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Excerpt from Character 21: Customer

Michael Best
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on July 13, 2016

Book customer drawing blog sizeA myth dressed as a mantra

It’s one of the business world’s most common mantras: “The customer is always right.”

It’s also nonsense.

The customer is not always right. Far from it. This slogan-turned-mantra was apparently popularized over one hundred years ago by renowned retailers such as Harry Gordon Selfridge, John Wanamaker, and Marshall Field. To be fair, these gentlemen couldn’t have anticipated that their slogan—intended to positively influence the attitude of retail employees—would be interpreted by some customers as an endowment of infallibility.

This apparent infallibility and the often-repeated reminder that the customer pays the wages have subtly contributed to some customers’ presuming that they have the right to speak and behave as badly as they please.

I wonder how Messrs. Selfridge, Wanamaker, and Field would have reacted to the YouTube clip of the lady beating a takeout box on the counter of a restaurant to emphasize that she had been expecting red, not green, peppers on her kebab. The entire restaurant (and possibly people out in the parking lot) was treated to her berating the startled restaurant employees: “DON’T YOU KNOW THAT THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT?”