You’ve met the predatory customer.

He makes life difficult for employees, particularly front-line employees, because his status as a customer enables him to do so.

For employers, he often represents hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, leading them to put up with him.

The examples are everywhere. In one nationally famous case, a customer tweeted: “Feeling disgusted & degraded after an _____ flight where the passenger next to me made repeated lewd sexual remarks. The flight attendants told me he was a frequent flier, brushed off his behavior & kept giving him drinks. I guess his $ means more than our safety?” The tweet went viral. More than twenty-six thousand individuals “liked” it; nearly thirteen thousand retweeted it.

The customer attached her tweet to the letter she sent to airline’s CEO. In her later tweet and letter, she let her thousands of  followers know the passenger rated women’s bodies, touched himself, and asked her if she fantasized about a female business college.

She reported that after she told the flight attendants, they suggested she not take it personally as he frequently traveled the route and offered to reseat her in a middle seat at the back of the plane. As all this happened before the plane took off; flight attendants could have reseated the man, perhaps between two large male passengers, or escorted him off the plane. Instead, they left her to suffer his presence.

The customer accused the airlines of knowingly providing the male passenger a platform for harassing women. The airline has since revoked the male passenger’s travel privileges pending the outcome of an investigation.

Customers and employees deserve more.

When a customer behaves badly once, it’s the customer’s problem. When it’s a regular customer, it’s the company’s problem if they allow it.

The airline in this case appears to have allowed one customer to sexually harass other customers. They also appear to have forced their employees to become complicit in tolerating obnoxious behavior.

Employers need to take prompt reasonable measures to end harassment. When they don’t, they put their customers and employees in untenable situations.

Employers need to:

Take employee complaints about clients and customers seriously.

Train managers, supervisors, and employees to professionally intervene, and give them the authority to do so, when they see inappropriate conduct.

The predatory customer—let him know his days are numbered.

(c) 2022 Lynne Curry

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3 thoughts on “The Predatory Customer

  1. This is an excellent column/subject. And confirmation that ‘the customer is NOT ALWAYS right.’
    At times, the distance of both corporate hierarchy and greed make monitoring or policing things like this – customer obnoxiousness, unreasonable demands and impositions, and problems managing them – impossible and/or simply not done.
    And, as indicated by some of the facts/factors in this excellent example, sometimes the pursuit or ‘protection’ of the income stream overrides common courtesy and sense. Likewise, at times and in situations, things like this start small and grow slowly. Sometimes it takes a new look and a blinding glimpse of the obvious to realize that the king has no clothes on!
    Over time, we’ve all seen it and/or experienced it. I wonder how many have just allowed it to pass and how many have ‘called if for what it was?’

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