What Does The Customer is Always Right Mean?

The Customer is Always Right Meaning

Definition: A store cares about giving good customer service.

Origin of The Customer is Always Right

This slogan appears frequently throughout retail. Many stores use it to convince their customers that they will listen to their complaints and try to fix any problems.

It was first introduced by H. Gordon Selfridge, an American who founded Selfridges, in the 1930s. Selfridges is a large department store in Great Britain.

As you might imagine, Selfridge was a highly successful salesmen who insisted that his staff defer to the customers whether they were right or wrong. This proved to successful for his customer and others have since taken up the phrase.

Examples of The Customer is Always Right

is the customer always right In the dialogue below, two friends are at a restaurant eating sandwiches.

Tina: Oh no! They gave me wheat bread instead of white bread. They also gave me mustard when I specified no mustard. Oh well.

Keanu: What do you mean “oh well?” If you want white bread and no mustard instead, just go back up to the counter and ask them to remake the sandwich.

Tina: I don’t want to bother them.

Keanu: You wouldn’t be bothering them. They want their customers to be happy. That’s why they always say that the customer is always right.

Tina: I just don’t want to be one of those people who is rude and complains to retail workers.

Keanu: Just ask politely. It will be fine.

is the customer always right originIn this example, two friends are at the checkout in a department store.

Jonah: I want to return these shoes.

Employee: Okay, may I please have your receipt?

Jonah: What receipt? I don’t keep my receipts.

Employee: I’m sorry, sir. We can’t accept returns without a receipt.

Jonah: This is outrageous. I want my money back! If I say I don’t need a receipt, I don’t need a receipt! The customer is always right!

Tatiana: Jonah, stop embarrassing yourself! You know you need the receipts here. You do this all the time. Just save the receipt next time. You can’t use that customer-is-always-right line to abuse the employees. You can’t just make up your own rules.

Jonah: Sorry! I didn’t realize how rude I was being.

More Examples

This excerpt comes from an article about the death of a storeowner.

  • The entrepreneur, philanthropist and movie buff was also known for his business philosophy: keep prices low, deliver on the day of purchase and remember the customer is always right. –OC Register

The second example comes from an article about the difficulties of a job in customer service.

  • Customer service is a hard job. You deal with all sorts of people who’ve taken the mantra “THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT” to heart, and don’t really understand that you don’t have the authority to give them free service for life. –New York Post


The phrase the customer is always right is an ideal that many stores try to adhere to as their customer service policy.

It means that if the customer is unhappy about a product, the business will try to fix the problem and make the customer happy.