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The Customer is Not Always Right

Posted by Stradden_bak Friday May 21 2010 at 12:49PM
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Despite the old adage, the customer is not always right. That just isn’t the way the world works in reality.
The saying itself makes a lot of sense on its surface in a capitalist society. After all, it is indeed the customers who pay for the products or services from the companies who in turn pay their employees, etc. etc. etc.
The reality though, in my experience, isn’t so cut and dry.
I say this because I’ve seen this cliché used a lot lately and I’ve read it as an excuse for rude and offensive behaviour from gamers as it relates to the games that they play.
“As a customer, I’m entitled to having what I want, when I want it. The customer is always right. If I want to call the devs out on being lazy, unprofessional, greedy people, I have every right to do so, because I’m the one who pays their salary. The customer is always right.”
I’m sorry, but I read this kind of post and I can’t help but wonder what world some people are living in. In my 30 years, I’ve worked a lot of different jobs, from milk man to call center representative, to game developer, to teacher to journalist. Never, with the possible exception of my time in game development, was I ever told that I had to put up with abuse because “the customer is always right.”
Working at the call centres (for two distict national chains, I might add), if a customer became rude and abusive, the policy was always the same: hang up on them. As a teacher, I was told time and time again that we did not have to take verbal abuse from student or parent. On more than one occasion, I spoke to parents who I told that I would speak to when they could approach the situation in a mature fashion. I also have had enough friends working in the food service industry to know what happens when customers are rude and abusive in a restaurant.
From the worker’s point of view, the result is the same: ignore it. If a customer comes to you in a reasonable and measured fashion with an issue, do everything that you can to accommodate them, but if they are abusive: ignore them.
Sure, the illusion of “the customer is always right” still exists. Marketing departments all over will tell you that their company will bend over backwards to give their customers the best experience possible and work tirelessly to resolve any issues that they might have. That just isn’t generally the end result.
The reason is simple: In most cases, we as individuals, don’t mean a whole lot to a company’s bottom line. Companies, especially large companies like, say, video games publishers, don’t deal in small numbers, they deal in large numbers where the individual is lost.
If I choose to be rude and abusive, the company can and often does decide that it doesn’t need my business and can afford to ignore me.
In the world of large companies dealing with big numbers, the individual consumer’s power has never been weaker. We do have recourse. We can always vote with our wallets, and get any people we might have influence over to do the same. Organizing boycotts on as large a scale as possible is an excellent way of having your voice heard by companies. Or, there’s always trying the polite way, approaching a company reasonably with an honest grievance.
Whatever you own personal means of protest against what you perceive as an injustice might be, please don’t cling to the antiquated notion and bad cliché that “the customer is always right.” It won’t get you anywhere. That’s just not how the world works.