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“I don’t like you. I don’t want your money. I hope you never call me again.”

I imagine that most small business owners have wanted to speak those words—or a more vulgar variation thereof—to one of their customers. The question I’d like to debate today is: Should a small business owner tell off a customer?

There’s a school of thought that it’s OK to do it. “Once a year,” a store owner once told me, “I allow myself the luxury of telling off a customer.” I certainly understand why. A tiny minority of customers will lie, hurl insults, and throw hissy fits to get their way. When they’re dealing with big corporations who have measures in place to give people the runaround, that’s one thing, but we small business owners have a more human relationship with our customers. Don’t we deserve to be treated as human beings? Of course we do.

Another school of thought maintains you should never tell off a customer, and with good reason. Customers are the boss, they pay the bills, and running a business is not for the faint of heart. And if you start venting at customers, where will it end? Won’t it just become easier and easier until you’re telling off everyone who makes a flip remark about your bad hair day? 

“I thought I was having a bad hair day,” a customer once said to me, “until I saw your hair.” (She was speaking the truth so I didn’t take offense.)

My verdict: There’s just something unholy about a business owner telling off a customer and you just don’t do it. You… just… don’t… do… it. And if you have a bad day and give in to temptation, then you need to read next week’s article: The art of the apology. Have a great hair day week, everyone!

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