Is The Customer Always Right?

No. No, they are not.

Someone sent me an article written about that old wives tale “the customer is always right” and I must respond. Is the customer always right? Of course not. They are very often misinformed, clueless, unreasonable or just plain dumb. But here is what may surprise you: the waiter is not always right either. There, I said it. Sometime I can acknowledge that I have made a mistake. I have found that when I do, the customer appreciates the honesty and it results in a better tip. Just ‘fess up. I have flat out told customers that I have forgotten to put their order in and that’s why it’s taking so long so here is a complimentary beverage and I’m sorry. I will also go out of my way to do what a customer wants but if it gets just plain ridiculous, we have to draw the line. I do not believe the customer is right when they demand that the music is too loud for their baby to sleep. Or when they want us to make something that isn’t on the menu simply because we have all the ingredients. Peanut butter and jelly in the house does not mean that the kitchen has to make a sandwich for your kid because that’s the only thing they will eat. If the kid doesn’t like what’s on our menu, then maybe they should be eating somewhere else or bringing their own stupid PB and J. And when this lady told me that there was no liquor in her strawberry daiquiri, I knew for certain that the customer was not right because there was most assuredly liquor in her drink. So in those instances, customers are wrong.

The article questioned why so many companies are willing to side with rude disgruntled customers rather than siding with their loyal employee. If management was more willing to ignore this antiquated rule, then employees would be more willing to give excellent customer service and in return the customers would have a better experience. Once, I was explaining to a woman that an egg white omelet was an additional charge. It was clearly on the menu but she couldn’t understand why. “I’m only using part of the egg and not the whole thing so it really should be less‘” she said. Never mind that it takes more eggs to make an egg white omelet, she was not having it. I kept telling her it was the policy and there was nothing I could do. She called a manager over who then voided off her additional $1 charge in order to appease her making me look like an asshole even though I was the one who was following policy. “The customer’s always right,” he sighed as he swiped his card in the computer to void the charge from her check. So now this woman will always expect that every time she goes back to that restaurant. And I now resent trying to do my job. Had the manager explained that it’s policy and made her pay the dollar, I would have had respect for the manager and the lady would now know she either has to deal with our rules or go somewhere else.

Before you jump all over me, anonymous poster, I do try to make my customers happy. If I can bring some extra bread because they are “starving” I will or if the sun is shining in their eyes, I will adjust the blinds. But if they want me to comp their steak because it “didn’t taste right” but they still managed to eat all but two bites of it, then the customer is wrong. If they ask for a discount because sitting on the patio was too loud for them to hear themselves think, that customer is also wrong. Is the customer always right? No. We give them the benefit of the doubt but sometimes they just are wrong wrong wrong.

 

60 thoughts on “Is The Customer Always Right?

  1. Jane

    “The customer is always right” is really a polite version of the bartender’s rule of “serve a man what he asks for, be it piss or poison.” You don’t tell people they don’t *really* want some nasty-ass (but on-menu) thing, you just go get them that fucking peanut butter and jalapeno omelet. And then refuse to fucking comp it because the japanenos are “too spicy.”

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  2. Michael

    This is an issue that used to make my working life miserable. Now, it only happens occasionally.

    I believe the reason is that I don’t work at chain restaurants any more. Managers at those places make a middle class salary, sometimes better, usually with benefits and they’re going to do what they have to do to keep that. AND, people who frequent chain restaurants are used to not only getting away with but being rewarded for these behaviors.

    My experience in my corner of the world is that this doesn’t happen much in independent restaurants. #1 because the owner is also going to see that that person is an idiot and doesn’t want to reward them for being an idiot out of her or his own pocket. #2 if the owner is engaged with the community, as my boss and his family are, everyone knows them and likes them and are more likely to behave like reasonable adults when they come in to eat.

    I’ve seen it this way in three different independent restaurants.

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  3. Cassy

    Whenever someone tells me “the customer is always right” when they don’t like that I won’t do whatever they asked me to I tell them “No, the customer is usually an idiot”.

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  4. Tasha

    Damn right they’re not always right I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a table complain to a manager that their steak was wrong when it clearly was….if I’m busy I write down the order and repeat it back and if that customer confirms that and during the whole meal they say they’re fine then when a manager comes around suddenly something is wrong that pisses me off

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  5. KublaConn

    First, we must agree on the definition of a legitimate, actual customer, and it’s not defined by anyone who chooses to walk through your front door. An actual customer is someone who is attempting to make a reasonable transaction with your business, wherein both parties profit. If someone is trying to get something for nothing or are expecting to receive goods & services that are beyond reasonable expectations, they are not a customer, but rather, they are a scam artist and no better than a common thief, and there is no reason for a business to foster patronage from thieves.

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  6. Jes

    we had a (private) saying at my last food service job: "the customer is always an asshole". it's not always true, but it's hilarious. also, it's true often *enough*.

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  7. lostgirl

    I had a customer is an idiot therefore wrong moment. She says to me through the drive through window I only got 4 out of 5 sandwiches, I said ok turned around (not knowing how many I put in there) I asked the cook, who then went up to the car and counted out loud 1,2,3,4,5. Not only did she get all 5 everyone had one, and half eaten fat fucks.

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  8. lovelanda2

    I worked at Starbucks and the same thing happened to me. I hear you on the part about looking like a jerk because you followed procedure and yet the manager can't seem to do that. The truth is that the people that are like that are the crap heads that always get their way and not only a restaurant, but America as well is too lazy to stop patting them on the back, giving them their way and carrying them through life.

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  9. Kate

    Hi! This is great – the customer is certainly not always right! I'm loving your blog, I'm glad I found it. I included this post as part of my "Friday Five" on my blog, Kate's Library.

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  10. TheStitchandMakeStudio

    I live in the UK. I'm now self employed, but for years worked in restaurants and clubs. I once worked in a small Italian restaurant with a high reputation. The boss and his wife were both having affairs and he was a total nutjob. Nevertheless he backed his staff 100% One night a couple came in and he ordered a steak and asked for a steak knife. I told the customer that we used the best fillets and didn't have any steak knives. The customer started to get really arsey, so I went into the kitchen and the 2nd chef (my boss was drinking in the pub opposite, he used to sneak in the back door when we got busy!) gave me a bread knife!! By this time I realised I was in a no-win situation and went and got my boss from the pub. He spoke to the customer, who began a rant about how rude I'd been etc etc and my boss confirmed that we did not own steak knives as there was no need and backed up what I'd said. He also refused accept that i'd been rude. I think the couple were quite baffled because they assumed that I'd get a drubbing. So there only response was to complain that the cauliflower wasn't cooked properly either and that they would never come back to this restaurant again. My boss, bless his heart replied "I don't want you in my restaurant anyway, you can piss off!" They were so aghast the rest of the meal was eaten in silence.

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  11. Kelly

    Unfortunately, managers usually bitch out in these situations because of pressure from corporate, regional, and district managers.It pisses me off to no end that these people with their cushy jobs who don't ACTUALLY work in their own restaurants every day can preach about appeasing customers who are knowingly lying and/or just plain wrong. If THEY had to deal with the scammers and low-life assholes that we do, they would do things differently. But that's just the problem. Corporate and district offices are so bloated with overpaid, over-educated cowardly brown-nosing pieces of shit that one cannot expect any of these issues to be dealt with using any common sense. By the way, I'll strangle the next person who says "just get another job!" just because there are things we don't like about our food service jobs. It's not that easy, and there would be nothing wrong with what we do if it weren't for customers who act this way and managers who indulge it. Most customers are either great or average; there are just a few who ruin it.

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  12. dirtydisher

    I wonder what the old bitch thinks you do with the yolks she doesn't eat? I guess you make extra on the side from those and bought yourself a mansion. I hate people.

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  13. Jean ,MA

    I am a casualty of many years in rest. biz. For some 'guests' even the ice is not cold enough! I love it when they complain about the food, until you take it off the bill, then ask for a doggy bag. Rest. employees are the best tippers!

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  14. obscuredbykep

    Agree. Customers are often wrong. I work part time in a shop at an Airport. Everyday I work, there will be a handful of customers who are in the wrong, telling me that a sign says something it doesn't regarding an offer or similar… still we go on…

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  15. iNdi@

    good grief. i've waited tables and so i'm ALWAYS respectful of the staff if i have the good fortune to eat out.on the other hand, the Sydney restaurant that now demands the client commit to eating everything on their plate or face a 30% surcharge to account for 'food wastage' isn't about to have me darkening their door!

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  16. Anascarsa Chanbara

    I found this by accident. I love this. I (like many others most likely commenting) am in the food industry, and it happens all of the time. But rather then being right and trying to uphold policy, I get reprimanded. I have read a few other of you post, and I think I will join your "cult." Thanks for making my morning.

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  17. Maria

    Having worked in restaurants, retail, and property management, I can tell you for sure that no good deed goes unpunished. The more you go out of your way or bend the rules for someone, the more they will demand. Every time I thought "but this is different" I was WRONG.

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  18. Quaid

    Well.. the customer is always right, and if he is wrong make sure that you explain him the right way of things that work out for him.

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  19. Caitlin

    I worked at O'Charley's restaurant as a hostess for over two years and I completely agree with you. sometimes, the customer is just a whiney bitch who only wants to pick a fight just to prove that they will get their way. I love your blog! It's hilarious. Love the sarcasm.

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  20. blog_gurl87

    I know exactly what you mean. From call center customer service to waiting tables in a restaurant, I've always gone above and beyond to help the customer, but sometimes they are just trying to work the system, and at that point, I do what I can to ensure that they don't succeed.

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  21. Chris Skuller

    I totally agree. I used to have a manager when I worked at Applebee's named Frank who, by his own policy, would side with whoever was ACTUALLY RIGHT (what a novel idea)! And guess what, 90% of the time it was the staff, not the customer. He was also the kind of guy that wouldn't hesitate to by the customer's meal if anything went wrong on our end of things (and he would never yell when someone mess up because as he would say "Mistakes happen, so long as your trying your best"). Guess what happened? People worked double hard for him because nobody wanted to let Frank down when he was always on your side. When Frank worked, everyone was in a good mood.The story has a sad side too. Frank ended up getting fired while defending one of his employee's from an unreasonable District Manager who thought because he was DM, you should have to kiss his butt. The DM wanted this cook fired because they started to fall behind during the rush and made him leave the line (he was the kind of DM that would stand there, not helping, and critique you when you were the only one on during an unusually busy time).What kind of sucks now though is that I have a hard time working in restaurants after working for Frank. I have been spoiled and have a hard time stomaching all the BS you get in this profession.

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  22. Mitch Herndon

    I am SO with you!! BTW, I had a friend have a customer tell him, "Wow you are really working for that tip tonight aren't you??" My friend said "No sir, you will get great service from me. If I don't get a great tip, that's your problem." While I thought he would be fired, instead because he pushed the guy's ego he got $20 which was probably 50%.

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  23. pilgrimchick

    After years working in customer service of varying kinds, including in restaurants, I have to entirely agree with you. I honestly believe that people will do whatever they can to get whatever they can sometimes, and often, they're way too stubborn to admit when they're wrong.I think everyone in the world should be required to work for ONE WEEK in the service trade–several positions would qualify. Then, perhaps, someone may get it.

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  24. Jeff Branch

    The customer isn't always right. The customer can be selfish, infantile and rude (I was once a waiter). I have to bite my lip almost daily in my present job.The customer is who pays the bills and therefore I always do everything within reason to make them happy.I once read about just how damaging bad word of mouth can be:More than 50 per cent of Americans report that a negative shopping experience of a friend or colleague will prevent them from setting foot in a store altogether. The Study … finds that as shopping problems get repeated, they often get embellished and actually become up to five times more damaging to customer retention than the initial negative shopping experience itself.I know this report addresses "shopping" but I bet there results are the same when it comes to a bad experience in what ever business you are in.Again, the customer isn't always right, but these days, with the economy the way it is, the customer is mostly right.

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  25. Anonymous

    You sound like a great waiter (first time reader)! A customer should tell the waiter if something is off about the meal, but right away. And about management – well, too many times we have gone to have a nice dinner in an expensive restautant only to have toddlers or infants ruin our time. We are there at a time these children should be asleep, or at least being read to in bed, and they wander around or wail and the parents do nothing to correct the behavior or to at least walk out until the child has settled down. Most children don't want to be there anyway, they are tired, bored or both. This is where management needs to step in – a rare occurance. It is annoying to customers and dangerous to the wait staff to have children wandering around. Our children, born in the '70s, worked their way up to really nice restaurants, from fast food, to diners and so on…. – they didn't go to great places until they could have the patience and manners and yes, age to enjoy the experience. But, remember, we are now living with a entitled generation, as with your lady that wanted the special price for her eggs. There is a really large group of people that feel entitled to be rude and inconsiderate and have their own way, they couldn't care less about anyone else. Sad. Good luck with your future customers!

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  26. Arielle

    Im not a waiter I don't work in a restaurant at all…and I totally agree with you! In fact I believe that waiters,waitresses, cooks, and all of the other employees are under appreciated! I have seen other customers treat the waiter horribly. Now I have had one bad meal…but ate it anyway because I had already started. Unfortunately because restaurants want customers, and people to come, they may bend the rules even if it hurts their employees. Hope the rest of your days as a waiter are more pleasant.

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  27. brimag

    Completely agree with you. Once as a cashier I was required to card for liquor purchases not only the customer, but all people with them. Company policy. A customer and his obviously underage girlfriend complained to the manager who sided with the customer. If I hadn't done it and the manager found out, guess who would have been in trouble.

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  28. Fr Odhran-Mary TFSC

    In your post you use the plural THEIR when referring to a lone male but the singular HER when referring to the lone female. So you think that you have overdosed on political correctness?

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  29. Rhetoric Camel

    I agree the customer 90% of the time is just plain wrong. I give credit to waiters they have a tough job having to deal with all the stupid people with dumb requests or complaints that are just absurd.

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  30. April

    I think the cliche "The customer's always right" is just plain business. Appeasing customers equals to higher income for the restaurant/company. Less customer means less money. If you don't like your job and feels like an a-hole over following a policy, maybe you should look for another job that doesn't involve contact with rude/dumb customers.

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  31. Levonne

    I would hate to think that I am always right when I am sitting at a table in a resturant. I can't believe how an individual (myself included) can regress to such a young state of mind when someone serves them (me) food. Hang in there all you food service people. You're witnessing the best and worst in people.

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  32. Anonymous

    I have worked in customer service for 10 yrs now and I have seen such a decline in customer attitudes over the years. They are demanding, bossy, rude, and sometimes threatening. I have only had one boss in my time actually tell the customer they were wrong and that was only because they physically threatened me. Managers give in ALL THE TIME, and it makes us look like the evil ones. We should definatly get paid more than what we do for putting up with customers AND manager!

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  33. Dr. Mac

    Congratulations on being named a Blog on Note. As a former food service worker, I feel your pain. The customer is rarely right.Dr. Macwww.limerickreport.blogspot.com

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  34. josh- zimbabwe!!

    wow, this is so true, i have been a waiter before, and some customers are just excessivly fussy and rude.. but some times if the customer is 'high up' it is worth it to make them feel they are right.i definately agree that there is a line that cannot be crossed, and if the customer does 'cross the line', management should stand by there employees…great thoughts though..

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  35. JumpIt

    We have people all the time who order desserts that quite clearly state there is an upcharge for those particular ones if you order the promo (so it's 2.99 as opposed to 6.99) and yet they still act shocked and appalled when the see the upcharge… and no matter how brightly plastered it is all over our menus, they still ignore it and then attempt to cow their servers into comping the upcharge price because "they didn't know". It's ridiculous. What's even worse is when your managers don't stick behind you.

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  36. Anonymous

    Again, I agree with you 100%. the thing is, people who threaten to not ever come back, do come back, whether or not the $1 upcharge for the egg whites is comped or not. People either come back or they don't so I don't know why managers are so afraid. Especially in NYC, where I imagine you get a good amount of tourists.

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  37. Cynthia

    This really is an antiquated idea that should be done away with. It pretty much allows the customer to take advantage of servers and management (unless there's something truly egregious to complain about – i.e., spoiled food, hair in the dish, dirty silverware, etc.).This "customer is always right" policy originated in Edwardian times where there was a huge division between "classes". It was wrong then and it's wrong now.

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  38. Robyn

    Dammn straight the customer is not always right. They don't read signs and the KNOW if they jump up and down the manager is going to appease them. Yes compsanies make policies and when you do it by the book they scream for a manager and the manager backs down and we look like the idiots. What a joke!

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