Tim Houlihan’s dad was my English teacher in grade 8.
In the ’80s, teachers could physically punish students. The strap was outlawed, but noogies were still acceptable.
Mr. Houlihan noogied kids when their eyes wandered toward the window. He clenched his fist and rapped his middle finger knuckle off the top of the sleepy student’s head. Never a recipient of his legendary noogies, I saw a lot of knuckleheads that year.

Two weeks before Christmas 2006, my first customers opened the front door.
I sat and wept in private.
My body numbed.
My head hurt.
Tears flowed.
I had done it.
I opened my own business.
I called Aline and wailed like a baby.

Two days later, the honeymoon was over.

The employees bustled. Customers smiled and laughed. Money flowed to the till.
I exploded with delight.

“There’s a customer at table 21 who wants to speak to you,” informed Lucille.

At the table, I met a new knucklehead. The customer was not happy. He complained about the food, the service, the color of the paint on the walls, and even the ambient temperature in the dining room.

He didn’t recognize me, but I saw this guy pull the same stunt at another restaurant three months earlier. His face was tattooed on my brain.

There was nothing I could do to satisfy him. He wanted the bill erased. I complimented the meals and gave him a gift certificate for another visit. He didn’t want the extra gift. He was never going to use it. We were the worst restaurant in the world.
“Ok, then give it to someone else,” I offered. He left the restaurant satisfied. And I never saw him again.

Knuckleheads are everywhere.

There’s no escaping them.

It’s good business to please customers.
On the path to happiness, knuckleheads shake owners like a paint can.
They are a test.
Are you really going to live up to your guarantee?
Are you sure the customer is important to you?

Knuckleheads poke businesses until their skins become leathery, tanned, and wrinkled.
They are a nuisance.
With the passing of time, good customers start to look like knuckleheads.

The business person who regards bad reviews and complaints as if they came from a knucklehead will struggle to grow sales.

Some are knuckleheads.
Some don’t deserve your kindness.
But which ones?
Knuckleheads resemble good customers.

All knuckleheads complain.
Yet not all complaints come from knuckleheads.

Treat customers like knuckleheads, and your advertising will not work in the long run.

The best way to handle knuckleheads is to treat them like your best customers.

Some of them deserve a Mr. Houlihan noogie upside the head.
Don’t do it. It will only hurt you.

Your sales growth depends on it.

Latest posts by Rick Nicholson (see all)