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Fire Your Customers – When the customer isn’t right, show him the door

We have all heard the conventional wisdom that “the customer is always right” and “we exist to serve our customers,” but what if you have a customer that is so bad that his association with you damages your business? I say fire him.

This blog post came from the news report of a St. Andrews, N.B. Tim Hortons owner banning a patron for life. Meet Jimmy Craig. Craig, a paramedic, is apparently a decaf aficionado and had a few experiences of Tim Hortons coffee that tasted “burnt.” The report stated that he would repeatably complain about the coffee quality, and was described as becoming “increasingly aggressive” towards staff. The restaurant owner, Edwin Dow, banned Craig for life. Craig is trying to get the ban overturned and has hired a lawyer to do so. In the article, Craig says “I feel like the victim of a bully. “What kind of a businessman treats customers like that? It just baffles me.” Sorry Jimmy, but Edwin Dow made the right decision, and I suspect he is a very good businessman. Tim Hortons corporate agrees and stands behind his decision.

This was the right move because it is consistent with what makes a good business relationship – mutual benefit. Here, Tim Horton’s is giving up about $1.50 in revenue per day. In return for this, they are improving employee morale by standing behind them in a dispute. I am guessing that the atmosphere in the store will greatly improve as people customers will be spared the delay and awkwardness of the repeated complaints. Full marks to Tim Hortons!

What about the rest of us? What are the guidelines one should use in getting rid of your worst customers? Tim Ferris writes of his experience in The 4-Hour Workweek. He found that the bottom 5% of his customers caused 40% of his problems. When he severed relationships with these troublemakers, he had more time to devote to serving his top customers and getting more like them. So if your customer:

  • Is extremely price-sensitive, constantly trying to reduce price and terms,
  • Frequently misses payments or underpays,
  • Uses complaints as a way to pressure you on price,
  • Gets abusive to you or your employees,

its time to fire him! Think of the great gift you give to your competitors by inflicting him on them.

One more thing. Jimmy Craig, in addition to being a stupendous ass, broke one of my rules for personal health and happiness: DO NOT ANTAGONIZE THE PERSON HANDLING YOUR FOOD.

I’d love to hear of your customer horror stories and how you handled them.
Yours in blogging,

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Low Acid Coffee March 28, 2010, 10:41 pm

    I've read and heard many blog post complaints about Horton's Coffee. Now I don't know if this comes from the same person or Horton's had really bad services to it's customers.

  • Low Acid Coffee March 29, 2010, 5:41 am

    I’ve read and heard many blog post complaints about Horton’s Coffee. Now I don’t know if this comes from the same person or Horton’s had really bad services to it’s customers.

  • Matt Wallace August 21, 2012, 4:32 pm

    I can’t find anything on the internet about if the ban got overturned. Has anyone found any info on this?