Rude and inappropriate behavior at the U.S. Open has apparently become commonplace. Traditional audience etiquette is fraying as tennis fans and scene-makers speak loudly or cheer and jeer while a ball is in play, distracting the players. But the customer is always right, as the saying goes—especially if they’re sitting in $250,000 suites. They pay their money, they get to talk if they want to and when they want to, and it’s the U.S. Tennis Association’s job to make its elite customers feel welcome and appreciated in all cases.
This reminds me of a certain New York restaurant that is notorious for its “the customer is always wrong” attitude. If you show up with too many people in your party you’ll be shown the door. If the wait staff feels you’ve ordered too much food or ordered badly they will refuse to serve you. If you ask them not to curse in front of your child they will curse you out in front of your child.
And you know what? You can’t get into the place—it’s always jammed. The abuse of customers is part of its charm.
Professional communicators often have to play the role of appeasers, especially when it comes to customer relations. This role is getting harder to play as consumers whip themselves into frenzies on social networks and feel free to say things behind the veil of Facebook and Twitter handles that they would never say to someone face to face. Appeasement in the face of rudeness often begets more rudeness.
One can only assume that the owner of the unnamed New York restaurant reached a breaking point with one rude patron too many and turned the tables on all of his subseqent customers for good.
He has clearly gone too far in the opposite direction, but there is a lesson to be learned here. If your product is good enough you can stand on equal footing with your customers and tell them when they have broken your rules and when they have breached a line of decency. You may lose that customer, but that probably won’t dent the appeal of your product. In fact, your confident stance may increase its appeal.
So the message to the staff at Arthur Ashe Stadium—86 the loudmouths in the fancy suites.