Customers are not always right

produce at farmers market

I do not know how to break this to some of you, so I am just going to come right out and say it: it has not been a pleasure to serve you. More importantly, your patronage is not appreciated if you are insufferably rude.

I didn’t start out my career working with the public. I spent two blissful decades in academia. I saw the same incredibly intelligent people day in and day out. They were smart and kind, and we had a camaraderie. This isn’t to say we never had issues, but, for the most part, we got along well.

The other ones. Later in life, I would go into public relations and, as it turns out, this means interacting with the public. There’s always a catch.

Now, let me state for the record that the majority of people are wonderful. Truly. I like people and generally get along with most of them. Then there are “the other ones” (TOO for short). By TOO I mean “TOO entitled,” “TOO rude” and TOO much. They walk among us. These are the folks who take out their inferiority complex on the general working public.

I think one of the worst ideas ever coined was “The Customer is Always Right.” I can only speak for myself, but I am a customer, and I am not “always” right. No one is. Setting the standard that customers can bully staff and fellow customers is giving too much unbridled power to people who should — but too often don’t — know better.

People as a whole just need to remember that they are not always right. In fact, they are frequently wrong.


Fortunately, I think the tide may be turning back to an era of accountability for bad behavior. According to The New York Times, “Delta Air Lines is urging airlines to respond to the extraordinary surge in unruly behavior in the skies by creating a national “no-fly” list of barred customers. … Delta already has more than 1,600 people on its own “no-fly” list.”

Personally, I think this is brilliant. You can’t behave? You can take the bus. Unless Greyhound also has a list.

Restaurants nationwide are reporting an uptick in poorly behaved patrons. People demand more and tip less. I think at some point, those folks might consider eating at home.

Of course on that note, grocery and retail stores are also reporting customer tantrums. People berate staff for shortages and wait times. Again, if you are in such a hurry that dining stresses you out, perhaps pack a sandwich or stay home? If you eat at home, you have only yourself to blame if the food arrived cold and the server forgot your side of ranch dressing.

A “no-dine” list may be next? We can hope.

Be kind

Perhaps I’m a pushover, but I go through life assuming most people want to do a great job. Give them a chance and they will usually shine. If they don’t, I have to wonder what is going on that might be bothering them. People are only human after all. I used to wave off less than stellar service with, “be kind. We don’t know what is going on. Perhaps their grandparent died?”

My kids used to tease me that I killed off an awful lot of grandparents making excuses for folks. I don’t expect effusive love from cashiers and clerks. It’s nice if it happens, but sometimes people just aren’t feeling it.

Ditto that sometimes customers are tired or upset. I get that. However, even if you think you aren’t getting the absolute best service, there are shortages, and that post-pandemic coupon is no longer applicable: take a deep breath and try being kind.

I think we all need to remember our priorities. I have been standing in line minding my own business and have seen people go into a full-on rage fit over an expired coupon. As in the coupon clearly is no longer valid, but by golly, they want to use it!

Usually, the street value is somewhere around 30 cents. That’s six nickels or 30 pennies, and never enough money to be worth losing your dignity. Hold out for at least that 60 cent double coupon savings before you forget you were raised better.


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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.



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