Dilemma of the Month: Is the Customer Really Always Right?

I own a retail business, and sometimes customers can be rude and inappropriate, but I’m worried about a recession, so the customer is always right. I can’t afford bad ratings on Yelp or whatever. But my HR manager says I can be held liable for what customers do. Is this true?


To read my answer click here: Dilemma of the Month: Is the Customer Really Always Right?

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7 thoughts on “Dilemma of the Month: Is the Customer Really Always Right?

  1. Around here, the principal is that the customer is always right – except when they’re wrong. Give them the benefit of the doubt if there is any, but if they’re wrong, they’re wrong, and that’s not to be tolerated.

    Your employees are more valuable to you than your customers, because your employees take care of your customers far, far more often than you do.

    As for losing a customer who is abusive to your employees, remember the old adage: “80% of your problems are caused by 20% of your customers. Get rid of that 20%, and your profits will double.” Some customers are literally a negative value to your store. (And if they tell all their friends and neighbors about it, their friends will either a) shop at your store *because* their neighbor hates you, and they know he’s a jerk, or b) not shop there because they take him seriously, which suggests they’re part of that 20%, too. Win/win.)

    1. Having worked in a coffee shop in another life, I can think of several obnoxious customers our boss decided we had to put up with that other, non-butthead, customers actively avoided. I think many business owners forget that the “80% of problems” isn’t just about making life unpleasant for your staff.

  2. There are other times when a customer is not always right. Think restaurant regulars who always happen to find something wrong with their food (how often are you comping these people with a free meal?) Or a client who brings all kinds of jobs to your firm….but pays their bill well past the due date? Or a retail customer who leaves the store in a shambles or buys a ton of stuff – only to return things that can’t be resold. These types of customers are not worth keeping if they cost you way more than you make by letting them be “right.”

  3. Excellent advice, finally an approach to positively deal with those clients/customers who are not really buying but finding ways to entertain themselves while creating havoc and verbal abuse of your business.

  4. So often business owners/managers are worried about losing customers, so they put up with bad behavior. But they don’t realize that other customers witness this, and many won’t be back if they are uncomfortable and feel that management doesn’t care. You are losing customers either way! Focus on keeping the good ones.

  5. Good advice. Throw age and disability in there too, as prohibited grounds for harassment. The WalMart greeters, supermarket baggers and other employees who may be over 40 years of age and/or individuals with disabilities also need to be protected from discriminatory abuse.

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