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“The customer is always right” gained popularity as a catchphrase at the turn of the 20th century, when department stores were beginning to fight each other for market share. Presenting a “very generous attitude” toward customers was understood to be the way to a customer’s heart, and various retailers—from Marshall Field’s to Sears Roebuck & Co.—took it upon themselves to show customers they were the most gracious.
In recent years, however, the tide has turned, with many outlets pointing out that the customer isn’t always right, or that failing to acknowledge a business’ limits hurts both company and customer.