The Customer is Sometimes Right

March 16, 2008

We have talked before (and I have taken some guff) about my belief that the customer is NOT always right. Customers are human.

They sometimes are wrong. I know. It seems crazy and counter to everything you have read about how to succeed in business. But it is the honest truth.  You cannot please everyone.  Some people cannot be pleased no matter how hard you try!

This sign is from a shop in Beijing, China.


Today I have found an article for you (read the excerpt below, then click over to read the rest) that backs up my belief.

The article shares stories from companies large and small who have realized that not every customer is right for their business.


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.

Read the rest here.


3 Responses to “The Customer is Sometimes Right”

  1. ruralmomof3 Says:

    Can I just say, “amen” and leave it at that?! My husband is self-employed, my parents are self-employed and I work for all of them. I have heard it all!!! A customer who wanted an estimate, was given an estimate that came in just a little low because of some complication no one was aware of. The guy not only refused to pay but claimed that the estimate he received was half the amount of the estimate my husband had wrote down?!!!! I just spent all day Saturday at an expo for my parents business and heard a few “I’ll never do business with you again” stories. One inparticular grabbed my attention. Guy says he brought his equipment in 4 times and it’s still not right. He describes the equipment to me and it’s a particular piece that not many customers have and my dad remembers repeats or do-overs. So, I tell dad about the guy. Dad remembers a guy who brought his equipment in twice, not 4 times and it appeared to be a manufacturing problem that would need to be taken care of by the manufacturer who were are not dealers for! The customer is not always right. The customer thinks they are! Some people are just grouchy and nasty for no particular reason and they chose our business to come into today. Thanks for letting me vent!!

  2. auntyherohag Says:

    I think it depends how much you’re paid.

    As an Ex-Mcdonald employee, I can say the customer was always right in thinking their burgers always looked like shit.

    But I made them with tender love and care. And my saliva any chance I got. But mostly tender love and care.

  3. Aura Mae Says:

    Venting is always allowed!
    For the record: There is no amount of money you can spend at a business that gives you the right to abuse the staff. (Unless the business is providing S&M services. :))

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