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'Customer' is always wrong

Apr 10, 2008, 05:21 AM
Authors : Daniel
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Post date : Apr 10, 2008, 05:21 AM
Julie Cameron's comment article in Taxation this week is an intelligent, informative and measured look at the problems with HMRC's service to the taxpayer.
Reading Julie's feature, I had to admire her for not resorting to a spittle-flecked rant about the Revenue's insistence on calling us all 'customers'.
Me, I have no such restraint...
Now, I don't want to bash HMRC unnecessarily. For all the department's failings, it is still a friend of Taxation.
But I do have to say that I detest and resent being thought of as a 'customer'.
Julie makes an excellent, measured point as to why the word is inappropriate - to which I'd like to add my bug-eyed thoughts on why it's also damn insulting.
It's just one example of a broader failing of modern society: the insistence by businesses, organisations, signage, advertising and even inanimate objects on talking to the public like we're, at best, close friends or, at worst, like simpletons.
There are myriad examples I could cite, and I welcome readers' own suggestions in the Comments section below.
I'll offer just a few from my own experience.
In my previous job, I enjoyed free membership to a local gym. When a machine - a treadmill or cross-trainer, say - had broken down, it would be fitted not with a perfectly sufficient 'out of order' sign, but one that read: 'I'm feeling under the weather... but I'll be back on my feet soon'.
It almost had me reaching for the cream cakes.
And speaking of idiotic signs, on the railway platform from which I catch my morning train to work is a café. In the window of its front door is a little placard, one side of which reads 'I am completely open'. The other side bears the legend 'Shut happens'.
I've never patronised the place, and I never will.
Perhaps such signs are intended to be 'friendly', 'cute' or 'funny'.
They're not. They're childish and insulting to people's intelligence.
And that's what HMRC are being by calling taxpayers customers.
The Revenue has erroneously assumed that by being called customers we'll feel more appreciated and empowered.
I don't.
I just feel annoyed.
You may have noticed that.

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