December 31, 2013

The Customer is Not Always Right (but Should be Treated with Respect Nonetheless)

I am writing this post from Las Vegas, Nevada, where I am planning to attend the 2014 AT&T Developer Summit and 2014 International CES. I arrived in Las Vegas on Dec. 18, 2013 to spend the holidays with my mom in Boulder City, Nevada. I spend a large amount of my time working from the Boulder City Library, which is a nice facility with ample space for reading, working or performing research. Unfortunately, I had a bad experience with a staff member during one particular visit. This experience serves as a reminder the importance of good customer service even when the customer is not right.

In short, I was rudely scolded by a library employee for possessing a cup of coffee contained in a paper cup inside the library. While I recognize that I was wrong for bringing a beverage inside the library (food and drinks are prohibited), the staff member should have pointed out my error in a more polite and professional manner. Very loudly and rudely, she ask me what was in my paper cup and when I responded that it was coffee, she informed (scolded) me that my beverage is not to be allowed in the library. Given the quiet atmosphere of the library, I was terribly embarrassed for being treated in a manner that I have not endured since I was a small child.

The Boulder City Library also has a no cell phone policy. While I have never violated this policy, I have witnessed the way certain staff members have scolded patrons for talking on their mobile phone inside the library. I recall one experience when a boy of elementary school age was doing some computer research for a homework assignment. With his cell phone, he proceeded to call his mom asking a couple of questions about his assignment. While talking on the phone, a library staff member approached the boy and loudly scolded him for violating the library's no cell phone policy. The boy endured great embarrassment.

In each situation, the boy and I were wrong in our actions. However, staff members should be trained to handle these situations with more professionalism and politeness. It is important to note that I have encountered staff members who are very polite and professional.

The customer is not always right. If any customer or subscriber of ROI3 has a problem with our service, however, please know that my colleagues and I will do our best to resolve the problem. Regardless of the problem, I promise that you will be treated with respect and dignity. Always feel free to contact me directly at or +1 (206) 552-9601. Thank you and Happy New Year!!

[Disclosure: I am a property owner in Boulder City, Nevada, which allows me to possess a Nevada Library Card.]

Aaron Rose serves as President and CEO of ROI3, Inc., a Seattle, Wash.-based company that empowers people in emerging economies through innovative, technology-based solutions. He is also the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

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