Everything in life has to do with making the right choices.
For example, my evening began with two simple choices.
Option #1 was to pick up some take-out food for my wife and me and enjoy a quiet Friday night inside watching a movie. A perfect way to end a fairly stressful week.
Option #2 was to take a detour 15 miles out of my way (which in Los Angeles is like an hour) to use a $50 gift card towards the purchase of $300 digital camera that I’ve been drooling over for months.
Little did I know at the time that if I decided to choose option #2, I would have to come face-to-face with TCIAR once again. Unlike option #1, that would be the absolute worst way to end a fairly stressful week.
What’s TCIAR, you’re wondering? Don’t worry, I’ll explain shortly—but I’m sure that you figured it out already.
Anyone who knows me personally knows that I love gadgets like a crack addict loves crack, so of course I chose option #2.
After battling L.A. traffic for a mere 30 minutes—which is actually pretty good—I arrived in the surprisingly wide-open parking lot of a very large and well-known department store. With my $50 gift card in hand, I sped inside the store with a single-minded precision usually reserved for drug-sniffing dogs that are on those late night cop shows.
After a fairly easy search, thankfully, my camera was in stock and in the color that I was looking for too. And if that wasn’t enough, as an added bonus, the price was even $40 less than what was advertised! Perfect.
Although I was feeling pretty good about my luck up until this point, what happened next was something that I could not have possibly prepared myself for.
The Face of The Customer is Always Right
As I walked up to the cash register ready to pay for my new toy, I couldn’t help but to notice a tall, thin, blonde-haired woman in a pinstriped business suit who looked mad as hell about something. Like “Looney-Tunes-cartoon-steam-coming-out-of-both ears” mad. The only reason why I couldn’t help but to notice this lady was because she practically knocked me over so that she could get into the checkout line before I did.
No big deal, I reasoned to myself. I’ll let this bootleg Suze Orman-lookin’ wannabe cut in front of me. Besides, she doesn’t even have anything in her cart. She’ll probably be done in a minute or two and then I can finally go home.
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s the second bad decision that I’ve made so far.
That’s when it happened. The lady locked eyes with the helpless, college-aged young man who was unfortunate enough to be working at this particular cash register. Then without warning, like a black mamba attacking a hamster, she struck.
Dude didn’t stand a chance.
Angry lady: “Hey asshole! [Side note #1: yes, that’s how she started the interaction] You’re telling me that you don’t have any more Xbox’s in this store? I can’t believe this bullshit! Do you realize that I drove all the way from Brentwood to get here? [Side note #2: Brentwood is not very far from this store]. My son’s birthday is tomorrow, damn it! You know what—get out of my face you fat piece of shit. Just get your manager out here before you have a real problem on your hands! What are you still standing here for doughboy? I said GO!”
Before I continue this story, in what universe is speaking to another human being in that manner okay? Seriously, pause for a moment. It’s not like she was being told that her son was removed from the waiting list for a new kidney, it’s about a freaking Xbox!
How would you react if someone spoke to you like that?
How you would you react if someone spoke to your wife, husband, son, or daughter like that?
So what do you think happened next? Here’s a quick test to see how much you really know about how these situations often get resolved in the real world. To make it interesting, I’ll give you five choices:
- The employee instantly recalled all of his best customer service training and had the screaming lady eating out of his hand in less than 5 minutes.
- The employee got his manager, who then told the screaming lady to immediately apologize to the employee—which she did.
- The employee called security who immediately escorted the screaming lady out of the store.
- The employee punched the screaming lady in the face.
- None of the above.
Made your choice? Don’t continue forward until you do. The answer might shock you.
(Disclaimer: If you’ve worked in customer service for longer than a week, the answer won’t shock you at all because you likely already know the answer. Humor me for a little bit, and keep reading).
Back to the story…
Visibly shaken, the cashier briefly looked like he was fighting back tears when he slowly lowered his head and shuffled pitifully to the customer service desk and feebly motioned for his manager to assist him.
Meanwhile, the screaming lady kept raving to anyone within earshot about how there was NO WAY that she was walking out of that store without her Xbox because there’s NO WAY that her son is going to miss out on anything, especially on his birthday.
Unfortunately for this woman’s son, he already missed out on having a sane mother to raise him, but that’s another story.
The Critical Mistake
Just at the moment, almost as if he was shot out of a circus cannon, the manager flew over to the woman and cheerfully said “good evening ma’am. I was told that you asked to speak to a manager. Is there anything that I can help you with?”
“Ugh, what took you so damn long? Look, I need a Xbox for my son’s birthday, and you’re going to get it for me now! Don’t you people understand that it’s your job to satisfy the customer? Don’t you understand that the customer is always right?? Shit, that is Customer Service 101, for crying out loud…”
Just to set the context here–the entire front of the store came to a complete standstill as this woman went crazy. Pretty much everyone who was in line to wait for a cashier (including me) stopped what they were doing and watched anxiously to see how the manager was going to handle this.
I almost lost myself in this interaction and felt like I was watching my favorite NFL team line up to kick the game winning field goal in the Super Bowl. But instead of saying “c’mon man, make it, pleeeeeeeeeeeease make it,” I was repeating silently to myself “c’mon man, do the right thing, pleeeeeeeeeeeease do the right thing…”
He didn’t. Wide left.
“Ma’am, unfortunately we are out of Xbox’s at this store, but I did call one of our nearby stores and they will have one waiting for you at the customer service desk. Does that work for you?”
What I thought was a more than reasonable response by the manager didn’t seem to fly at all with this woman.
“Shit! Now I have to drive to another damn store? This is ridiculous. My plans for tonight are going to be ruined! What are you going to do for me to make this right?! I’m expecting something for all of the bullshit that I’ve had to deal with from you and your clueless staff tonight.”
I couldn’t believe the nerve of this woman. Seriously?? Was she for real?
It was about to get much worse.
“I understand ma’am and I truly do apologize. You’re right, the customer is always right and we’re committed to doing whatever we can to keep you as a loyal customer.”
At this point, the manager lowered his voice before he leaned closer to the woman to deliver the worst line of the night, “Please accept this $50 gift card for your trouble, and again I’m sorry that you have to drive to another store for your Xbox.”
Wait. Wha-wha-whaaaaaaaaaat??? Since we’re on the topic of video games, I had a burning desire to rapid-fire kick this
manager gutless coward in the face repeatedly like Chun-Li.
Without as much as a “thank you” the screaming lady coldly snatched the $50 gift card out the manager’s hand and walked past the line of horrified customers who just witnessed her lose her mind over a video game system. A damn video game system. But before she left, she dropped one last gem of ignorance on those of us who watched everything unfold before our disbelieving eyes.
“See? There’s nothing more powerful than reminding these morons that the customer is always right,” she said with a self-satisfied smirk that killed a piece of my soul.
The Customer is Always Right is Alive and Well
We all know that it’s not smart to reward a tantrum with a child, so why are we so willing to do it with adults? This madness has to stop.
Let’s recap: a woman verbally abused a cashier over something that was completely out of his control, and instead of being held accountable for her inexcusable behavior, she is rewarded with:
- Her Xbox, after a short drive to another nearby store.
- A $50 gift card “for her trouble.”
- Worst of all, a reinforced validation that the customer is always right (TCIAR) is 100% alive and well.
On the multiple choice quiz above, the correct choice is #5 for None of the Above, but like I said earlier, you already knew that.
Meanwhile, I stood in line slack-jawed holding a camera that I really wanted, and a $50 gift card that my wife spent her hard-earned money to give to me as a birthday gift.
Who knew that my wife could have saved herself some time and money and received a $50 gift card immediately just by cursing out the nearest cashier? Who knows, maybe if I followed through with my idea to “Chun-Li kick” the manager in the face I might have been able to walk away with a brand new digital camera for free.
What is wrong with this picture?
Is there actually truth to “the nice guy finishes last?” Whatever happened to common courtesy and manners?
My night was completely ruined.
The Birth of a Movement
I turned to the guy behind me in line, extended my $50 gift card, and asked, “you want this?”
After looking me up and down to ensure that I wasn’t some weirdo (people in L.A. don’t just give $50 gift cards to complete strangers), he happily accepted his free money.
As I placed my unpurchased camera on the counter and slowly started to walk out of the store, the new proud owner of my $50 gift card asked, “Hey man, why are you giving up a $50 gift card? That’s free money bro!”
“You saw what I just saw, right?” motioning to the area where the incident between the screaming lady and the manager took place.
So??? Do I really need to break it down to this dude? It took ever fiber in my being not to shake this guy until his vertebrae rattled like a nickel in an empty soda can.
“I can’t financially support an organization that not only allows its employees to be abused by the customers, but actually encourages future abuse by rewarding the abusive behavior with gift cards. Didn’t watching that entire scene completely piss you off?”
For some inexplicable reason, I honestly thought that the man standing with me in line would also share the same disgust I did. I actually pictured us locking arms and marching through the store to begin the movement that would sweep the nation–the Death of the Customer is Always Right movement!
(Okay, I didn’t picture that because that would be stupid.)
But I did think that this guy would at least care enough about what he saw to support me in my disgust. Silly me.
“Yeah, but it happens everywhere. I work in a restaurant and I see it all the time. People can always pull out the Customer is Always Right card to get what they want—discounted food, free meals, you name it. There’s no sense in fighting it man, because there’s nothing you can do to stop it from happening. Just roll with it, it is what it is. But hey, thanks again for the gift card!”
Wow. Just roll with it? It is what it is? My WTF-meter was on the verge of exploding.
Score one for the “what’s-the-point-in-taking-a-shower? I’m-only-going-to-get-dirty-again” crowd. Why did I give this guy my gift card again?
Defeated, I walked back to my car thinking so many different thoughts. Honestly, I was pissed off because I really wanted my camera.
As I was about to drive out of the parking lot, I noticed the college-aged cashier who was the victim of the screaming lady’s attack sauntering pitifully to his beat up car. He paused at the door of his car with his head down before he wiped his hand over his eyes, opened the driver’s side door, and slumped down inside his car and sobbed.
It was then that something in me snapped.
My heart broke for this kid. All he’s trying to do is earn a living and he has to deal with getting stomped in public by a woman wielding The Customer is Always Right card. I honestly don’t know what’s worse—when a customer says that insane phrase and believes it’s true or when a company person says it and believes it’s true.
Either way, I pretty much decided at that point that someone needs to rid the world of this mindlessly idiotic phrase once and for all. Immediately after that thought left my mind, I decided that the someone needed to be me.
Maybe there will be a movement after all.
So, how am I going to rid the world of TCIAR, you may ask? The Customer is Always Right has survived for over 100 years and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.
As I said earlier, everything in life comes down to making the right choices, and I’ve made my decision. I’m going to do what any self-respecting person would do.
I’m going to kill it.
How? Click on the link to read Part 2 of The Customer is Always Right Must Die.