The Customer Isn’t Always Right: Setting the Record Straight

Shep Hyken
2 min readNov 9, 2023

Whoever said “the customer is always right” didn’t hear this about this story. Fox News just posted an update to a 2021 story about a man arrested for pointing an AK-47 at an employee at a pizza shop in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The short version of the story is this. A customer walked into a Little Caesars restaurant and became angry when he was told he would have to wait a few minutes for a pizza. He left the store and came back with a rifle. According to an employee, “It wasn’t even a 10-minute wait when he came in with his gun. If he would have not come in with the gun and waited another two, maybe three minutes, it would have been boxed and in his hands.”

The customer admitted to pointing the rifle at an employee, has pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated assault, and will have been sentenced by the time this is posted.

I’ve said it before — I don’t agree with the saying that the customer is always right. Actually, I believe in the opposite, and it’s one of the concepts we teach in our customer service training workshops. It is this:

The customer is NOT always right. … But, they are always the customer, so let them be wrong with dignity and respect.

After reading the Fox News article, I’ll add that this is a great concept to practice in almost every case, with the exception being behavior that is not worthy of “dignity and respect,” which includes putting others in danger and/or breaking the law.

Even an angry customer who yells or curses at an employee should be treated in such a way that the response doesn’t escalate the problem. While it may appear you’re giving that “bad customer” respect, you’re actually respecting the situation.

By the way, our annual customer experience research found that 32% of American customers have yelled at a customer service agent, and 24% admit to cursing. The best people working with customers on the “front line” know how to de-escalate anger and can even turn an angry customer into a fan when managed correctly.

Yes, there are some customers who aren’t worth doing business with, so let them go. Fire them as a customer. As they leave, keep the metaphorical door cracked open ever so slightly, giving them a chance to return under the right circumstances — unless they are breaking the law or putting others in danger.

👉 Watch more customer service tips on ShepTV!



Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken, customer service expert, business speaker and New York Times bestselling author, helps companies deliver AMAZING customer service and experiences!