The origin of the popular saying “The customer is always right” is attributed to the founder of Confeitaria Colombo, a resident of the Glória neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, who honored him by giving his name to one of its small alleys, Manoel José Lebrão (1868-1933).

The origin of the popular saying The customer is always right

Despite some questioning the origin of the saying, with some attributing it to Harry Gordon Selfridge (1858 – 1947), it cannot be denied that the saying became famous in Brazil because of Manoel Lebrão. Confeitaria Colombo was founded in 1894, and for over a century, it has been one of the most respected commercial establishments in the country. Currently, the confectionery is a cultural and artistic heritage of the city. The history of Confeitaria Colombo cannot be told without associating it with the urban history of Rio de Janeiro.

The origin of the popular saying The customer is always right
Image: Confeitaria Colombo

For a long time, the place was a meeting point for writers, journalists, poets, artists, and politicians. Confeitaria Colombo was considered an extension of the Brazilian Academy of Letters. It was the preferred haunt of names like Olavo Bilac, Machado de Assis, José do Patrocínio, João do Rio, Chiquinha Gonzaga, Washington Luiz, Epitácio Pessoa, José Lins do Rego, Getúlio Vargas, Heitor Villa Lobos, Juscelino Kubitschek, and many others, serving as a stage for numerous debates and even historical and political decisions. Additionally, the venue hosted illustrious visitors such as King Albert I of Belgium in 1920 and Queen Elizabeth II of England in 1968.

Brazilian History
Matheus Araújo
Founder and Editor at Brazilian History | Website

Matheus is an entrepreneur at Araujo Media, where he serves as CEO and Creative Director. He shares analyses on his personal blog "" and is currently pursuing a degree in Advertising and Propaganda. Moreover, he has a passion for history, particularly that of Brazil, which led him to become the founder and editor of the Brazilian History portal.