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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2017:05:09 07:11:23

Because his business background was in the retail sector, when it came to our family business in the green industry, my dad taught me a high level of customer service. But is the customer always right? Of course not. But is it good business for the business person to play along, and make believe the customer is always right?

Imagine customer service at a diner: “What will you have for desert, ma’am?”

“I’ll have the pound cake, but can I have some ranch dressing on the side?”

“Absolutely! And you sir?”

“I’ll have the pound cake too, but can you soak it in used motor oil?”

“Uh ... let me check with my manager ... and a health professional ... and our lawyer. I’ll be right back.”

Customer service only goes so far. But what about in medicine?

“Doc, this right arm has been sore for two years now, even with all you have tried. Just amputate this time.”

To say nothing about lawsuits, the modern Hippocratic Oath would seem to prevent the doctor from fulfilling this request. The doctor must try to help the patient, not endlessly, but in spite of seemingly insurmountable challenges.

So when it comes to customer service, the customer cannot always be right. In the marketplace, I see this as one dimension of caveat venditor, a lesser-known variant of the warning to buyers: caveat emptor. The seller should beware of fulfilling all buyers’ requests. Sometimes the seller should educate the buyer.

Take a look at the photo. A “service” was recently provided to owners of this otherwise healthy tree. By all measures, the serviceable life of this tree has been shortened. Both buyer and seller should have been more aware.

If the buyer asked for some pruning and received this outcome, then the buyer did not choose the tree worker carefully enough. If the buyer demanded this service, then the tree worker should not have complied, just as the server in the diner and the doctor asked to amputate.

Just like the Hippocratic Oath, certified arborists must follow a code of ethics. Arborists agree to “comply with all accepted professional standards related to arboriculture practice, including national practice standards and policies.” In the case of the tree in the photo, if the customer had asked for this type of “pruning,” the tree worker should have educated the customer, or walked away from the job offer. In the marketplace, both buyers and sellers must beware.

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Joshua Arp is an ISA-certified munici pal specialist, Clarks Summit’s municipal arborist and an operator of an organic lawn and landscape maintenance business.