The Customer is Always Right– but They Lie

Veggie Burger

Slow Food

A friend worked at a fast food restaurant and spoke about their policy of replacing food items that were wrong when the order was prepared. For example, if a person asked for a burger with no pickles, and pickles were found when the package was opened. The restaurant replaced such items without hesitation, and free of charge. After all, he said, “the customer is always right.” He added, “…but they lie.” Customers frequently abuse the well-known make it right policy to get extra food. He knew because of his experience of properly preparing an order, only to have the customer return with half-eaten food, wanting a replacement for reasons that can only be described as lame.

Complaints are up at large franchise fast food restaurants, and given the scale of some operators, it is no surprise. In order to run a global restaurant business, with thousands of outlets, a company has to focus on the service delivery process. There is plenty of room for deviation from corporate standard operating procedures.

A focus on process means well-defined procedures for everything. With high employee turnover, some believe if the service delivery process is bulletproof, any employee, with limited experience, can step in with minimal training, and make sandwiches that delivery corporate quality.

Customers learn to work such delivery systems to their advantage. My friend was just calling out what in other social circles is an accepted practice of getting what one can from society without ethical concerns.

It may be a bit scandalous to say, but often the customer is not right. It is one thing for a starving person to work the system to get an extra sandwich from a company that can afford to provide one. It is quite another to go through life expecting that what are exceptions should become rules for exploiting businesses for personal gain. Whatever is wrong with corporate businesses, there is something more fundamentally wrong with a culture that produces both employees that are rude and deceitful customers. It is tough to blame that on corporations.

As a business owner, it can be comforting to focus on process. It is abstract, and works toward efficiency, employee safety and improved margins. But not everyone owns a business, and that leaves those of us in the fray of daily restaurant operations to fend for ourselves.

Bad customer service and deceitful customers are two sides of the same problem. Some of us are loathe to complain about service, because of the time it takes and the negativity it can introduce into daily life. The customer who lies about a sandwich order for personal gain is an example of what is worst in society. The idea that we are not in life together, but that it is each individual for him or herself, any semblance of a moral compass abandoned.

We are on our own in society, emphasis on our. There is a proper place for honesty in our relations with people. It is something we can and should work on everyday, even in ubiquitous settings like fast food restaurants.

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