“Excuse me, but I had reserved a minivan because we are five people with suitcases, going camping, and we need a large vehicle. We simply cannot fit in the car you are offering us.”
“I am sorry but this is the largest car we have at the moment at our branch. You will notice that it has a rather large trunk, hence you will possibly find it more comfortable than you imagine. I am sorry for the inconvenience.”
“But this is not acceptable. I cannot and do not want to fit in this car. I specifically reserved a van because of my needs.”
“The car we gave you is newer and in better condition. We are actually upgrading you, sir.”
“Well, I don’t think this will work. What if I cannot fit in it?”
“I am sorry but we cannot offer you anything bigger right now. Here are your keys.”
I was confused. I took the keys and headed outside. Our car was waiting for us in the corner. My friends were standing next to it with their large suitcases. They opened their arms towards my direction, asking me what went wrong. They must have noticed the huge question mark floating above my head. As I explained to them the situation, they looked at the car in the corner, rather depressed.
One of them, though, listened to me quietly, remaining unusually calm. She then suddenly grabbed the keys from my hand and ran into the crowded car rental office I had just left.
“Wait here!” she exclaimed, right before she shut the door behind her.
We, the people standing outside, heard a scream. We thought somebody was hurt. Then there was a rather long shout. We could not hear the words, but we could feel the rage. A couple of minutes later, our friend emerged, her face red and stretched. She had the keys to a minivan in her hands. She had cast a spell on the clerks at the store. We had our van.
It is unacceptable in today’s competitive environment for a service company to break its promise. But, I find it even more offensive and infuriating the fact that you end up getting what you deserve when you resort to aggressive behavior. A similar situation occurred when we asked for a refund of a flight that was cancelled. It was our right but the company adamantly resisted, complying only when we (incidentally, with the help of the same friend) called them relentlessly for several days and yelled at them periodically.
No one likes a bully customer. But some companies exploit the nice ones by intensifying their bureaucracy. Such a strategy; resistance until the customer gets really really(!) upset, is not optimal in the long run. The feedback is wicked. It suggests that things get done only when you lose your temper and this is not a sustainable way to consume and/or interact.
Here is a reenactment of my friend at the car rental store. Here is the famous Seinfeld approach.