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What to Do When the Customer is Wrong!

The customer is not always right. There—someone finally said it. If the customer is “grossly exaggerating the truth” and wants something in return, is being abusive to an employee or simply has unreasonable expectations—then that customer is not right. Handling a situation like this without losing a customer requires a delicate balance of finesse and backbone, but it is possible. Let’s take a look at a scenario and see how playing it right should result in both sides feeling good about the resolution.

The situation: customer wants to cancel today’s lunch order at 10:30am

Customer: “Hi, this is Kate from ABC Financial. I’m sorry that I’m calling so late. We ordered lunch for delivery today at noon. My boss just asked me to call and cancel. He’s taking his clients to a restaurant instead.”

Employee: “Hi, Kate, this is Michelle. I actually just checked out your order and it’s being loaded in the delivery truck as we speak.”

Customer: “I don’t understand. It’s only 10:30 a.m. Our lunch isn’t scheduled for delivery for another hour and-a-half.”

Employee: “You are absolutely right, Kate. I am looking at today’s master delivery log and your lunch is scheduled for noon. For us to make that delivery time, our trucks leave between 10:45 and 11:00 a.m. It takes about ten minutes to get to your building, sometimes more with traffic. By the time we get onto your loading dock, go through security and get an elevator to your floor, it’s just about that time. And we like to allow a few minutes to set the lunch up, too.”

Customer: “When I called to place the order, I was told I could cancel it anytime.”

Employee: “Hmm, that would not have been us, Kate. Possibly it was another catering company that you do business with.”

Customer: “So you’re telling me that I can’t cancel the lunch?”

Employee: “Once your order has been prepared, you have a few options. I see you have sandwiches, potato chips, and beverages for 20 people. We’d be able to deliver just the sandwiches and take the chips and drinks off the bill. We could also include some individual take-out containers. Perhaps you could give some other folks in the office a sandwich for lunch. Or, we could get creative together. We would be happy to deliver the lunch to a client of yours that perhaps you want to express appreciation to, or to a potential customer you are hoping to do business with. All we need is the delivery information, and we will ‘wow ‘em’ for you.”

Customer: “Hmm...let me talk to my boss and I’ll call you back.”

Employee: “Great, Kate, Thanks! Would it be possible to get back to me in the next five to 10 minutes, so we can still make our noon delivery time?”

Customer: “Yep, I’ll call you right back.”

Employee: “Thanks again!”

[Editor’s note: additional options are always available—just use your noodle! Suggesting a donation to a food bank in the area would be another way to show good will.]


The employee successfully accomplished the following:

• Explained the status of the order
• Explained the logistics of the time frame required to make the delivery
• Offered an alternative explanation to how the customer “misunderstood” the cancellation policy
• Never say the word, “No”, even when directly asked: “So you’re telling me I can’t cancel the lunch?”
• Offered three solutions, allowing the customer to make the decision
• Remained calm, professional and emotionally detached

See Michael Rosman at Catersource 2018. Click here for his session schedule.


Michael Rosman

Michael Rosman

Owner/Founder, The Corporate Caterer, Boston, MA

Michael Rosman is the founder of, a consulting, coaching and lead generation company for businesses that aspire to take their corporate catering business to the next level or start a new division. He is also a Senior Consultant with He can be reached at [email protected].