“THE CUSTOMERS ARE ALWAYS RIGHT”: Or Are They?


Hill Country RV Park

Sunday, June 4

What a difference a soft, cleansing morning rain can make! With a rested body and renewed mind, I am revising the draft of a blog post that teetered on the edge of being a “downer”, after some negative stuff that happened, yesterday.  But, as I said, that was yesterday. Today is today. Now,  as I watch raindrops bead the outside of our kitchen window while I sip “cuppa” number-two in our air-conditioned RV, I’m in a much more positive frame of mind.

Friday presented us with a mixed bag of negatives and positives. The positives,  a  visit with Jeff’s son and family and, most important, our waking up to each other. The negatives were that our truck, that we expected to be ready by Saturday around three p.m., would not be ready until Monday around noon. In the meantime, we had clothes to wash, cards to mail, groceries to buy. We needed “wheels”. But, when Jeff called about renting a car,  the phone rep  gave him grief for  calling  at the end of the day.Not letting my husband get in a word edgewise, this rep put him on  hold, told him that it would  take an hour to fill out the paperwork, paid little to no attention to our situation. Jeff’s calls got dropped multiple times, putting him through needless cycles of automated button-crunching.

Hold on a minute, I thought, as I heard my husband become more and more agitated. What happened to  “the customer is always right”?

In the past, anyone who worked with the public had the axiom drilled into their heads. Now, it seemed to have become a thing of the past. For example, yesterday, employees in three places we went showed us, beyond a doubt, that they had never heard of that principle.

First, you need to know that New Braunfels is Jeff’s hometown. We love seeing its sights, soaking up its centuries-old German heritage, and exploring nearby Gruene. We had  groceries and RV supplies to buy, but we still expected  to have fun, as always. But even otherwise good places have stupid people who do or say stupid things. Things that make us wonder: “Isn’t the customer still always right?”

First on Saturday’s list of errands was Wal-Mart. I realized, long ago, that no matter where it was located, Wal-Mart is still WAL-MART.  Stuff happens there that causes reasonable people to scratch their heads. On top of that, it was a Saturday when weird people act even weirder.  We had made a beeline to the RV section to get doodads and gizmos that would make our vagabond lives as simple and easy as they could possibly be. After tossing this and that off the shelves and into our basket, we were leaving that section of the store when I remembered some clothing I needed.

“Hey, babe,” I said,  “I think I’ll go check out their shorts and capris. Maybe even look for a spare bra.”

“Okay,” said Jeff. “Go ‘head on. I need to find some shorts, too. I’ll come find you.”

So, off I skedaddled to Ladies’ Apparel and slowed down when I saw a rack of navy, electric blue, fuchsia, and khaki shorts and capri pants in various sizes. They looked like they might be comfortable, but I needed to try them on, first. But when I got close to the fitting room, I found a long line. A long, long line. To make matters worse, as I waited my turn, I  realized an urgent need to hurry off to the restroom, but when I found it, I saw that a man — a man! — about to clean the restroom. In fact, his cart was blocking the door.

Okay, Kim, I thought.  You can do this. Just pay for these items, first, and try them on when you get back to the RV. Whatever doesn’t fit, you can always bring it back with the receipt.

But when I unzipped my purse and looked for my debit card, I remembered that Jeff still had it. Now,  I really, REALLY had to “go”. Querulous as a  two-year-old lost in a mall, I pecked out a quick “Hey, babe, where R U?”

After a couple of seconds, I checked my phone.

“Come to the fitting room,”Jeff had replied.

So I did and, boy, did I ever tattle on that man cleaning the bathroom.

“Tell him you have to go. Make HIM leave.” Jeff said.

So off I marched up front to the women’s restroom and spoke in my bossiest voice.

“Hel-loooo. I really have to go. NOW.  I’ll leave a puddle if you don’t let me in.”

“Use the other restroom,” he barked.

So off to the back side of the store I trotted with steam spewing out of my ears. When I finished, I wandered up one aisle and down another until I found Jeff waiting near the dressing room. Getting the attention of “Fitting-Room Lady”, he told her that he needed to go in with me because I’d had shoulder surgery and still needed  help dressing.

Surrounded by watchful eyes, the lady shook her head, at first, until Jeff  reasoned with  her. So, a few turns later, she  motioned both of us into a dressing room where, with my husband’s help, I tried on and cast off the shorts that did not fit right, but a bra that fit as though it had saved itself just for me.

After the Wal-Mart ordeal, we swung into  McDonald’s for two  grilled-chicken snack-wraps and “senior” iced teas. They were the same snack wraps that we’ve had at countless other McDonalds, everywhere, for the past three years  and the same Jeff had ALWAYS been able to find, no matter the location.

But not today. And not at this location. The  young lady at the counter stared at us with  open-mouthed stupefaction as if she had witnessed an alien de-boarding a UFO in the parking lot.

Snack-wraps? Um…we don’t have those, sir.”

Jeff flashed his famous grin. The one that could charm me into eating worms.

“Come on. Of course, y’all do. I’ve had them at every McDonalds,” he protested.

“Whadda they want?”  a co-worker asked.

“Snack wraps,” she said, with a shrug that seemed to say “Imagine that!”

“Don’t have ’em,” he growled.

“We have sausage  burritos,” she offered, hope glistening in her dark brown eyes.

“Sorry,” said Jeff, sliding the debit card back into his wallet.  “Not gonna happen. Gotta have snack wraps.”

The scenario we had just witnessed reminded me of a scene from a movie where the waitress had told a customer that the toasted BLT she ordered was impossible to make until the customer reminded her that, since the restaurant served burgers and breakfast, they were bound to have bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes. And if they had some kind of toaster? Well, there you have it.

As we wandered out to the car, I remembered my experience waiting on customers. No matter how crazy the order was, our manager helped us find a workaround that would benefit the customer.

“They did so have snack wraps. They had chicken, and soft tortillas. We were the customers, darn it. They could have come up with something had they wanted our money, badly enough.”

The weirdness didn’t stop there. When we left the Arby’s with our tummies full at last, we stopped at a camping-goods store for the supplies we didn’t find at Wal-Mart but nearly wilted in the heat before it was all over.

“Man, it’s hot! I feel like just walkin’ outta here,” Jeff said.

“Yeah,  I know, I’m going to the front to ask them to turn up the A/C,” I said, turning on my heel.

But after I told someone up front that we were going to leave unless they cranked up the air, a manager who looked younger than my sons were handed me some half-baked excuse.

” Ma’am, I can understand you’re hot, but it is, after all, a hot day out there.”

“Hold it right there,” I spat, as my ire gathered steam. .”I don’t want your excuses. My husband and I are so hot in your store that we’re about to leave without buying anything.”

But, as we continued to shop, the temp did not change. In fact, it grew hotter.

At the register, the cashier admitted that he got docked if he dared to monkey with the thermostat — even at a customer’s request. And, since that day, several other McDonalds employees have told us that they stopped carrying the snack wraps we love. And when I posted about the restroom incident on Facebook, many of my friends agreed that times were changing, and that hiring a  man to clean the women’s restroom was a new normal.  Times had indeed changed. We could choose to crumble  or cope.

No longer is the customer always “right”, because the word, as we know it, no longer seems to exist.

Or does it? Has “right” been redefined in a way we don’t recognize it, anymore?

I love to hearing from you and receiving your comments. Please leave them in the “comments” section following this post.

Coming to a tablet, iPad, Mac, or iPhone near you, more travel adventures from the ” Vintage Honeymooners”.

Stay tuned!

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2 thoughts on ““THE CUSTOMERS ARE ALWAYS RIGHT”: Or Are They?

  1. Because of days like that, we seem to relish all the “good old days” as well as the good days here and now just a little more than we would have otherwise. While I have no appreciation or respect for the “snowflake” mentality of today’s young adults(???), as a business owner myself I would have to say that the long lost principle of “the customer is always right” comes straight from the top. McDonald’s, Walmart and likely the RV store are no longer “hungry”. Their mindset is herd’em in and herd’em out, even if they complain about the heat. While the behavior of the employees is, in fact, inexcusable, the gravity of the situation falls on the people in the upper ranks who need to put systems in place to hold their employees accountable and restore the “customer is always right” environment. Sorry ya’ll had a bad day. Hope today makes up for it in smooth sailing and complete gladness!

    1. Hey, thanks for your comments, Tina. Good to hear we’re not the only ones who miss the way things used to be. We did have two beautiful days out, yesterday and today, in Gruene (on Monday) and Wimberly (today).

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