The Customer is Always Right

This was the refrain I grew up with.

In a store, no matter how obnoxious, the goal was customer satisfaction. At the gas pump, when I was a kid, we sat in our car and a nice, spirited young man poured gasoline into the tank of my mother’s car. He smiled as he took payment and we drove off satisfied.

In a restaurant, tips depended upon service with a smile. On airplanes, oh so long ago, passengers’ comfort and happiness were paramount.

The other day, I pulled through the drive-through of Dunkin’ Donuts to buy a box of 25 munchkins for my children’s playdate. And while I did make that purchase, I was disappointed with the entire experience.

For one, the price posted on their outdoor sign said $4.29 for a box of 25. The attitude-impaired teenage salesperson charged me $4.79 – even when I pointed out to her that her advertising is mistaken.

She didn’t care for a minute. Out poured a tirade of excuses: the freezer just broke and we’re rushing to get everything out before it all melts and there’s no one here in management you can talk to, call this number during these hours if you want to lodge a complaint, $4.79 $4.79 $4.79.

I know it was a 50-cent difference, which Thank God is not a big deal to me. It was the point of it all.

The other thing that happened, while slight, was that when the salesperson asked at the drive-through if I wanted assorted flavors, I said yes. When I got to the window, knowing how assorted can be interpreted as maybe-only-one-or-two-flavors, I inquired as to whether there were any peanut donut holes included.

“No,” she said. “I said assorted,” I clarified. To which she replied, “Well you have to say specifically peanut.” “I meant all flavors when I said assorted,” I replied. “$4.79,” she said and stood there until I forked over a fiver. Then she walked away with my money and my donuts. I wasn’t sure she’d be back.

As a marketer myself I know that even by mentioning DD in a negative context I am giving them publicity. (Notice I am not linking to their website deliberately.)

I share this story because I am fuming about how little businesses today care about customer service. This tousle for service – a veritable combative effort to, um, spend my money and get something in return – amazes me.

How hard is it to strive for satisfaction? Being satisfied is not being supremely happy. It’s shooting for the lowest acceptable bar, my friends.

When did we, as a society, stop caring whether we do good work?

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