In last weeks episode of Project Runway Tim Gun talked about the monkey house theory. Basically it boils down to this:

The first time you walk into a monkey house at the zoo you are like OMG WTF is that smell… and it hits you like a ton of bricks.

After a hour in the monkey house you somewhat forget about the smell and look around a bit.

If you live in the monkey house you never notice the smell again.

I see this problem all the time in the online world. People easily dismiss their customers/consumers complaints and critiques about their website. They rather try to defend it and explain why it is the way it is instead of fixing the problem… Because they live in the monkey house.

By Jeremy Schoemaker

Jeremy "ShoeMoney" Schoemaker is the founder & CEO of ShoeMoney Media Group, and to date has sold 6 companies and done over 10 million in affiliate revenue. In 2013 Jeremy released his #1 International Best selling Autobiography titled "Nothing's Changed But My Change" - The ShoeMoney Story. You can read more about Jeremy on his wikipedia page here.

55 thoughts on “Are You Living in the Monkey House?”
  1. Shoe, didn’t you tell us not so long ago that you thought customer complaints and soforth were bogus and you didn’t care? Now you’re saying they’re super important? What gives?

  2. Very good point. Customer complaints are important for improving your business. If you listen to them to make your business better as opposed to defending yourself, you will be better in the end.

  3. Hey putting a lot of words in my mouth their chief… this was a quote from a tv show. Its something to think about.

    I would rather you make up your own mind about if its important. I am just throwing it out there.

  4. Not just complaints… this can be related on several levels, to several metrics of a site, both Good & Bad! Complaints are just one area that gets noticed (like the post states)

    How about the GOOD things on a site that are eventually taken for granted and not replicated? Seems to me the smell would be similar…

    If it stinks – do something about it! If it smells like candy and roses, AND people LIKE it, well… seems that should be expoited a bit further!

    Good post Jeremy – actually made me think outside the box!


  5. while it is a good theory, but it doesn’t work in my mind. I think if i provide the service with my best effort, and the customer have some problem they can take it to someone else because i dont have time for it. Believe it or not some of the customers are really P.I.T.A …. I would rather live in my monkey house :p

  6. I think everyone totally missed the point. Maybe I missed the point. I dunno. I recently had this debate with a bunch of Linux boys about how Linux isn’t “quite there” for the user experience. Computer gurus who’ve been in the monkey house a while are okay with it, but people that just showed up on the scene have no idea what that smell is. I think Mac’s user experience smells of roses πŸ˜›

  7. […] Scot Herrick wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptIn last weeks episode of Project Runway Tim Gun talked about the monkey house theory. Basically it boils down to this:. The first time you walk into a monkey house at the zoo you are like OMG WTF is that smellÒ€¦ and it hits you like a … […]

  8. You look like a monkey and you smell like one too.

    I’d been living in the monkey house for more than a year. One of my sites has a really popular classified ad system that was getting targeted by 419 scammers regularly. We policed the site, but it wasn’t until someone e-mailed me saying they’d never use it again, after getting four scam attempts in the single day, that I did something about it.

    Hired some programmers and built in some real fancy systems to detect the most common kinds of scams. Took me away from about three days of regular work schedule but the incidence rate has gone down to almost 0.

    I should’ve gotten rid of that monkey stank a long time ago.

  9. […] Read more of this article at […]

  10. No I will leave the monkey house and go to palace πŸ™‚

  11. I love your analogy, but it is true. I constantly see people asking for reviews but when they recieve one that isn’t talking about how great their website is, they get offended.

  12. Yup, I often do that. I’m the only one that finds my websites to be pretty, i think.

    I’m a monkey. πŸ™‚

  13. Great analogy. Your website only succeeds because of the visitors so why wouldn’t you listen to them?

  14. Smell? What smell? Smells like fresh air to me.

    Sometimes the monkey smell offers up a new perspective.

  15. The customer is always right is just as incorrect as the customer is always wrong. Someone complaining about the smell doesn’t necessarily mean something stinks but if every time someone complained about the smell you give an objective sniff yourself you’d find they right at least some of the time.

    Problem people suck at giving constructive criticism and telling someone “you stink” will more likely get a defensive reaction. Maybe try “Hmm. It doesn’t quite smell like what I hoped it would”

  16. Their is a difference between having an honest complaint about your site/service, and b!tching to just do so. THose are ok to see if there is any truth and move on from. Honest critical though can offer you the opportunity to expand. Ignore at your own peril. Someone said, they can gosomewhere else…hopefully here! I am happy to take your traffic πŸ™‚

  17. It is like asking someone if your baby is cute…no one wants to hear no. But it is a business not a plaything. If you don’t want critics, don’t run a business!

  18. Great analogy. I agree I have found myself doing this at times. I am just in shock that you watch project runway.

  19. Yeah – you have to leave the monkey house and come back in as a visitor, regularly. And not just because something might inherently stink, like scammers or spammers, but also because your needs and standards might change. I have noticed that I’ll make a site and be happy with how it looks and what it does at the time, but after a few months my vision for it has developed and the site’s needs have become clearer and suddenly I think, “What was I doing?! This needs to totally change!”

  20. Wow, I sure hope not. No one has mentioned such negative remarks about my sites, but if they did, I sure wouldn’t ignore or defend myself. Listening to visitors/customers is import to me.

  21. I have to agree. This of course depends on the situation. If your Shoe selling old PCs on eBay, eehh, it’s not so important. But when you run say… Microsoft, or Google, listening to your customers is beneficial.

  22. Yes, taking constructive criticism is always vital to the progression of one’s business. Gotta love the comparison between Project Runway and online businesses – simply great!

  23. It’s too much time spanking the monkey and not enough work that makes the crappy website in the first place….

  24. I like to listen to people’s critiques and take into consideration what they have to say. It’s ok when it’s construtive criticism, but if people are just being negative for the purpose of being negative, then I’ll just flush that down the toilet with the monkey c#@%


  25. Hmmmm that’s a good point, sometimes you put things off and put things off until it just becomes background noise, it takes a third person POV to really get your eyes back on those types of problems.

  26. I’m always open for every possibilities, being criticized could make you more even better, just learn every details wisely.

  27. Can you smell something? πŸ™‚

    I think a lot of this is down to emotions. If you have a website(s) they are like your babies and you become attached to them and if someone criticises it you take it personally.

    Just my 2c worth.

  28. And this should indeed be the opposite, listing to other people especially customers is what keeping your business alive at the end!

  29. the art is to turn your customers into monkeys – but be prepared to be paid peanuts

  30. I guess the bottom line question would really be how emotionally attached are you to a project and do you have the necessary amount of heart to see it through to the end – be it a good or disastrous end.

  31. It stings a bit when you make a website or blog and ask for a review and people tear you down. I learned to get over it and take what is helpful and what is just being negative. I have learned a lot of what I know from my mistakes and other more qualified webmaster pointing them out.

    You just have to remember, nobody starts out on top unless they are born as a Trump or into a super rich family. Take the advice and critique and learn from it.

  32. Great analogy, thats with all thing u just get used to over time to some things. It’s good to sometimes stop for a minute and hear what ppl, customers are telling to you and don’t keep be deaf for theirs complains etc.

  33. I am trying to break out of the money house, and take my blog out of the box and do something new

  34. If you live your life producing a sh*tty web site sometimes it’s hard to see how bad it really is. You are living in the monkey house.

  35. That certainly makes you look at your own work and check thats not what you are doing.

  36. Great analogy! And great point…just because you’re used to it doesn’t mean everyone else is going to be as satisfied as you are.

  37. Instead of living in the monkey house, people should realize that the customer is ALWAYS right.

  38. I’m not so much worried about my blog, but I just realized how bad my house smells.

  39. A lot of people working in customer facing roles these days seem to act like the world owes them a living and the company/customer should be grateful that they are doing them a favor!

  40. I absolutely agree. The whole point of working with a customer is to get them what they want. I can’t stand dealing with employees (like government employees) who act as if I’m bothering them. If you’re in a service industry, the customer should be the central focus of your actions and decisions.

  41. […] the past I’ve been kind of stuck in what Shoemoney once described as the Monkey House. You are stuck in your cage, working on your own business, and after a while you don’t sense […]

  42. […] in closing my suggestion would be to value your commentators feedback. After all you are living in the monkey house. But watch closely the analytics of the changes and make sure the lone voice is in tune with the […]

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