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Thread: Seve things a customer should never say

  1. #1
    Staff Emeritus Lunatock's Avatar
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    03 Aug 03
    Southeast Pennsylvania

    Seven things a customer should never say

    The 'flip' side: 7 things a customer shouldn't say

    Home Office / Jeff Wuorio

    Verbal missteps indeed, outright attacks certainly cut both ways in the world of small business.


    Recently, I was standing behind a woman in a pet store. When a young clerk asked if she wanted her dog chews in a bag, the customer snapped like a stale Milk-Bone: "Should I carry them in my hands?" she shrieked, trilling her fingers in the clerk's face. She then somehow managed to segue to accusing the clerk of drinking and sexual promiscuity. The scene melted with the woman storming out and the clerk in tears.

    Recently, I wrote an article titled "7 things never to tell your customers." These were common employee remarks and whinings that I feel customers should never have to hear. Hundreds of readers responded with their own additions to my list. (Most popular addition: "That's not my job/department.") But many others urged me to go get a job in retailing, or to walk in their shoes as the owner of a business who deals face-to-face with often-hard-to-please customers.

    Thanks to your feedback, and inspired by incidents such as the one I've recounted above, I'm putting the shoe on the other foot. Here's the flip side seven things small-business people should never have to hear from customers, and what, if anything, you can do to cope, short of felonious assault.

    "Whaddaya mean it's not in stock?" I overheard this several days ago in a sporting goods store, when a customer brushed aside inferno-like heat to ask about a snowboard. If it's you as a customer doing the asking, stop and think no, for the most part, means no. If you're on the other end, no matter how incredulous or rude, it's always best for you or your salespeople to calmly repeat that the item isn't available. If the customer has somehow gone deaf in the past 20 seconds, suggest that a manager or supervisor might help restore his hearing.

    "I cannot believe how much this costs!" Heard this one in a convenience store in relation to a Snickers bar. (Amid the slime left behind by Enron and WorldCom, here's a vile instance of corporate piracy.) Granted, many items can be rather steep, but last I looked it isn't the woman with the name tag setting the going rate. If you hear such a comment, politely remind the consumer about that particular dynamic of our economy. And if, by chance, you do decide on prices, simply say you're sorry they find it's high but that's what you're charging. It's a nice way of saying take it or leave it, Diamond Jim.

    "Let me finish this call first." This has never happened to me, but it's one with which I surely sympathize the clerk patiently waiting for a customer to end a cell-phone call before paying. Not merely rude, but, I suspect, an exercise in pure narcissism. ("Look at me, everyone! I'm talking to the video rental store while I'm buying a box of Count Chocula!") If you're talking with a salesperson, become acquainted with your phone's off switch. And if you're dealing with someone whose phone seems every bit attached as an oversized earring, politely remind them that others are waiting.

    "Could you hurry it up?" I've caught this remark more times than I care to remember. It's rude, brusque and inherently insulting. If you're pressed for time, try rephrasing it. (Such as, "It would really help me out if I could finish up here as quickly as possible.") If you happen to be the one who's accused of moving with the speed of erosion, simply remind your customer you're doing the very best you can.

    "Just what is your problem?" Variants to add on to this global accusation include references to stupidity, lack of mental and emotional development, and other derision. There's no cause for this if nothing else, who's going to suddenly going to snap to and offer exemplary service after you've just questioned their lineage? If you've just taken one of these in the face, immediately suggest that they chat with a manager or someone else such as their own mother. You shouldn't have to deal with it, and trying to reply in any fashion may only sour things even more.

    "I'm not leaving until I get what I want!" This is usually sputtered loudly in the hopes of attracting attention. Unfortunately, on the scale of lame ultimatums, this ranks right alongside Khrushchev's promise to bury the West. Try to remember that stores do, in fact, run out of stock you can't simply embarrass someone into making that Martha Stewart action figure appear out of thin air. Faced with such a comment, tell a customer you're sorry they're dissatisfied (remembering, as one reader pointed out, that they are on private property and can, if need be, be removed).

    A bonus bundle for No. 7. To conclude, I have a laundry list of quickie favorites as suggested by readers (some of which belie any sort of reasonable response):

    "Can you get my money out? I just had my nails done."
    Said to a child: "Johnny, be quiet or this salesperson will yell at you."
    "Can you look after my child while I try this on?" Of course, madam, right after I finish chewing him out.
    "Here!" (followed by money or credit card being tossed onto a counter).
    "Do you work here?" Often said to a uniformed employee with a name tag who's been hammering a cash register for the better part of an hour. If you're the employee, answer with due politeness and you'll likely be up for a Nobel Prize. If you're the one asking this archetype of pure density, well, you'll probably get what's coming to you. But don't forget to ask the gray-suited manager at the insurance agency if they've sold out of copies of the new Barry Manilow CD.

  2. #2
    Ubi dubium ibi libertas Senior Contributor
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    "Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have."
    "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"


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