Customer experience

Customer service conundrum: What would you do?

- April 1, 2015 2 MIN READ

A few years ago a shop owner did something I haven’t experienced before. I said nothing, and yet I probably should have. What would you have done if faced with this customer service conundrum?

It was a minor issue, but weird nonetheless.

I visited a key cutter in a nearby shopping centre. It wasn’t a franchise store, more like a Joe Blogg’s Key Cutting. (In fact, for the purposes of this story let’s call the owner, Joe.)

When I visited Joe he smiled and told me the key cutting service would cost $9.95, and my new key would be ready in 20 minutes.

Perfect. I had a $10 note in my wallet and some time to kill.

I returned in 20 minutes and happily handed over the money. I received my keys, a smile, a receipt … and nothing else. There was no sign of the five cents in change.


Do I say something?

“Naaah, it’s just an oversight. Let him keep the measly five cents,” I thought.

But it wasn’t an oversight. A few months later I got another key cut and exactly the same thing happened. Again, I said nothing.

Once home, I had a meeting (argument!) with myself

Why didn’t you say something?

Because it was only five cents.

But it’s the principal of the thing, right?


You’d normally say something, why not this time?

Because it was only five cents … and also, he’s a friendly sole trader, it seemed petty. If I was in Coles or Woollies I would’ve pointed it out.

Well, it’s done now, let’s think about chocolate again.

Here’s what bugs me…

Oh boy.

If he knows he’s not going to give people their five cents, why not ditch the marketing tactic and set the fee at $10?  I doubt any customer is going to say, “No way, $9.95 is acceptable but $10 is absolutely outrageous … what are you, some sort of ruthless wealth creator?!”

He’s probably used the tactic so many times he doesn’t even realise he’s doing it. After all, it’s just five cents.

True, but let’s assume he successfully keeps five cents from every purchase. That could add up to over a hundred dollars in a year.

We better eat a Kit Kat.

Good idea.

Trust is hard won and easily lost

The issue wasn’t about losing five cents, it was about losing trust – which is priceless.

If Joe withheld my change (no matter what the amount), what else would he withhold? What else would he be dishonest about?  Maybe nothing. Maybe something. I never risked finding out because I took my business elsewhere.

Hindsight’s a nice thing

Looking back, I should have raised it. It seemed so petty at the time, and yet it was serious enough to drive me to a competitor.

Key or no key, I wouldn’t be knocking on Joe’s door again.

What would you do if faced with that customer service conundrum? After all, it is only five cents.

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"