The Customer Is Not Always Right

“The Customer is always right.”

We’ve all heard this phrase.  Most of us have even had to keep our patience when following the practice.  For business owners, the phrase is key to expanded growth by bringing back repeat customers.  For the most part, it is easy to follow. A customer claims to have ordered a tea when you bring them their Coke and, despite the fact that you are an excellent server who never makes a mistake, you smile, apologize and bring them what they want (now).  This appears easy when you knew the person in charge of the company and didn’t want to cause them to lose money by ruining a guest’s experience by making them feel stupid, even though sometimes you would like nothing more, or ruin your perfect record by having a complaint lodged against you.  After the incident, your manager would laugh and let you know you did a good job and thank you for appeasing the customer despite how it made you feel.

Then came the era of Wal-Mart and other mega-businesses who took the phrase to a whole new global level.  With its insane profits, Wal-Mart could afford to appease you to no end.  Oh, you can buy this at a competitor for cheaper?  We’ll price match that, no questions asked.  You have a coupon from another store? Sure we’ll honor that so you don’t have to go anywhere else to do your shopping.  With over 11,000 stores in 27 countries, everywhere you go you have the same experience.  As consumers, we’ve been trained to expect this attitude now.  When we shop, we feel entitled to our consumer rights if we are going to spend our hard earned money.  The person ringing up our items is there to please us the same way our server should bring us our tea when we forgot we asked for a Coke.

Dr. Jason Bradford talks about the American consumer disconnect from reality.


The problem now is that our society has become so consumer driven that we are taking this practice out of the realms of mere customer service into our societal identity.  We’re not just customers at the store; we are an ‘American Consumer’  with our own Institute and Council and our rights will not be denied.  The girl taking our order is not a fellow citizen trying to put herself through school. The guy trying to explain the company’s return policy is not a father trying to support his children. They are your servants, bound by the code of “the customer is always right.”  Our inappropriate or outright rude behavior to them is being enforced.  If you are not appeased in whatever manner you deem fit, they suffer the consequences. But for whom?  A billion dollar corporation who doesn’t know they exist.

While certain rights and uniformity are essential to a fair and functioning market, we need to realize the impact of our actions onto our already fragile society. For example, while my brother is studying at the University of Texas in Arlington, he is currently working as a server at an upscale restaurant.  Part of their dining experience includes an employee making salads from a cart right at the table. Recently, a party of four well dressed African-Americans came in. The salad guy, a young Hispanic man of about 18 went to work. As soon as he approached the table, though, one of the women stated she “did not want this dirty [expletive] touching [her] food.”  The woman continued to be irate and derogatory, even going as far as storming to the kitchen and pounding on the door for attention.  What was the manager’s solution? He not only comped her meal, but the entire table she was with, to keep the peace and not have a complaint made. This is a pricey place so her ignorance and racism just awarded her a couple hundred dollars in free seafood.  I was outraged when I heard this. If this is what her attitude and offenses get her, why should she ever change?

Of course it seems easier to ignore issues and keep our heads down, but what does this accomplish?  What if our forefathers had ignored unjust rule? Where would we be?  Not the America I grew up loving.

Gregg Meiklejohn, a specialist in strategic marketing, gives a TedTalks lecture about decoupling society from consumerism and debt.


image copyright NY Times

Article by Rae Coder

Posted on July 9, 2014


One thought on “The Customer Is Not Always Right

  1. That is disgraceful and that woman should have been called on her callous and obnoxious behavior!!! No one should ever be treated that way!!! What that woman did is a hate crime and should have immediately been escorted to the door. She had a chip on her shoulder and there is way to much of that today. Companies are money hungry and it has gotten to the point of no control.


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