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The abuse that comes with customer service.

In 1909 Retailer Harry Gordon Selfridge coined the term “the customer is always right.” In some sense the idea of making sure the customer is happy is a great idea in theory.

The problem with this is that it leads to situations in which the customer could be lying, or in which the employee experiences some sort of ill treatment or abuse from the customer. 

In recent headlines we saw this come to light from actor and comedian James Corden. He is alleged to have said to the wait staff; “You can’t do your job! Maybe I should go into the kitchen and cook the omelet myself!” 

This is the second report in less than 6 months against Corden at the same location. Good on the owner for 86ing him but unfortunately, the owner has now gone back on his stance and given Gordon the go ahead on letting him back into the restaurant

I personally couldn’t care less who you are, treating people with kindness is a value I was raised on. But this verbal abuse to a server is not unique to those in the service industry. I can say this having worked in the industry prior to my role as a designer/creative director. I can also say this having had to sit on hold with AT&T for what felt like years and losing my cool. 

illustrations by Brooke Foster

So yes, I am not exempt, and I am sure we’ve all done this to someone in the service industry before. But it’s not fair for us to continue down the path thinking that the customers are always right. We need to establish a standard where restaurants and people in the service industry have the right to protect themselves from such abuse as well as holding people accountable for their bad behavior.

Customer Service industries should have the ability to refuse service to customers who are entitled or abusive to their employees. In a post-pandemic world, these industries are suffering to maintain employees, provide a living wage, maintain customers as the price of food is rising, and a slew of other issues. 

In an already tough industry we need to remember that the people helping us, cooking for us, providing for us, are humans too. And if someone is going to treat you in an abusive manner then I say protect the employee and make sure that those customers never return. 

This Corden example is a great example of why we need to stand up for service workers and provide employees a safe space to work. After all, isn’t that sort of a basic need for all of us? To feel good about what we do, how much we make, who we work with, and knowing if anything happens we’re protected. 

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