Service and Experience: Lies. All Lies—when customers are less than truthful

J. N. Halm

People lie. That is the truth. At one time or another, we have all been put into positions that have caused us to be less than truthful. It is a part and parcel of human existence. It is not even far-fetched to say that the very first of our species even lied. In other words, lying is something we have been doing as a race since the dawn of time—and so we have become very good at it.

The jury is still out regarding how often people lie in a given day. In the past, researchers argued that each person told a couple of lies in a given day. However, more recent studies indicate that most people actually do not tell lies daily. What was found was that there was a certain 1% of the population that told almost all the lies. It was found that those habitual liars could tell as many as 15 lies every single day. Literally, these few liars end up “lying for all of us” and they are responsible for pushing the stats up.


According to psychotherapists, lies are an attempt to have some kind of control over a situation through manipulation. These learned folks argue that lying is a sort of defence mechanism that allows people to protect themselves from opening up to others. It is a fact that telling the truth comes with the possibility of rejection or ridicule—an unpleasant state that many people would rather not be in. Therefore, the lie always seem like the easier option.

It has been surmised that lies also act as a protective cover. When a person tells a lie and is rejected, the one can take solace in the fact that the reason for the rejection is not a fact, so the one can handle that rejection well. However, when a person tells a truth and he or she is rejected, it becomes a more bitter pill to swallow. Therefore, it is safer to lie and be rejected or ridiculed than to tell the truth and be laughed at.

Sometimes too, the lie is just an automatic response that is as a result of people having unpleasant past experiences regarding certain situations. Consequently, whenever they encounter a similar situation, their first response is always with a lie.

Then there are those times when telling the truth can hurt someone’s feelings. In that case, the lie is told to protect both the liar and the one being lied to. The latter is protected from a hurtful truth and the former is protected from the responsibility of having to handle the hurt person’s disappointments.

Another context in which lies are told is when people want to maintain a certain societal status. In this situation, an individual would not mind inflating the price of an item bought, just so that people think that individual is richer or more sophisticated than the one actually is. In a world in which people are judged not by the content of their character but by what they possess, it should not be too difficult to appreciate why someone will inflate the price of an item the individual owns.

It is clear from the above scenarios that there are a myriad of contexts in which people would prefer not to tell the truth. Sometimes, the truth hurts, and it can hurt very badly, so the lie becomes the easier way out.


Whether it is done to protect one’s self, someone else or it is done so as not to hurt someone, lies are still lies. We can try and colour them as much as possible. White lies. Lies told to please others. Black lies. Lies told for personal benefit. Blue lies. Lies told for the benefit of the collective. Red lies. Lies told purposely to cause harm to others. Then there are yellow lies and pink lies. These are all lies.

Lies can also be of two main categories. The first is falsification. This is the kind that occurs when an individual deliberately misrepresents the facts to another. It is about present false information as the truth. The second category of lies is concealment. This is the kind where people withhold the truth, without saying something is untrue or not. There are some who have argued that falsification is a more serious breach of trust than concealment. The truth is that a lie is a lie no matter what cloak it is draped in.

Some researchers also demarcate lies into two main categories—self-benefitting lies and other-benefitting lies. As the name implies, self-benefitting lies are those told to give an advantage to the liar. These are the typical lies told by customers to gain some financial or non-financial advantage. These are also the lies that people tell so that their true situation are not made known to the public.

Other-benefitting lies are those that are told to offer help to another person rather than the one telling the lie. This is the lie that is told by customers to service professionals so as not to make that professional feel bad. Other-benefitting lies are those told when people are being polite and politically correct. It is not surprising that researchers have found that a majority of lies told are of the self-benefitting kind rather than other-benefitting.


No matter the kind or category of the lie, it has been argued by some that some lies are even important in the smooth running of society. There are some experts who even argue that lying should not be viewed as evidence of deviant behaviour but as a natural occurrence, a part and parcel of dealing with other human beings. Something needed to keep society running smoothly. For instance, if we are to go about telling every single individual the truth, society will run amok. Many people will not be able to leave their houses if they were to be told the truth about how they look. If people were to be told the raw truth about certain things, many social media platforms will not be so popular. Lies make our society.

Some have even dared to argue that if people were to always tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”, no meaningful relationship can ever be established. For these particular theorists, the truth can make people feel so uncomfortable that many people would not want to be involved in any meaningful relationship with others. In other words, lies are needed to make a relationship stand.

We can even argue that there are certain professions that require people to lie. Lawyers are one of the first that come to mind. Can a lawyer really be a great lawyer if she does not tell a fib here and there? Is it not acceptable in our society for an attorney to hide behind attorney-client privilege to hold back the truth?

I daresay many politicians would never have gotten into office if they were to tell truth on their campaign trails. Who will vote for a politician who tells the electorate that his only reason for wanting to be elected is so that he can enrich himself? Very few people will vote for such a politician. So the politician lies and gets elected and then he goes about doing the exact opposite of what he promised during the campaign period.

Important as they are to our daily lives, lies can also be troublesome. When they are found out, lies can lead to loss of trust. Even if they are told for the right reason, lies can have consequences. The funny thing about lies is that when they are found out, the very consequences the lair tried to avoid are the very consequences the one has to face. That is an interesting paradox.

Customer Lies

In the world of business, customers—human as they are—also tell lies. As a matter of fact, there are studies that indicate that customers lie a lot. An April 2012 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research claimed that as high as 85% of customers at a certain restaurant admitted to lying when asked by waiters about their experience. In order not to hurt the feelings of these waiters, customers told lies. This is a common occurrence.

It is said that lying occurs more frequently in service encounters. This is because it is in service encounters that casual relationships are established and it is in casual relationships that lying mostly takes place. If a customer only comes in to do business once in a while, then occasionally lying to have his way will not seem so consequential to the customer.

Another study carried out with regards to the lies told by customers was published in September 2021 edition of the Journal of Business Research. The study, titled “Truth and lies: The impact of modality on customer feedback”, revealed that the likelihood of customer lying increased with face-to-face interactions.

There was another study published in the May 2021 edition of the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services. This study asserted that many customers resorted to exaggeration when filling out online reviews. The study was titled “Why consumers exaggerate in online reviews? Moral disengagement and dark personality traits.” That study however found that there was a greater propensity to exaggerate among people who possess certain traits. In short, although most of lie, there are some people who are just liars by nature.

Another study published in the December 2008 edition of Journal of Marketing Research argued that given the opportunity most people will resort to some sort of dishonesty. The study was however quick to add that the degree of dishonesty among most people was relatively low. Titled “The Dishonesty of Honest People: A Theory of Self-Concept Maintenance”, the researchers claimed that even when people lie, they still tend to see themselves as generally good people.


Leave a Reply