My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #13: Is The Customer Really ALWAYS Right?

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 06-15-2010 01:34 PM 4646 reads 0 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 12: Tying Up Loose Ends Part 13 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 14: Back to Work . . »

I was going to skip the writing thing today because I am at the point of cutting for most of the day and I won’t have anything new to show for a day or two, but then last night something came up that I thought I would talk about today and get your opinions on. I think you are starting to get to know me a little bit and I am beginning to get to know some of you too from your responses to my posts and I would really like your honest opinion if you feel so inclined regarding my reaction to something yesterday.

As you may have read in past posts, over the weekend I sent out a bulk email to my clients informing them that new stuff was posted on the site and there were some new sales and free things for them to read and take advantage of. I usually send out notices to these customers about once a month – sometimes a little more, sometimes less – in order to inform them of things like this.

Each and every customer on my list of approximately 800 names opted in and signed up to this list. It is not hooked to when they order. It is not me hunting down names of people that I thought would be interested. It is something totally separate from the ordering process where they had to physically add in their email address and click a box. No strings and no trick. Simple. Right?

I also want to mention that on the bottom of every message I send, I include what you may call a ‘disclaimer’ which tells them that I use their information only to notify them of said information and that I never sell, share or give their emails to anyone. I also tell them very plainly that if they wish to be removed from the list, click on the web address and it will be done immediately – and it is.

Now it seems that sometimes when I send these emails, I get one, maybe two requests for the name to be removed from the list. I don’t take this personally, as circumstances change. I see in my files that many of have been on the list for several years and I realize that people’s interests change, etc. Also, when I first started the site, I also had much more geared toward decorative painting on the site, as I use to teach more of that and designs some patterns as well. So everything is cool. If you don’t want to be on the list, I certainly don’t want to send you anything. I see no advantage whatsoever in pestering people with no interest and I don’t for a minute think that by doing so I will gain a new client. It just isn’t my style. (I said I am not a great business person all along, and although I am trying to do better, harassment is one avenue I choose to not follow).

So after the mass mailing finished going out, I received one email from a customer. All it said was “Remove”. Being the sometimes smart cookie that I am, I figured they didn’t want to be on the list and thought, OK. I went to the site and removed the name. I wasn’t hurt, angry or sad. Things happen and that’s OK with me. On I went with my day.

Now I am getting ready to shut things down for the night and I do one final email check before I go to bed last night. There was an email from a (different) customer. I opened it so that if it were a quick question that I could answer, I would do so before turning in. It was pretty upsetting to me because it turned out to be a scathing, nasty email asking me why I kept sending him “crap” like this all the time (my email to him was attached) and why would I waste his time with the “crap” and usually there was an unsubscribe button on the bottom and why should he have to write me an email to stop this and blah, blah, blah . . . . you get the point.

I felt like I was hit in the head with a hammer. Maybe it was because I was tired, but this really got to me. In my mind, I immediately rose to my own defense. I looked up his email on my list and it seemed he signed up in the middle of February. I had sent only one other email since that date. I couldn’t understand why he was so MAD at me when he was the one that requested the information. I reread the email that I sent to over 800 people, second guessing myself and wondering if I said anything offensive and I also checked to see if I had forgotten to include the ‘unsubscribe’ paragraph. It was there and I did not – so what the heck?

I almost started writing him an apology to him (after I took him off the list) and then my own anger kind of kicked in. (Don’t worry – it wasn’t the maniacal type of anger that horror movies are made of – I guess I just got a little PO’ed)

I was going to wait until morning to reply to him to assure him that his name was removed from the list, but I did something that I don’t do often in cases like this – reacted. I wrote him a terse email that sounded something (exactly) like this:

The “crap” was sent to you because you signed up on the list. I don’t send “crap” to people who don’t request it. On the bottom of the email, there is an address to notify me to remove you from the list YOU signed up for. I did that. Maybe someone has your email and signed up for you.

You could have asked POLITELY and would have had the same result.

Have a good evening. Sheila

I hit the ‘send’ button and off I went to bed. My emotions were mixed. On one hand, I don’t like being harsh with people. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt because I don’t know if they are having a bad day or what is going on in their lives. On the other hand, it really felt GOOD to stand my ground and not let this guy talk to me with such disrespect for doing what he signed up for. I don’t know. I think I am good with accepting (constructive) criticism about my work – I have to be to be in this job so long – but do I have to let people be rude to me just because he is a ‘customer’ (By the way – he never ordered anything from me – I checked my database) or potential customer? If so, I don’t know what to say. I know times are difficult, but I really don’t want to deal with a person like that. I do everything I can for my customers. If I know they are new or if there was even a slight hiccup in their order (Canada Post is terrible and sometimes the mail ones have been delayed) I usually send them something additional like an extra pattern of the type of scrolling they like (like birds or fish, etc. I can tell from their order usually what appeals to them) I have received more positive responses from them from doing this than I can tell you. I also like to donate to shows I can’t attend and sites to give free patterns not only because it promotes my business, but it promotes scroll sawing in general. If someone is looking for a type of pattern I don’t have, I happily send them to my fellow designers who I know carries it (Yes, my competition). We are just like that in our group.

So was I wrong to stand up and say what I did? Obviously it bothers me or I wouldn’t spend so much mind-space and writing time on it. It is funny how we can receive 100 compliments and one complaint and the complaint is what sticks in our minds most.

If anyone has any insights as to how they would have handled it, I would be interested in hearing them. Be blunt. Tell me I was wrong if you think so. I know many of you deal with the public with your work too and I just want to know if I was that out of line or if I should have handled it better or let it go. My gut says I probably should have let it go, but for some reason I felt that SOMEONE had to call this guy on his bad attitude. It probably didnt sink anyway. :( I just didn’t like being treated the way he did.

I guess I am human after all.

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

16 comments so far

View nailbanger2's profile


1041 posts in 3172 days

#1 posted 06-15-2010 01:46 PM

My brain says, “should have just unsubscribed him and let it drop”. My heart screams ”she was way too soft on him” !

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

View buffalo689's profile


175 posts in 3036 days

#2 posted 06-15-2010 01:57 PM

Hello Scrollgirl, when I was a rookie,worried about making a name for myself and pleasing everyone (at my expense mentally and monitarily) I would have let it get under my skin. I also would have kept I don’t let anyone talk to me like that. you were nicer than I would have been. Stay on your trail, and swat at the flys , you’ve got alot of good customers..worry about go make some sawdust ! ps,your site makes me want to go in the shop and clean up my scrollsaw… NICE

-- bill

View CharlesNeil's profile


2411 posts in 3899 days

#3 posted 06-15-2010 03:17 PM

you lost nothing, dont let it bother you, you stood your ground and you were in your full rights to do so, I have been attacked about everything, when you deal with the public its just part of it, and you will find as well , as long as you are answering and helping for free , you are a saint, but put something out you sell , and look out , its a hard balance , what you put out for free , isnt free, you have to be able to support it, so its one hand helping the other , but alot of folks only care about the one had they have out for the free.. you did well in my opinion.. I must say thats why I like LJ’s, seems we have alot more professional and level headed folks here , who understand not only woodworking but life alot better than most forums….

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3014 days

#4 posted 06-15-2010 03:20 PM

It happens. :(

I firmly believe the customer is NOT always right. Whatever is right, is right. I’ve had to patch things over with a couple of customers who were very, very unhappy – and wrong. You’re so right, it’s not worth it (especially if they’re somebody who has never ordered before – they won’t later, it’s not worth the time).

I think you handled it well. :)

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View majeagle1's profile


1426 posts in 3525 days

#5 posted 06-15-2010 05:21 PM

I think you handled it “just right”.......... Like has been said before, the customer is NOT always right. There is no need for that person to reply / respond the way they did. If there were any apologies due, it should be from them to you !

Keep up the good work think about all of your other “good” customers !

-- Gene, Majestic Eagle Woodworks,,

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3012 days

#6 posted 06-15-2010 06:05 PM

The individual was right in requesting to be removed from the list, which you did. The individual was wrong to continue to be a troll about the matter. I myself would have never responded after removing his name from the list. One he wasn’t a customer and two no exchange of money took place. IP addresses get stolen all the time.
Case in point someone stole my IP address to subscribe to a voice mail service that was charged to my phone. I contacted the phone company to question this charge. They gave me the name and number of the service and I called them. I explained that I ordered no such service and never use their service, they were unwilling to let it go. They claimed that I checked the box to confirm and that they had evidence that it came from my IP address, and said I was under contract with their service. I explained that its not hard to get programs to change your IP address and that they needed to let it go and quit charging my phone service. Well they didn’t let go of it and kept charging the phone service bill. Well I called the phone service and asked them who authorized this charge. They politely said that I was under contract with the voice mail service and this is done all the time. I then told them they had a choice they could take care of it or I would take care of it. They failed to deal with it and still kept the charge for the service on my bill for a service I never ordered in the first place or ever used. I then call them to let them know that the consequences of their actions was that they were going to lose my business not just my phone service but also my internet service. That same day I went to our local cable service and had everything bundled on my cable bill. Thereby discontinuing my service to AT&T. Then AT&T sent me a rebate asking me to come back to them. I politely explained if they would have dealt with the situation in the first place this would have never had happened and that because they felt that I wasn’t right I was through with them.
I have had difficulty with some sites in unsubscribing and contacted them and had no problems. So the guy was wrong in this case to carry on any farther than asking to be removed, after all he wasn’t being charged for anything. All he succeeded to do was to raise your dander. So sometimes the customer is always right, but you have to be a customer first and not a free subscriber to be in the right. Had you continued to send him stuff and not removed his name I could have understood his point. I do understand your point though and don’t blame you for being upset by this person.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View sandt38's profile


166 posts in 2936 days

#7 posted 06-15-2010 06:42 PM

I generally don’t let people get under my skin. “Crap” doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative or derogatory word. When I ask my son to get that crap off my work bench, I am not implying that those chunks of mahogany are junk, it is just another way of saying “stuff”.

Besides, you never know, maybe he just had a bad day and his anger was spilling over. It doesn’t mean that he is a mean or bad spirited person, just frustrated with his day. I know when I was diagnosed with 4th stage colon cancer last year, I was rather irritable for a while too. You never know why people behave the way they do, particularly in such a blind situation such as this (by e-mail I mean)... maybe he too was told he would not live to see the end of the year. From personal experience I can tell you, that tends to put a damper on one’s attitude.

I would just have removed him from the list and thanked him for showing interest when he signed up… maybe a bit of reverse psychology… Be the bigger person. I think this is even more important in business, but I also like to live my life this way. The Lord does tell us to turn the other cheek.

-- Got Wood? --- Somewhere along the way the people in Washington forgot that they are there to represent the people, not to rule them.

View GregD's profile


788 posts in 3164 days

#8 posted 06-15-2010 07:15 PM

Business is tough enough as it is, try to not let it eat up from the inside. Getting worked up is stressful and unhealthy, so I try to be quite selective about the people and situations that I will allow to get me going. Outside of family & personal relationships I try very hard to avoid getting “infected” by “negative energy” being spewed by someone else. When I feel the anger build I try to ask myself I try to consider whether the person/situation is important, and if so, whether there is anything positive likely to result in me getting worked up about it. It doesn’t always work, but it does reduce the number of times I get going over something or someone stupid and wasting time and energy I could be spending on something positive.

Now I’m going to go look at your site…

-- Greg D.

View lanwater's profile


3111 posts in 2962 days

#9 posted 06-15-2010 07:21 PM

Hi Scrollgirl,

Don’t take it personnally it only affect you. I wouldn’t have gratify him with an answer.
And if you really wanted to answer I would have sent an email with just the link for the remove button!
Some people just need to be told you cannot just step on your toes.

During all these years of dealing with customers, I started by doing everything I can to please everyone of my customer. I would lose sleep when small issues arised.
I realised that the most annoying customers are also the most costly in term of your times. They just take hours to please and rant for everything no matter what you do.
After about 5 years or so I decided that it was a waist of my time that I could have spent on good paying customers.
So I started saying “Get lost” very few customers.

So no the customer is not always right. When a customer start to be abusive just show them the door.
You will be a happier person with less stress.

Good luck with your business!

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View Hacksaw007's profile


614 posts in 3217 days

#10 posted 06-15-2010 09:26 PM

First off I believe your responce was fine. The world is full of complainers, people who are carring around different weights, and maybe your mail was the last straw for that person. Who knows? It is a long road however to allow yourself to get upset over this. You checked the facts, only one one e-mail, you had an easy way to have themselves removed from your mailing list. I know also how it feels to be hurt, by others actions, but, look how many others enjoy your mail! Focus on the lots of good, and not the tiny bad, Grasshopper. When you can snatch the single complaint from my hand you may leave….. By the way, you can sign me up for your mail list, to replace your loss. I will enjoy your mail!
Keep looking UP!

-- For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3143 days

#11 posted 06-15-2010 10:48 PM

hej Sheila let me tell you costummers NOT and I say NOT right all the time:—)
it´s your time, it´s your money, it´s your busness , you deside what you call
a propper costummer and behave after that :—)

and I thought it was a very humorus way you responted to him
ecxactly the same langauge he used just turned in to a humorus answer
hope he has a bad feeling on how he had behave over for you

take care

View littlecope's profile


3071 posts in 3530 days

#12 posted 06-16-2010 01:01 AM

I just hope he’s not the guy who got those 800 missing E-mails… ;-)

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

View Cozmo35's profile


2200 posts in 3064 days

#13 posted 06-16-2010 02:30 PM

Scrollgirl, as you can probably tell by my tag line, I don’t feel that anyone is owed ANYTHING. The reason this country and our way of life has “changed” for the worst, is because people are not held accountable for their actions. There are consequences for every action (good and bad). Everyone now-a-days it so worried about hurting someone’s feelings or offending someone, most people believe they have the right to do and say what they want without any repercussions. That is why there is such a huge sense of entitlement in the younger generation. In my opinion, you were easy on this jerk!

-- If you don't work, you don't eat!.....Garland, TX

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2948 days

#14 posted 06-16-2010 02:37 PM

I noticed your tagline, Cozmo before and was going to tell you how much I like it! I have long believed that ‘accountability’ is a lost art. I used to preach that when my kids were young – maybe because that was when I was first so aware that the children kids were NOT held accountable for their actions (I volunteered a lot at the school for hot lunches and stuff). If you looked at these kids the wrong way, you could get in trouble. I though “who is running the show here?” I agree – if we were all held accountable for our actions, instead of making excuses, I think we would all think a little harder before we acted.

Thanks to everyone again for all the viewpoints and opinions. As I said in my blog today, I really appreciate the people here and their willingness to share. :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View nailbanger2's profile


1041 posts in 3172 days

#15 posted 06-16-2010 03:12 PM

Sheila, I read all the comments in this thread and it seems they all agree. The customer can be a pain sometimes.

The one I liked the best was hacksaw007. So here, you just doubled the lost account-

I promise not to complain (at least until I have spent some money ha ha).

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

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