Always right? Sometimes, the customer is wrong, rude or just plain dumb


As anyone who has ever worked in customer service of any sort (food service, retail, call centers) knows, the person who coined the phrase "the customer is always right" probably never had to work directly with customers. And I think EVERYBODY should have to do a stint in their lives.

So, when I got an email this morning touting a new book about customer service which seems to suggest that better customers lead to better customer service, I thought "hallelujah."

In my former side gig, I can tell you, customers could run me ragged but if they were pleasant to deal with, it was a pleasure to deal. To give you an idea, the bookstore was one of the top 5 or so in the country. At Christmas time, we could do as much as $100,000 a day in sales, which is about as much as could physically be stuffed through 10 registers ringing non-stop. All while standing on our feet for retail pay.

Too bad it only takes one customer to darken your day. So, here's just a few of the customers I remember.

The woman who woke one day and decided she absolutely had to have one specific DVD, out of the millions of items she could have purchased that day. She bascially wanted me to call every damn Borders in northern New England to find a copy. The entire time, she yapped on her cell phone. When my manager finally intervened, and I told the woman I couldn't help her, she said "Oh, my friend just found me a copy in Boston."

The woman who couldn't find the title she wanted who, as I cut through the travel section to get to the education section (frighteningly, she was a teacher) to help her find it, snapped at me and said "well it isn't in travel." 

"I realize that. MA'AM."  And she bitched the entire time that we weren't a Barnes & Noble.

Another woman, also an educator, who spent the entire time I tried to help her, tell me how much better B&N is.

"Ma'am, you don't have to shop here."

The teenager who regularly special-ordered about 30 graphic novels (avg. cost: $20) and left them sprawled all over the floor in the reading section. Didn't buy any. Didn't pick em up. The worst part? Her mother was with her.

And let's not forget the folks who are just plain dumb.

The homeless couple who would camp out in the reading chairs all day long and leave their garbage from Friendly's ice cream. I am not a waitress. This same woman once told me she wanted to move west and asked which states were west of where we were. Which is Maine. "Uh, all of them?"

She also had a tendency to vomit into our trash cans.

The folks who to want to know why I don't know what Barnes & Noble has in stock or what their number is (we don't even have one in the area!)

I know I have talked to HME providers about folks price checking right there in the store, or taking up your time learning how to use the equipment. I feel your pain.

I also imagine, at an HME store, your employees deal with a lot of entitlement mentality. Hopefully, you do what you can to accommodate the difficult while not allowing them to abuse your employees, out of fear of losing business. 

Cause the other thing I remember, in every job I have ever had, is the bosses who stepped in and made it clear, that the customer, was indeed, wrong.

Theresa Flaherty