Despite what some motivational signs on business walls suggest, the customer isn't alway right. In fact, last week alone I witnessed three who were horribly wrong.

I love Air New Zealand. They never fail to deliver me great service. Wouldn't fly anyone else. But at least one of their customers is a bad person.

At the Auckland lounge last week, a man in his 50s marched up to the front counter, pushed passed my 6-year-old and yelled at the nice man working the desk. "You're flight data is slow, you need to sort your **** out". Unfazed, the attendant politely replied, "Sorry sir, what exactly is the issue?"

The man just stormed off, yelling "******* pathetic".


I asked the attendant "do you get a lot of that?"

He replied "the customer is always right". Bollocks. That customer did everything wrong.

A. Yelling like a crazy man in public.

B. The man behind the desk clearly doesn't control electronic flight data listings so he's yelling at the wrong person.

C. Pushing in front of a 6-year old shouting and swearing is worse than any listing error.

As it turned out, the angry man was confused and still had 15 minutes to get to his gate. I saw him waiting. I laughed in his face. He could have relaxed and had another delicious bowl of soup. Instead, he ruined a nice working person's day.

Most service people start with good intentions. When someone walks up to your counter you offer politeness, patience, knowledge, honesty and respect. But as soon as a customer crosses the line, I believe you owe them nothing. We're all equals which ever side of the counter you're on. Anyone who behaves like a dick should be treated like one.

Obviously, pushing the line that "the customer is always right" is financially motivated.

It really means "get the person's cash no matter how rude they are". I get that. It makes business sense. Especially if you own the company. However, as an employee, there's only so much abuse you should have to take for your hourly rate.

I went to Ghostbusters this week. I watched in horror as a lady in the ticket queue loudly abused a staff member because the Ghostbusters branded soft drink cups only came in large. She wanted small.

Again, the person behind the counter was exceptionally polite. She smiled nicely while being told she was a "bloody idiot".

Obviously the person who sells the snacks isn't in charge of novelty plastic drink size. She probably earns $15 an hour.

I would have hiffed a large hot-buttered popcorn in the woman's face. Followed it with a medium coke with ice. Pelted her with nut choc-top ice creams as she ran from the theatre crying. But this young attendant just smiled and took it.

For the record, I purchased the large-sized Ghostbusters cup. It's very cool. I have been drinking out of it at home. Great movie too.

The third wrong customer was renting skis. As she tried on her boots, she was politely asked where she was from.


"How's the traffic?"

"We own a really big house in Freemans Bay, so we can walk everywhere, we have a Porsche Cayenne in the garage and I have a new Audi but we don't drive them. I don't know why anyone without money would live in Auckland, it's just stupid. We have a big house in the city and a nice big bach on Waiheke."

"If you can't afford that," she continued, "why would you live there? I laugh at people driving in to their jobs from West Auckland."

Showing off about how rich you are to working people at the start of a long working day is a whole new level of "customer ain't right".

I would have set her bindings wrong. Given her different length poles. Stopped the lift and pelted her with snow balls. But these guys just smiled and said "have a great day".

As a customer you deserve good service, but that doesn't mean you have the right to be an a-hole to your fellow human beings. Not only is it wrong, it's dangerous.

There's lots of little ways service people can get revenge. Ways that you may never notice or taste. So let's all be nice to each other.