Why "The customer is always right" mentality is ruining American businesses


Disclaimer to all my adventure peeps! I know this is a little off brand for me and I try to only put positivity out into the world but there is a downhill spiral that I have had a front row seat to for the last 17 years and feel the need to speak on. Travel and Adventure fun will resume shortly!

Almost everyone has a customer service job at some point in their life; whether it be a restaurant, hotel, store, etc. I began working in the restaurant industry when I was 15 at a corporate pizza place. It was a low-end inner city restaurant and while the tips weren't great, for the most part the tables were respectful and my fellow employees were fun. Ever since that first job, I've worked in restaurants and bars of all types; corporate, independent, franchised, mom & pop, sports bars, themed restaurants, fine dining, nightclubs; you name it I have worked there. I've also worked at restaurants in different cities, states, and even countries. Over the years I have watched a steady decline as the dining experience has turned ruthless due to the "Have-It-Your-Way, Customer-Is-Always-Right mentality. People simply CAN'T be told no! And the masses have turned on restaurants bullying them into doing WHATEVER they ask.

Look, I'm not trying to jump on a soap box or go on an angry server rant but what has happened to our society? A few examples...I work at a place (that shall remain nameless due to my need for employment...) that offers a Sunday Brunch. Every day we get 1 or 2 tables that ask if we can do it anyway, just for them. I explain to them that not only is the food not available (batters not mixed, etc), but it is also an entirely different kitchen set up. For the most part, sometimes after an eye-roll and grunt or two, they move on. Today I had a table belittle me, demand I do it for their daughter, blame me for ruining their meal, and then proceed to yell at the manager for not rearranging the kitchen to make their daughter two pancakes. What did management do? Apologize and make them two platters of pancakes!!! Not only do I look bad in this situation but it reinforces the customer mentality that "if I complain enough, I will get my way".

The very next table wanted to put 9 people at a 4 person table. When I explained to them that it was a fire hazard and we were on a wait so they couldn't add the table next to them. They yelled some more and demanded a manager. What did the managers do? Extend everyone else's wait time, take tip money from my pocket by using my table and give them a second table, once again reinforcing the "complain=win" thinking.

And a very extreme example that happened to a co-worker of mine. A table of ignorant racists told the server, to his face, that they did not want to be waited on a by a black server! Did management kick them out? Nope, just replaced the server with a white one!!!

When did companies get so desperate for a sale that they'll step on their employees to get it? When did businesses begin cantering to anyones demands and giving them the power to make policy? Where do we draw the line? I know of someone who worked at a store that when the customer complained that the floor THEY themselves put in didn't come out right, they refunded them their money and personally went to their house to fix it! Are people appreciative and think wow that business is fantastic and I will always use them? Sometimes maybe, but a lot of the time it shows them that complaining and threatening loss of business is the poker hand they can forever be played to get what they want. My question is...why do companies want these repeat customers? We had a table who's card was declined get their entire meal for free!!! Do you really want that table to come back?

And what about small businesses? If they turn someone away for being disrespectful there is now the fear of sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, Zagat, etc. getting them shut down due to bad reviews. Businesses can't even operate under the "I don't want that kind of return business" mindset because when horrible customers can whine and complain to the ever-hungry internet, they can hurt any would-be business from trying the place themselves. I have actually been told by a table "I am a yelp-er so don't screw anything up". At the end of their meal they told the manager they give me a 6 out of 10!

There is a sense of entitlement in today's society that has turned "you're special" into "you're better than everyone and deserve whatever you want". We see it in social media with people putting every aspect of their life on display; we see it in sports with "everyone gets a trophy so no one feels bad"; and we see it in kids who are never told no. But the fact is the real world is not fair. "No" is part of life, and a healthy part at that. We can't have everything we want just because we say we deserve it more. And when trying to appease people who demand that kind of service requires putting down your staff, that's not a business mindset I can get behind.

Just to be clear, I am not speaking for the people who modify their food or get something comped because it wasn't to their liking or get a free dessert because a mistake was made. I am ALL for taking care of my guests and wanting them to have a great experience. If there's a food allergy, or just a specific way someone likes something, I'm all about helping you get that right. And servers aren't perfect. Today (dealing with the brunch table) I forgot to put an order in for a few minutes. I apologized profusely, offered them a free soup or salad while they waited, asked the kitchen to rush their food, and asked a manager if we could give them a free cheesecake for being so patient. In the real world, treating someone nicely makes them want to help you out more. In the restaurant world it's all about yell louder, complain more, and you'll really get free stuff if you can make someone cry!

When did negative clientele get to bully businesses? I have watched over the years as adults demand catering to their oh-so-deserving child even if it's something against policy. These bullies are passing this mentality on to their children. I've waited on teenagers who demand I give them kids meals and free desserts. Where do you think they learned this? Because when they were little, their parents made a server cry by yelling at her for not serving Sunday brunch on a Saturday.