The Customer Service Counter of Marriage

The Customer Service Counter of Marriage November 20, 2018

One day, getting dressed for work, I decided to wear a new shirt someone had given me. I took it out of the package and looked at the size: it was exactly what I wear. I asked Karen to iron out the creases.  Then I put the shirt on.

It didn’t fit. It was an “Italian cut,” and apparently I’m not Italian because it was snug in all the wrong places. I ended up wearing a different shirt that day.

Later, I dropped by the high-end retail shop where it had been purchased. I told the man at the counter that I needed to exchange it for a larger shirt.

He unfolded the shirt, examined it, and announced, “This shirt has been worn.”

“No, it hasn’t,” I replied. I told him my wife had pressed it, and that was all. “It didn’t fit. I never wore it, and I never washed it.”

“We can’t exchange used clothing,” he said.

“It’s not used. I didn’t wear it.” I was getting agitated. We went back and forth this way—him glaring at me over his glasses, me trying to understand how suddenly the shirt had become “used” until, finally, he brought his manager up from the back.

They both spoke about me and my “already worn” shirt as if I wasn’t there. The manager examined the shirt, sniffed the armpits, then laid it back on the counter.

“Give him another one,” he said, then walked away with his nose in the air. Not once did he make eye contact with me or even acknowledge that I was there.

It was humiliating. I’ve never felt so judged or belittled by a salesman, and I’ve not been back to that store again.

I’m no retail expert, but that was pretty bad customer service. Good customer service, on the other hand, occurs when a store cares about what customers think, gives customers the opportunity to complain or offer feedback, and works hard to solve problems. That’s a store I’ll return to again and again.

The best marriages follow this example. A good marriage offers the equivalent of a good customer service counter.

“If you ever have a problem,” one spouse might say, “don’t be afraid to talk to me about it. If I do anything to offend you, please tell me. If I’m not treating you right, you can feel safe coming to me. I promise I won’t get defensive. I won’t turn you away. We’ll find a way to work it out.”

In every great marriage, the husband and wife allow each other the freedom to complain. They encourage open and honest communication with no strings attached, no concerns of retribution, no fear or ridicule or rejection. The customer service counter is always open.

Karen and I are committed to good “customer” service. We want a marriage where there is no issue that can’t be resolved by simply talking it through, and no conflict we can’t fix through loving and honest communication.

At our customer service counter, no one will be humiliated or talked down to. No one will be turned away. No complaint will ever be questioned. No concern will ever be snubbed. No one will sniff any armpits to try to discover the truth.

Why? Because we each want to be the only store either of us shops in. I pursue good communication because I want Karen to be my customer for life. What happens at the customer service counter in your marriage?


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