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How to Do Right When You Think the Customer Is Wrong

by Tom Ruwitch

Remember the old adage, “The customer is always right?”

The guy who “served” me at the bagel shop forgot.

I ordered a bagel with lox. That ordinarily comes with capers, onions, and a slice of tomato. I didn’t want any of that.

“Just cream cheese and lox,” I said. “None of that other stuff, please.”

Five minutes later, he called my name and handed me a bagel with cream cheese and lox and…

...all that other stuff.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I ordered this without capers and onions and…”

“No you didn’t,” he snapped.

I was shocked.

“Ummm…” I mumbled, “I think I did.”

“No you didn’t,” he repeated.

“I said, ‘Just cream cheese and lox.’ That means no capers, onions or tomatoes,” I explained as he yanked the bagel with other stuff from my hand.
He turned his back and muttered, “Then you should have said, ‘No capers, onions or tomatoes.’”

Wow!

I paused then said, “I specifically remember saying, ‘None…’”

(I was going to say, “None of that other stuff…”)

But he cut me off. “OK, sir,” he said, in that same tone that millennials use when saying, “OK, Boomer.”

Now I was mad, but I kept my cool.

“You don’t have to be rude,” I said.

“I’m not being rude,” he snapped.

That’s when his manager finally intervened. “Just make his food,” the manager said. He didn’t say anything to me. No apology. No nothing.

The bagel store lost a customer.

Here’s the thing about that old adage: It’s not true. Customers are often wrong.
But that doesn’t mean you should argue with them, snap at them, treat them rudely and give them the “OK, Boomer” treatment.

Often, the customer who is wrong has caused little or no harm. I fell into that category at the bagel store. I wasn’t combative. Re-doing the order was no big thing. Deal with it, bagel guy, and move on.

Sometimes, the customer who is wrong shouldn’t be tolerated. I’ve parted ways -- politely -- with customers who were rude (emotionally abusive) to me or my employees. But I’ve done it without stooping to their level.

“I don’t think we’re a good fit for working together,” I’ve said.

I’ve stood my ground when a customer in the wrong has demanded something that would be too costly for my business.

But when I’ve done so, I’ve explained my position, respectfully and politely.

You don’t have to believe or pretend the customer is always right.

But if you want to keep a customer, don’t rudely say, “You’re wrong!”

Tom Ruwitch is the president and founder of MarketVolt, an interactive marketing firm. For more business-building marketing resources by Tom Ruwitch, go to MarketVolt.com/resources.


Submitted 260 days ago
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