Where Does Customer Service End and Consumer Entitlement Begin?

consumerism, entitlement, entitlement thinking, QBQ, customer service

Is the American consumer spoiled? Demanding? Greedy? Have we become a bunch of entitled brats? Or worse yet—a nation of … consumer victims?!

Let’s call our topic Consumer Entitlement and explore it through three stories. Then we’ll pose five questions to spur conversation.

We’d love to have you comment! ??

Have Consumers Become Entitled?

A Miller daughter is a supervisor at AMC Theaters. One evening, 20 minutes into a movie, the machine projecting a film died. The show could not be continued.

Our daughter and her colleagues started giving out passes for future movies. In fact, they gave each person two—for any movie the customer might want to see. On top of that, they offered each person the opportunity to go down the hall and walk into a movie of their choice right then, if there was space. A patron then said, “This is a real bummer! You’ll refund our money for tonight’s showing, too, right?”

So AMC did that, as well.

Are We Spoiling Customers?

Lisa, who works for a city in Virginia and has been through our “Personal Accountability and the QBQ!” training, sent us a story.

At first glance, it’s an example of outstanding customer service. However, is it also a sign of what the American consumer expects today?

We were at Longhorn Steakhouse in Roanoke celebrating my husband’s and daughter’s birthdays, which are one day apart. My daughter enjoys her steak cooked medium rare and my husband likes it medium. Both steaks, though, came well-done. We are not complainers, so we began eating. However, when the server stopped by to see how we were doing, we mentioned it, even though there was nothing that could be done. Undercooked steaks can go back on the grill, but when they’re overcooked you can’t uncook them! But then, the server returned with two new complete meals—steak, potatoes, and salad! If that wasn’t enough, she took ALL of our meals off our ticket! She went on to tell us that she just wanted us to be happy.

Great service, right? That’s how most people will perceive it. But is it going too far? I decided to share this story with my wife, Karen. Her response:

“At most, I might’ve thought the restaurant would provide a free dessert.”

Are Customers Greedy?

One of our daughters worked at a King Soopers (Kroger) grocery store. They have “curbside pick-up” for online orders. Very handy! She told us when mistakes were made, some customers asked if their entire order could be “comped.” Most of you know that means … NO CHARGE.

So, an entire grocery-store cart of free food because a store employee mistakenly grabbed white potatoes instead of red.

Wow.

Your view on this Consumer Entitlement topic?

5 questions to spur discussion:

  1. When mistakes are made, have consumers become unforgiving?
  2. Are organizations “bending over backward” too far?
  3. What is driving this entitled consumer mentality?
  4. Are corporations actually focusing too much on the customer?
  5. Is this an extension of the victim mentality in our world today?

Now, if you believe this is all healthy and good, that’s cool, too. Share your thoughts! If you have examples like ours, share one!

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33 Responses

  1. I agree with you that people are getting carried away with senseless demands…..and too much of they hype being fed to them via the media makes it seem “appropriate behavior”. I would like to focus on #4 and state what to some might be obvious: If you don’t spend just as much time being sure your employees are satisfied as you do ensuring your customers are satisfied, you are on a fast road to business failure. The unhappy employee can NEVER satisfy the customer he/she is serving, regardless of demands made by management.

    Balance is the key.

  2. Consumer Entitlement-
    I love that the end of your 5 questions to spur commentary portion, this part is added.
    “Now, if you believe this is all healthy and good, that’s cool, too. Share your thoughts! If you have examples like ours, share one!”
    My opinion is… yes, if you feel that you or anyone else is deserving of a free cart full of groceries, because of an oversight, this is not cool!
    Sadly, we have to add those disclaimers due to an unhealthy understanding of what is fair, and not wanting harsh criticism from sensitive readers. Yes, consumers are greedy and entitled.

  3. I recently had an interesting experience at Red Robin. We decided to go on New Years Eve and entered the restaurant about 2 minutes before 6, not knowing that they were closing at 6. They seated us and we waited a fair amount of time for orders to be taken, but not excessive. Shortly they brought us an order of fries, which we didn’t order. We had ordered onion rings for an appetizer. The rings finally came and we waited a LONG time for our dinner order which was actually only luke-warm when it arrived, but we didn’t complain. When they finally brought the bill, (by now it was 7), I noticed it was about $15 under what it should have been. When I questioned the waiter, he said he discounted our order because we had to wait so long.

    At no point did we complain or ask for anything. I thanked them very much and we left.

    I thought it was interesting that they recognized their own lack of service and did something special. I was very happy.

  4. I would like to comment on the Consumer Entitlement Topic. I think customers are going to go for whatever they think they can talk/bully you into. I think in all cases that each company went to such an extreme that it was over kill> I think this behavior makes the consumer look for problems and mistakes, not a good way to live in my book. I like to look for the things that go right, a better way to live.

    I think a common courtesy would be as follows:
    AMC should have refunded their money and given each customer a movie pass – this would be enough and it would help show, when the customer returned for a free movie, that problems don’t always happen.
    Longhorn should have comped the two meals that were cooked wrong and they should have replaced them with and yes with a full meal as originally ordered (sides and all) and appropriately. And that is all. If they wanted to ad dessert so be it.
    Kroger should not comp all the groceries, but should compensate the customer for the mistake and the inconvenience of having to return to the store to make the correction, like maybe a voucher for $25.00
    to entice the customer to return to the store and hopefully remain customers.
    We are teaching our younger generation that there is too much entitlement and they need to understand the businesses don’t survive on giving everything away!

    Just my 2 cents worth

  5. There’s so much competition between stores, restaurants, and other retail businesses I absolutely think companies go overboard to make sure their business is not bad mouthed. With consumers having so many social media platforms to air they’re grievances, complaints, and opinions on said business, the outreach of people has reached such a high amount of people, their complaints may truly make an impact on how others perceive companies.
    On the flip side of this coin, consumers demand perfection, and unfortunately are intolerant to humans who provide goods or service don’t want to forgive an let go mistakes, get unreasonable about how big of a mistake really is.
    I feel that everyone makes mistakes, no one is perfect, companies should fix the mistakes or problems, but not give away the store or product, really, a heartfelt apology from a manager, goes a long way with me.
    Being in customer service as a repair person, part of my job is to diffuse angry customers. If you make the job personal and human, agree with them, yes, this does stink when equipment is down, assure them you are doing everything you can to get them back up and running, I find most people truly willing to help and are grateful your doing everything you can to help.

  6. Russell Morin Catering and Events is a larger catering company . One of our coer values is GET IT DONE RIGHT. That particular core value is explained as:
    From initial contact to final goodbyes, we strive for the perfect guest experience.
    We treat our vendors and employees with respect and care.
    We use only quality products and well trained staff
    Reputation outweighs profit always.
    It really puts the onus on us to perform. 99 per cent of the time we do but the 1 per cent we don’t requires us to make amends. We feel that if we set our standards high we will deliver above customer expectations. When we do fall down we take the initiative to make it up to the customer. We find if we do the right thing we keep the customer.

  7. Great topic! I work in a vocational-technical school for adults (I use the term loosely). When I transferred to another campus the only word to describe the students is entitled. In this case, it was the culture that was allowed to form at the school. It took about a year to change that culture or that feeling of entitlement. However, in the case of retail establishments, I think they are so scared of a bad yelp, google or facebook review that they are going WAY above what they should do to fix an issue. Fifteen years ago everyone in the world was not on social media so word of mouth was much slower than it is today. Let’s face it, as soon as someone has a bad experience today, they can pull out their cell phone and post it for the world to see. So I think it is a combination of technology and fear of customers retaliation that this entitlement has reared its ugly head.

    1. I worked in retail for many years in many capacities from clerk to upper management. And yes, we have been our own worst enemy. Customers have been conditioned to ask for outrageous things and to make everything an issue in order to gain some sort of award. “If you don’t ask the answer is automatically no…ask and you have a 50% chance of getting something “. My usual response was a percentage off next purchase or a gift card, ensuring the customer returns to the store. And I loved when I was threatened that they had or were getting a lawyer…”Then I can no longer talking with you as I am not a legal representative of the company and we will await notification from your attorney.”

  8. Two issues are apparent in the three stories told:

    1) No mention of improving the process so that problems that impact the customer are less likely to occur. Why did the film projector at the AMC theater die? Why was the family’s steaks overcooked? Why were there mistakes in the customer’s curbside order? If these companies truly cared about the experience they were giving their customers, they would be looking at these events as opportunities to better understand, and improve, the work being done so that the customer is not being impacted in the first place.

    2) These businesses don’t have standards in place for how they compensate customers for poor service. It shouldn’t be up to the staff to make up compensations to the customer on the fly. Nor should they be unduly swayed by a customer pushing for as much compensation as they can. The result is inevitably some customers will be made better off than others depending on which employee is providing the service to them that day. Such variation hurts both businesses and customers. Businesses should have standards in place so that if “X” negative experience happens the employees are allowed to offer “Y” compensation, regardless of the employee, regardless of the customer.

    Don’t blame the customer for getting what they asked for from a business. Blame a business that can’t say “no” to a customer, doesn’t eliminate these problems in the first place, and will not put standards in place to compensate all customers fairly and equally.

    1. I like your approach, Charles. You offer a solution to how to handle entitlement so that you maintain control of your business and still treat customers with fairness and respect. Well said!

    2. Charles, I completely disagree with you. I am the supervisor for the customer service department of a company that manufactures lawn care equipment. We can do everything that you have suggested, and there will still be the oddball situation that was never mentioned at a meeting or training session that we have to deal with. Supervisors, team leads, and advocates all have to work on the fly to try and appease a customer. Nothing we do seems good enough, and often the problem with the equipment was operator error as opposed to a defect in the equipment. When a customer contacts us and the first words out of their mouth are, “I have already contacted my lawyer regarding this”, we are already at a standstill with them. Customers also need to be taking responsibility for their own actions, intstead of instantly placing blame on the organization that manufactured it.

  9. I believe the example you have given are a symptom of a cultural change that is occurring.

    More of my peers, and their families, consistently increase the amount of their life that is outsourced.
    Cook food in the house – NO! Go to a restaurant!
    Clean my house – NO! Pay someone a minimum wage to do that!
    Fix broken items – NO! Pay a professional!
    Mow my yard – NO! Pay the landscaper!
    Do my own grocery shopping – NO! Pay the store to do it for me!
    etc
    etc
    etc

    When we, as a society, stop doing things, we stop having sympathy/empathy for those who do them. My friends who pay all of these people to do things are always upset with the service or quality.

    When we do the work, we understand the many tradeoffs and compromises that must occur to get the task done. This then teaches us to empathize when others make mistakes or when things do not quite work out right. Instead, our society is shifting towards a group that does not learn these lessons…and the empathy disappears quite quickly.

    1. Well said Troy!! I was thinking this last night and the pst couple of weeks at my job! I work at The UPS Store, and we’ll have customers come in and threaten us with bad reviews and no continued service from them because of something that irritated them that isn’t in our control.

      First example:
      A lady came into the UPS Store to do an Amazon return. During the return process on Amazon, the return description told her she wouldn’t need to pay for return shipping. And first to note, when a customer gets a code for a return, the return is either consolidated (a green or blue label prints out) with others from other people that day and shipped back to amazon in a master carton, or a “UPS Ground” label prints. There is no way to tell which of the two a customer will receive. I scanned the QR code on her phone and she got the “UPS Ground” label which meant she had to pay for shipping supplies.Even after explaining to her that Amazon decides what label a customer gets, she blew up on me and told my manager and I how horrible our service was and that she was no longer going to give us her service…and in front of other customers! We wished her a nice day and the other customers in the store were not happy with her either.

      Another irrational customer was by phone. She told me that a package came to her address that wasn’t hers and demanded to speak to “our” driver who delivered. I told her that The UPS Store is not UPS… it is an affiliate run and operated completely independently from UPS, and we do not have our own drivers. I also said that she may call the UPS hub or look up the address in WhitePages to locate the phone number of the package owner, but that we do not have the truck driver’s number (not allowed to give it out but aren’t allowed to tell the customer that). She made the poor excuse of “I don’t own a computer, so I don’t have internet.” [how did she call us if she doesn’t have internet to locate our number?] She then demanded to speak to my manager and I told her that every word coming out of my mouth came from my manager who trained me. She didn’t care. I told her he was serving another customer and that she would need to hold. He answered the phone and she never responded, so he hung up.

      I completely agree that it is the culture these days to have others do the work for us so we don’t have to do it! So in having others do it for us, we don’t truly understand the process and what it takes to do a certain job, and therefore, many of us no longer have empathy and understanding for the service provider… I have so many people try and tell me how to do my job when they’ve never worked for a company as the one I work for and so wouldn’t know the first thing about it. I also have many people who don’t tip at all when I grocery shop for 80 items for them and it takes two hours to do because half of it is 40lb bags of dog food or litter.

      It’s true, customers have become more and more entitled and careless, and it is because they aren’t the one completing the service and therefore lack empathy and understanding of what a service provider has to go through to do it.

  10. About 30 years ago I saw a small announcement in the Atlanta paper stating that the Ritz Carlton would be preparing Thanksgiving dinner to go. The meal was set; service for four would be in one box. You would not need to get out of your car to pick-up. Order as many boxes as you need. Needless to say, being the Ritz Carlton, the meal was very expensive. I called the hotel restaurant to ask the contents. Being a big dessert fan, I was disappointed when the box included a dessert I did not like. I asked if I could possibly get a different dessert. The person on the phone replied, “No problem.” On Thanksgiving I arrived at the auto entrance to see boxes stacked everywhere. I gave my name to the attendant. He asked me to open my trunk. I then explained that I had a “special” box with a different dessert. Twenty minutes went by. I was never upset because I knew they had a system and I had asked for special consideration. Then, a kitchen staffer arrived at my car window with two different hotel-sized pies asking me which I preferred. I selected one thanking the staffer profusely. When I then handed my credit card to the attendant, he pushed it away saying, “No charge.” I insisted I needed to pay as the special request I made was not a part of their plan. However, the attendant adamantly refused to take my credit card stating, “This is not the way the Ritz Carlton does business. You should not have had to wait so long. The very least we can do for inconveniencing you is to not charge you.” While I continued to insist otherwise; he would not take my card.

    I, too, am in a customer service business. I understand how things can go wrong. Needless to say, I told my story all over town. When I think of good customer service, I always remember the standards of the Ritz!

    Also some 30 years ago, after my mother died, I took a bit of my inheritance to fly to Europe and sail home. I selected one of the top cruise lines in the world. The cruise line was having labor unrest among other issues. My experience was far less than I expected from one of the top cruise lines in the world. When I returned home, I called the cruise line to complain. The reply I received was, “We only take complaints in writing.” I replied, “I’m in a customer service business and I’m here to tell you that you had better take complaints any way they come to you.”

    Needless to say, I repeated that story around town. Since 30 years has passed and I am about to retire, I may give the cruise line another chance. I won’t hold grudges too long.

    P.S. I am in senior care and services. Running a full service retirement community, I am “the buck stops here” person for quality health care, hotel services (e.g., dining, housekeeping…), housing, transportation, and recreation. More and more, people expect financial consideration when something goes wrong. I find that, when the complaint is trivial or not our fault, I must stand my ground. When we are truly at fault for something egregious; I will apologize, educate staff in an effort to avoid repeat incidents, and even provide financial remuneration.

  11. Fear of the negative online review is driving behavior now. It was a positive thing when companies (through their employees) were motivated out of excellence, but even the positive response degenerates when motivated by fear.

  12. Consumer Entitlement:

    I do believe that when mistakes are made that many consumers are unforgiving, which is unfortunate because sometimes things happen that even a business could not have predicted. I think customer should be allowed to expect fair compensation for mistakes made but don’t think companies should have to go overboard to keep their customers. If they care and they fairly compensate that should suffice.

    Movie story – I’m sure many movie machines break down, hopefully not often but I can see that happening occasionally. Refunding the cost of the movie, adding a new ticket should have sufficed. But even adding that consumers could hit another movies was a nice gesture. Sometimes people don’t get out very often or have the time so that could have been a frustrating night, hopefully they would have a plan B in that case and be able to salvage the evening. People need to learn to take things more in stride, stuff happens, try not to let little mistakes or things that happen derail you from having a great time no matter what. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!
    2 -Yes in some ways many organizations bend over backwards and too far, fair compensation with a little cherry on top occasionally should suffice.
    3 – What is driving entitlement – I think it’s just consumers not being ok with mistakes and thinking because a mistake was made or they missed out on something because of an unfortunate event – they should be way over compensated. I think that today’s youth growing up have a little more entitlement issues but where are they learning that? From the adults in their lives, from the world and organizations around us. If we yell long enough and loud enough or Facebook – then we’ll get whatever we want.
    4 – Focusing too much on the customer, Wow that is a tough question. Having worked in customer service the customer really does matter. I feel there is a way to help our customers, give them the best and most fair compensation possible but I don’t see a need to go overboard. And I don’t actually feel that customer service should ever be anything but top notch – customers should come first but treated fairly as well.
    5 – Victim mentality? I don’t necessarily believe that is the cause. What I see could be the cause in certain geographical areas is that many people have so, so much when it comes to material items and it seems like the more people have, the more they want and the more they expect, thus entitlement. Many people have very little and they have a more humble and less entitled approach to life and have a little more gratitude for things, even when a mistake is made, they have gratitude for the mistake being corrected but not an over the top expectation.

    Interesting questions, food for thought for the week. Thanks for coming up with great questions and getting our thoughts going.

  13. I’m glad you broached this topic. I subscribe to these and read them regularly, I try to gauge how I am treating customers and often have wondered if it’s wrong to think that customers are feeling too entitled or may not be the one in-the-right. I am in a service position where I take in-coming service calls, schedule the service and invoice them once completed. I have felt bullied by customers either because our schedule cannot accommodate service immediately, I request a credit card for payment or because they don’t like our rates when they receive their bill.

    I feel like I am giving a spiel to customers with disclaimers and “fine print” to cover all areas and they still complain that they didn’t know or that our tech was not there as long as they said they were or just plain complain for us to take money off. I have had customers berate my technicians, call them liars, and swear at me and hang up. I take the high road but I don’t know at what point I can say enough is enough. We are a small family-run company in a relatively small town (60,000) and rely on customer service. We are constantly compared with internet pricing and I am at the point I brace myself when phone calls come in discussing rates and pricing. I would love some ideas on handling customers!

  14. Hi John:
    With respect to the Longhorn Steakhouse example, I’m with your wife, an extra desert , or your coffee’s on the house would be adequate. Some restaurant’s I frequent may take off a percentage which I would approximate as their cost of the meat.
    I have to add a “but” here, as I live in Canada, and maybe our version of “customer service” hasn’t gone over-board yet.
    Thanks for touching on this subject, your articles are always enlightening.

  15. I agree with the free dessert and maybe a replacement meal (it just the steak) but not removing it from the bill as you still are the meal….

  16. This is a tough one for me as I have worked in retail for 20 years and have experienced this as an employee/manager and as a consumer. As an employee it is a difficult position to be in at best; you want to make your customer happy, follow policy to make your boss happy, but most times don’t know what you should or can do when a customer complains because there typically is not a guideline or procedure to follow other than “let me get my manager.” As a manager there are no hard & fast rules to apply here either. You want to have your employee’s back when they are following stated policies (I’m specifically thinking about return policies here), but also want to provide some modicum of support for the customers situation which can lead to your employee feeling like the policies don’t mean anything if the manager can override it anytime someone complains. Both of these have led me as a consumer to only ask to speak to a manager or contact customer service if the error is egregious & should be corrected or just so I can give them feedback with no expectation of remuneration.
    As many have stated empathy has been lost somewhere and the art of customer service has been turned into a sideshow of how much can I get for raising a fuss today. I will say that I have found that as an employee/manager that there are many who just want to be heard, want an apology for the mistake, and a remedy (whether that be an exchange or a return), not extra compensation – those are few & thankfully, I have had the fortune of having more of that than the other.

  17. 1. When mistakes are made, have consumers become unforgiving?
    SOME HAVE BECOME UNFORGIVING, PERHAPS: I PREFER THE WORD, “SPOILED”. AMERICAN CONSUMERS ARE SPOILED; CONSUMERS IN MOST OF THE WORLD ARE NOT.
    2. Are organizations “bending over backward” too far?
    NO, AMERICAN ORGANIZATIONS ARE NOT BENDING OVER BACKWARD TOO FAR. RATHER, SOME CUSTOMERS ARE ABUSING KIND-HEARTED ORGANIZATIONS THAT HAVE A GREAT ATTITUDE TOWARD THEIR CUSTOMERS.
    3. What is driving this entitled consumer mentality?
    THE SAYING, “THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT” IS DRIVING THIS ENTITLED CONSUMER MENTALITY. THE ORGANIZATION SHOULD HAVE THAT ATTITUDE; THE CUSTOMER BENEFITTING FROM GENEROUS TREATMENT SHOULD PERHAPS HAVE ANOTHER ATTITUDE, “THE ORGANIZATION IS ALWAYS RIGHT.” NEITHER MOTTO IS TRUE, BY THE WAY, BUT WE SHOULD CONSIDER AND TREAT OTHERS AS SUPERIOR TO OURSELVES, EVEN IF THEY ARE NOT. THE “STEAK STORY” WAS A BEAUTIFUL EXAMPLE OF THIS. WHAT THE WAITRESS DID WAS SO VERY COMMENDABLE, AND THE CUSTOMERS WERE WONDERFULLY HUMBLE WITH THE BURNT STEAKS, NOT WANTING TO INCONVENIENCE ANYONE ELSE.
    4. Are corporations actually focusing too much on the customer?
    NO, CUSTOMERS ARE NOT FOCUSING ENOUGH ON THE CORPORATIONS.
    5. Is this an extension of the victim mentality in our world today?
    YES AND NO. I BELIEVE THAT IS THE CASE IN AMERICA, BUT NOT SO IN MOST OF THE WORLD. IN MOST OF THE WORLD, THE CUSTOMER IS NOT ALWAYS RIGHT. IN UNDER-DEVELOPED AND DEVELOPING COUNTRIES WITH SERIOUS INFRASTRUCTURAL ISSUES, THE ONE IN AUTHORITY AND PROVIDING THE SERVICE IS “ALWAYS RIGHT.” SOME AMERICAN CONSUMERS, NOT MOST, ARE IN OUR SOCIETY TO GET OUT OF IT ALL THEY CAN FROM OUR WONDERFUL INFRASTRUCTURE, EVEN AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS. LAWSUITS IN AMERICA ALSO PLAY THE “VICTIM CARD” AT TIMES TO AN ABSURD LEVEL, ESPECIALLY WHEN THE STAKES ARE SO HIGH FOR INSURANCE COMPANIES AND LAW FIRMS. THIS SITUATION DOES NOT EXIST IN POORER COUNTRIES BECAUSE THE VICTIMS HAVE LITTLE INPUT. WE, IN AMERICA, WOULD ALL DO WELL TO LIVE IN AN UNDER-DEVELOPED OR DEVELOPING COUNTRY FOR AT LEAST THREE MONTHS JUST TO LEARN HOW SPOILED WE ARE IN AMERICA. SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS IN COUNTRIES WITH INFRASTRUCTURAL ISSUES CANNOT AFFORD TO INDULGE THE CUSTOMER, AND THE CUSTOMER CANNOT AFFORD TO LOSE THE SERVICE THESE ORGANIZATIONS PROVIDE.

  18. Customers are people, but so are the people providing a service to the customers. As much as we want to digitize our consumption, it’s still largely a human enterprise. Thus, human error is still part of the equation. If we want perfection, there’s only 1 guy in history to achieve such a lofty expectation! Tell me what company or individual is successful that hasn’t dealt with failure? It doesn’t mean we enjoy failure or even ignore it, we just have to recognize it’s part of the human condition. Life is a series of successes and failures and when we think companies and people aren’t going to have the same ups & downs in life, we’re going to always be let down. It’s like I tell myself, my colleagues and my children, we need to raise the expectations of ourselves and lower the expectations of others to find peace and happiness in our lives.

  19. Absolutely we are feeling more entitled these days than in the past. People expect more from others and feel entitled to more. Especially, with government. People think they should be provided for and taken care of. The days of JFK saying, “ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”…..are long gone.

  20. John I think why most companies bend backwards is due to online presence. Most businesses are evaluated by owners based on online reviews (most of them are more negative than positive). Fearing that a guest or customer may give a negative review they bend over backwards to please OR in an effort to get more positive reviews than negative.

  21. It’s been a month since the last comment was posted but, I feel a therapeutic need to convey a recent experience that has me questioning what drives people to treat others as they do. In this hyper-sensitive world have we have raised our children to be responsible, compassionate, and humble? This is not strictly generational, just this occurrence which sparks the question. Furthermore, just because of this incident, it doesn’t label all those of that group – only this group.

    The scenario

    I work in an industry that offers wine to customers to taste – to understand whether to purchase as well as part of the experience itself. There is an intersection of alcohol, sales, and hospitality. A combination that can be particularly volatile.

    We had a party arrive without reservations. Generally, the ability to handle just-in-time arrangements is a daily occurrence, and is not a problem. This group requested access to a wine (we will call X) that was not in the offering. Furthermore, X is in low supply and rather costly.

    I talked with them and explained that unfortunately X is not in the offering. They could purchase a bottle, I then would be glad to open it for them, or the next time they visit to make a reservation and I can try to arrange for X to in the offering on that day.

    A bit of background if you are not familiar with this area, it is not an uncommon occurrence to have only a subset on the menu as not every wine can be opened for every request. An the available wines can number in the 20s or more. One can imagine having 100 bottles opened to satisfy a curiosity (100 guests x 1 bottle) creates a huge loss very quickly. You may have already guessed their reaction. It was one of anger, belief I was being rude for not meeting their demands, no establishment does this, never to return, and emoted on social media (all caps).

    Disaster right? Or no? Certainly, this has been repeated many times and debated many times, but is that the debate to have?

    I ask: Do we have it all wrong? Is entitlement really a two-way street? If it was, would we be in the state we are now?

    And corollaries of:
    1. How to preserve ones sense of self in this environment?
    2. Have we empowered the playground bully?

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