IS THE CUSTOMER ALWAYS RIGHT?

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 Among the many, many things that annoy me, this thing in Stew Leonard's Even aside from the hubris of carving the store's alleged policy in stone - the clear implication being this was some kind of addendum to the Ten Commandments that Stew alone had gotten wind of - Rule 1 is patently untrue. I'm a customer,  and I've been wrong countless times. Ask my wife. Rule 2 makes an even bigger mockery of my preference for complexity and nuance. It seems like it is about to offer a qualification to Rule 1, but then snatches the rug right out from under me. Darn you Stew Leonard!!

How is this relevant to Daily Bread?  Because I think of the words on the rock all the time while at the Pantry.  Of course, 99% of the time, 99% of our customers - our guests in modern food pantry parlance - are wonderfully polite and good-humored. But once in a while, a guest will complain, or not follow instructions, or take too long picking up food, or whatever.  Then it is very easy to get all uppity and think "geez, buddy, you are getting free food here, don't be so unreasonable."  I know this because from time to time that very thought crosses my mind.

In this situation, we can do one of two things:  point out to the guest the relative merits of their position, informed as it must be by our own privilege, or do our very best to placate them - even if this might reward what might appear as unreasonable behavior.  The latter is nearly always the right way to go. Absent some outright rude or threatening behavior, it is not for us to make judgments. If you are coming to the Pantry, you are to a greater or lesser extent in a bit of a pickle. Not having enough food - or even being concerned about not having enough food - can make even the best of us act irrationally and unreasonably. Just think about the panic buying at the start of the pandemic, or whenever some extreme weather event is forecast.  And then there is simply the embarrassment factor of having to ask for help - which for some manifests in being more than usually defensive or assertive to cover up our insecurities. Or perhaps none of this is at play and a guest is simply having a bad day. We've all been there.

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but let's make doubly sure we keep that rock in mind.  The customer is always right, and therefore always needs to be treated with dignity and respect. I say that despite desperately wishing to reformulate the rock's language even a little bit to introduce a few qualifications, and to remove the lame paradoxical aspect of Rule 2, and to...

 

But in the heat of the moment, you'd never remember all that, and neither probably would I.  Let's just go with the rock. Except when it comes to parking, in which matters Jane Alexander and Andrea DeLange have absolute discretion to deem the customer dead wrong, and Rule 2 does not apply.