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How should I deal with a dishonest customer?



2:31 pm on May 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I own a business that ships a variety of products all over the US & Canada. Recently a customer purchased quanity 5 bottles of the same essential liquid widgets. Note that she has ordered once per year the previous two years purchasing the same product (but both times before quantity 7 bottles)

The item was on backorder, which I notified her right away and received a confirmation from her that she would like to wait for the product. The day they came in stock we shipped out immediately. Several days after delivery we got an email stating that she only received 3 of the 5 bottles and asking when the other 2 would be shipped.

Now, since I packed this order myself I know she did receive 5 bottles. They were packaged together by the manufacturer and my receipt from that day shows a quantity of 5 received by them. The weight on the shipping receipt also matches the weight of 5 bottles + 1 USPS small box. And I do have a signature confirmation that she did receive the order.

How do I respond to customers like this when I know they are outright lying in order to get a free product? Notice that the missing "2" items would = the normal "7" she has previously ordered. Her total order + shipping was about $60. If I capitulate and ship out 2 more oils + shipping costs I will actually lose money.

I havent responded to her yet, so any advice would be greatly appreciated.

[edited by: lorax at 5:43 pm (utc) on May 22, 2008]
[edit reason] widgetized [/edit]


3:21 pm on May 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I have addressed those issues before by using the online tracking where it shows the weight.. 3 bottles would weigh x and 5 would weigh y. I am not sure if USPS will show this. You can also say that it must have been stolen in transit and tell them to file a claim.


3:40 pm on May 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bwnbwn is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

She may in fact be telling the truth as Turbosho is correct the shipping weight should be on the tracking number.
We have run into this many times ourselves and finally went to a different tape to seal the boxes up due to thieft at the shipping docks.

The box may as well come open and 2 bottles fell out and ups retaped the box up less the other 2 bottles due to being in the bottom of the van and now way to determine were they came from.

Being a repeat customer I doubt she is being untruthful. Ask her if the box was damaged, ask her to save all packing material and box file a claim with UPS.

Tell her you sent 5 bottles and will resend the other 2 but need to file a claim with UPS and ask her to save the shipping material if she hasn't already thrown it out.

The weight will be the trick to get the claimed approved.


3:46 pm on May 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

We use USPS with delivery confirmation and signature. It only shows total box weight. We use USPS boxes with security tape and go to great lengths to pack them properly. Since they were tiny glass bottles, they were bubble wrapped together and then sealed within a plastic bag, thereby eliminating any chance for accidentally falling out or breakage. If there was any theft if would be greatly apparent as the box would have to be ripped open and permanently damaged.

Since we use USPS we just charge our customers a flat rate shipping charge based on subtotal. Orders over $75 get free shipping. We sell such a variety of items that determining total weight prior to shipping is difficult. We receive stock from the manufacturer after customer places an order, therefore we only purchase what we need. I don't really know how I can prove that I have shipped out an order accurately, which means customers can claim any time they havent received a proper order.

[edited by: lorax at 1:23 pm (utc) on May 27, 2008]


5:53 pm on May 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Notice that the missing "2" items would = the normal "7" she has previously ordered.

Did she actually specify the number she received? Just wondering if she's made a mistake and thinks she ordered 7.


5:56 pm on May 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bwnbwn is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

This is tough as USPS is horrible about refunding and from what you said it is unlikely they were taken or box is damaged.

Tough call is the customer worth losing tell her you shipped the items and won't get the other two bottles, then they most likely do a charge back.

Ecommerce is a tough business and getting tougher as times get harder.


9:22 am on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

The customer confirmed that she did receive the box undamaged and that her invoice included does state quantity 5 were shipped. However, she claims the box only included "3" and wanted to know when to expect the other "2".

Like I said, I know it was correct because we received 5 from the manufacturer which I personally packed. It sticks out in my mind because I called the manufacturer a dozen times to get them in stock and then went to great lengths to securely package them. I would never lose money on partially shipping such a small order. No other customer has even ordered this item for two months. Also the total weight of the box at 11oz checks out for 5 bottles + box weight. (Quantity 3 would have been only 7oz)

I know that I should probably just give in and replace the products, but it doesnt seem right that she can basically commit fraud in this manner. Its amazing what people will do to save $20. Any customer can state they didnt receive such-and-such. Im not saying I havent ever made a packing mistake, but its very unlikely in how we do business. We pack orders in small batches and only receive stock based on what is needed for that batch. We also have one person set up the order and another review each one prior to packing. I am very strict about this and as a result we very rarely have an error or shipping damage. But Im hearing about an increasing trend in customers trying to do this sort of thing so my concern is how to safeguard against this in the future.


11:28 am on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bwnbwn is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

so my concern is how to safeguard against this in the future.

The only way I can think of is take a picture of the items before packing them as they won't be visable after packing. Save the image to the order number and you have a backup.
If this becomes an issue with us this is what I will begin doing and keep the images in a folder by month and they can be mass deleted after a time period of your choice.


11:43 am on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

"If there was any theft if would be greatly apparent as the box would have to be ripped open and permanently damaged."

Well, it wouldn't be so apparent necessarily. I use USPS and had a situation this past holiday season where I shipped the customer 20 widgets. I'd shipped plenty of widgets to this customer before. The customer said he received only 13 widgets plus a casette of a Mexican singer. He said the box had been opened by slitting through the tape, which was clear, and then it had been resealed with more clear tape, which the post office supposedly doesn't even use (their tape has a logo on it). There was nothing in the box that indicated that it had been opened accidentally by the post office, and the box wasn't all mangled up.

I had to go through hell to get this situation resolved with the post office. But after I think two months, they actually found the seven missing widgets, a few of which were missing their contents, and sent them to me. Who knows what actually happened? They sure didn't. But neither did the customer lie. So it is possible for pixies to attack your mail at the post office and remove widgets and put in a cassette tape of a Mexican singer.

If I were you, I would just send her the missing widgets.


12:29 pm on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Am I getting cynical...she previously ordered 7 items. Then purchases 5 this time, then claims the order was two items short. 5 + 2 = 7


12:29 pm on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Sometimes eating a small occasional loss is better than being labled as a cheat on blogs. You could ask her to write a review of the product and customer service and gain even more credibility instead of risking to loose customer confidence and that would be worth more than a loss.

I have asked clients to send me pictures to post on my website of their use of my custom widgets and one picture was so nice that I'm going to send my customer a set of $75 dollar widgets just for taking the time to take the pictures, setting it up and sending me a very useable picture. - my cost though is about $12.00 so for her, it will be a big deal, for me... improvement to my credibility - Win - Win

Sometimes, there are ways to recover customer service costs but one needs to be original about it. Also take the time to ask your client what could be done in the future to improve your store such adding a new product.


9:15 pm on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

But, what are you going to do, call your customer a liar? That is the problem.

We deal with this problem every once and a while. If you can prove your case with the shipping weight it gives you some leverage, but then it points to theft in transit.

I understand in places where they ship high value, low weight products they set up a video system right above the people doing the packing and tape everything. That way they have some evidence to show the customer or the shipping companies. But it really sounds like an expensive system.


11:42 pm on May 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

Other variables could exist. You will need to contact her and ask who opened the box. Someone could have taken out some bottles for some reason and left the remainder in the box. Or there could have been damaged to the box suggesting they fell out.

A call is appropriate here rather then an email. If they are lying they wont want to talk about it, or become angry easily, or become defensive, or think you are calling them a liar. Usually asking questions like who opened the box will lead to an easy answer and will not be threatening.

Just sending replacements rather then trying to address the issue in a potential fraud situation is REPULSIVE. Apart from the obvious moral issues, you have demonstrated that your business is a weak link and have opened yourself up to more serious fraud in the future by this person, and their cohorts.


8:08 am on Jun 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Who cares if she is lying, she's a repeat customer! Keep her happy and she'll continue to repeat and you'll also have a business write off! Piss her off and she's likely to never buy again and tell 10 others or more about her bad experience with you. Take care of her and eat the 1-time cost that you can write off anyway!



2:11 pm on Jun 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member essex_boy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I understand what your saying but dishonest (im saying she is) stick in our throat


6:15 pm on Jun 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Well to be honest I've handled these types quite a bit. Never once have I told the customer they were lying, nor have I given them any reason to question our business ethics or theirs. What have I got in return? A customer that is happy and tells other people about us. Sure I have to bite the bullet once in awhile but so what..It's a write off. It's kind of like courting a customer to lunch once in awhile, nothing more, nothing less. Take care of your customers and they will always take care of you! Best one-liner I've ever read as a business man!

I guess the best way to look at it is...What are the positives and negatives? Surely taking care of the customer outweighs the negatives she's bound to produce.


7:49 pm on Jun 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

A negative would be that if you are willing to "take care" of a customer you know to be dishonest you will be more willing to bend the rules of your business for personal gain at the expense of your customers in the future. What they don't know wont hurt them, its a win-win!

A positive would be that you quickly solve the problem temporarily by giving them what they want.


8:29 pm on Jun 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

This is clearly an unpleasant situation, and if you're anything like me you'll be seething with indignation but not wanting a personal confrontation.

However, I like the idea above of a personal phonecall to talk to the person, ask some gentle questions such as who opened the box, was it the usual delivery person and time, etc, etc, nothing too harsh or clever, to get an idea of whether the person is generally reasonable and personable. Explain how you are dumbfounded given that you packed the box yourself having gone to all this trouble to chase the goods, and you need to track down the loss as you'll lose money if you have to ship replacements and indeed that you may have to stop deliveries to her area to avoid the risk of it happening again, which is true and would cap this loss in your case if you feel dishonesty is at work somewhere. Ask for help and ideas. Don't accuse directly or indirectly. Some sociopaths will be able to lie to you and 'look you in the eye' as it were, but most normal people would be very uncomfortable.

If this person is fibbing then (a) they should be significantly discomforted by their own dishonesty which is the nearest you'll get to natural justice and (b) you won't ship any more there and you won't lose more money but you haven't accused them or done anything to earn a nasty write-up.

Do ship these 'replacement' items in any case, but ONLY after that personal phonecall.



[edited by: DamonHD at 8:31 pm (utc) on June 1, 2008]


10:03 pm on Jul 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

If you are a business man/woman here is what you need to do.

1. Apologize.

2. Do not explain anything, or offer theories of what might have happened, or mention anything about how you really did ship 5 bottles.

3. Apologize again and ship the 2 bottles overnight + 1 extra at your cost.

Anything else will be a loss/loss situation.

[edited by: TowerOfPower at 10:05 pm (utc) on July 27, 2008]


10:59 pm on Jul 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member quadrille is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I agree with TOP, as Damon's idea is good - but once on the phone, you can lose control of the situation.

This a repeat customer; I'd bite the bullet.

The only real alternative is a total refund and ask them to shop elsewhere.

Any other solution may briefly make you feel better - but could lose you customers, get a law suit, and all manner of nasties. Life's too short, and business reputation is much more important than any one transaction.

When I started online trading, I expected - and allowed for - one in ten going south. these days, I expect one in 100 to fail, and budget accordingly.

As they say in France, #*$! Happens. It's part of doing business.


5:41 pm on Jul 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

This happens every so often to us - when a customer gets a free bonus gift with their order. If they want to return the main item, they also have to return the bonus gift. Sometimes the customer will say they never received the bonus gift.

We have a email template that we send out in that case (it's a little forceful but not overly so):

"We are sorry that you are unable to find the 'bonus gift'. The 'bonus gift' was included on your invoice, which means you manually put it in your shopping cart. We would have hoped that if it was missing you would have let us know immediately upon receipt.

We are a small business, so all orders are checked by me before they go out to ensure that the products being shipped will match the enclosed invoice. Could you please have a look again to be sure it isn't lost in the packing paper?"

They seem to always respond, "oh let me take a look for it". And then "I've found it."

Of course the bonus gift is right on top and could not be missed (unless they open the box from the bottom I guess)

You have to give the customer a way out of the lie (if it is indeed a lie).


5:18 am on Aug 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

You have to give the customer a way out of the lie (if it is indeed a lie)

It's not usually a lie, but flea (jumping around like a flea) customers. Because, those who need to return things are statistically the same ones who would not be able to find the bonus item.

Why return an item...well because they made an error of some sort, misinterpreted the need for the item, it does not fit, to rushed to consider the purchase, non-detailed oriented...


10:12 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

hello all...

I thought i'd interject a couple of thoughts into the discussion...

you have no reason to give this "customer" an additional 2 bottles. just tell her she will need to fill a claim form against the shipper and let her deal with them. This saves you from calling her a liar and also saves you from having to replace 2 bottles that weren't lost in the first place...

but, regardles of how the matter resolves it'self, you should strive as much as you can to deal only with the good customers... a good customer doesn't try to get away with this kind of shenangans... they pay you on time when asked and won't sell you down the road to save a nickle just because a competitor offers a better deal. these are the people you want to nourish and from time to time reward... Why would you waste 2 free bottles of stuff to satisfy a poor quality customer when those same 2 bottles or $ equivilant going to one of your better customers would be so much more better use of this resource? you can't change a persons morals or character or nature with only 2 bottles of stuff anyway. let the big companies handle the problem customers..they have specialists trained to handle cheaters and swcoundrels.

I don't believe in all of this treat the customer like a king... i treat customers like everyone else, try to be real with them, be open to their needs or wants and our ability to provide... to make a happy customer in the end, you have to start a open and upfront relationship with them as soon into it as you can.

I know in a lot of businesses, merchants don't get the time or chance to interact with their customers so that can be difficult advice to follow....

What I always try to do is to first be a good customer to my providers... I try to be an excellent customer actually... that shows up in my marketing and attracts "like minds" and I think that's why we always get the greatest customers! almost 10 years of internet business and not a single complaint, return or conflict.

anyway, let's hope your customer shops at your competition... maybe send her a link to them:)


3:39 pm on Aug 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

UPS has on several occasions destroyed a package, torn the label off, and reboxed the merchandise, slapping the old label on the box.

Every time they have done this, some of the contents have been missing, and they used ZERO packing material, just letting whatever was left bounce around inside to get damaged.

Of course, UPS will not notify you or make a note this has happened, per their policy of doing everything they can to deny claims.

Andrea Wasik

5:28 pm on Sep 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I agree, a repeat customer is worth a lot and you can't be 100% sure she's lying. It's not worth losing sleep over, that's for sure. Just ship her the items and you'll avoid alienating someone who might spread the (bad) word about you.


1:47 pm on Sep 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Our company has had many of these same issues crop up. Our product is counted at the press (we sell printed items), at package time and is weighed. We also keep a "slip sheet" for each order which states the number of items the press operator printed, so our orders are well documented. We still get customers every now and then who claim they didn't receive the number of items they ordered. We know they are lying, but we send out replacements anyway to keep them happy. At first we would call them and ask all the standard questions. Now we just apologize and send the replacement. We want our name on the internet to be well respected and don't worry about the liars and cheaters. We figure Karma will get them sooner or later.


7:50 pm on Sep 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

We figure Karma will get them sooner or later

I would say that karma is catching up with you in this case. By enabling the fraud you are probably getting more fraud then you would otherwise, and are in effect part of the problem. And you are doing it to bolster your reputation as well.

This is like a security guard letting shoplifters slip pass so everything seems on the up and up in order to make themselves look good, or a shopkeeper who pays kickbacks to the local gang so they don't break the windows.


12:39 am on Sep 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

A little while ago I unsubscribed from a "trade" magazine because they had a regular column by some self-righteous brick-and-mortar shopkeeper who regularly called the police and had shoplifters who stole five dollars' worth of merchandise arrested. She said she wanted to teach those people a lesson. But teaching customers a lesson is not our job as shopkeepers. It is our job to keep shop (and as members of a community, it is our job not to waste the time of a public servant with five dollar shoplifting arrests). If a shopkeeper wants to blow off X amount of transactions where the customer might well be a liar because it would be a waste of the shopkeeper's time to pursue it, I think that is a good business decision. It is not like a security guard letting shoplifters get by, because a security guard is hired by the shop owner to do a job and is not doing it. And it is not like a shopkeeper who pays kickbacks to a gang, because that is illegal, and in that case, the shopkeeper is acting out of fear. This is not fear. It's a rational decision to cut one's losses.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with being mad; it's just not good business to waste your time trying to teach people a lesson--not least of all because they won't learn.

Retail is not a good job for a hardass.

[edited by: HRoth at 12:40 am (utc) on Sep. 13, 2008]


1:35 am on Sep 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I also agree with TowerOfPower. I apologize all the time for things that are absolutely not our fault. An apology, even undeserved, is a powerful tool. Also agree about not getting involved with why, how, or anything else. It will almost certainly become an endless circle that wastes times, and is unpleasant for all. Just no upside. That's right, apologize again. Turn the short-term loss into a long-term win.

Bottom line - ROI on TIME. Decide what you are going to do, do it, and call it done.

Based on what I've seen through this thread I agree with eating it, making the customer happy, and closing the chapter. I do not agree with going round and round and still needing to decide what to do.

This is tough as USPS is horrible about refunding

Thankfully, 99%+ of their shipments are trouble free. When there is trouble with them, anything other than immediately eating the loss will only increase the loss.

UPS no better unless doing enough volume to have your own rep. Then you're okay. They look at your volume, quality of business, lack of 'trouble shipments' and take care of you pretty well. Still burns some time though. No rep. Good luck to you. They'll pay - but you'll suffer plenty for it first:))

<edit> Minor text. </edit>

[edited by: D_Blackwell at 1:38 am (utc) on Sep. 13, 2008]


3:44 am on Sep 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

A little while ago I unsubscribed from a "trade" magazine because they had a regular column by some self-righteous brick-and-mortar shopkeeper

Sorry, but your subscription is non-refundable.


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