The customer used to always be right. Now the customer is never right. How did we get here?
It would take an entire book to answer that question (hey, there’s an idea!) but in the meantime, I wanted to take a closer look at those of you who are in denial about the whole thing. You know who you are.
You’re the guy at the Apple store who told me with a straight face that iTunes was a great system, even though I couldn’t load the movies that I own to it. No, he said, I needed to buy the film again, and then I could play it on my iPod. He assured me I would love watching my iTunes-approved movies like that.
Well, that’s the problem: I already love iTunes. I just want to load my movies — the ones I already paid good money for — and watch them when I travel. But you can’t do that, thanks to copyright laws, forcing me to become a pirate, which is an incredible hassle.
I am right. Apple, its employee, and copyright law, is wrong. I own the movies, and I should be able to watch them wherever I want.
Here’s another customer-is-never-right moment: Yesterday, I called AAA to tow my car, which needed a new alternator. But it wouldn’t come to my rescue until I paid it for another membership.
Why? I wasn’t with the car. The rest of my family was. I paid quickly; they had me over a barrel.
About half the commenters on my travel blog agreed that AAA could have done better. The other half said it was my own fault, that I should have read AAAs terms.
They’re right, I should have known better.
But being right and doing the right thing are not always the same thing. Customers don’t always have the time to study the fine print, and instead absorb the broad promises made by companies — the warranties and guarantees of superb customer service.
I had been left with the impression that AAA would always be there for me, and it wasn’t.
I am the customer, and I am right.
Not everyone will agree with me. Some of you reading this — maybe many for you — think rules are rules, and that a company is only required to do what’s in its contract. I respect that point of view, but I don’t subscribe to it.
Corporate America has created a gap between expectation and reality, between advertisement and contract. They exploit that gap to their advantage. We should not help them.
I refuse to live in a world where, thanks to fancy lawyering, the company is always right.
Think about it. You probably don’t want to, either.
(Photo: Beni moto/Flickr Creative Commons)