Nova Scotia

Why the customer isn't always right

Laura MacLeod, the owner of The Old Apothecary in downtown Halifax, says more employers need to stand up for staff when they're bullied by customers.

Halifax business owner takes a stand after staff bullied

An employee works at The Old Apothecary on Barrington Street. (Contributed/Michelle Doucette Photography)

"The customer is always right" is an oft-heard adage for those who work in public-facing jobs. But a Halifax business owner says it's not always true.

Following a customer interaction that left one of her employees in tears, Laura MacLeod, who runs The Old Apothecary on Barrington Street, says nobody deserves to be bullied while at work.

"Everybody that's behind the counter, they all have different stories, they're all doing different things, they're there for different reasons," MacLeod told CBC's Information Morning.

"You don't know what their story is — and we don't know what the customer's story is either — but we all have to kind of agree to be civil to one another no matter what's going on in your outside life."

'I have to back them up, or else I'd be a pretty crap boss'

According to MacLeod, a woman entered the bakery and café on Saturday and made a number of rude comments to staff working there. 

While her comments could have, at first, been construed as jokes, MacLeod said the woman continued to give the two employees a hard time and made comments to other customers about what she perceived as staff incompetence.

MacLeod wasn't working that day, but after the employees filled her in on Monday, she took to Twitter to share the story and decry "the customer is always right nonsense."

"I was just pretty upset about how she was treating my two employees," she said.

MacLeod also called the customer to cancel her order and refund her.

"I said, basically, and quite shortly, that I was just not happy with the way that she behaved when she was in on Saturday and I would prefer that she went somewhere else," she said.

MacLeod said the woman initially seemed quite shocked, and came back to the café about an hour later to further discuss the issue.

"I said ... that my employees had been with me for over two years, and that I believe them," MacLeod recalled. "I said I wasn't there, but I have to back them up, or else I'd be a pretty crap boss."

A happy ending

After speaking with MacLeod, the woman ended up sincerely apologizing to the two employees. MacLeod said she and her staff were pleased with the outcome.

"The normal response would be for somebody to get very angry … her response was surprising to everybody," she said. "The staff appreciated that she came in, and accepted her apology. We feel good about it."

Following her apology, the customer ended up getting her baked goods after all.

The Old Apothecary opened in 2015. (Google Street View)

Maddi Schachtel, who's worked at the café for about two years, was one of the employees who dealt with the customer over the weekend.

She said she was glad MacLeod stood up for her and her co-worker.

"A lot of employers wouldn't do that for their employee," said Schachtel. 

"They're more concerned about what the customer thinks, and the customer being happy, than their staff. Even though … as she said, the customer isn't always right."

But for MacLeod, it wasn't a huge deal.

"I don't want to be like, ... 'I'm the best boss in the world.' I'm not. I have bad days like everyone else," she said. "But it's just nice to know that they do feel comfortable coming to me."

About the Author

Alex Cooke

Reporter/editor

Alex is a reporter living in Halifax. Send her story ideas at alex.cooke@cbc.ca

With files from Information Morning Nova Scotia

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.