I was enjoying an outdoor lunch in Virginia Beach on Labor Day Monday, when I heard the couple at a table close to me get in a squabble with a server, who then brought in the manager to help solve the misunderstanding.
To be honest I couldn’t hear the entire debate. There was some disagreement about taco shells, returning food to the kitchen, and how to proceed with payment. I couldn’t hear how everything was rectified, but after the server and manager walked away the couple still maintained their annoyed grumbles.
Eventually, I heard one of the diners say, clear as day, “The customer is always right.”
I admit, that’s a sentiment I’ve heard before, but having briefly worked in service and knowing many loved ones who still do, that statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Now, don’t get me wrong. I get the idea behind the very false statement — employees should work to please paying customers or clients. Moreover, anyone should want to do good work at their jobs and so those serving others should want to make their clients happy.
That said, some people are straight-up wrong for a number of reasons. Often being wrong roots from a lack of clarity or confusion. Miscommunication is a thing we all deal with. And I can think of times when the business or an employee was straight-up wrong or unreasonable. But, there are also times when customers can be loud and apologize and other times they’re the ones majorly wrong.
The diners who believed the customer is always right were wrong by being rude to the staff and using profanity. Nor was their behavior adult-like or right when storming out in anger.
After the incident, I heard the couple at one of the server’s other tables remark on how wonderful of an employee she was, and how the diners were “wrong.” She humbly accepted their words and said, “Hey, we just try to keep it pushing.”
That’s when it dawned on me, even when the couple challenged her, she kept her cool, helped the other guests, and kept it pushing.
For all I know, the server wanted to scream inside, but on the outside, she appeared professional, calm, and accommodating.
While I know we might not always agree with all employees when conducting business, watching that interaction offered two takeaways I’d like to give you.
1. The customer is not always right. Even if we feel like we’re right, let’s find reasonable ways to get to an agreement before resorting to an attitude or criticizing an employee or business.
2. When someone tests your professionalism, maintain your cool and keep it pushing.