Customer Service Is Not A Right!

Inspired by a recent Pit thread (doesn’t matter which one, someone does the “All Customers Are Wankers” threads on a regularity you could set a watch by), I’ve often wondered where people (ie customers) get such a massive sense of entitlement from.

I’ve worked in Customer Service for over 10 years now, and I’ve grown to dislike and even hate a large percentage of Customers, in varying capacities from “I can tolerate them as long as they’re polite” to “Wishing there was a Stupidity Gestapo who could arrest and punish them”.

Whenever I go shopping, all I ask is that the staff take my money, give me the items in question, and not be rude to me.

I don’t expect beaming smiles or a free blowjob, and nor do I expect them to go out of their way to do anything for me. Take my money, process the order, conclude with an empty pleasantry, and I’ll be on my way.

(obviously, if I’m shopping at a “Premium” retailer, I expect more from them, but as a general rule most people shop where it’s cheapest and easiest, so you have to expect some leeway there).

Anyway, some of the behaviour I’ve witnessed from customers (from both sides of the counter) is just mind-boggling.

From the woman who wanted the cashier to leave her register- with a queue 8 people deep, and all other registers similary busy- to get something down from a shelf for her, because “I can’t reach it” (this was three days before Christmas, and the thought of asking someone- anyone- taller than her to get it never seemed to have occured to her), to people insisting they want electronics goods in different colours…

Customer: Yeah, I want this CD Hi Fi System in Pink…
Sales Guy: Sorry, it only comes in Grey or Black. I’d be happy to open the boxes and show you, though…
Customer: But I want a Pink One!!!

And, of course, people who demand to be treated like Royalty wherever they go because “I’m a paying customer!”. In fact, just go here and have a read. And I’ve never ever been to, or worked at, Best Buy… but the stories the people there have to tell echo my own in so many ways it’s scary.

Anyway, the point of this post is simple: I believe Customer Service is NOT a right (beyond basic civil pleasantries and common courtesy), and I’d like to hear your opinions.

My opinion is that a solicitation of views without an actual assertion of a thesis to be defended is better suited to the IMHO Forum where you will next find this thread.


Sorry. You want me to buy it, put it where I can reach it. I am average height, but some things are out of reach. Do retailers really want me or any customer stepping on the bottom shelf in order to reach something on the top shelf? I could fall and break something. Then I could sue. And no, I don’t particularly want to go strolling among my fellow shoppers to try to find a tall person.

This customer, however, is silly, and the sales guy should say: Go. Go! And do not ever enter these doors again!

Agreed, it is not a right. However, retail establishments that don’t have it had better have very, very, extremely low prices, I mean rock bottom, or else people will not come back.

Here is an example of what I think is good customer service. I went to Office Depot looking for a staple remover, one of those no-nonsense, heavy-duty ones, not the hinged kind. I had spent some time that morning using my hinged staple remover, which just wasn’t up to the job at hand. But that was all I could find at Office Depot. The greeter guy who had sent me to the staple section thought they might be someplace else, found a catalog, looked the item up to make sure we had the right thing, and then checked the computer to see where in the store they were. At that point he came up empty–none in stock. But, he said, I could order one.

I stood there feeling desperate, thinking (but not saying), “but dammit I need it right now! why don’t they have the thing in stock? How long is this gonna take? Will they have to deliver it?” and then as if he could read my mind he said, “Oh, but then there would be a delivery charge. For a one-dollar item…just a minute.” He went off to Office Depot’s copying department, which also apparently found these staple removers useful, took one–and gave it to me, since it was “used.”

So instead of a pissed-off customer who wasted her lunch hour looking for a simple item that should have been in stock but wasn’t and left the store fuming (and hungry, and destined to spend the afternoon cussing and ruining her fingernails), he had a happy customer who got what she wanted and who did NOT spend the afternoon plotting revenge while pulling staples out of thick texts with pliers.

I would argue that paying customers do have a right to expect good service. However, the situations you’ve described go far beyond the limits of good customer service.

Good customer service = polite, helpful and knowlegable servers. If you want my money I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Remember when “Customer Service” people were called “Salespeople”? When the store employee’s title acknowledged that he/she was trying to sell you something? When you were more than a consumer unit to be “serviced”.

That being said, the fact that I am a paying customer does not entitle me to berate, abuse, belittle or unduly annoy store personnel.

Bottom line: some people are jerks. They act like jerks when they are customers. They act like jerks when they are working customer service. Nobody has a right to be a jerk.

The only thing I can think of is that those who expect above-and-beyond type service, like what Hilarity got, have never worked retail or customer service jobs before.

Yeah, the net result of going the extra mile for customers is any of the following scenarios:

-They expect it every time from that point forward, having no concept whatsoever of what “making an exception” means
-It fails to satisfy them and they demand even more
-Other customers see it happen, don’t get the same level of service, erupt in a rage
-You get rebuked by management for not following procedure
-Customer writes a letter to management specifically praising you… at review time, you get no raise but your manager gets a fat bonus
-Other employees, following procedure, refuse a customer demand and are met with hostility, rudeness and refrains of “but your employee JOHN always lets me do this!”

I read the staple remover story and my first thought is “what kind of asshole employee steals office supplies from another department and GIVES THEM to customers?” No wonder I can never find scissors when I need them.

I once experienced what I felt was awesome, beyond the call of duty, customer service sort of similar to Hilarity’s. I was having some people over, and I needed a drink shaker. I stopped at a local liquor store to get the booze, and I was looking there to see if they happened to carry drink shakers too, since I didn’t want to make more than one stop. I couldn’t find one, so I asked the manager, who proceeded to walk over to a gin gift box that came with a free shaker, rip it open, put the bottle on the shelf, and handed me the shaker and said, “here you go, free of charge.”

You know what? I recognized that as something that was really great, but not something I would ever dream of expecting to happen on a regular basis. I’m fairly certain most reasonable people would feel the same. But, that store got my business every time I needed liquor in the future, and every time I went in there I found the staff helpful and well informed. As an added bonus, they also had low prices and a fabulous selection. That store must have been doing something right, because in the two years I lived there, they grew from one location to three.

So no, customer service is not a right, but it helps, and it’s possible to do it without charging more than the competition.

I think the level of bad customer service is directly related to the low pay and poor benefits of service industry jobs. The employers don’t care about the employees and therefore the employees don’t care about the job.

If I had an experience at an office supply store like the one described, I would make a point of shopping there. For the cost of a $1 staple remover, the company will probably make a lot more from that one customer (who is also likely to tell others of the positive experience). An employee who is able to figure that out and take the initiative to satisfy a customer is a rare thing these days.

I know I am tired of paying really low prices for junk that doesn’t last and being helped by uninformed, apathetic sales people who barely qualify as working. I think a retailer who starts making service a quality an issue is poised to make some serious money.

Sadly, the trend is going the other way. Look at places where you check yourself out and bag your own goods. They pretty much acknowledge that the least amount of interaction with their staff as possible is the best for all concerned.

If I had a dollar for every time I’d seen, dealt with personally, or had to deal with the fallout from one of the above scenarios… well, no-one would ever have to pay for SDMB membership ever again, put it that way. And I could afford a Secret Volcanic Island with Hollowed Out Volcano Lair in which to put the Nitrogen-Cooled Supercomputers that would be the SDMB’s new servers.

The big one I found was when you follow procedure, refuse a customer demand, and get told that “The other guy lets me do it!” which then sparks a whole chain of “What the smeg did you do that for?” “What are you talking about, I haven’t sold anyone a Widget 2000 in months, they’re a deleted item” “Well someone did and now we’ve got a loony ranting at the customer service desk” “Wasn’t me, may have been that guy that transferred to Newcastle last week” type discussions. Followed by someone getting an ass-kicking for not following procedure OR making an exception (in other words, the opposite course of action to the one taken), and followed by customers saying “Hey, you’re the people that will (insert whatever was done that wasn’t supposed to be, but was done as a favour in the interests of customer service anyway), right? Can you do a similar deal for us?”

It’s a no-win situation, it really is…

What used to toast my cheese during my short tenure as a salesman was the occasional customer who felt that the salesman should have to continue being eternally pleasant, regardless of how rude the customer was. I never took any shit from a rude customer, and would actually walk away from them. I even got into it verbally with one nasty witch and asked her what she thought gave her the right to treat me like some sort of asshole, when I had (up to that point) been only pleasant to her.

She went to my boss, who called me in (in her presence, which was a mistake) and asked me if I had said that to her. I said yes, turned to the woman and told her that if she ever spoke to me like that again, she’d get the same response or worse, and walked out of the office. After she had left, the boss told me he’d never seen quite that shade of purple on someone’s face before, but that he sympathized with me completely. Unknown to me, she was a frequent looky-loo (this was an RV dealership) who abused every salesperson she came in contact with.

Good, yes, and it goes above and beyond anything I would expect, feel entitled to, or see as a requirement for shopping somewhere.

Personally, I tend to agree with the OP’s “Whenever I go shopping, all I ask is that the staff take my money, give me the items in question, and not be rude to me.” My favorite stores aren’t the ones where I get help, but the ones where I don’t need help. A store gets more points for having things laid out in a clear and logical manner so that everything’s easy to find than it does for having a salesperson standing around saying “Can I help you find something?” It gets more points for keeping everything in stock than it does for having employees who will check on whether they have any more of something in the back or offer to order it for you.

I think you’re entirely wrong. Customers like to complain about poor service, but when it comes to getting the cash out of their wallet, price is the one thing that’s going to override any other consideration they have. A store could try to bump up employee wages $1 an hour to get a more committed workforce with better morale, but they’d quickly find that their customers would go to the Wal Mart down the street with lower prices and shitty customer service. Those customers would then buy the lower priced goods while complaining loudly about the service they receive.

I agree with the OP. Customers think they have a right to service, when they do not. They have a right to pay for service, but they act as if service is something they should receive gratis.

I figure my role as a minimum wage customer service guy is to take money and point out where products are. I’m not paid enough to do more than that. Here’s an experiment: find someone in the street and tell them that you want to pay them $5.50 an hour to be nice to you while you treat them like shit. You’d be lucky to get any takers, let alone some who’ll also have an encyclopedic knowledge of any product you desire.

One more thing: Customers, if you’re in a store, and an item does not have a price, why don’t you ask the salesman, “Does that mean it’s free?” Because, I guarantee he will laugh uproariously - he’s never heard that joke before. And then he will be so impressed with your cleverness that he’ll give you the item for free.

But the coupon said free blowjob while the offer lasts!

Nothing wrong with that. But if, like the OP said, you barged in front of other people who were being taken care of first, and demanded someone help you RIGHT NOW, when he had other people who were there first, then that would be wrong. Right?

As for your stapler story, sometimes things are out of stock. That happens. Even when you order more, they still run out. Throwing a fit and getting pissy because someone can’t just pull an item out of their ass is counter-productive and immature. And in some of the places I’ve worked, if I had given you store property (even just a cheap staple remover) free like that, I would have been fired.

Now, I’ve done things LIKE that: one year, right around Christmas time, an elderly gentleman came in with one of our ads, looking for a certain item. I wasn’t waiting on anyone at the time, and I offered to help him find what he was looking for. It wasn’t there, I could see he was frustrated but being very nice not to take it out on me, so I took him to the service desk and made sure he got a raincheck, or whatever. (Although that was an excuse to get away from those damned registers!)

One thing also to NEVER yell at clerks for-not enough registers being open. Some stores are notorious for short-staffing on purpose to save money in labor costs. I once got so fed up with all of the bitching that I asked a woman if she would like me to clone myself. That shut her up.

Sometimes stores are short-handed. Sometimes things are out of stock-especially sale items, since some jackasses like to come in the very first day and buy up everything in bulk. Sometimes we get busy and sometimes we CLOSED and cannot help you. It happens. And here’s the kicker for me-you can get so much further with a simple, polite, “I AM frustrated-but I do realize it’s not your fault and I appreciate your trying to help.” That’s it.

Because let me tell you-we’re just as annoyed as you are. There were days when I wanted to scream at managment along with some of the customers. That’s when it’s really bad-when you don’t blame the customer for going apeshit.

What’s my point? You give a little (patience, courtesy, understanding), and you get a little.

My company just ate a very expensive service charge from a custom hauling company [coughgot-junkcough] because the original hauling company took their 30 yard open top trash dumpster [you know, the huge ones you see at coinstruction sites] and didnt bring it back. They took it on thursday. Normally it would be a matter of 3-4 hours until they return it after running it to the dump and emptying it, but this dainty little item hasn’t shown up YET. Yesterday, we popped for the custom hauler to go to the site and clean it up 3 days of redecorating and construction refuse - which I have heard may run to almost $1000-$1500US. The original contract for the rental and emptying of the trash would have made our company no where near that kind of money. What we lose in cash, we more than make up in word of mouth advertising and extra business coming our way. Just like that $1 staple puller or unpriced cocktail shaker.

I will confess, I will go somewhere more expensive for the customer service as I have realized that life is too short and brutish to put up with crap. I would rather economize by having to save up for a little longer to get something than deal with pricks.

Well, it would be, but that’s not what the OP said. There’s no mention of barging in or going out of turn.

…the woman who wanted the cashier to leave her register- with a queue 8 people deep…- to get something [she couldn’t reach]…

How about the lady waited patiently in line because she couldn’t find anyone to help her on the floor. When it was her turn, there were 8 people behind her in line.

He didn’t exactly STEAL it, he asked if they had one, they did, he took it. Nothing particularly underhanded about that. And they could get another one whenever the next shipment came in, since they were right there. He didn’t lose his job for it–he was there the next time I went in.

Yeah, they got it back. A couple of weeks later we had to order paper. I’m an editor, and work in an office where we go through a LOT of paper. Sometimes it’s my turn to order it. Even when it’s not, it’s a small enough office that I have some influence on where we order it from…usually we check two or three different suppliers for the best price. But not always.

Oh, and I do understand that stores run out of things. I was at the “I’m frustrated, but I know it’s not your fault” stage when the customer service guy decided to get creative.

And my staple puller is now well hidden in my desk, along with the really good stapler, so that none of my coworkers will be tempted.

It doesn’t say that, either. The OP is ambiguous on this point; as written it is unclear whether she waited in line or not.

Now there’s a concept! When stores start doing that, online shopping will be a thing of the past.

I didn’t claim that the OP specifically said what I proposed. I offered it (hence “How about…”) as a plausible scenario that fits the description in the OP while not requiring the assumption of butting in.

It’s true that the OP doesn’t specify on that point. But given that the OP was ranting about people doing unreasonable things, it beggars belief that he wouldn’t have mentioned it if the customer did butt in line. My point is that Guin had no basis to claim that the OP said she did - the OP very clearly did not say that she did.