When Is the Customer Wrong?

There's a saying: “the customer is always right.” Really? What about:

  1. A customer who wants a refund on something they clearly did not buy at your store?
  2. A customer who “buys” an expensive TV for the holiday weekend, only to return it Monday for a refund?
  3. A customer who is abusive, obnoxious, or just too high-maintenance (costing you valuable time and emotional resources)?

Are those customers right?

Is the customer, in fact, sometimes wrong – and what do you do when they are?

Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at RayEdwards.com.

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  • A favourite quote of mine from the great Henry Ford, founder of Ford Cars, seems applicable to this discussion.
    “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse”

  • Jerry Ballentine

    I used to check this blog all the time cause you have great, informative posts, but now it’s clear you’re posting something every day… just for the sake of posting something every day. Formulas like “This saying is supposed to be true…. but how about .” I’d much rather you post twice a week with your great stuff instead of an endless mediocre drag with a few nuggets of gold popping up. Can we just get 100% gold posts again?

    • Really Jerry?

      Personally I’ve actually enjoyed Ray’s frequent posts.


      Because I’m able to actually read them as they get right to the point, give me some good info or make me think.

      Long drawn out posts are overrated. They take longer to consume and therefore are less likely to get read – at least for me that is.

      Keep doing what you’re doing Ray. There are MANY of us that enjoy your new format as evidenced by your growing readership.

      • I welcome diversity of opinion. The majority of feedack I get is similar to yours, Stu, so I plan to stick with the current model.

  • Rich Hamilton

    No easy answer.

    Obviously, the customer is often wrong. But needs to be treated as if he’s right.

    As to refunding, Nordstrom is famous for a situation where they refunded something they clearly did not sell. I don’t know if they still do that… but they did at least once and became known for amazing customer service.

    I know sellers who have a policy that if you refund something twice, they will not sell to you again. Yet they advertise “Try this out with no risk; if you’re not 100% satisfied, return it and get your money back.” If you try it and decide it’s not for you, are you a bad “refunder?”

    What should YOU do?

    Well, that’s up to you. You need to protect yourself.

    But don’t assume that a refunder is a bad person. Maybe they genuinely found something to be a bad fit.

  • I point at their behavement, because we’ are grown ups who can talk to each other. I had this situation once or twice a week. And when you point at it what is really under the radar. They can’t deny it and they figure out that they can’t try it here. And over time you get a sense for it if a custumor has those ideas.Then again.I’ll ask would you buy you’re own used product for the same price? The rental is around the corner.

  • I guess what goes around comes around. If you make a customer happy they’ll tell a couple of folks. If you make ’em mad they’ll tell everyone they know! I figure it’s best to under promise and over deliver. I’ve returned things in the past and been treated many different ways. I know which stores I can trust to keep their word and which treat me with respect. Yes it’s hard to refund money but what did you agree to? I bought a book from Amazon and didn’t like it but didn’t realize I could’ve returned it. I’m sure if I asked they would’ve taken it back.

    I think Armando is right to point out dishonesty but I’d make sure you don’t offend the innocent shoppers who really qualify for the refund.

    I bought an expensive timer from one company and it didn’t work. Then they sent me a replacement that didn’t work. I was asked to send back the 2nd one and I accidentally sent back the first one. They thought I was ripping them off. We talked and worked it out. Humor helped.