The customer is always right, or at least that is the phrase that I heard throughout my time working in retail. Whenever someone wanted to return a movie three months after buying it, or tried to return things on a near-daily basis, I always thought there was something extremely fishy going on. However, I was always told that, unfortunately, “the customer is always right.”
There is something very dangerous about this phrase, though. If the customer is always right, then I was most certainly wrong a majority of the time, and if the customer was irate, then it was my fault (even if it wasn’t). The customers can belittle and destroy the employees of stores as long as they wish, unless the stores finally speak up.
What, then, is the problem, if the stores can kick people out? The problem remains because the stores themselves rarely ever actually remove customers unless actual harm is brought upon an employee or another customer.
This problem was an issue throughout my retail career, from the time I graduated high school in 2009 until March of 2011. While I still work in customer service today, the job I work at now is a much different experience, as the customers I work with are people I see on a daily basis. The customers I have now know me — and vice versa — so the problems have been limited.
With this all in mind, I still see the irate customers when I go shopping, or when I talk to friends who are still in retail. The worst customer I ever received was one who threatened to get me fired amidst a barrage of expletives as a result of not being able to return his video game that he had bought four months prior. After causing a scene in the middle of the store, a manager finally came to save the day. The manager did not stand up for the lowly employee who had just dealt with the traumatic experience, though; instead, he gave the customer his money back and sent him on his merry way. The stories I hear from friends are sometimes even worse.
So, why do these stores constantly stand up for malicious customers instead of
the employees that work for them day-in and day-out?
The answer is simple: money.
Employers’ concerns generally reflect a “Money now, questions later” attitude, and the loss of one customer does not bode well when it comes time to count profit. Losing a customer represents a loss of money to them, while losing an employee in a large retail chain is just another person they no longer have on the payroll. Through training videos I was forced to watch at a former
job, I was always told to make sure to keep every customer. Kicking out a customer if they were too rowdy was never a concern that was covered. In the revolving door that is retail, an employee can be replaced in an instant with someone off the street looking for a job (or not replaced at all, depending on monetary concerns versus how crucial it is to have an extra person).
So now that we are going in to the holiday season, and retail stores are soon to find themselves filled with both hired holiday help as well as an excess of deal-hunting customers, we should all take time to stop and think about how we treat the employees that so often get harassed. The most difficult time for them is the holiday season, and that season is fast approaching.
Black Friday will pop up at the end of November with seemingly no warning for most of us, but those on the other side of the counter will be counting the days until holidays are over.