The customer is not always right

My good friend and former Duke roommate Jamie Smarr recently had an awesome guest column in the New York Times (yes, I am damn impressed) about customer’s who abuse the “customer is always right” notion.  Here’s the great concluding anecdote:

There is but one automatic carwash in East Harlem. Yes, it’s true that what they charge is highway robbery, as my grandmother used to say. It’s hardly worth $18 to splash water, soap and wax on a car for two minutes and then wipe it off, but this does not give the guy in front of me license to make up outrageous claims. You didn’t see any wax being splashed on your car while it went through the tunnel, and so you shouldn’t pay? Surely you jest! Dummy, the wax isn’t discrete from all the other goopy stuff raining down on your vehicle. Why don’t you just go ahead and throw in a specious damage claim while you’re at it?

Much to my enjoyment, the manager does not back down. He does not give in to threats and bullying. He demands the guy pay or he’ll call the cops. Yes! This manager is my new friend. We high-five it out. I’m now his customer for life.

As the husband of the sole proprietor of a small business, I can definitely relate to obnoxious customers who think they are entitled to anything.  I think it is safe to say that such customers cause Kim more angst than anything else about her business.  Kim gives into them far too much for my tastes (though far from always), but that’s easy for me to say when I’m not worried about running a business.  I don’t know whoever is responsible for the ridiculous “the customer is always right” mantra, but they sure are responsible for a lot of evil in the world.  It’s amazing the number of people who just truly believe that because they are the customer they are right.  Period.  Anyway, I loved Jamie’s pushback, give it a read.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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