Apparently I’ve Stepped In It: Doubling Down

I was told by several people that I should drop this whole subject.  They were wise.  I am ignoring their counsel.

Consider two tellings of the same story:

1. “My kid’s dentist did a good job and she was a nice person but her service didn’t work with my job schedule.  I switched to another dentist.  I did this because whenever I pay my money I’m the boss.  An hour later I forgot about it.”

2. “My kid’s dentist did a good job and she was a nice person but her service didn’t work with my job schedule.  I switched to another dentist. My actions make me an idiot.  It was my job to work around her schedule.  I inconvenienced her. I failed her.  I was a terrible customer who acted like the center of the universe by refusing to figure out my schedule so the dentist could be happy.  It was elitist because I thoughtlessly underestimated her services and devalued my dentist’s choices.  My assumption that reaching into my wallet to pay for dentistry made me the boss is wrong.  She doesn’t work for me.  She works for herself.  I delivered a rotten lesson that the man who actually punches a time clock is the one who society respects as really working.”

Wow!  Same story but a completely different interpretation.  Oddly, both themes exist on the same planet.

This all came from a recent post.  Almost as an afterthought I told a story about a day care provider.  She was a nice person who meant well but couldn’t quite grok the customer’s (my) needs in terms of a work schedule.  We were one of two families that had hired her.  After a few months I switched to a different service.  Her other customer followed suit.  That was the end of it.  Her foray into the world of work for pay didn’t last a year.

I meant it to be a silly little story of “world of work encounters not-world of work”.  To me it was a harmless story.  To a few commenters it was a tragedy and I’d acted somewhere between clueless and monstrous.  I used dentist in the stories above just to generalise the story from one profession to all.

I believe I stubbed my toe on an iceberg of discontent!

When I pay for something I believe I am the boss.  In my mind this applies to the entire known universe.  I act accordingly.  When something serves me well I’ll pay top dollar.  When it’s the opposite I close my wallet and walk out the door.

Examples of occupations where the person who is paying cash is the boss:

  1. Phone companies
  2. Barbers
  3. Brothels
  4. Brain surgeons
  5. Plumbers
  6. Mechanics
  7. Mercenaries
  8. Butchers
  9. Lion tamers
  10. Yacht salesmen
  11. Chainsaw manufacturers
  12. Rhino hunters
  13. Voodoo witch doctors
  14. Day care providers

Some folks disagree.  They suggest that customers are not the boss.  Either being ensconced in a large organization or “working for yourself” mean the customer assumes responsibility and obligation to pay regardless of their needs or opinion.  Refusal to do so makes me an elitist idiot who has failed to do the right thing.  Examples in the comments were barbers, phone companies, and day care providers.  As in; barbers, phone companies, and day care providers don’t work for you dummy.

I don’t think there’s common ground here.  I do know that I’ve been put on notice that day care is a “third rail” occupation.  I doubt anyone would get wound up about me switching dentists or drug dealers in the same way.  Switching a day care provider is somehow different?  I had no idea!  As such I am creating the following list.

Occupations that believe they are immune to customer’s needs:

  1. Day care providers.

I encourage my readers to submit their entries to either list.  Who knows what other third rails lurk out there.

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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29 Responses to Apparently I’ve Stepped In It: Doubling Down

  1. Highway says:

    This is probably gonna step in it, too, but:

    2. Teachers

  2. Ben C says:

    If your vendors don’t or can’t provide the goods and services you need, first let them know. If they are not willing or able to meet the need, then find another vendor. This applies to both customer service as well as product.

    Working at a small business, I see both sides of this. As a customer I don’t have to put up with the issues of dealing with a finicky vendor, and as a vendor I have to put up with finicky customers. If I don’t or can’t provide what my customers are looking for, they won’t sit around in the shop and wait a week for me to figure something out. If I’m a dick to my customers (like some of the people in the other comments indicated they would be, or have been in the past) I would expect to lose my customers too. If I don’t communicate my company’s needs to my customers clearly and ahead of time (closed for a week to do inventory?) they get mad and leave too.

    At the end of the day, it is the customer who pays my check. My boss knows that, the guys in the shop know that, the other people in the office know that. Needs of the customer drive the work they are willing to pay for. Meeting those needs = money for the company = money for me. Failing to do so leads to the exact opposite.

    • Ben C says:

      On the flip side, there are some customers that are enough of a pain in the ass that they are asked to leave and not come back. Customers that want something for nothing repeatedly, or can’t pay their bills, or routinely break stuff and blame us, or know everything until it doesn’t work and it’s out fault… It is a 2 way street

  3. Eowyn says:

    I would offer college instructors, but which list you put it on depends on whether you ask the instructors or the students. 🙂

    I know high school teachers are now routinely put on the first list, with as bill payer the student/parent combo, and taxes constituing cash.

  4. Critter says:

    this post is magnificent.

    BTW, if you need a government overthrown or lions tamed, shoot me an email. reasonable rates.

  5. doubletrouble says:

    AC- You are correct- if I pay for services, the payee works for me. Just like the…. wait, bad example.
    The Pareto principle applies throughout life. If a provider wants to dump a customer, that is also their prerogative.
    This is all the nature of a free market- if you like a service, you will buy it. If not, it will cease to exist.
    No exceptions.

  6. Tim says:

    Customers are a nuisance. When you get enough of them it’s only natural to get sick of them and start acting like you’re doing them a favor by doing your job.

    To make a fair judgement about who was being an ass in this specific case, it is necessary to know the exact terms of the agreement. Either someone wasn’t holding up their end of the bargain, or the agreement was so vague that it reflects poorly on both parties.

  7. jefferson101 says:

    My only experience with day-care was on the opposite end. My wife watched a couple of kids for a couple for about 8 months once.

    Yes. She was working for them. But as things progressed, it seemed that they had somehow expanded their concept of what they were paying for. And the concept of additional compensation never seemed to enter their minds.

    After about three months, when things got settled into a routine, they suddenly were unable to ever show up anywhere near on time to pick their kids up. Scheduled pick-up was 5:30, but things started migrating to 6:30, or 7:30 at least once or twice a week. 8 or 9 PM happened at least once or twice a month. They never called to say they would be late, they just didn’t show up until they did. So we regularly wound up feeding the kids dinner, and having them underfoot and making noise at our children’s bedtime.

    There were no weather issues, and the woman worked for the same Company I did, at a building down the road a mile or so. I knew she wasn’t working overtime or something.

    My wife is too nice to say anything, but after she missed our Mixed Doubles bowling league for the second time in three weeks because they had not arrived in time to pick the kids up before time to leave, I put my foot down.

    I wrote them a nice letter stating that in the future, if they were over 15 minutes late picking the kids up, they would be charged at the rate of $5/hr for that time, and it would be rounded up to the next hour. (IE, 20 minutes late equals $5, 1hr and 15 minutes equals $10, and so on.) That worked, mostly because when the grouching started I commented that they’d best find someone else to keep the kids if that was a problem, because if it wasn’t working that way, I was taking my wife out of the daycare business immediately.

    It took them almost four months to find anyone else to watch the kids. We were in a fairly rural area, and their reputation preceded them. They did manage to show up on time a whole lot more regularly over that time, though.

    Be it noted. I’m not suggesting that everyone is nearly as much of an idiot as those folks were. Arrangements could have been made easily enough, had they taken the trouble to do so, and offered a bit of extra compensation for the extra time. However, having had that experience, I can see how some of the folks who do that sort of work are not really flexible, because there are people out there who will abuse that flexibility beyond belief. I don’t think most people are that way, but it doesn’t take very many to cause a problem.

    • Woodman says:

      I shudder to think what had to happen to inspire my child’s daycare policy.

      $1 a minute. It’s an actual church daycare, so they have dozens of kids. As soon as you have one there passed 6 PM then you are paying over time, I get it. And they generally waive the extra charge if the highway 90% of the parents take there has an accident or something.

      I will say it works really well. In 4 years I’ve had to pay one late fee of $12. Getting out of meetings is pretty easy if you tell someone you’ll owe $45 to just hit one more presentation.

  8. 2. Public Utilities Employees.
    3. DMV employees
    4. Cable Installers
    5. Sears’ repairmen.
    6. Bank of America

  9. Joe in PNG says:

    Speaking of Pain in the Neck customers, I’ve noticed quite a few business persons who will drop a potentally troublesome customer at the first hint of True Pain in the Neck behavior… like a fireman extinguishing the first hint of a flame, or something. The little bit of business they loose is not worth the boatload of hassle, headache, whining, arguing, time, and money that customer will bring.

    • Joe in PNG says:

      But to continue with the subject at hand, to use the old saying, “He that pays the piper calls the tune”. If the piper is freaking sick and tired of having to play “Stairway to Heaven” over and over again, there is usually a way to pack up and move out. But if the person paying can’t abide the way the piper messes up the solo at the end, he’s entitled to find a new band.

  10. bdunbar says:

    I believe I stubbed my toe on an iceberg of discontent!

    22 comments? More like a molehill in the backyard.

    What probably happened was a nice daycare provider lady posted this on her facebook


    And other nice daycare provider ladies clicked, read and were outraged.

    99% of the rest of us nodded and went back to work.

    • The iceberg was the idea of “does this guy work for me (the customer) or not”. Nor is the amount of commentary large (I’m small fry in the Internet world). I’m just amused because the simple little idea covers a lot of ground. A whole bunch of behavior that would otherwise seem counterintuitive suddenly makes sense if you ponder who thinks they work for a person who’s paying cash right now and who thinks they work for someone or something else (or themselves).

  11. cspschofield says:

    I would suggest that the term “Customer” be defined as a party whose business costs less than the amount of service/merchandise it requires. A party whose business costs more is termed a “pest”. There are a lot of pests out there.

    When working in retail I was always happy to help customers, and tried to be tolerant of pests. The latter wasn’t always easy…or even possible.

  12. I want to thank you for NOT putting me with the other ladies who were defending your previous daycare provider…oh wait….

    I was pretty sure you didn’t get it and now I know for sure you didn’t. I could care less about you and your daycare provider. You both obviously survived with out severe metal or emotional trauma and so did your child.

    My point wasn’t that you devalued your ex- provider’s choices but Hillary and her Ilk, Yes I said ILK, as in modern women feminists, have no ability to respect any choices but their own. They can not understand anything but their “sisterhood of the victim pants” experiences and assumptions.after all any one with half a brain would reasonably do exactly what they did, And that was why she was getting her proverbial bottom slapped.

    BTW any public employee thinks they are doing you a favour when they interact with you.

    • I sort of feel bad about the above post, while I didn’t mean to it does seem kinda snarky and possibly rude. I am a guest in your fiefdom and guest should never be rude.

      I tend to agree with you to a point when it comes to your day care provider, she stank at customer service, that makes her a bad entrepreneur not necessarily oblivious to what others have to do to make a living. It is just an example that happened to fit your narrative, confirmation bias.

      I agree it is hard to imagine that she didn’t know anyone that could have taken over for her while she went on appointments or holidays, but I gotta say that she probably did, liability is a mother don’t cha know.. If she ever recommended someone and something happened to a child while in their care? Oh brother…you do not want to know the world of financial pain she would have been in.

      My previous post was not in response to your day care lady, it was to clarify why a democratic operative, who has the Presidents ear, who degrades and devalues other choices that women chose might be getting her tuckus handed back to her a wee bit bruised.

      • Sorry to be dense. Takes me a while to see the grasshopper and I’m nowhere near snatching it.

        I utterly agree that it’s cool that Hilary got her butt handed back to her. It was pretty fun to watch. I just thought it had gone on enough and it was time to get back to the $15,696,611,453,233.45 debt. I’m so boring that I think debt in excess of any monetary value ever experienced in all of time is a wee bit more important than career choices of a non-candidate.

        How was I to know the next topic would be worse? The relative merits of shipping a dog in a crate versus eating one on a plate. Really? In January I predicted an investigative report on Mitt’s underwear. I was only half joking. The dog thing is even more pathetic. The press looked at the bar, lowered it, and then dove beneath it!

        FWIW I think it stinks when folks think their own choices are the only way to go and alternate paths are unacceptable. You’re right; the “sisterhood of the victim pants” had it coming.


        P.S. As a male I’ll admit up front that I have no idea what’s up with “pants” in the phrase. I’m assuming it’s a popular lefty book? If it involves dogs (either cooked or shipped) I want nothing to do with it!

  13. maxx says:

    Actually it’s a power thing. If the daycare center has enough customers to support the business without having to be flexible then it can dictate the terms. If the service has only two customers then it would have to be more flexible to retain them and maintain business.

    • Annoying the two customers was a self correcting error. The “enterprise” ceased to exist and lives on only in the memory of a bored blogger. Like Studebaker. That reminds me; is Blockbuster gone yet?

  14. Doctor Mingo says:

    I second Eowyn’s submission of College professors. I went back to school at 28. My professors were used to treating students as doe-eyed know-nothings who had no say in any matter, especially schedules. I remember showing up to one of my classes only to find out 15 minutes after the class began that the professor wouldn’t be showing up (this happened on many occasions). He called in sick which was code for “He went skiing” This usually happened after we got a nice storm that dumped plenty of fresh powder in the Rockies. I was holding down a job, going to school and rarely seeing my family. I was paying for his services out of my pocket. Unfortunately I was held hostage. I needed his class and I just couldn’t switch colleges midstream. Didn’t this guy work for me? Not in his mind. He worked for the state and damn the students,

    • Eowyn says:

      I agree that his behaviour was egregious. (But it wasn’t quite what I was thinking of …)

      I’ve worked as a grad TA, teaching first year courses. I have long since stopped counting the number of times I’ve been told that I “had to give” someone a C/B/A because they were paying for the course. My response is that I have to be in class, present the material, offer objective ways of measuring their understanding, and correctly calculate their final grade. This is not a popular response, but then, neither is college algebra.

      The only class I have ever missed I was crouched over a bowl with a bad case of stomache influenza, and even then someone else covered my class. Then again; I don’t have tenure.

    • Suddenly I feel extra thankful to have escaped the clutches of higher education. Tonight I shall hoist a brew in celebration of the fact that I haven’t had to interact with a snobbish/dismissive professor for many years.

  15. Roy says:

    Late to the party, as usual.

    I work in customer service and the old saw “The customer is always right.” is wrong. (If they were, they would always get new stuff for free.) However, right or wrong, the customer is always the customer. And it is their “custom” which ultimately pays the bills and the salaries that allow the business to function. If you annoy enough of your customers – or simply fail to provide adequate service for the price – then big or small, your business will eventually go kaput. And the customers? They just move on to another vendor.

    • tamslick says:


      I have “fired” customers before. It is a drastic step and never one to be taken lightly.

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