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Massage Today
June, 2001, Vol. 01, Issue 06

Is the Customer/Client Always Right?

By Perry Isenberg

I was recently in one of those "upscale" coffee houses and saw a small sign on the wall that read: Our Creed -Rule #1 The Customer Is Always Right. Rule #2 When In Doubt, Refer To Rule #1.

Two thoughts occurred to me, the first being that rule #1 is an accepted concept that is not always true.

My second thought was that this company is so insecure that they feel the need to reinforce this policy in writing for us to see. Will the sign make me feel better about buying their coffee? Considering I was already in the store, maybe the sign should be posted in their storefront window or always appear in their print ads and radio commercials. It seems a bit silly to me to post this sign inside the store, once I've already made the decision to enter.

One of the many reasons people start their own business is just that -- to own their own business. You will decide who is right and who is wrong with matters pertaining to your business. This includes how you treat your employees, and the type of relationship you want to have with your clients.

I realize that my last few columns emphasized the importance of client satisfaction. In fact, if you recall, I suggested that anything and everything should be done to keep your clients happy, even if you occasionally have to provide a refund or free service.

I believe this passionately, but an incident I was involved in recently made me think that there is a point when, as owners, we may have occasion to stand firm with a client. There is always a chance we may lose the client, but if the client thinks it through, they may just end up respecting your final decision and continue to do business with you.

As a consumer, I've become accustomed to expecting complete satisfaction, to the point that anytime a business does not respond to my needs, I get threaten that they will lose my future business unless they see the issue my way. You can hardly blame me (or any other consumer) for this perspective, considering that mass chain stores like Home Depot, etc., let us return anything months later (even without the receipt) as long as they can resell the item. This type of customer service is very easy to get used to and accept as the norm. Anything less is not good enough.

I recently went to a Sports Authority store to purchase some running shoes they had advertised on sale. When I find shoes I like on sale, I'll generally purchase two pairs to avoid the agony of shopping again for shoes for a long time.

Spending three minutes in a new pair of running shoes in the store is not always sufficient time to absolutely decide if they are right for me. So on occasion, I have had to return shoes after I've worn them around my home for a day or so. If they are not perfect for my hard-to-fit feet, I am able to take the shoes back to Sports Authority and return them without incident.

Once, they had nothing else for me to try on. In a plaza near my house, I knew of a small Athletes Foot store that carries a small selection of shoes that cater to serious runners, walkers, etc. Those of you who know me know I am not a runner, but I needed shoes and thought this store could help with my needs. They had a very expensive pair of New Balance shoes that fit right, but were twice the cost of what I wanted to spend on running shoes, especially just to wear as everyday shoes. I bought the shoes on a Saturday, wore them around the house on Sunday, and they passed the test. I left for a two-week family vacation that week and left shoes at home.

When I returned from my vacation, a postcard was in my mail from the store announcing a 40% sale on all merchandise. The sale started two days after I purchased my shoes, and ended the day after my return. I figured I was in good shape to go to the store and plead my case that I should get the sale price. It is a small retail store, so the owner was there when I showed up at the store. I expressed my concern that the technicality of two days seemed unfair, and that, considering I purchased two pairs, it would be nice if he would honor the sale price. (Which equated to about a $60 refund for me).

He looked straight in my eyes and said, "Sales have start and end dates, otherwise there is no reason for sales dates."

I replied, " I know, I'm in business as well and I'm aware of policies, but I'm also aware of exceptions to rules depending on the situation."

He stuck to his guns, held his position, and I returned the shoes. He lost a nice sale that ended up losing him money -- handling, paperwork etc -- and I lost time because I needed to go again and shop for new shoes. Was the owner wrong or right? Was I wrong or right? I'm not sure.

Send me an e-mail and let me know what you think. In the meantime, be healthy, be good, and stay focused and motivated.

Click here for previous articles by Perry Isenberg.


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