Lacking change of heart, then change of place

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

Guy was telling us Coffee Clutchers about that one-in-a-thousand customer who can turn his whole day bad.
“She always wants her order printed while she waits, even when every machine in the back is already busy,” Guy said.
He took a sip of coffee and started in again.
“She hounds me for ridiculous discounts,” Guy continued. “She’s always telling me how to change my lighting, my signage – or that I should fire my pressman for having a Marine Corps tattoo.
“When most customers offer a suggestion, I appreciate and consider their input,” he said. “But with her, everything comes across as a command.
“And even though we have her proofread everything beforehand, she argues – after the ink is dry – that she wanted such-and-such to be a different word,” Guy said.
Mark, a ninth-grade science teacher, reminded us all, “The customer is always right,” to which we bobbleheaded our assent.
Bud, a ninth-grade dropout who’s made his living mostly from raising cattle and razing barns, set his mug down, stared successively at each of us from under caterpillar eyebrows and proclaimed, “The customer is always right – except when the customer is wrong.”
Our heads swiveled as though strapped together, and we stared at Bud, unable to imagine any plausible explanation for such heterodoxy.
“I’ve had people tell me it was inhumane to leave cows outside on a hot day or to have them drink from a pond,” he explained. “Others decided I ought to let my chickens roost in trees because some farmy magazine was promoting free range poultry without mentioning the idea of free range ‘possums.
“I was going to cut a big old red oak for a man who thought he was paying for the privilege of telling me how to do it,” Bud continued. “This man who’d never even dulled a pair of pruning shears swore it was gonna go the wrong way. I couldn’t convince him I was cutting a hinge to guide it right where he wanted it to go, so he fired me, bought his own saw and knocked the porch right off his house.”
We were surprised to hear Bud – who rarely leaves the county, let alone the state – relate a customer-service lesson from Southwest Airlines.
“Their whole company is known for trying to make everything fun,” Bud said. “But one woman thought the safety instructions were out-of-bounds for humor, and she wrote the company saying she would never fly Southwest again.
“The CEO wrote her back and said, ‘We’ll miss you.'”
Bud looked at Guy.
“Some customers are too expensive to keep,” Bud said. “You’ll have more money, happier employees and less stress if you give that customer to one of your competitors.”
Contact Daily Journal Oxford Bureau reporter Errol Castens at

Click video to hear audio