Is the Customer Always Right?

If you talk to anyone who has worked in retail for any amount of time, they will have great customer related stories to share with you about their job. The old adage ‘the customer is always right’ may seem good for business, but it leads some customers to see just how right they can be.

As a customer, you want great service, and you want to be appreciated where you shop, but are you taking things too far? If employees seem to cringe when you enter your most frequented retail outlet, perhaps you should consider your conduct. Could you be the main character in an employee’s tale of woe?

A good friend of mine works for a major-chain retail craft store, and she recently shared a few of her most memorable customer moments from recent months with me. She takes each day in stride, and tries to take each incident with a sense of humor, but some days, she wonders what people are thinking.

Used and Abused

Have you ever tried to return used merchandise? It happens all the time. Once customer came into the store to get a refund for a cake pan. Normally, this would be a simple refund transaction. In this case, however, it wasn’t so simple.

The cake pan presented for return has cake residue on it. It was obvious to my friend that it had been used. When my friend told the customer the pan looked like it was used, the customer replied, “It was? So I can’t return it then?”

In a related story, one customer tried to return a pencil-by-number kit. The only problem was, the kit was half done. The woman complained that her six-year-old grandson could not do the kit because it was too hard for him. My friend looked at the product and said, “But he did do it, and rather well.” The manager issued a refund anyway.

Why Bother?

Much to my friend’s amusement, a woman came into the store for a refund for a sheet of paper. That’s right, one sheet of paper. She didn’t have a receipt, but demander her refund of twelve cents. My friend called the manager and the customer was told to wait a moment while the manager checked to be sure the paper did indeed come from their store.

While she waited, the customer informed my friend, “I know I bought it here, just give me my money.” After the woman got her refund, she left in a huff. Had this customer thought things through, she would have realized she spent far more in gas to return the paper than she got back for her refund.

Mr. Obvious

One common return in many retail stores are damaged pieces of merchandise. Many stores will happily refund any item that was damaged before purchase, but there are times when it’s obvious that just isn’t the case.

One gentleman came into my friends store with a shattered picture frame. This particular frame did not come packaged, so the damage would have been obvious before purchase. That didn’t stop this customer however, he insisted on a refund. Though it was obvious the frame was damaged after purchase, the man still got his refund.

Man or Beast?

My friend’s favorite story is the story of a dog and it’s owner. Quite often, my friend’s store has coupon special, like many other retail outlets do. This particular promotional coupon was labeled, ‘one coupon per customer.’

A woman came through my friend’s line with her dog, and tried to use two of these coupons for her purchase. My friend politely pointed out to the customer that she could only accept one coupon per person. The woman looked indignant and said, “But my dog is a customer.”

When my friend told her she could not accept a coupon from a dog, the woman became highly insulted and demanded to know why her dog was not considered a separate customer. She didn’t get to use the second coupon.


Managers and other employees are only human. They will, in most cases, do their best to make you happy and honor your request. Just keep it honest. If you want better service, my friend offered some advice.

– Be nice. Despite what you may have heard, the squeaky (and rude) wheel doesn’t always get the grease.
– Speak up, you can’t get a refund or help if you don’t ask. Don’t leave the store unhappy. Be heard before you go.
– Be strong, make your point, but do so politely and honestly.
– Deceit will often get you nowhere. Most managers have heard and seen it all.

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