Several times recently I’ve had cabinet or millwork company executives tell me that they have “fired some of their customers.” This information is always delivered happily.

My favorite memory of customer dissatisfaction, and dissatisfaction with customers, happened one day in Los Angeles.
There seemed to be some kind of demonstration on a sidewalk outside of a large, upscale automotive dealership.
I nudged the rented Ford Escort cautiously toward the curb on Wilshire Boulevard.
There were two people, a man and wife, I would learn, and they were dressed in chicken outfits. They were handing out free lemons, and a detailed description of the car they had purchased – their biggest lemon.
They had detailed all of the problems the car had, and the unsuccessful repairs the dealer had attempted to make on bright yellow paper. Their position was that the car should be replaced – not repaired.
The people didn’t seem like cranks or crackpots. They appeared to be professional, educated people, anxious, maybe, to prove a point. Or maybe pushed a bit too far.
What exactly did the dealer do wrong? They kept trying to fix the car – the lemon – rather than replacing it. In fact the manufacturer refused to replace it. The customers – the people in chicken outfits handing out lemons – wanted a new car to replace the car they considered to be unrepairable. It should be pointed out that the automobile itself was not lemon-colored.
While I talked to the pair, men in shirtsleeves and ties milled about inside the windowed dealership, careful to avoid glancing outside.
I wondered whether the auto dealer would want these people as customers if they knew all the trouble they would cause.
The dealership sued the people (the suit was also reprinted on bright yellow paper), so I guess the answer would be no.
I’ll bet most people reading this have had a customer they wish they never met. So the next question is why don’t you cut that customer loose now?
Another comment I heard from a woodworking business owner recently bears repeating. He said if you get rid of the bad customers who don’t pay and require all kinds of extra attention, think of all the extra time and attention you can provide to your best customers! That’s making lemonade out of lemons.

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