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Writer's Block: Tales from the Registers
[Misc] Flowers
Whether you call it Black Friday or Buy Nothing Day, today is going to be a long day for those who work in retail. The customer might always be right in the store, but here on LJ let's hear some stories about times when the customer was wrongedy wrong wrong.

(I haven't worked in retail, so I can't give any examples, but I can give my overall philosophy from a customer's point of view.)
I think most people know that I lose patience when sales people and customer service reps don't do their jobs.

I don't know the origin of this, but I think it's probably done more harm than good for retail, both from the customer's perspective and the retailer's perspective.

To some extent, I get it. Even if a customer is dead wrong and a store employee corrects them on their misconception, that customer is probably going to walk out angry at least half the time and the store is going to lose their business for the foreseeable future, if not permanently. So, while the rule should be "Don't argue with the customer, don't directly contradict the customer, and always treat the customer with respect," I can see how it got boiled down to "The customer is always right."

It's gone way to far, though. First, regardless of the economy, good employees are always hard to find. You may have ten applicants for the cashier's job, but how many of them are honest, reliable, and have good enough people skills that customers will leave the store feeling very good about the experience? Probably not all ten. Add to that the fact that most of them will have to be trained and a store has a huge interest in keeping good employees. So, any business's goal should be to find and train the best people possible and then stand behind them when there's a problem. I'm not saying that management should always take the side of the employee, regardless of evidence, but they also shouldn't automatically take the side of an obviously out-of-control customer against a good employee. It's bad for employee morale and trust me, as a customer, I can generally tell by the employees behavior whether they think they have a good job or not. It affects how they interact with each other and customers and it definitely impacts my experience with the store or restaurant.

Also, you have to ask whether the customer is worth keeping. If the behavior is clearly out of order, is that someone you want in your establishment? I once heard a story where a customer thought her pizza came out too slowly and actually threw it at the server, along with some abusive language. Nothing was done, because "The customer is always right," but I think that the customer should have been asked to leave and the police notified. If I were the server and the management didn't stand behind me in a case like that, you can bet I'd be looking for a new job as soon as possible.

Finally, while you're pandering to the wrong-customer-who-is-always-right, you may be losing other, good customers. For instance, when a customer takes 30 items through an express line and causes ten customers to leave the store and find a new place to shop. Or when you can't help a customer who is waiting to buy a big ticket item right away because you're dealing with some jerk who's nitpicking over something that's not only stupid but clearly explained in an advertisement or on the box.

Basically, I'm a loyal customer to stores and try to make as little trouble as possible. In turn, I expect to be treated fairly and with respect by employees. However, I also refuse to knowingly support a store that doesn't provide a good working environment for its employees. Subjecting them to unreasonable abuse under the mantra of "The customer is always right" definitely doesn't make a good environment.