Gary Brown: Book proves customers have been known to be wrong

Gary Brown

“Do you have any frames that fit a 7-by-5 photo?” a customer asks a store clerk. “You have this one, but you only have it in 5-by-7.”

The clerk reaches over and slowly turns the frame on its side.

“Oh, wow!” the customer says.

Yeah, wow. But, likely unsurprising to anyone who has spent any significant amount of time working in a retail establishment, attempting to keep faithful to the oft-recited business motto, “The customer is always right.”

“The Customer is NOT Always Right,” disagrees A.J. Adams in the title of his new book, which is subtitled “Hilarious and Horrific Tales of Customers Gone Wrong.”

“Uhh, it’s white and fluffy, and smells good,” claims a customer, after telling a clerk he needed help finding something in a store. “Oh, and it’s grainy.”

Did the customer mean, eh, bread, the clerk wondered aloud?

“Yeah, that!” the satisfied customer agreed.

The author comes by some his evidence of customer peculiarity personally. Now a designer of Web sites, he worked in several restaurants and bookstores, according to the publisher, Andrews McMeel.

Other stories of retailing strangeness he solicits online.

“After encountering one to many crazy customers, Adams created NotAlwaysRight.com,” explained the publisher, “as a place for retail, service, and other public-facing employees to share their side of the story.”

Crazy? Customers? Anecdotes taken from the Web site for Adams’ book appear to indicate that some customers are, at the least, odd.

A customer calls up a South Carolina bank, and asks to speak to “Jennifer.” She’s told that no one by the name of Jennifer works there.

“Oh, wait ... Jennifer is MY name!”

Adams’ book contains the 100 best anecdotes from the author’s Web site, and also 100 new stories. Much of it will seem strange to customers not actually portrayed in the volume. But retail employees might find the world the book describes rather recognizable.

“Where do you go if you don’t want to buy anything,” a customer reportedly asked a store clerk in Cincinnati, before pausing and looking at people exiting out of a self-opening door. “Oh wait, I see. Never mind,” the customer concludes, before leaving through what the author calls a “magic customer portal.”

Indeed, the author’s sense of humor seems to have carried him through years of customer encounters not unlike the final anecdote in the book, which was sent in from a bookstore in Melbourne, Australia.

The customer came into the store seeking a book whose title he didn’t know, whose author he couldn’t recall, and whose subject he couldn’t remember. All he knew was that “I saw it recently” and “it had a nondescript cover.”

“And,” the clerk wrote to Adams, almost proudly, “I found it!”

Gary Brown writes for The Repository in Canton, Ohio. Contact him at gary.brown@cantonrep.com.