How to Be a Bad Customer

I’ve seen several blogs encouraging people to haggle over prices and push for discounts, but there comes a point when you’ve gone too far. It’s one thing to ask for a discount. It’s another to try to cheat the person you’re dealing with. The “it’s a big company” argument doesn’t work – they still have employees and vendors to pay, and can’t do that if everyone demands a big discount.

Damage the Item, then Request a Discount

This happened to me all the time when I worked in a bookstore. Customers would do one of three things: hunt for a damaged book when there was a perfectly good one next to it, stand around reading the book long enough that the spine bent, or bend the pages themselves. They would then ask me for a 10% discount. Sometimes I would agree to the discount, sometimes I wouldn’t.

Ask for a Discount Because You Didn’t Like the Something

You should certainly review the bill to make sure you haven’t been overcharged, especially if a meal was prepared incorrectly and you had to send it back. However, you can’t have an item removed from the bill just because you didn’t like or didn’t eat all of it.

The same goes for a movie. If it’s so bad that you leave ten minutes in, I can see asking for a refund. But you can’t watch the whole thing and then ask for your money back.

Use the Product and then Return It

This is called Wardrobing, but people don’t just do it with clothes. They also do it with books, and anything else that doesn’t come shrink-wrapped. This only raises the cost for everyone else. And no, the store can’t just return it to the manufacturer. If it’s damaged, the store has to eat the loss.

Haggle Over a Fixed Price Item

Some businesses are designed for haggling – auto dealers, mattress showrooms, swap meets. Most retail establishments are not set up for haggling. The person behind the counter doesn’t have the power to accept half the price because you’re in the mood to bargain. If you want it cheaper, wait for it to go on sale.

Expect to Get Multiple Extras for Free

In certain industries, negotiating is a part of the process. This is especially true in the wedding industry, but even here you can go too far. For example, I asked my wedding photographer to include an engagement shoot in the package for free. Several other photographers in her price range included this and had lower-priced, more-generous packages, but we preferred her photographs. The engagement shoot brought her price in line with the other photographers. I wouldn’t, however, have asked to add three more hours, bring along an extra assistant, and give us a framed print, too. There’s a fine line between negotiating and being greedy.

Be Rude

This one’s obvious, but it’s amazing how many people are rude to cashiers or other service people. Being frugal is one thing. Being a jerk about it is quite another.

Abuse the All-You-Can-Eat Menu

Apparently it’s a common practice for families to go to the All You Can Eat buffet and order just one plate, and then share it between them. The price is all you can eat, you being singular, not all you and your entire family can eat. No, you can’t get a doggy bag either.

Whenever you’re tempted to push too hard for a discount, turn it around on yourself. Ask yourself how you would feel if someone asked the same of you. If someone asked you to provide that same service for free, would you do it? If your boss offered you half your salary for the same work, would you do it?

I’m all for being frugal and for bargaining where appropriate, but there’s a right away to do it and a wrong way. If you do it wrong, you’re just a bad customer.

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