A Customer Service Lesson

Published by

Retail settings make it easy to


cherry-pick examples . . . but


the dynamics are the same in


every business and profession.


This really happened less than 24 hours ago

in a well-known U.S. resort town:

Checker at major-name crafts store cash register rings up $9.99 for a roll of artist’s tape (similar to masking tape, but pulls apart easier and leaves no surface marks (even on paper or cardboard) when it’s removed.

Customer: “Excuse me, but that price should be $6.99. It says $6.99 on the shelf.”

Checker: “Sorry, it’s $9.99!” (She takes the twenty-dollar bill on the counter, puts it in the register, slaps down a ten-dollar bill and a penny, throws the tape in a bag and quickly moves to start ringing up the next customer.)

Customer (to the checker): “Listen, I just told you that the price sign says that this tape is $6.99, not $9.99 and I want my $3 back. On top of everything else, even $6.99 is a rip-off, and if I didn’t need it now, I’d never pay that price, let alone $9.99. If it’s $9.99, why does it say $6.99 on the shelf?” (The checker nods and turns back to wait on the next customer)

Customer (now becoming annoyed and louder): “Excuse me, but I just told you that I want my $3 back, and all you can do is nod at me? Please call the store manager.”

Checker: “You’ll have to wait, Sir; I’ve started the next customer here!”

Customer:Listen to me: Call the store manager NOW!”

Checker (on loudspeaker system): “Manager to register six!” (three minutes later, the manager shows up)

Manager (to checker): “What’s up?”

Checker (pointing with her thumb):He says this tape is $6.99, but it’s $9.99 on the scanner!”

Customer (interrupting their exchange): “You’re the manager?” (Manager nods) “I picked this tape off the shelf and the shelf had a sign on it that the price is $6.99. Now your checker who, besides being rude, took my money and charged me $9.99. If this tape is $9.99, then your sign is wrong and I don’t want it for $9.99. Either I pay what the sign says or I want my money back.”

Manager: “Gimme the tape; I’ll go check it out!” (Then to checker: “I’ll be right back, but don’t ring anybody else up ’til we get this straight!” The line of now disgruntled customers grows and no one is around to handle the other registers. The checker hums, stares out the front window, and drums her fingers on the register. The manager walks to the shelf in question, which is all the way to the back of the store, and returns four minutes later to a huffing-puffing crowd of customers waiting not so patiently in line.)

Manager (speaking only to the checker): “He’s wrong! The price is $9.99 the way you had it!”

Customer: “Excuse me! First of all, would you please speak with meand not the checker? I am starting to get very annoyed here. The sign back there said $6.99 not $9.99 and I either want this tape for $6.99 or my money back. If I can’t get either, you can be sure of having a major problem for false advertising.”

Manager: “Sir, the tape you purchased is $9.99. It, and a few others, must have been put on the $6.99 shelf by mistake. There are $6.99 tapes back there.”

Customer: Great! I’ll go get one of those. I suggest you not hold up this line any longer.”

Manager: “Sir, that’s our decision, and we’ll wait for you to get back here.

Checker (after customer returns with a $6.99 tape): “We have to start this all over again, so give me back the $10.01 and I’ll give you back your $20 and then I’ll have to get the manager back here to approve the initial over-ring before…”

Customer (turning to walk out): “Screw it!”

Funny? Maybe if you’re reading it. Not funny if you’re the customer, or someone who’s waiting in line. Not only should the checker be fired on the spot, or at least put on probation, the manager needs a “straighten up and fly right!” warning (and both obviously need training). Every customer is always right all of the time, no exceptions, ever!

You own a business, and don’t agree? Bite the bullet and move on, or sell the business. By ALWAYS following the customer is right guideline ALL of the time, you will lose something sometimes, but the reputation you gain will more than compensate for the losses. People do business with businesses that consistently demonstrate respect and authenticity, that do what they say they will do.  

Surely, you know what SHOULD have happened in the incident described. Of course the checker and the manager were both at fault, but what could they have done differently? What would you have had them do? How would you have fixed the problem? How would you prevent it from happening again? Is YOUR business the next example?

Every dissatisfied customer tells ten other people about his or her bad experience, and each of those ten tell ten others. Can you afford 100 negative impressions? (And of course each of those hundred tell…)



302.933.0116 or Hal@BusinessWorks.US  

Thanks for visiting. Go for your goals! God Bless You,

 “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance!” [Thomas Jefferson] 

Make today a GREAT day for someone!

5 comments so far

5 Comments to “A Customer Service Lesson”

  1. Greg Balanko-Dicksonon 22 Nov 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Attitude huh?

    My story about lousy customer service is with Starbucks. I drove in to get some beans. I love their Yukon roast and have been drinking it for 3-4 years. But the last 2 years I have had a real problem getting any. Two weeks previous they had my beans, but today no luck.

    The attendant comes to the window with their Christmas blend “cause it has some Yukon in it.”

    I asked “It has SOME in it? I don’t like your Christmas Blend. Do you have anything else? Why don;t you keep Yukon stocked?”

    Get this the clerk says to me, “What is this attitude your giving me?”

    I said, “I’m the customer!”

    Now I had an attitude believe me! I drove away and got my beans at a competitors, when presented with an opp to go to Starbucks, I go elsewhere and ask my friends to meet me somewhere other than Starbucks.

    Plus I’ve told the story numerous times. Starbucks will never get another dime from me!

  2. Hal Alpiaron 22 Nov 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Thanks Greg. I appreciate that you visited and that you took the time and trouble to share your experience. I must say that I have had similar “bad times” with Starbucks employees; in fact, it seems to me that THEY are the ones who typically “have an attitude.” I would even be willing to deal with that, but I have no tolerance or respect for businesses like Starbucks because they outright gouge the public with ridiculous prices. Sorry Starbucks, I agree with Greg, and then some. Come down with prices and up with employee customer service training, and I might consider returning some day! Thanks again Greg! Best – Hal

  3. Greg Balanko-Dicksonon 22 Nov 2010 at 6:38 pm

    You are welcome, Hal. Yours was a great story that reminded me of my Starbucks experience.

    The Starbucks employee’s parting shot, by the way, was, “No one at this store will sell you coffee.” I just laughed.

  4. Urmason 26 Dec 2010 at 7:16 am

    Great blog! It’s not often that I comment, but I felt your work deserved some special credit…keep it up! Regards – Urmas

  5. Hal Alpiaron 26 Dec 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Thank you Urmas. I appreciate your support and hope to see you return again soon. Merry Christmas! Regards – Hal

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