Book Review: The Customer is Always Wrong, Retail Chronicles

It’s sort of like the history of the world when you get right down to it. What? This book. Like the whole history of how contemporary society has based its behaviour and anecdotal selves on the purchase, the experience, the monetary exchange within the confines of a capitalistic emblem, pampered by mascots and protocol and the journey suffered. With a quote from the Elvis “I’d just like to be treated like a regular customer,” Presley, and a sensible forward by Neal Pollack, we are on our way through the subordinate world of customer service and all it’s two-sided whining. It takes two to be wrong, or right, and as Pollack relays in his introduction, in a typical family dinner outing gone haywire, “We ordered our food. It didn’t come. We asked after the order. Still, it didn’t come. Eventually, my father complained to the manager. Our order wasn’t coming, the manager said, because we’d been “rude to the waitress.” Well, this sent my father into apoplexy. Lawsuits were threatened and lunch was demanded that instant. In the family-legend retelling of the story, four hours later, another waitress finally arrived, took our order again, and we got our precious lunch.” This book is like a guide for retail hostage negotiation but mainly acts as an anthology of fictions and confessionals all teeming with the same dreadful caveat. Despite some pretty pedestrian observations i.e., the whole this isn’t what the job description said it would be like at all! the book’s strength is its reinforced take on the consumer’s menacing sense of entitlement that has been destroying the psychological health of the working poor since the first penny candystore opened up thousands of years ago. If you have an asshole friend who is an embarrassment to dine or shop with, who can’t go through a monetary exchange without making someone roll their eyes in disgust–buy this book for them. Oh, and make sure they read the fucking thing and learn how horribly wrong they truly are. (Nathaniel G. Moore)

edited by Jeff Martin,$12.95, 256 pgs, Soft Skull Press, 19 West 21 St. Suite 1101, New York, New York 10010 USA