Friday, June 11, 2004

The customer is always right. But not in my shop!

Someone at Google has a wicked sense of humour. Try this out. Go to and type in “weapons of mass destruction”, then hit the “I feel
lucky” button. I wont spoil it by telling you what comes up. but try it. It’s very
Had a phone call tonight, the first band to answer my ad in the music shop.
It’s got to be a good sign. because the band is “Heathcliffe”. Two seperate
people have independantly recommended them and I’ve been trying to get
their number. So I’ve provisionally booked them, for the 30th July, subject to
their audition. Their audition being next Thursday at The Fiddlers Elbow,
Peterborough. They are entered into the Peterborough Evening Telegraphs
battle of the bands competition. So I’m taking a look.
(Note to my children: Now you know why I’m taking you to the Fiddlers Elbow
next week. Ha Ha!! Am I a cool dad or what?)

You know it’s great being the owner of your own business. If I worked for
someone else I would have been sacked years ago because I don’t take
things seriously enough. The concept that the customer is always right, is
alien to me. Hells teeth I’m a professional I know my job. My customers come
to me because I know what I’m talking about. Well one day this guy came tyo
us with us shaver, it was very very old, obsolete in fact. But I told him we’d do
our best for him. So I gave the shaver to my brother, Chris, who is a genius
at fixing things. He can fix stuff that’s not supposed to be fixed according to
the manual. Luckily he never reads manuals. He fixed it and when the
customer came back, Chris said, “I’ve fixed it, but I can’t guarantee the repair,
it may last another ten years but it may pack in next week. So don’t charge
him anything.”
Fair enough. So, full of bon hommerie, I present the customer with his shaver
telling him we’d fixed it, but there was no charge.
The customer picked up the shaver and started looking at it very closely
peering over the top of his glasses at it.
“Is there a problem?” I asked, in all innocence.
“I think I’m being ripped off here.”
“WHAT? How can you say that we are not charging you a penny. You
brought in an obsolete shaver that didn’t work, and now you have an obsolete
shaver that does work, for no charge.”
He looked a bit more at his shaver, turning it this way and that.
“You are a bunch of charlatans.”
Well that got me really angry because I had honestly thought we’d done this
guy a favour. We didn’t have to go to the trouble of fixing it for him, we could
have told him it was obsolete. We could have charged him £10 for the repair,
but we didn’t. We were doing him a favour and this was how he repaid us.
he said a few more things that can’t be repeated so I pointed to the door and
said “There’s the door, fuck off and don’t come back.”
“You can’t talk to me like that. I want to speak to the manager.”
“I AM the manager, and I’ll speak to you any way I choose in MY shop. So
fuck off and don’t come back.”
He went, but not before threatening me with the trading standards office.
Like I’m suppose to be quaking in shoes over that one.
Two months later he came back, carrying something that needed fixing. The
shop was full and I noticed him walk in the door. I guess he thought I wouldn’t
remember him. Either that or he was incredibly stupid.
So I said to the customer I was serving “Excuse me one second. I have to
deal with a difficult customer.” I looked his way and said “I thought I told you
never to come back to this shop.”
Everyone turned round to look at him. He looked decidely sheepish and
walked out. “now then where were we.........”
I have to tell you that that was the first time I ever had to throw someone out
of my shop. The rest of my customers are lovely people. I treat them like my
best friends. In fact a lot of them are. They are all different. But they’re great.
My customers make my life at work so much fun. I take the piss out of them.
I joke a lot. I call little old ladies “Miss”. I’ve even been know to entertain
customers by playing my guitar. We have a sweety jar on the counter. I give
away stickers and sweeties and poppers (bubble wrap) to the kids. Even the
answerphone message when we’re shut is funny. If you’re really keen you
can listen to it 01733 565128. Leave a message. I couldn’t do all this if I
worked for John Lewis, or Radio Shack, or Currys. Because the customer is
always right. Who invented that phrase? If the customer was always right
they wouldn’t need me. Todays work uniform for me was Guiness T-shirt,
shorts and trainers. My father who started the business has long since given
up trying to make me like him. I remember him telling me years ago “You
can’t talk to customers like that!”
“Why not?”
“They keep coming back. I rest my case.”
Later on I noticed he was telling the same jokes as I was to customers.
You see being a shop keeper isn’t just being a shop keeper. It’s like an act. A
part in a play. I play this part and I tell my jokes and it’s like a stand up
comedy routine. When I was a teenager I vowed I would never work in a
shop. I would rather die than demean myself by serving customers. But you
know it’s one of the greatest jobs on earth, when you do it right. It’s so much
fun. So I will eat humble pie and admit I WAS WRONG.
My father, although as good as retired, still comes to the shop occassionally
to “oversee things”, has given up criticising my methods. although he still rolls
his eyes when I go into one. People tell me “you should be on stage”. But my
shop IS my stage. Well that, and when I’m really on stage, playing guitar.

That’s it for now. Keep the faith. And may your God be with you.


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