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June 2011
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July 2011

The Customer is ALWAYS Right?


I have heard for my entire life the old adage "The customer is always right". I have to say that when I first started out in grooming I felt like they were and would bend over backwards to accommodate them, gave away grooms when people complained, stayed as late as I had to for them and came in early when asked. 

I think, however, as I have gotten older and a bit more wise, I have learned that more often than not, "The customer is right PART of the time" makes more sense.

Don't get me wrong! I love my clients (most of them anyway) and am appreciative for their business. They are what feeds me and keeps my household running. They are what allows me to care for my pack as well as indulge my grandchildren. Without them I could not feed my shoe habit either! 

I will not let a client walk all over me. Not in the slightest. If they do they are corrected or fired. 

Clients that do not know what they want, clients that get upset when you shave their pelted dog and proclaim "He wasn't matted!" even as they look at the pelt you saved to show them, clients that are unreasonable in their demands. These are the people that I say are right only SOMETIMES.

I had a client that up until recently I had put up with the nonsense from. I like her dog, who is a small, thin coated Yorkie with a simple, FFTT and trim the legs a bit, groom. Mom however was one that knew everything (she is a nurse you know and her husband is a doctor) and even though she would ask questions and we would offer answers, she always rebuffed everything we said and her way was the right way. She changes grooms with the way the wind is blowing, and she thinks nothing of going elsewhere with her dog and then bringing her to us to fix.

The morning that she got fired, or quit depending on your point of view, she came in with her dog who really didn't need anything done to her and then proceeded to say "well you know what to do" and "The girl who works here said it was a puppy cut" over and over, while gripping the dog tightly in her arms, refusing to give her to me or anyone else until we established the haircut she wanted.We then decided that all she wanted was for to be tidied up and we settled on a pick up time. She said on her way out the door "I wish I had brought the picture of what I wanted" and I replied that it would help if she had. She left. Finally. The 3 clients waiting behind her were aggravated and so was I.

We bathe and dry the pup and she is placed in a cage in the main room until it is her turn to be finished. I look up and see her car in the parking lot and her dog sees it as wel and is getting upset. She comes to the door, opens it wide enough to stick her head in and starts mouthing words. Now I have a dog on my table that will not stay for me to go into the other room, so I said "I can't hear you" and she says in a real voice, "Is my dog in here" to which I replied, "Yes that is her barking". "I didn't want to upset her, but I wanted to bring this picture". My bather had come out of the other room, so I said "Kayser, can you get that picture from her and ut it on my desk so I can look at it when I get a chance?" She gave it to him and left, repeating she was trying not to upset her dog. 

She got to her car and we are all just dumbfounded looking at each other like, REALLY did this just happen? when she came back in demanding her dog because WE upset her and she couldn't leave her with us. She then said, as I was explaining that I was sorry for her pup being upset but she would calm down once she was gone, she said to me "WELL You didn't have to be such an Effing Bit##" and I was stunned. She then took her dog and said again, "You are ALWAYS an Effing Bit##". 

I was always as polite to her as I could be, trying to explain that I needed more information than she was offering and I DID tell her that we don't use the term p uppy cut at all, but I was nice about it. When she returned, she caused her dog the stress not me, and we did what she asked. We gave her her dog and photo.

There are some people you cannot make happy regardless of what you do. She is one of them. If we cut her dog the way she asked it was too short or too long, or cost too much.

These types of clients are not right. They are NOT the type of client you wish to see or deal with and the nice thing for me is I don't have to deal with them. I am my own boss. 

Clients who manipulate you into doing something that you do not feel is the right thing to do, clients that lie about things that go wrong, clients that always have a complaint even when the dog was groomed to perfection and to their specifications.....these clients are never right.

A client that swears at or harasses a groomer is never right.

 A client that blames the groomer for their own mistakes or negligence, is never right.

A client that gives instructions which you follow to a T, then says "that is not what I asked for" is never right.

A client that accuses you of not doing something you did or doing something you didn't is never right.

Clients who have little or no respect for you, your time, your other clients or staff are never right.

Clients who belittle the "other groomer" are likely to do it to you and they are never right.

Clients who have no clue what they want and yet get upset when you do "whatever you think is best" are never right. 

Clients that argue with you about things that are not your fault, or policies clearly stated to the client in advance are never right.

Clients who want you to do anything that is dangerous or harmful to their pet are never right.

Clients that want you to adjust your policies or hours "just this once" are never right and will expect you to do it everytime if you ever give in.

There are times in this industry that you have to (or want to) kiss butt and suck up to clients, but when they are belittling you and causing you stress they are not the clients you want. 

I am not saying you should be mean, rude or bitc##y, simply direct. Tell the client that this is not acceptable behavior. You cannot read minds. Your time is important. You need the to follow the rules like everyone else.

If you are firm, stick to your guns and are polite, most will adjust and become good clients. The ones that don't need to go elsewhere. So that they can learn the grass is not always greener, and the groomer is not always nicer.

Life is too short. There are other clients to replace the rude ones. Make your salon a happier place. Remember that the customer is NOT always right! It will make you feel better.

In my next entry I will discuss some tings you can do that will make your customer service skills improve and every client feel special. And right. 

"I suggest a new strategy, Artoo. Let the Wookiee win"

Star Wars Chewbacca Dog

That saying from the Star Wars movie is embedded in our memories (if you are a Star Wars fan anyway) and it is so true in so many ways! In the movie it was a warning that the Wookie was going to get his way or you would be sorry. In real life it is a warning to "Choose your battles wisely". 

I am not one to let a dog get away with a lot of shenanigans on the grooming table. I like a well mannered dog as much as the next person, and I prefer that to fighting with a dog, but I have watched way too many groomers get absolutely frustrated until they are frazzled with dogs trying to make them do something they want the dog to do but the dog is DETERMINED not to do. 


The dog wants to sit instead of stand and the groomer is constantly trying to make the sitter stand up. The dog wants to look towards the opposite side of the table than you want him to. The dog is trying to lay upside down when you brush or trim toenails. We all have these dogs that are aggravating and yet dealing with them is really not all that hard, yet I see experienced groomers fight to deal with them every day. Since time is money, it makes sense to not fight the dogs too much if you can avoid it. The time you spent trying to make the dog do what you wanted, when it is easy enough to work around the behavior, is time wasted. You could just work around what the dog is trying to do and get finished faster, which enables you to get more dogs groomed. It also reduces YOUR stress level as well as that of the dog.


Some of these things are actually easy to work around if you just "let the wookie win". 

What do I mean by that? Do I mean, let the dog do what it wants to regardless of what I need it to do? Of course not! I simply mean that sometimes it is better to work with the dog, not against them. 

If a dog wants to look a different way than you want him to look, move to the other side of the table. Usually in here that works. If your table is towards a wall, pull it out slightly and that will enable you to move around it easier. If you are mobile, then you will have fewer options,but minimizing the view of the dog will generally keep them from looking all over the place as well, so curtains and blinds are a definite plus. If they cannot see the house they don't know which way to look! It is really a lot easier to reposition yourself than to pull and tug and fight a dog that is determined to do things his way.

If a dog wants to constantly sit down, standing him up over and over will wear you out- not to mention frustrate the heck out of you- and make the groom take three or four times as long as it should. Usually a simple loop around the dog's middle is all it takes to keep that dog standing up. I know, it sounds simple, but many of the groomers I have worked with over the years fail to do this simple thing.

A couple of tricks to making the two loops work (especially if the dog is a spinner as well) is to loop one though the latch part of the loop at the swivel point, not to the arm. That way the two loops don't get twisted and tangled up. I use two different lengths of loop as well. A shorter one for the neck and a longer one for the middle.The Groomer's Helper also has a professional set that provides a "no sit" bar as an option. If the dog has a Trachea or Larynx issue, or is really pushing hard on the neck loop, you can move it slightly, placing the loop behind one leg. That takes pressure off the throat and keeps them standing as well. These simple tricks can eliminate a great deal of frustration.

Sometimes however, a dog wants to do what it wants to do. I always try to make it work.

Using two arms, one on either end of the table, makes it even easier for me to keep a dog still and pointing the way I want them to. When the rear and neck loops are in place with two arms the dog cannot move, twist, turn or lay down. this is a perfect solution for me.

If the second loop doesn't work, and the dog is struggling against it or upsetting themselves fighting it, then by all means, let the dog lay down when it is possible! It isn't going to hurt anything to have the dog laying down to have its back worked on, or sit down while working on back, front legs or head. Letting them sit will make the dog more comfortable and the happier they are the easier it is to groom them. Many dogs will even roll over for you to work on the other side. Choosing to allow the dog to be comfortable is key in many cases to a stress free groom for groomer and pet.

P4230158      Upsdie down2

This dog was not going to stand up for love nor money, so we groomed her by rolling her around on the table. She is still this way three years later. Mom said we are the only shop to ever get her groomed. 

I have dogs that were trained to lay down when being brushed or when having their toenails trimmed. This is a great idea for dogs that are coated or that have leg, back, hip or foot problems. However, if you do not expect the dog to lay down you can be in for a surprise when they will not stand up! I have a pair of Pomeranians that come in here that had an invalid owner who brushed them in her bed on their sides. You will not get them to stand up and the bathers all have to learn to deal with it. It aggravated one of my previous bathers so much that he refused to dry them. This solution is easy! Let them lay down and turn them on their other side when you are finished with the one you are working on. Its usually easy enough to do and actually it is faster to dry and brush out a dog with it on its side, because you can get to its underside easier.

Large dogs that will lay on their side will have less stress on their joints as well. During nail clipping it can be incredibly uncomfortable or even painful for a dog to stand on three legs. If they are overweight or older this pain can make them miserable and cause them to struggle more than they should. Allowing them to sit, and doing the front nails in this position, many times not even lifting the foot off the table , can be a helpful trick. If they will lay down, it's even better! My Wheaten likes to lay down for his nails. Always has. He will literally hang like a trapeze artist if you try to trim them with him standing.

There are other areas as well that letting them win can be beneficial. Drying faces with a force dryer, even on low can be stressful for many dogs. For those dogs I towel dry as much as possible, comb the head and ears the direction I wish it to lay and use a fan to dry their heads the rest of the way. Some of these dogs respond well to a human hair dryer or stand dryer. It is just not worth stressing out a dog to dry them.

Older dogs will sometimes react to the dryers in seizure type activity. they start screaming and seem to lose touch with reality. That is a type of seizure. Those dogs we do not even attempt to dry with a force dryer, we cage dry using a fan. We advise the owners that the dog hates being dried correctly and that the groom quality may suffer, but the dogs health is first and foremost in our minds. I have yet to have an owner fail to understand that.

Ear plucking is another thing that stresses dogs out. That is one reason I do not offer this except in rare occasions. It is simply not worth a dog hating me or hating the grooming process over a little hair. I clipper it out or scissor it out and call it done.

I don't want anyone to think I am a pushover, or that I do not believe in basic grooming manners, because that is not it at all! I expect and teach my dogs to behave in a reasonable manner, but sometimes, a dog wants to do something unexpected or bothersome and you have to decide, am I going to fight this epic battle or "Let the Wookie win"? In many cases the battle is not as important as the war and giving the dog the illusion that they "won" makes the groomer and the dog know they BOTH won. 

 So, go on! Let the Wookie win (sometimes)! And may the force stay strong in all of you! (My son made me put that in!)