Proliferator

This blog really wants to stand at a bar and drink his espresso.

The customer is always almost never right

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I expect the immediate reaction to the title to be one of outrage (or at least one of immediate dismissal). Even disregarding the fact that it was said by a businessman who happened to run a large department store, and thus had nothing to lose by saying it and everything to gain, any actual critical thought about the statement “The customer is always right” should at least lead to the conclusion that it’s ridiculously simplistic.

The base assumption of the statement is that the customer knows exactly what he/she wants. If that is actually the case, then sure, the statement is true. One of today’s orders: Medium skim decaf cappuccino, two splendas, lots of foam, not too hot. I made it exactly to order, customer delighted, barista happy. You win, Mr. Field (or Mr. Selfridge). This implies that the customer has actually had the experience of getting something that wasn’t quite perfect, that they experimented, and eventually came up with something that pleased them perfectly. Not everyone does this.

Especially considering my previous post, how reasonable is it to expect that the customer is actually getting the thing that would please them most when a significant portion of the menu is an unknown? And what’s the point of having well trained, knowledgeable baristi if one assumes that the customer is always right and knows exactly what they want? Isn’t the whole idea behind specialized labor to shift the burden of doing something onto people who are really good at it, thus relieving everyone else of work? The desires of the customer should certainly be respected, and it is the goal of a barista (salesperson, whatever) to fulfill those desires as best they can, but the method of fulfilling those desires should be left up to the person who knows more: the specialist.

How thrilling and elegant would it be to go up to a bar, tell the barista what you have a taste for, and get it, without exerting any mental effort at all?

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Written by Nick

13 August, 2008 at 5:25 am

Posted in Coffee

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