corporate brainwashing session on “customer service” at a Mazzio’s store 20 years ago. My response, then and now, is that if the customer is a big enough asshole that they have to be banned from the store, most of their “friends” probably know very well that they’re assholes. Most people who are jerky enough to get banned are the kind of people with just the right mix of stupid and mean that they’re into it with everybody, and it’s always the other person’s fault. Even the “friends” who tolerate them for the sake of peace will probably take the complainer’s account of what happened with a ton of salt, unless they’re as stupid as he is.

    2. Service that is perceived as poor usually occurs in an understaffed shithole where the senior management writes mission statements about “extraordinary customer service,” while simultaneously downsizing half the customer service staff in order to goose their own stock options or give themselves a multi-million dollar “productivity bonus.” And oddly enough, it’s in corporations with such pathological atmospheres that the company takes the attitude of “whenever there’s a problem with a customer, it’s your fault, and we’ll throw you under the bus.”

    3. When we send customers who cost more than they’re worth to the competitor, we put the competitor at a monetary advantage. Example: the woman who’d sent her nachos back so many times (she repeatedly claimed they we were short on cheese even though we weighed the ingredients for every single serving on a scale) that the company gave her a 20% lifetime discount to mollify her. And she was a regular customer, coming in every week for her discounted nachos despite the fact that we supposedly made them so badly, for the whole two years that I worked there.

    And guess what? She was going around telling all her friends that if you complained and made false accusations and sent stuff back enough, you’d get a lifetime 20% discount as a reward. So if customer word-of-mouth is really as important as the pointy-haired boss claims in point no. 1, then we managed to get ourselves a whole bunch of freeloaders who cost us even more money.

  258. Wrote a blog about this kinda thing, was reccomended this after….. soo true. I wish more companies would act this way, then maybe people might learn some manners!

  259. Customer are always right about their own state of mind. They can be wrong about facts (there is no fly in your soup), but can never be wrong how they feel about the level of service they receive.

    People’s feelings are their reality and many techniques are available to make sure a customer has positive feelings about your service.

    We write about this and many other similar topics on Hypotheticorp.org.

  260. Customers are always right about what they want, but what they want frequently has no meaningful relationship to what the rest of us refer to as “reality”.

    The slogan “the customer is always right” gives many customers the impression that they are literally entitled to absolutely *anything* they can imagine, and that it is a failure on the part of the salesperson if their insane demands cannot be satisfied. Why is this? I think it is partly due to the fact that people of low intelligence (both customers and management) interpret the slogan very literally, instead of as a rejoinder to help the customer have a pleasurable shopping experience in every *reasonable* aspect.

  261. Woman comes in to business with three children, 8, 6 & 5. Mother leaves kids to use bathroom and kids go insane, screaming, hitting and throwing merchandise. Clerk looks at kids going ape and tells them to behave. Mother comes out of bathroom, kids tell mom how they were abused and mom proceeds to scream at clerk for her “abusive glare” and “unprofessional utterance”. As manager I step in, get clerk off floor and tell mom that I was about to chide her dears for their poor behavior. Mom demands to speak to manager and I tell her I am the manager and the clerk did nothing wrong. Mom get even more furious and I give her the name and number of the owner, who will return the next day. Mom calls, complains, I get called into the owners office and told to call and apologize. I refuse and owner makes his own suck-up call to helicopter mom. My only comfort is that I see this mom in front of the police in a few years explaining away her kids felonious behavior, and it’s coming since these kids are awful. I think owner is a jerk and I did the right thing.

  262. This is an interesting article to me as I work in retail now and have worked in other client service businesses in the past.

    I see less of an attitude from our customers that they are right, more that they are allowed to act however they want. And in the store where I work (health food and supplements) there is an expectation of advice, knowledge, etc.

    So there are certain patterns of rude behaviors that I think happen to me simply because I’m behind a counter: the money-throwers, people who yell from the opposite side of the store (they probably do this at home too), people that find it too much effort to return a “Hello” and instead just bark a product name, assuming that this encloses a full question.

    Then there’s the folks that want me to be their doctor. At least with them I can engage a bit and moderate their expectations or point them to other resources. If needed, I do gently remind them of the limits of what I can legally say. Most of these folks just want to be listened to and get some sympathy and attention.

    The rude, well, they’re everywhere aren’t they?

  263. It seems that the focus of the comments have diverted from the circumstances that were the basis of the original posts. In the original cases the customers are stated as being: UNREASONABLE, ABUSIVE, and RUDE. There is never an excuse or “right” reason for this behavior (.) That type of customer does not and will not appreciate your service or care how you provide it. Sometimes they can be won over- but not always. (And if they are, it sets the precedent that you will continue to tolerate that from them- lowering the level of respect and dignity they will give you from that point forward.) Therefore what is to gain? The money? The overall effect of that on your company (morale, employees, reputation, etc.) will cost you more than the money you make from the customer.

    Do the customer a favor and don’t give them a reason to be more abusive and unreasonable- let them go.

  264. I would like to state one thing in this wallowing of employee pity. If as an airline or callcentre employee you constantly put regular people in difficult situations, then yes, you deserve grief. I am sorry, but that is the truth.

  265. After reading all the comments and the main summary i have concluded that: 100% of the time we are all employees and that about 30% of the time on the clock we spend being customers. When we weight the idea of the customer always being right, we should consider dealing with this unruly customers ourselves. After you confront the idea of dealing with a person that strips you downright of your fourth amendments rights and only then should you consider to have an opinion as you will speak from experience. Let me give you a scenario: You are a customer service reprenstative working for a cable,tv, phone monster company that deals with customers nationaly. At the moment of you taking the responsability of this job you sign over to all your rights and you get this call, as follows: the customer starts screaming to you incenssantly about their many calls to your company they offend you and your mom becuse let me remind you that your mom has nothing to with their problem but the customer is not above making stupid comments.Afterwards the customer starts insulting you directly as an individual and blamind you for all the wrongs in their lifes and their car payments.and then it gets better because he is the customer and he pays a measly 200 dollars for your service he decides that you should waive this months entire bill because you have caused so many grivences to him and YOU personally are at fault. After letting this stupid customer know that you cant waive his entire bill he belittles you and asks to speak to your supervisor. When your supervisor gets done with this customer you end up with a written warning of not complaying with customers request eventhough you dont have the ability to waive this customers entire bill and neither does your supervisor you end up getting burned for this stupid customers attitude. At the end the customer did not get their issue resolved because they were difficult to deal with. The Supervisor was unable to issue a 200$ dollar credit. Finally you get a wrongful writeup that will speak badly of you for the rest of your employment in that hell house. Now lets stop and think about this: Did this line of wrongs make a right? Would you under this circumstances as the employee still stand up for every customer with a bad attitude? And would you love to be penalized for everyones wrong when all you did was have a bad encounter with the crazy bipolar bitch from Witchdisease,New Eva? The honest to god answer is you wouldnt last as a minute dealing with a customer like this. Nevertheless if you are one of those customers making unbeliable claims and harrasing and abusing and bullying employees you are under the constitution committing several crimes which if you did any of those items to a non employee you would be sued. BOTTOM LINE IS: A CUSTOMER REPRESENTATIVE IS A HUMAN TOO! DO NOT EVER FORGET THAT IN YOU SHORT LIFES! This person could be your sister, your mother, your brother,your father, and it could be you. So think twice ALWAYS about being rude to the person on the front desk because he/she COULD BE YOU. You must finally understand the damages that a phsyocotic customer inflicts onto a customer representative: To the least some physcological damage, stress of all sorts,low self-confidece, and possible feelings of resentfullness..I dont think those are the traits that should be glad to see in yourselves or your children.

  266. I couldn’t agree more with this article, or many of the previous comments. Customers are not always right, and by adopting this policy, a company is only hurting itself.
    My employer (a large grocery chain) spouts this motto left and right. Indeed, a customer could b*tch and whine because you twitched your nose the wrong way, and end up getting a $20 gift card as compensation while the employee gets written up.
    Needless to say, this makes the employees feel undervalued. Undervalued employees don’t care about their jobs. It’s really such a stupidly simple concept, yet so many companies don’t understand. We are paid close to minimum wage, and have to all but sell our souls in order to earn that. We get berated and belittled by complete strangers and are forced to endure it and keep our frustration bottled up inside, which is actually very unhealthy. And we are expected to care about our jobs, or our employer and their profits?
    Customers think that just because they are trading currency for goods and services, they are entitled to act like complete jackasses, and companies do nothing but reinforce this thinking. Customer service is indeed dead. All it is nowadays is coming in, punching the clock, getting force-fed a bunch of crap about how the customer is equivalent to God and we are not even worthy of wiping a customer’s rear end because they chose to come to OUR store to buy their freaking milk and eggs, and going home with our $100 a week paycheck.
    The icing on the cake is that they (the employer) expect us to shop in their stores. Like hell I will. I can say that for all their preaching about how almighty the customer is and how we can’t afford to lose a single one, they have actually lost one of the most valuable customers there are – someone who has to be there every day anyway and who might as well shop there. On the contrary though, I refuse to give this company any of my money.

  267. Our new director now has his newest flavor-of-the (FOTM) month spying on me. She’s came up behind me a few times when I’m on the computer and cranes her neck to see what I’m doing. All she’s seen is spreadsheets and business related databases since I do not screw around at work but this is really ticking me off. FOTM has been a manager since August, I’ve been a manager for 25 years, my reviews have been excellent and I resent the implication that I’m a slacker since I generate good will in my community, give excellent service and have an excellent reputation in my field. The director has shown active hostility toward my fellow fossils–three of us in the office who have been there almost as long as me–and wants a hip organization. FOTM and the director are always in closed door meetings, going out to lunch and attending conferences together. FOTM is a sly lass who has already canned a subordinate after FOTM went dumpster diving in the company trash and found an unfiled invoice. I now feel like I’m in hell here but realize that the director is ambitious and won’t be here long and FOTM will reap what she sows. In the meantime, any suggestions of how I can control myself enough not to wack FOTM in the eye. Anyone?

  268. FOTM is sleeping with the “boss” >> Easy to burn both of them if you ask me. Get a little imaginative, and come up with some good blackmail material, they’ll fall right into line after that.

    If you think this kinda stuff only happens in the movies, you’d be 100% wrong, and from what you wrote, I can almost gurantee they have “something” going on. Maybe they’re both a little too ambitious?! Whatever the case, bust them with some hidden cam or something, send them both a discrete email from an anonymous email account with a clip of the video, and tell them both too cool it on EVERYONE (so they don’t know who sent it), or the video just may end up in their superiors hands, or better yet, on youtube!

    That may work… Actually, it will!

  269. This article is such a breath of fresh air and poignant in regards to my current work environment. I work in property management, and often have to endure the onslaught of abuse from unreasonable, rude, and demanding tenants. Yesterday, due to a complaint about my customer service, I had to sit in on this meeting with the disgruntled tenant and my supervisor. The tenant was given the podium and proceeded to personally attack me, make up lies about the way in which I spoke to her, and attributed my “attitude and disrespect” to me “being an arrogant young person who must be on her period.” I had to emotionally restrain myself throughout the meeting while my supervisor made me sit in the dunce chair, unable to comment on the situation. My supervisor essentially enabled that woman’s false sense of entitlement and awful behavior. Needless to say, I’m shopping for a better job! If If I knew that constant customer absue was a part of this job when I applied, I would have at least asked for health insurance!

  270. Haha, I wrote a similar article today. The trends I witnessed as a customer service manager spoke for themselves – the customer who believes they are always right, will milk you for everything you are worth. On my last day with a big multi-national company an agent asked me to take a complaint call. The customer called her stupid because she didn’t immediately resolve her problem. The business was IT related, incidentally. So I took the call and the first thing I asked was, “What are your qualifications in IT?” The customer replied, “I don’t have any.” So I went on to chew them out for about ten minutes, asking them what qualified them to make such a brash statement, considering they had no formal IT qualifications. Needless to say the customer was stunned into silence – oh, and the agent was very appreciative of the support.

  271. Two gentlemen came to the restaurant under the influence of alcohol, they ordered a lot of food and had it. When they were to settle the bill they did not have money to pay. One of the gentlemen gave the credit card that unfortunately declined. He started arguing with the manager and said that their credit card machine is not working properly and that there should be no reason why his credit card should decline. Both of them did not have money to settle the bill. Keeping them in view of guests was not a good idea as they were creating a scene at peak business hour – dinner time.

    What would you do if you were the Manager with this situation to handle?

  272. @yogesh

    1) Call the police to have the two non-paying gentlemen arrested. They are not customers. Customers pay for what they get.

    2) While the police are hand-cuffing the two non-paying gentlemen, announce to the rest of the diners, “Our apologies for the disturbance, folks, somebody thought our food was so good they had to steal it.”

    Everybody repeat after me: People who steal are not customers.

    It’s time we start remembering that.

  273. one of the first things that i was taught in customer service is to never be afraid to “fire” a customer. i work in the bar and restaurant business and you get a lot of customers who try and take advantage of you and take up too much time, which is better served helping others.

  274. For all those above who think that 1st amendment rights of freedom of speech trump FAA rules, you are mistaken. “Freedom of speech” does not mean “freedom from responsibility.” Just as one would be held accountable for the injuries and deaths associated with yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, the man and son with the hate speech on their clothing must take responsibility for their actions (of discomforting other passengers, not following the wishes of the flight attendant, etc.) The results of shouting “fire” in the movie house may end up being imprisonment. The father and son were lucky the results of their actions were only being ejected from a plane; they could have had the crap beaten out of them by fellow passengers. In other words, you are free to call Mike Tyson a “stupid ugly moron” to his face, but expect the consequences of a major pummeling in return.

    Companies have a right to refuse business to anyone (even if it is detrimental to business). The point of this article is companies *should* refuse to do business with customers that are unprofitable.

  275. Isnt it funny. 6 years after this was wrote look at our economic landscape (at least in the US) We have consistent chronic unemployment, most of our tech service jobs have been sold to India, Philippines or who knows where. and why?

    Aside from the fact that corporate CEOs were looking for a cheaper place to conduct business, they also know that “The customer is always right” is not an axiom that those people are familiar with. Look at every single difficult conversation you have been forced to endure with someone from Bangalore or Manilla. Its not that you do not understand their “English is my 4th language” accents that create the language barrier. Its a language barrier of ideologies. These people have absolutely no qualms with telling you NO, your wrong. Compare that to someone native to the US or even canada for that matter. You express even an unreasonable concern, and the Western world CSR will try to figure out how to obtain a happy medium for what the customer wants and what is in corporate best interests.

    So, On the notion of “the customer is NOT always right” is infinitely worse than the notion of the customer is always right. Because with the Customer is always right you get a happier customer who will be more willing to part with their money, which will make the corporation happy, plus you get to give those unhappy employees who do not want to deal with customers the opportunity for jobs. If your not able to tolerate dealing with irrational and irate customers, you know what? its not the right job for you. Find another one, Dont give the corporation the justification it needs to ship the job elsewhere and screw over someone else who might have had better interpersonal skills to be able to handle the job.

  276. I believe in many things this article has brought up. Managers at my place tell us on the frontline to say no to unreasonable customers all the time, but when they ask to speak to a manager they come down and cave in straight away, then they’re there looking like the hero and we’re the bad guys. There’s one manager however who always sticks up for us, and we all pray he’ll be the one to come down to help. It shouldn’t be this way, it’s like the rude customers always get what they want and the nice ones have to put up with us being grumpy because the rude customers brought us down! Check out my wordpress for more angry ramblings!

  277. Pingback: | Barry's Post
  278. Any item that has a 6 year life must be worth reading. I recently sacked a quite large account – trade customer. Obnoxious, everything was our fault and a lsow payer. I’m not saying we’re perfect, we get things wrong too, but this guy, after three years, just tipped me over the edge. When I told teh staff w eno longer dealt with him, that I ad “sacked” him, the staff were so-o-o-o much happier and worked better. The Customer is NOT always right. Some customers you really do want to suggest they buy from your competitor.

  279. Unfortunately this story only works with an industry where the customer has no choice but to use you, such as an airline. However, if its an industry where there’s a lot of alternative rival providers, such as restaurants, cafes, hotels, supermarkets and bars, the customer will walk and quite easily give their money to someone else. Your reputation will suffer from word of mouth, so one customer you upset can loose many other potential customers.
    Also, there seems a lot of employees on here who want paying for nothing. If you want money, there are things you have to put up with in return. Remember, you don’t have to work there, just like the customer doesn’t have to spend their money there.

  280. Customers are like cockroaches. Step on one and you still have thousands more to take it’s place. Never ever ever placate an unreasonable or rude customer. If they do not know how to be polite and well mannered then you don’t need them. Some people will always complain no matter how good the service or product is just to get a discount or simply give you grief because they are having a bad day. Cut these kind of people off immediately and don’t lose sleep over it as you are saving yourself hassle and giving it to your competitor. Some people think the world should move and rotate just for them and they should learn that this is not the case. In fact their parents should have taught them as children that you don’t always get what you want in this world. Take no shit from anyone.

  281. The term, “the customer is always right” is ONLY a slogan, which dates back to 1908 – by Feilds Department store in Chicago. It is not LAW, or a proper business model. Why do people think otherwise?

  282. In the business tier the most important to keep happy are your customers and your employees. If your employees are not happy, then your customers are not happy. You want your employees to keep your present customers happy.

    The best customer service you can provide your customers is to make them feel like your employees are bending over backwards for them. Meanwhile your employees are following the processes set forth for them by the company they work for. If the customer wants something the company is unable to provide the employee explains that what the customer wants is not provided. Then if the customer is that unhappy you give them a refund. If the pillow is lumpy or dirty that an airline stewardess gives them, it is up to the stewardesses to bend over backwards to get another pillow. If the customer wants a pillow that is made of mink and the airline does not provide that, the employee must tell the customer that the mink pillow is not available. This is in the simplest terms how the customer is always right works.

    If the company does not treat their employees well, your customers won’t get the best of service. In any of stories above, if a manager has to come and help an employee with a customer who is unruly because they don’t like the answers the employee is giving (who is following company policy), you would expect the manager to give the same exact answers as the employee gave or give a refund.

    The customer is always right works in the context of company policy.

  283. ‘Also, it means that abusive people get better treatment and conditions than nice people.’ Exactly. I think this is why we need to put an end to the “customer is always right” collectively because for many Americans it has turned into a normal practice for savings-shopping. Rarely do I believe these are actually super angry and beside-themselves over something petty or imaginary customers, but instead individuals who see themselves in the same light as “coupon clippers” who know if they throw a tantrum they can get “secret savings” (money % off) or “free stuff.” So housewives put on their best scowl face, make a huge overacted dramatic performance, than leave actually proud of themselves for what they did & how they treated strangers because they did skillful money saving tactics for their family. Horrible.

    ….One time I was checking into my annual condo at the front desk and a couple who booked one of the non-smoking motel rooms on the propriety was raising hell because they wanted to smoke inside the motel room. The clerk kept trying to say “You can smoke right outside the balcony door” which they kept insisting wasn’t good enough, and when the desk clerk than offered them the refund — they again refused. And kept saying that wasn’t good enough either, because they were “so upset” that they couldn’t smoke inside the motel room they wanted the refund for the motel at the condo than for the condo company to PAY for a new motel room stay somewhere else of their choice or they would get “the lawyer they have on retainer” involved. (Repeatedly dropped the fact they had a “lawyer” over and over) Clearly they were trying to scam the condo company since the beginning. The only reason why I had heard this whole con was because the tantruming couple kept pulling the desk clerk’s attention away from me who was being polite & patient to him so I had to wait extra long just to check in because of these scumbag customers who thought if they made enough threats and acted “angry enough” the condo company would comply to any unreasonable request they had planned out to screw the company. It makes you afraid of starting your own small business because these types of performance-anger unreasonable customers are similar to mobsters trying to get protection money/security tax with coning and bullying businesses for ill gotten gain. We cannot tolerate a society that is functioning like this.

  284. Bruce Barr, actually, if you read our legal system…one cannot use their rights to over power and/or disrupt other people’s rights and responsiblities. If your right is preventing the crew from safely and calmly getting people to where they need to be, then what you are doing becomes illegal and a disruption.

  285. Wow In my own experience Women mostly are so jealous of other women.
    I seen this time and time again in Customer Service!

    When the upper management only sticks up for their own, makes me feel like they don’t want any customers.
    Employers are always talking bad about customers ALWAYS! If that’s the case get a new job!
    Just remember your a customer too :D

    The golden rule do unto others as you want done unto you !! Good advise to live by!

  286. I have worked for education agency, online company, hotels, FMCG distributor, … and I understand that the sentence “the customer is always right” is in general, if you do business, you’ll see a Pareto principle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle) and that sentence is valued to satisfy the group of 20% clients in “80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients”.

  287. My god this is so well written. Argumentation and evidence is clear, and I can relate. I am done with my last job because I would be treated like I am less than human and there was nothing that I could do about it because where I worked, the customer was always right. It is so true that employees will be less motivated and will leave when they get the opportunity. My life is too short for me to be dehumanized and put up with it. Why should I?

  288. Absolutely right! I am 100% agreed. I can even relate this. ‘Customer is always right’ policy of the company leads to demotivate the employees eventually. And this is exactly why I left my previous job. When I’d try to convince customers with much better and efficient solutions, the boss would interfere me. He’d try to prove that I suck. Then, I thought I’m better off without this job. As I knew it’s not me who really suck, but the customers (sometimes) and the boss, I quit! Anyway, thanks for this post!

  289. Well, I’m just biding my time.

    If the customer is always right, then I’m going in to Wal-Mart, claiming that gravity is just a hoax, then suing their pants off when I’m not floating in mid-air.

    No, the customer is NOT always right – not when they are being jerks or just don’t understand what they are asking for. It’s a good thing to strive for, but I always felt that “good customer service” implies “good customers.” Bad customers deserve bad service.

  290. Trying making a successful business where you don’t care what customers say about you. Chances are most of your customers won’t be returning, see what that does for your business.

  291. QUOTE “john Said,
    November 16, 2013 @ 5:25 am
    Trying making a successful business where you don’t care what customers say about you. Chances are most of your customers won’t be returning, see what that does for your business.”

    Why the straw man argument John? Why put words into the mouth of the author? The author never said that a business should not care about what the customer says, or that the customer is always wrong. They are simply denying the claim that the customer is always right. In other words, the customer CAN be wrong but is NOT ALWAYS wrong. The author also clearly calls for balance between the customers and the employees.

  292. John , I think that you have mistaken the point ,
    I worked over 35 years in the Hospitality industry , the industry in which the Customer is always right , guess what in all these years I never experienced bankruptcy , slow down , this for one single reason early on I learn to make the distinction between Customers and suckers , to illustrate my point I recall in a very fine restaurant in Los Angeles during lunch time one Customer requested a Mc Donald from down the street just to prove He could get what He wanted , I said yes , get a hamburger and fries lot’s of ketchup , take a taxi get the bill , in between the cab the 99cents burger , the labor which short changed the other customers we handed the Customer a $40 bill , he turned red and we broke it down for Him , He paid , every single Customer in the dining room laughed , we never saw the light of Him again , I seriously doubt He went around bragging that he paid $ 40 for a 99 cents burger , did the business slow down , not at all to the contrary . Toxic Customer poison your other Customers .

  293. I agree I was fired 6 hours ago over a customer that complained and before i could say two words to fix the issue she goes off on me and I refused to take that treatment. She wasn’t even a customer she complained so much she was always getting free orders. These corporate restaurants think they are making money by letting customers talk to employees any way they want to and their not. They set a mindset of oh I complain and act crazy I get free product. I’ve seen customers spend $10 and get $20 of free product on their next visit! The company loses $10 every time the customer comes!!!

  294. I think the saying “The customer is always right” is often taken to litterally. It’s meant to really mean “satisfy your customers when possible”, not “the customer is right to do anything he wants and get his way”, but many people often mistake it for the later. Rude customers often drag the morale down for the good customers, and your employees at the same time. So, well, that leaves the good ones disassitisfied, it’s better to just make the executive decision and tell the bad ones no and make it clear to them that they are making it bad for everyone at the place.

  295. I’m going to guess a lot of the people who posted are here for the same reason I am. You recently experienced unfair treatment at work that once again reminded you how insanely stupid “the customer is always right” is. It’s one of those statements of extremist philosophy that you know is complete bullshit. Like “nothing is impossible” or “any change is good change” or “if you’re not with us then you’re against us”. You probably came here after searching the internet for other people who agreed with you, so that you don’t feel so alone. The bad news is that your problem is not uncommon. Its a deep-rooted cultural failing that people just accept because others have told them to just get over it. The good news is that not everyone is as retarded as your employers. There are plenty of people just like you who have been yelled at, ignored, or even fired because their bosses unquestioningly took the word of a customer complaint over you. You are not alone, and you are totally justified to feel like you’ve been wronged. Anyone who’s ever been called into the office for a misunderstanding or something they didn’t do wrong, and the manager had no real interest in listening to the employee’s side of the story, knows how infuriating, depressing, and hopeless that feels. You might make every attempt to explain why you’re not wrong and why your accuser is wrong, but it falls on deaf ears. Your boss has already decided guilt and you are only there as a formality so that you can be yelled at. Logic and reason mean nothing to him/her, only the irrational feelings of the latest squeaky wheel that comfortably remains anonymous.

    Its a huge problem in this country because with the low availability of jobs, especially jobs that you’re qualified for, employers are abusing this as an opportunity to pick and choose who they want. Statements like “if you don’t like it, there’s the door”, “you’re lucky to even have a job”, “I should fire all of you and hire all new people”, or “there’s plenty of other applicants just waiting for your job” are all blatantly unsympathetic and disrespectful. I’ve been told several times that I should really think about whether or not customer service is right for me and if I would be happier in another career. This is either total naivety about the pitiful lack of available jobs and the fact that some jobs are just jobs, not careers, or its an attempt to get rid of me without the messy hassle of firing me. Because what loser has ever dreamed and aspired to be a janitor, caddy, grocery clerk, video clerk, busboy, dishwasher, foodservice cashier, whatever. They are just jobs people take to get money, not careers that they’re necessarily enthusiastic about, and yet employers expect you to show passion and enthusiasm for your job. Employers have gotten a taste of power and don’t ever want to give it back. For them, high unemployment in America is a good thing, and if given the chance would do everything they could to keep it this way forever. It’s an ancient toxic attitude to place your own material wealth over the welfare of other people, and then do everything to keep that wealth to yourself. Equally toxic and stupid is the notion that anyone in power deserves to be where they are. We all know for a fact that there’s plenty of retards and assholes in positions of power. Even if managers will never share in the biggest piece of the pie, they’ve been indoctrinated into believing that this is the only way, and that its in their best interest to continue the corrupt system. Why be one of the cattle when you can be one of the master’s pets. And as the master’s pets, these uncaring lackey managers bark the same bullshit as their masters. We’ve probably all encountered these loathsome people at some point in our lives. Human garbage who seek to climb the corporate ladder by stepping on every one of their colleagues that they can, and kiss every ass they can find. Not every manager is like this though, it just seems like they’re everywhere. I’ve had plenty of good managers that behaved with fairness and competence.

    But bad managers are only half the problem, the other half is bad customers/clients. There’s also a pervasive toxic attitude of customer entitlement in this county. Its the attitude that customers should get whatever/however they want just because they’re paying for something. I’ll have a cheeseburger, along with a side of your dignity and self-esteem, and while we’re at it, listen to my bullshit. A lot of people seem be believe that their dollar gives them the right to treat workers like shit. One reason parents might tell their kids to get a job “because it builds character” is because it usually exposes you to the harsh reality that douchy superiors and entitled customers exist. As you suffer alongside your fellow employees who have to put up with the same bullshit, you’re suppose to develop of sense of comradery and a deep appreciation that the people serving you in daily life are just like you. The barista, mailman, garbage man, bus driver, plumber, store clerk are fellow human beings that deserve your respect as human beings. Unfortunately not everyone gets this important life lesson, and turn into the douchy managers and entitled customers. Customers continue to demand lower prices for their goods and services. The bad customers are appalled when they see workers trying to get fair pay and treatment, because it threatens the customer’s low prices. This kind of selfishness displays a total lack of sympathy for anyone that’s not you. Bad customers also are fully ready to bitch about everything when they don’t get their way. They know that “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” and make sure that they are the squeakiest wheel. Their sense of entitlement makes them believe only their opinion matters. And bad managers are all too ready to kiss their ass. Some bad customers know how the system works and deliberately try to get workers they don’t like in trouble. And of course guess who the bad managers believe.

    This kind of unjust favoritism leaves workers feeling completely unappreciated and ignored. It makes them think that there’s no point to even try so they only put in minimal effort at best. At worst they’ll seek ways to spite their employers by stealing or sabotaging the business. At very worst this leads to workplace violence or even murder. This is a modern form of indentured servitude that many people don’t see as a problem. It is blatant disrespect for other people that has been made into corporate policy. An average indoctrinated person will tell you to be a man, get over it, shit happens, life sucks then you die. People who feel defeated try to justify their own pain by convincing themselves that it’s never going to change for the better, and feel the need to put others down who are trying to correct that corruption. This whole issue could be solved with more simple empathy and compassion. But the simplest answers are usually the hardest to implement.

  296. I absolutely love this article because it really defines my experiences in
    ”Customer Service” which was primarily as a Cashier @ two different gas stations, but there was also one @ a dollar store. Either way you are taught to put up with every insult imaginable while at the same time placate an ADULT who chooses to lay out all their drama in public on account that you didn’t ring up everyone in line fast enough or carry their certain product or they read the ‘Sales’ sign wrongly & refuse to pay for an ‘item’ that they think should be on sale simply on account that they WANT it!……People have allowed polite manners to erode on account of ‘being right’ all the time; which is why this article make the most sense & I hope many people really listen to it across the country….We HONESTLY NEED respect for BOTH the Customer & the Employee, but like the article said the EMPLOYEE comes first.

  297. I think it’s funny when people say the customer is always right. I see a customer service rep trying as hard as they can and getting nowhere, the whole time sweating because she is expected to make this joker happy. I feel bad and hope management comes out to same them. I am sure a little help from management will would work wanders for moral.

  298. Sometimes the customer is right, even when they are wrong. By that, I mean, you need to look at it from their point of view. What is driving them to ignore logic? Could be something personal or, more likely, they are misunderstanding how they thought you were going to help them.

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