Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How To Get What You Want As a Customer

As a business owner for about 14 years now, and having simultaneously spent about 12 of those years running a wedding cake business, I have probably heard (or been subjected to) about every kind of customer input you can imagine, good and bad.  Between Shane and I, we have over 100 years' combined business experience, so you can rest assured that what follows is gospel truth.

I thought I'd jot down a short list of how get what you want, as a consumer, because I'm helpful like that.  And...why let all my interactions go to waste, right?

Loosely based on my experience--here goes:

1.  When making a complaint, claim the moral high ground in any conversation.  You are the offended party.  Don't allow anyone to imply that your complaint isn't justified.  EVERY complaint is justified, especially yours, no matter how insignificant the details.  Like those muddy tire tracks on your driveway after the delivery truck leaves?  DEFINITELY you should make a phone call about that, and expect someone to "come do something about it."  If no one answers, follow up with several voice-mails.  And emails.

2.  Go ahead and freely use entirely subjective complaints about consumable products, long after they've been consumed.  This makes your complaint impossible to verify and leaves the business owner in a no-win situation.  See below:

Exhibit A:
You:  That was the dryest cake I've ever eaten! How can you call yourself a cake decorator?  Everyone complained about it and my daughter's whole wedding was pretty much ruined and they're possibly getting an annulment because of your cake.  Your feeble excuse that it was eaten while still freezing cold out of the refrigerator is worthless.  I want a full refund right this second! And you should have to pay for our dry-cleaning and unlimited wi-fi for a YEAR.   

Owner:  No problem.  Just bring back the uneaten portion, and we will happily refund you the difference, even though it was perfectly good and just needed to sit out at room temperature before you all bellied up to the cake table, as I clearly stated, and you signed IN INK, right on the "cake instructions" page that you took with you when you picked it UP.   

You:  Oh, there's no cake left.  We ate it all.  But we still hate you and are going to tell everyone what a terrible baker you are.  And you're rude, too!

3.  Don't allow us to answer or defend ourselves on the phone or through emails--we are just trying to overthrow your reign of control and condescension.  You can't let that happen.  If we stand up for ourselves in even the slightest way, flare up with something like, "WHAT did you just say to me?"  No business owner should be allowed to take control of the situation by halting you, mid-tirade.

4.  If nothing else works, and you think we might have a point, play the trump card of age.  You're older than me; hence, you automatically have more wisdom.  Condescendingly ask "How old are you?" Immediately age yourself 20+ years beyond me. This puts you securely back in the driver's seat.

5.  Start any emails or phone calls with the phrase "You people".   This is condescension at its finest and allows you to immediately assert your dominance.  Spend the whole conversation talking to us as if you can't believe you're having to waste your precious time telling us how to do our jobs.  Act surprised that we've survived in business as long as we have.  We appreciate your validation and look forward to feeling like you approve of our business plan.

6.  Threaten to tell both all of your friends how unhappy you are with our services, and convince them not to do business with people like us. This allows you to assert your dominance on the lives of at least one person other person everyone around you, which subsequently improves your life.

7.  Repeatedly tell us that we have failed to make you happy and have possibly ruined your future happiness, while striking down any offers we might make to rectify the situation.  Even if we don't agree with you, we're obligated by law to listen.  Remind yourself this as you repeatedly demand the impossible, and don't let us get a word in edgewise.  When we do...tell us we're being SO RUDE.

8.  Expect free stuff.  If you voice your complaint forcefully enough, expect us to drop everything and deliver you more of our products, at no charge, based on your word alone.  We don't need proof.  Are we calling you a liar?

9.  Ask to "speak to the owner".  Act surprised when the woman who just answered the phone turns out to BE the owner.  Do not let the situation be diffused, though.  Demand to speak to a man.  What could she know?

10.  Feel free to hang up on us.  Nothing says "I'm in control of this situation" better than just hanging up on someone.  Granted, there's no satisfying "slam" to it, with cell phones, but you can make it more gratifying by calling us names before pressing <end>.  Just be careful we don't call you right back in a cheerful voice and say, "I'm sorry, we got cut off.  I wasn't finished."  Because we probably will.

11.  Claim to have had more years' experience as a business owner, than you actually have been alive.  This impresses us to no end, because anyone who's had "300 years' combined business experience" sure as heck knows what they're talking about.  We're all ears.

12.  Pretend to avidly stay abreast of facts, price trends, profit margins, and safety issues relating to our business.  Lord knows we sure don't.

13.  Setting prices and profit margins should NOT be limited to individuals who actually run the business. Everyone knows this.  You should definitely let us know if we're charging too much.  Feel free to tell us what you *will* pay, and don't be embarrassed to offer us less than half our retail prices, "or possibly a little higher".  We will appreciate your savvy negotiating skills and probably offer to just GIVE you this stuff for free.

14.  Make your fight personal.  When emailing your unhappy thoughts, it's helpful if you point out that you resent the owner's having mentioned the fact that she personally delivered your messy bundles of FREE kindling to your house in her brand-new BMW X-5, causing her to get a trunk-full of stupid sawdust and wasting the better part of an hour vacuuming out her car because of YOU.  Her car-keeping troubles are not your concern.  And she didn't bring enough kindling, anyway.

15.  Be loud.  Use LOTS OF UNDERLINING AND HIGHLIGHTED ALL-CAPS IN YOUR EMAILS SO WE ARE SURE TO HEAR YOU YELLING.  Everyone knows the best approach in conflict resolution is to jump right to yelling.

16.  It's also helpful to tell us, when you're ordering, that you will be needing/expecting us to perform about four additional services, which we don't offer, at no charge.  Threaten not to pay for your merchandise if we don't meet your demands.  Act offended when we say we don't offer those services, and threaten to take your business elsewhere.

17.  When you threaten to "take your business elsewhere", rest assured that this will change the business owner's mind, on the spot, 100% of the time, possibly even more than 100% of the time.  Every time. We will always beg you not to take your rude self somewhere else. hashtag goaway

18.  If we actually do encourage you to please take your crazy, rude self somewhere else, act outraged.  It is your right to behave as rudely as you can imagine, and it is our job to put up with anything you want to dish out.  Forever and ever, amen.

19.  When paying in cash, make sure to hand it to the delivery driver as if you're possibly funding Oliver Twist's first real pair of new shoes.  He'll appreciate that you think he's needy and that your two crisp one-hundred-dollar bills might be the most money he's ever handled with his bare hands.

20.  Give expert business advice, even if you're living in your mom's/son's/ex-wife's basement and spending your life trolling comment boards, crafting carefully-worded snide remarks from the behind the safety of your computer screen and an anonymous user name.  We appreciate your input and your obviously higher understanding of our decision-making paradigms.

21.  If you have never worked at all as a business owner, it's just possible you don't have the first idea what it takes to run a thriving business.  To fill this loophole, you'll need to simply act even more condescending.  Learn the art of double-talk.  No one will know.  Or care.

22.  Profess your Christian morals to the owner, but remember to also call them names in the same email, while also pointing out that you're pretty positive that they are NOT Christians.  Your higher level of spirituality absolutely qualifies you to make those kinds of deep personal analyses via email.

23.  Threaten to go on Yelp and make sure everyone in town hears what kind of business we run.  Better yet, GO and post on Yelp and then send emails reminding us that we "really should check our reviews".  Act surprised and offended when you realize we've blocked your email address and phone numbers.

24.  Your negative input is absolutely always correct. We derive all of our personal validation from it and take it as a window into our souls.  Thank you.

25.  Enjoy the renewed sense of purpose that floods into your life as you realize that you've just caused a person you don't know to feel anxious, angry, or offended, without even leaving your couch.

This was going to be a list of ten, but then...I've got over 100 years' experience to pull from.


  1. Hahaha! I may or may not be guilty of some of these offenses, but mostly I try to approach any situation with an open mind. Other people in my house.....not so much.

    1. Open mind is good. ;) I'm usually open-minded right up to the part where they say "You people..." lol

    2. I missed your previous post....which I'm sure correlates to this one. But, I got into one of those "you people" moments last year when we moved into our house. The sellers of the house purchased a home warranty for us that ended up not covering a dang thing in the house....including the HVAC which we had to replace within a month of living here and the roof that leaked from the moment we moved in. Oh and the dishwasher that shorted out due to the bugs living inside of it....pretty much the end result was them refunding us the remaining balance of the policy and us shelling out about $15000 more than we'd planned to in our first year. "Those people" even sent out a professional who contacted them on our behalf saying that they should be buying us a new HVAC, but still we footed the bill.

    3. What? Aieee. Those are definitely THOSE people. I'd have gone into "you people" mode myself!

      Bugs? In the dishwasher? Just...what?

  2. According to your list, I am doing it wrong. haha.

    I am glad you got all that off your chest. People suck.

    1. Haha, too. No wonder I never get any free stuff.

      Stay tuned for the positive flip to the story... :)