The Customer Is Always Right: How Some Companies Disagree, And Why That’s A Good Thing

The Customer Is Always Right, But Not Here

The customer is always right.

This motto or slogan has been around in some variation since the 1800s. Some of the great retail giants of their day built their philosophies — and their companies — around it.

Names like Harry Gordon Selfridge, John Wanamaker and Marshall Field warned employees that complaints from a customer were not to be taken lightly. They empowered their workers only as far as pleasing the customer was concerned, and buyers loved them for it.

Fast forward to the 21st Century, however, and there are many examples of businesses that have had enough. With the large growth in population, a rise in abuse of employee goodwill, and an increase in customers actually being fed up with other customers, businesses today can’t afford to be doormats.

No Crybabies, Please

Just picking out a few recent examples, it’s become apparent that some businesses have had it up to their eyeballs with crying children. In August 2013, MarketWatch reported on an airline that started offering “no crying” sections in which customers (for an added fee) could be cordoned off from whiny kids and their parents.

Likewise, Fox News reported on a Georgia restaurant in 2012 that outlawed crying children altogether. And also in August 2013, La Fisheria out of Houston, Texas made the decision to ban “customers under eight after 7 p.m.,” CBS reported.

The La Fisheria owner said he reached the decision because of a number of customer complaints that children were too loud or intrusive to their dining experience.

Hofstra University business professor Barry Berman pointed out that there is a lot of risk that goes with banning children from an establishment. “You have a number of people who say ‘if they don’t want my child, I’m not going to go there’, not just in the evening, ‘I’m not going to go there in the day.’”

La Fisheria doesn’t seem too concerned about the backlash. In fact, since reaching the decision, their Facebook page has been largely supportive with hundreds giving the restaurant a thumbs-up.

And It’s Not Just The Kids

While children get a lot of flak for being the primary troublemakers when it comes to businesses that deal with the public, tantrum-prone adults have also become the target of business pushback.

Just this week, The Guardian reported on the restaurant La Petite Syrah in Nice. The establishment actually lowers the price the nicer you are to your server. “Un cafe, s’il vous

plait” gets you a discount. “Bonjour, un cafe, s’il vous plait,” gets you a deeper discount. No “please” or “Good day”? Be prepared to pay full price.

pay more for being rude or be nice and get a discount

Also, who can forget examples like the angry theater texter that Alamo Drafthouse threw out for disrupting the viewing experience of a movie for other audience members? If you haven’t heard that, feast your ears on this (NSFW):


All these businesses are great examples of how throwing out “the customer is always right” mantra can be good for business. And in our opinion, these businesses are making a wise decision in doing what they do for the following reasons:

One: They Know Their Customers.

Alamo Drafthouse is a terrific example of this. No one pays top dollar to watch a movie in theaters only to hear phone dings, showoffs, and the idiots who answer the mobiles right there in the middle of the movie. It’s not a high-and-mighty thing. We all have to deal with squealing kids, emergency work calls, and the occasional text message that just has to be returned immediately. But most people have the good judgment to be aware of their surroundings, leave the premises, and answer in a location that won’t disturb other people. That’s what the majority of theater customers expect — at least Alamo Drafthouse customers anyway — and that’s the experience that a business is selling when they charge a price that others are willing to pay.

Two: Society Celebrates Business Owners Who Try To Do The Right Thing.

Doing the right thing is implicitly the “right thing” because it reacts to some kind of injustice. We’re not saying there always has to be a bad guy in these situations, but there are bad situations that require a response, such as the tantrum child, for instance.

No parent can say their kids act right 100 percent of the time, and there are going to be some moments where your otherwise angelic youngster acts not-so-angelic out in public. No one is condemning the kid for being a kid, and no one is condemning the parent either. However, most of these situations get out of control due to lack of parental action. Anymore, many of these parents have a “to-hell-with-you, it’s-my-kid, deal-with-it” approach. They don’t attempt to rectify the situation by acknowledging their fellow patrons and how their youngster might be diminishing the experience that other people have paid to have.

They just let the child continue without taking any measurable action to put a stop to it.

Business owners, by taking this particular stand, are essentially reminding the self-involved that, “Hey, there are other people here who paid just as much money, if not more, than you did, and they deserve to have a nice evening.”

In the case of La Petite Syrah, the decision shows customers as a whole that they look at staff as people, who deserve just as much respect as anyone else. And that’s what seems to be lacking, not just in this country, but also this world.

We’ve become a society that just wants to tell you what we think without any regard to what you think. Nowhere does this show up more than in the abuse of the “customer is always right” mantra. Business owners who push back against this carve a niche for themselves — not in their respective industries necessarily, but in the mindset of the populous as a whole.

People begin to associate these businesses with more than just a product or service. They begin to associate them with character, and that’s something we need now more than ever.

[Image via Flickr Creative Commons]

About the author

Chase H. Williams

Chase H. Williams is a writer, serial entrepreneur, professional procrastinator, dreamer, explorer and risk taker. He’s been weightless aboard a NASA C9-B aircraft and his head hasn’t quite come back down from the clouds. Visit his website @

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