without horse-sense

A note to small business owners: the following is the easiest way to lose a customer.

For my birthday, my mother bought me a gift certificate for some lessons, specifying that I would call for them in the summertime. When summertime came, I emailed and called asking to get set up, and after a few attempts, I was given the number for my instructor. I called her a few times, and after two weeks of no response, I emailed the owner and asked for the number of another instructor. Again no response for days. I contacted the owner again and said, “Look, if you can’t do the lessons, that’s fine — just issue a refund.”

They’re hardly the only ones in the Angelborough area. I drove past three other service providers in order to reach their location.

Suddenly a new instructor materialized (the other instructor’s mother) with a time slot. I attended two lessons and then a repeating medical appointment for one of my children moved into that same time slot. I asked the instructor for another time for my lessons. No response. I waited a few days and tried again. She said she was “pretty full” but would find something for me.

After eleven days, I emailed again and said, “When should I show up?” and she wrote back and told me I had to be patient because she needed to check her schedule. I replied, “It shouldn’t take eleven days to check your schedule.” The instructor wrote back and told me she didn’t like my tone.

So let’s see — unreturned calls, unreturned emails, threats required to get the paid-for service, and then I get the pleasure of being told she doesn’t like my tone of voice young lady?

New email from me to the owner: I cannot work under these circumstances. I want a refund of the remaining money.

The owner then fired back full of invective. I have been DIFFICULT and IMPATIENT since day one. I didn’t even start lessons until the summertime! And eleven days is NOT too long to wait for someone to look at her schedule! She even claimed I was mistreating her horses. She said I had never given their business a fair chance. She said my mother was difficult to work with too. And then she said, “So what time did you want to come here?”

1. I had not asked for a specific time. I had asked for ANY time and received no response.

2. Getting fed up after two weeks of no contact (repeatedly) means a customer is impatient. Now you guys know.

3. I was mistreating her horse, and therefore she wants to put me back on the horse. (By the way, if someone was mistreating your horse, would you give the woman a riding crop and tell her, “Beat the horse! You’re not hitting her hard enough! You’ll never get her to move with little taps like that!”)

4. At any point in time, responding to me with “I still haven’t found a good time, but I’ll get back to you by Monday” would have mollified me.

5. What possible motivation could I have for not giving them a fair chance?

6. If waiting for summertime was a problem, the opportunity to say so was when my mother was arranging the gift certificate.

I had no idea what response the owner expected. Was I supposed to simper that yes, I was worthy only of being ignored by someone of her caliber, and would she please forgive me for expecting a callback within two weeks?

In retrospect, I think she wanted a fight. It would have made her feel justified if I’d said nasty things to her.

Instead I replied with, “Given that I have been so difficult and impatient since day one, you might as well write my mother a check for the remaining $### and find another, more grateful customer. Thank you for your quick refund.”

My lack of outrage seems to have been the correct response. The next email said she would happily refund the balance.

Note to small business owners: Just because you already have the customer’s money does not mean you get to keep it no matter what.


  1. Teresa

    You rock!

    1. philangelus

      I’m sure what you meant to say is that I’m difficult and impatient.

  2. Lookin^Up

    This is the stuff The People’s Court is made of. Marilyn Milian should take a crack at them. Maybe they need a sound whipping from a judge to revise their stinkin’ policy and not blame the customer for their own shortcomings.

    1. philangelus

      I don’t wish them harm. They’re doing enough harm to themselves.

  3. cricketB

    I wouldn’t want an instructor who doesn’t deal with mistreatment (intentional or not) the instant it happens.

    1. philangelus

      What I don’t get is that the instructor told me to be rough on the horse, kick her hard, etc. That I was mollycoddling the horse. Etc. At one point, the instructor grabbed the horse’s head and cuffed her really hard with a closed fist. I assure you, I never did anything whatsoever like that.

      I never even really got the motion down to kick the horse right,I think, because whenever I tried that “Okay, start walking” kick, the horse just stood there. So clearly the woman was trying to provoke a fight. The instructor kept saying, “You need to make sure she knows who’s boss” (the horse did know: it was her, not me).

      So I can’t imagine I was actually “impatient” with the horse any more than I was actually difficult with the owner or my mother was difficult with her. It was a pass-the-blame game. But I’d be interested in working with another instructor to see if the other one picked up on any hints of “impatience” that might have escaped me.

  4. Victor S E Moubarak

    It is said that if you get good service you’ll tell a friend or two. If you get bad service you tell at least 6 or 8; and they might pass on the message to others.

    When will businesses, big and small, learn this simple fact of Customer Care?

    1. philangelus

      And nowadays, if you get bad service, you tell the 400 people who read your weblog. 😉

      (Although in all fairness, the only people who would be able to ID the business based on this entry are my mother, the owner, and the instructor.)

  5. cricketB

    There’s a difference between a Mom’s “One,” and a continuous battle. Horses are big things. They need to know who’s boss, or they can do a lot of damage. At my uncle’s (a horse vet), I was on a very obedient horse, but the initial “Yes, this is an actual signal, not just me sitting up here trying not to fall off” kick was pretty hard — compared to how hard I was allowed to hit my brother. Not very hard compared to the size of the horse. After that, it obeyed. He was very insistent that I use clear, persistent signals rather than hard ones. “Keep pulling harder until it listens.” Your instructor was impatient with you, not the other way around. I know he has some who constantly test him, too lazy or too active, but he’d never put a beginner on one.

    Either way, if she saw mistreatment and didn’t deal with it at the time, you don’t want her as an instructor. If she’s “mis-remembering the event,” the same comment applies.

    Just like with any other skill, you need an instructor and environment you trust. One that lets you observe a lesson or two and life in the barn before committing.

  6. Pingback: Good customer service « Seven angels, four kids, one family

  7. Ken Rolph

    The value of horse sense is shown by the fact that the horse was afraid of tte car during the early period when the pedestrian just laughed at it.

  8. Masa

    Maybe you should put the email exchange on the ‘net – sort of like this:


    Safe for work.

    1. philangelus

      LOL! Mine isn’t nearly as funny or witty. But maybe I should get some personalized Nikes that say “Difficult” on one shoe and “Impatient” on the other.