Are You a Good Customer?

November 02, 2012
If there’s any doubt in your mind that the holidays are upon us, all you need do is go to your favorite retail department store and see how all of the Thanksgiving merchandise has been relegated to a dark corner with a plethora of holiday decorations in their place.

This year, shopping for the holidays will not just be about location – online vs. brick and mortar – but about how to get the best bang for your buck. And dare I say, it will also be about customer service.

Good customer service, however, is not just the responsibility of the business, be it retail or service. It helps when a customer knows how to be a good customer. This means taking the time to learn about the product or service prior to handing over your credit card and using a good amount of patience when crowds and lines go out the door. The last thing both parties want is an unhappy transaction that ends up in dispute resolution.

What does it take to be a good customer?

Do your homework and ask questions. Check out consumer recalls before purchasing toys and gifts for children. Know what the warranty covers, learn the store’s return policy (they vary from store to store), make sure you will be able to pay off a cartful of merchandise you put on layaway, and check out online reviews. If you’re looking for a business to remodel your kitchen or to fix that leaky drain before company arrives, ask for suggestions from friends and family, check them out with your BBB and call their references.

Practice patience. Holidays and resulting crowds can put the most even-tempered soul on edge. Rather than lambast a store employee because a product is not in stock or because the checkout line is a mile long, remember what your mother taught you about always being polite (“please,” “thank you” and “have a nice day” are words that can never be said too much. Remember, cashiers don’t always know the answers and might refer you to customer service.

Be courteous. Those long checkout lines often arise because customers are not prepared to present items for check out or have their credit card or check ready when it’s time to make payment. Do not get mad if the store will not honor competitor’s coupons; not all do. Also, standing at the cash register is not the time to start a long discourse about holiday travel or to suddenly realize you have neither wallet or checkbook. Nor is it the time to carry on a conversation on your cellphone – not when your cashier needs to ask if you prefer paper or plastic, if you want your receipt with you, in the bag or emailed, and to wish you a good day.

Last Resort. If you do have a complaint about a product or service, try first to resolve it through traditional channels of customer service, store manager or business owner. If that doesn’t work, you can file a complaint with your Better Business Bureau at