A customer is a customer is a customer, right?

A customer is a customer is a customer. That’s how I feel about customer service but I guess I’m still old-school.

It’s evident when you fly. Those who pay airlines a fortune can board the plane first and get more leg room during the flight. Those of us low-lives who look for the cheapest fare get herded on like cattle and get crammed in like sardines. We expect that from airlines. Somehow it’s become acceptable. But what about when you’re a customer elsewhere?

When I worked in retail, it didn’t matter if you were spending $5 or $5,000, the mindset was that you were still number 1. Maybe that’s because I didn’t know upfront how much people were going to spend so it was just an assumption they would be a “good” customer.

Now, there are instances where you pony up and show your cards — as with a plane ticket — that your money is displayed upfront. Suddenly that ego-boosting title of Elite Premium Priority Bow-Down-And-Kiss-Your-Butt thing comes into play.

I experienced it recently when I needed to send out a shipment from my house. It wasn’t on a business account and it was a one-time thing. The company’s website made it seem easy (and friendly) to do a one-off shipment. Turns out, it was anything but.

Through some hassle with the shipment pickup and subsequent delivery I was eventually connected with a local “account executive.” He made it clear that if I opened an account I would get better service from them. In addition to discounted rates, they’d treat my shipment as something special and ensure its integrity.

It’s true. I challenged him and questioned him on that position to make sure I heard and understood it correctly. I couldn’t believe he was being that honest. Though as disheartening as it was, it was greatly appreciated. Why? Because I knew not to deal with them again if I was viewed as riffraff. But to hear a company representative imply that as a credit card customer without an account — a customer paying full price without any discount nonetheless — I was still less of a customer.

Even though I was spending more money on their overpriced service, it still wasn’t enough to qualify me for, you know, acceptable customer service… and respect. I needed to commit to them before I could see any benefit.

Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Isn’t the business supposed to win my business? Why does a customer need to bow down and prove loyalty first?

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