Monday, December 08, 2003

The customer so totally is NOT always right

In fact, the customer is wrong at least as often they are right.

And the customer is wrong one-hundred percent of the times that they bring that silly expression into the discussion. That should, in fact, be like comparing your debate opponent to Hitler, where it's widely considered the same as surrendering the argument by default.

In fact, I think comparing your debate opponent to Hitler is only wrong somewhere between ninety to ninety-five percent of the time.

And this is the reason.

"The customer is always right" was never intended to be taken literally. If you stop and fire up the old brain cells, you'd see why. I'll go ahead and help you, though.

If the customer was always right then everything would be free of charge, they'd be escorted around the store on rickshaws and the cute little baristas at the local coffee shops would serve quad Americanos off their naked bosoms and chocolate covered espresso beans off their bare behinds.


You know I am.

This way lies madness, and, sadly, this is the madness we're creeping our way willingly toward. Each company needing to outdo their competition in the "We give our rudest customers the deepest rim jobs" department, while we all become more and more impressed with the notion that we're entitled to the deepest rim jobs of all.

What happens at the end of this scenario? We all lose. We have an increasingly embittered and disenfranchised youth because the McDonald's job that taught his Uncle Jimmy how to work on a schedule and have some responsibility now teaches that he's part of a proxy slave class. Everyone comes to believe their escalatingly absurd demands are not only reasonable but entitlements and become increasingly dissatisfied with all customer service encounters.

For the record, the point of the expression is, or once was - and you've beaten me to it, haven't you? - that the customer should always be treated as if they were right. It just lacks the same motivational speaker style punch or salesman pizazz.

Unfortunately, it lacks the kind of explicit language most Americans apparently require in order to truly understand something.

What it basically means is just being nice and coming up with alternatives when you're unable to meet customer demands - "Unfortunately we're out of chocolate ice cream, Mr. Jimmy, we do, however have some fudge ripple. I do understand that chocolate is a popular flavor and I'll talk to someone about how we managed to run out."

It doesn't mean, "Unfortunately we're out of chocolate ice cream, Mr. Jimmy, and so in quiet repentance for my employer's failure of your ice cream desires, I'll tongue your fudgy ripples."

I understand that people have money and expect some level of service for it. Ultimately, I'm not sure there aren't levels of service that aren't ignoble or at least unhealthy to expect or even desire too strongly. But still, there's something respectably honest about saying "I'd like to give you $20 and in exchange for that I'd like you to insert your tongue in my rectum." that's lacking in the date-rape style "I bought a pizza from you for $20, so I'm entitled to find out how many licks it takes for you to get to the chewy, chewy center of my Tootsie Pop." even if our society has declared the former not only immoral but illegal while the latter is encouraged and even expected.

But then, you knew that.


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