Is the Customer Always Right?

  • Comments: 7
  • Written on: February 11th, 2007

There is an adage that says you can’t please all of the people all of the time, yet in business rule number one is that the customer is always right. Since opening Schrock Innovations I have seen a lot of situations where I knew that our product or service was not at fault, however the customer believed it was, so we did everything we could to make things right. We understand the value of good service at Schrock, and we work hard every day to be the best. But what should a business do when a customer “crosses the line?”

Background: A customer bought a $1500 computer from us in November. After two warranty support calls in 80 days, the customer was concerned that the system was a “lemon.” Understanding their concern, we agreed that the best solution would be to replace the entire unit with a new system just to be safe. We informed the customer we would be happy to bring the new system to their home, install it for them set everything up and install their programs for them. Our customer said they wanted to think about it, and we didn’t hear anything for a few days on it.

After a week, the customer’s adult daughter called us about the matter and that is when things started going downhill fast.

Our customer’s daughter called and said that her parents did not want a replacement system, and that they wanted a refund. Jennifer explained that our return policy (which is clearly posted and included in our computer ordering packets) was that after 30 days hardware can not be returned at all. Rightfully so, the caller recounted all of the issues the computer had and again, demanded a refund. Jennifer restated our return policy and then things got nasty.

The caller started using language that would make a sailor blush, calling Jennifer every name in the book. Jennifer was tolerant of the abuse for a while, but the caller would not stop her verbal tirade. Realizing that he call was not going anywhere, Jennifer decided to refer the caller to me, thank her for her time, and hang up. The caller immediately called back and left a voice mail filled with more language. The she said she was coming in to “discuss this further.”

About 30 minutes later, the customer’s daughter arrived at our Lincoln Service Center. She continued where she left off on the phone, not knowing our video surveillance cameras were recording her. Again, Jennifer tried to calm the woman who was now demanding a cash refund for a computer that was purchased with a credit card. When Jennifer told her we would never do that for anyone anytime because it violates our merchant agreement, the daughter came across the desk to “get in Jennifer’s face.”

Blaze was listening to this go on for nearly thirty minutes when he decided to put an end to it. He came to the front desk and asked the woman to leave. She refused. Blaze asked her again, explaining he would call the police, and she refused again. So Blaze called the police, and then the woman finally left.

At this point Jennifer was pretty shaken and needed to compose herself for the other customers who were now arriving. A few minutes later the Officer arrived and took a report. He decided to cite the daughter for disturbing the peace and trespassing, and since she refused to give Jennifer information so I could contact her that afternoon, we gave the officer the only phone number we had for her – Her work number.

The officer followed up a few days later and told us that he had issued her the citations at her place of employment, in front of her coworkers. We asked the officer to contact our original customers and reinforce the fact that we were more than willing to honor the warranty by replacing the system as we discussed. The officer agreed, and did so. About a week later, I called the original customers and left a message on their answering machine explaining that they are more than welcome in our Service Center anytime, and that we were ready and willing to replace the computer for them.

They did call back, and they requested to be removed from all of our contact lists. A few days later, a courier came to the shop with a delivery. We get many deliveries a day, so Blaze signed for the package without asking what it was. After he signed, he realized that our customer had a courier drop off their computer at our shop – effectively force returning it. We all knew what was coming next… There was only one reason to send a package signature required.

Last week, our merchant processing company notified us that the card holder had filed a chargeback stating that the original transaction was not completed face to face (which it was) and that we refused to honor the warranty on the system (which was not true). So now we have a computer that was customized for a specific customer, with an XP license that is forever tied to their name, neither of which we can sell to anyone else. On top of that, the original purchase price has been automatically deducted from our company accounts, and it is now on us to dispute the chargeback.

We have filed a dispute with the card company, but from what I read online if we provide everything they need we only have a 30% chance for a chargeback reversal. Obviously, this customer will probably never be back, and have already expressed their dissatisfaction with friends and family. So here is my question… Do we report the delinquent debt to the credit reporting agencies, and hand this matter off to a collection agency, or do we just walk away and cut our losses. What do you think?

  1. Omni said on February 15th, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Definately not. I have seen some very wrong customers in my time…

  2. Jolene Graff said on February 15th, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    Horrible incident. Makes you really want to pursue it to the fullest extent, but in the long run will it cost you more? Would really hate to see the customer win on this one though. It’s really a hard decision.

  3. Bill Kinney said on February 15th, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    I’m sorry that Jennifer had to experience such abuse. NO, the customer is not "always right".

    But as one blogger above noted, you can waste lots of time and effort to no avail.

    However, I would file suit in small claims court in order to let her hear a judge’s opinion on the matter!

    Who really knows what is best?

    I wish you well.

    Bill Kinney

  4. Mary said on February 15th, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    I am always disappointed when I hear things like this. I agree with Bill’s suggestion. The customer in this case shouldn’t get away with "stealing" from you like this. It is the principle of the thing. But if the cost to pursue it is more than your loss it will be a had decision. I hope you find some way to some satisfaction from the situation

  5. Gail W. said on February 18th, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    It makes you wonder if this sort of action taken by your customer is done on a regular basis by them to other businesses. They shouldn’t be allowed to continue such activity. Good luck in retrieving your losses.

  6. Josh the Aspie said on February 27th, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    No the customer is not always right. I’ve worked retail before, and one time when I used that adage, my manager told me flat out that the customer is no longer to always be considered right. That these days, customers are no longer trying to deal with merchants honestly, but rather trying to screw you out of money any way they can, including trying to get product for free.

    I have had customers who brought back a printer that we no longer carried a year after they bought it because "it didn’t work. We had it sitting in our basement for a year, it worked a few times before we put it down there, but now when we took it out, it didn’t work." When I told them I couldn’t take it back, the customer railed that she ran a business, that "this is no way to run a business" and that we had lost her business.

    On the other hand, the business isn’t always right either. Dell has a link online regarding their return policy. If you read it over, it doesn’t include anything about a restocking fee… however they still have one. Even if the computer you bought was from their refurbished center, in which case they loose no additional money on ‘reduction of value’ by changing it from a new system to a refurbished one… because it already was one. It took me two calls, one of which lasted over an hour to get back my money according to the policy as they had it posted when I purchased the system.

    I came to this article through the link you provided on the front page. I’m glad to hear that things turned out well.

  7. Alex said on June 14th, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    A computer customized for them? You’re creating some disinformation for yourself there. The system will work just dandy for someone else and saying that really just make you look desperate.

    The return of the system on the basis of warranty not being provided is because the warranty you provide and the one agreed to at the time of payment is different.

    Unless terms are present at the time of purchase, you leave yourself open. You can’t change that afterwards either (contract of adhesion), as that would entail renegotiation of the purchase agreement.

    How would you like to agree to buy something and get something different in the mail? Worse still – with one-way terms that say “by accepting…”

    Be fair and empathetic to your customers. You aren’t a good salesman if you can’t be. I used to sell computer parts and I was very good at it for this reason.

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