March 24, 2013

Is the customer always right?

Being a conflict-avoider type person, I find it extremely vexing if/when I get negative feedback from my small business.  This has only happened twice, but it is deeply unsettling to me.  I even had a dream about this displeased customer.  I keep imagining someone wandering around in the world who has a dislike for me (and my company) and I shudder and cringe.

I have just run into a "not-to-be-named" customer who is patently insistent that my sewing pattern was mis-reprensented in photos and demaded a refund.  Apparently the garment she sewed had much narrower shoulders than my photo had shown.  She then demanded recompense because SHE was forced to go purchase another pattern and sew another garment at the last minute to complete an outfit for a small child.  (Is this my problem?  Am I being to unsympathic?  I waver back and forth for a few minutes...)

Going against my instinct to pacify and please everyone -and this is extremlely difficult for me, I am a type 9 on the Ennegram personality test  "The Peacemaker", I firmly stated that there could be no refund.  Inside, I was LIVID that she thought I was deliberately misleading in my photos or had ripped off a pattern or photo (of my own child?).  As I had put countless hours into drafting, sewing, scanning, copying, double and triple checking the pattern fit, taking photos of my own daughters in making the garment, writing the instructions, posting the item online and emailing it to her - I KNOW without a SINGLE DOUBT, that my item is NOT misrepresented.  And, to state the obvious, I was MAD.

But, is the customer always right??

In the back of my head - that age old business advice stuck out - the customer is always right.  Should I have swallowed my pride to simply say - "I am sorry you're unhappy -and although my shop policies and the item descriptions states that there are no refunds - I will give you the $10.00 refund so that you'll be happy? (and leave decent feedback)?

Instinctively, I had a feeling this is the type of customer that will NEVER be happy - no matter what I did.  Her accusations just made everything go from bad- to personal -and worse!  Also, is it really my problem that she felt the need to purchase another pattern?  Is it my problem that she felt the need to sew another garment last minute?

Even with over 3,000 sucessfully completed Etsy sales (of which this pattern is my #2 seller) and ONE negative feedback response out of those 3,000 sales- it was hard to say "NO refund."  I stand by my product and my process as much as any other seller. In fact, it would have been much easier for me to click over to pay pal and pay off the unhappy customer BUT for the fact that I would have felt like I was doing a disservice to my product, my business, and my self worth.  All my hard work - being given away to pacify ONE grumpy soul.  I shudder even harder at that thought. 

So, in the end - I stand with a very negative comment in my feedback.  One that I have earned.  

Today I've learned that I cannot make everyone happy.  There will probably be another negative comment (in the far, far future - I hope!) that will keep me awake at night.  But tonight I sleep soundly, knowing that I stood up for myself and my business.  I am proud of my work and I have earned each feedback score - and I understand that my feedback is not just a reflection of me - it's a reflection of the "encounter".  That "encounter" that goes both ways - and I have learned that the customer is not always right.

Signing off,

Becky Ruud

Owly Baby


  1. It is exhausting to be a people pleaser - I'm in your boat, Becky. The wheels get spinning and we wrestle. But good for you. He/she has the right to be dissatisfied and you have a right to not refund. Your work is fabulous and 2,999 people know it! Glad to be one of the 2,999. :)

  2. Sleep soundly! If I was visiting ANY store, and they had 2999 positive scores, and ONE (or two) negative comments, I would still buy. Your customers are smart and they all know that there will always be that one grumpy customer! Every shop of every sort has them.

  3. You are right to sleep soundly. There are some people who will not be pleased no matter what and will blame anyone but themselves if they are the one who happened to cut the pattern wrong or sew it with to large a seam. Maybe her child has broad shoulders and she needed to take that into consideration when cutting it. Possibly she just didn't like the finished product with her choice of fabric. The simple act of holding the pattern up to her child before cutting would have told her if it would fit as she wanted. Whatever the reason, I'm sure that if you have over 3,000 happy customers that it was something she did and she just doesn't want to admit it. If she had bought a pattern at JoAnns and it didn't fit as she thought it should I'm quite sure they would not have given her a refund or replaced the pattern and/or fabric.

    Having worked in customer service for years I have seen customers try and blame their short comings or failures with a product on the retailer simply because they can't admit they did something wrong or failed to follow instructions. In this case you are right and did the right thing. Don't let one customer out of thousands get to you.

  4. good for you, people are so accustomed to the whole 'customer is always right' mentality that manners are dropped at the door. I can't tell you how many times I've witnessed people treating someone who is providing them with a service like a naughty slave. It's disgusting. Thank you for standing up to this person, maybe next time they will be nicer to someone

  5. I feel your pain. I have a small independently owned pattern business and have received one or two complaints in the past 20 years. These very few customers make a whole lot of noise and it's usually because of their lack of sewing skills. I have found that if you ask the customer to send the garment to you so you can fix it, you will learn her sewing skills and then you can determine where she went wrong. Normally, if you request a call to action, they will never follow through and the whole situation will be rectified. If you indeed have made a mistake, acknowledge it, thank her for calling it to her attention, and return the ten bucks.

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  7. I believe the old adage about the customer being right does not apply to the world of consumerism today. The customer is almost NEVER right, and the saying was not really meant for the customer to hear! It was the boss reminding their employee so that smiles could be had all around in the customer service transaction. This philosophy is not even applicable when your business and it’s product is available online to an entire planet. You don’t need to have that disgruntled client go tell the rest of the townsfolk that you are a standup merchant, so the townsfolk won’t blackball you out of their little community anymore. Heck, you don’t even need to have customer feedback available online for others to leave or read if you don’t want to. You can make your website like Nordstrom’s or any other chain store, and feedback only makes your online business look hoakie. Most of the world is by now aware of the fact that review sites (like yelp) are there for pot stirring and profit making, putting all negative reviews first and for most for others to read, and charging the business insane amounts of money to remove or push those negative reviews to the bottom of the list. But most people don’t have the time, or would rather use it doing something else, so don’t usually continue to read all the good reviews further down, but if you know this about review sites, you avoid them or read on... most people don’t go to review sites anyway because they are such a whiney adult bitch fest! All these naughty adults crying because they didn’t read the product details outline or the sellers requirements, all wanting really nice sh*t for free.
    So, you did the right thing and stuck to your RULES YOU PUT IN PLACE BEFOREHAND, and stuck by those rules. No means no. No refunds means NO REFUNDS, it doesn’t mean that if you get nasty and mean, and slam the dealer with personal attacks and lies about their children, that indeed you shall be rewarded for such exemplary social behaviors with the refund you deserve!
    New consumerism term for our future generations:
    “The customer is usually NEVER right, and if you act like a d*ck, we will make up a pretend profile and SLAM you on social media since the merchant cannot punch you in the face. Oh, and NO REFUNDS B*TCH!”
    Much better, no? Perfectly applicable for TODAY’S generation!
    This does not take away from the pain of having another person negatively giving you feedback on your creation you are so proud of, but it at least gives you a better disclosure as backup for standing behind your product and remaining passive aggressive. A little thing that just reiterates your “no returns” policy.
    The merchant is USUALLY right, not the customer, is the correct statement here and I’m proud of you for standing up for yourself.


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