US | The Customer is Not Always Right

Chris Sirianni taped a simple message to the front door of his restaurant which read, "Be Kind or Leave."

Since Sirianni put up the sign at the front of The Brewerie at Union Station in Erie, as well as on Facebook, customer behaviour has improved. It didn't eliminate problem customers entirely, he said, but it did curb what had been an increasing display of bad behaviour.

The sign also sent a message to staff. General manager Caitlynn McCarthy, who had been called lazy and berated for long waits and unavailable items, said staff no longer felt they had to walk on eggshells. The note included a short paragraph saying his employees deserved better.

Hospitality is not the only sector that has spouted 'the customer is always right', but now, many are rethinking that philosophy due to a surge of toxic customers and poor behaviour.

It seems the COVID pandemic and long intervals of being stuck inside have had a huge affect on people's behaviour. Around the world, reports of unruly customers have come from every industry, from grocery stores workers being yelled at and spit on to airlines dealing with out-of-control passengers.

In Sirianni's case, he chose kindness or an alternative. Others acknowledged staffing inadequacies and asked for patience but did not apologise for masking requirements and other health requirements.

Farouk Raja, general manager of the Providence Marriott Downtown Hotel in Rhode Island, posted signs asking customers to be kind and patient after his staff were at their wit's end due to complaints.

The signs are part of a 'Please Be Kind' campaign created by the Rhode Island Hospitality Association.

According to a recent report by Black Box Intelligence, a restaurant analytics firm, over 60 percent of restaurant workers had suffered emotional abuse and disrespect from customers, and 78 percent said their mental had been negatively affected in the past 12 months.

Mike McNamara, the founder of Hog Island Beer Co., posted a message on Facebook with hashtags #TheCustomerIsNotAlwaysRight and #GoodVibesOnly tell customers who didn't have good vibes to spend their money elsewhere.

John Dick, chief executive of CivicScience, a consumer-research company, didn't believe people who are predisposed to losing their temper would change their ways because of a sign. However, it is still important for businesses to draw lines in the sand.

The kindness signs could help in other ways, though. Apart from sending a supportive message to employees, it could attract customers who value kindness and bosses who value their staff.