This story is from when I was a teenager (further back than I care to admit). I worked a lot of retail and fast food type jobs in high school and college, as teenagers do. I saw a lot of rude people, but I think this was by far the worst customer I ever had to wait on.
I worked the customer service/picture developing center of a drugstore chain, now defunct. As I said, this was a long time ago, so the picture center had no computer system, it was the old fashioned, put your film (remember that?) in an envelope thingy, tear off the stub with your envelope’s number and drop it in the bin operation. And then we logged all the envelopes by hand with the customer’s name and number and sent them off to a lab.
One day a lady comes in to pick up her pictures. She didn’t have the envelope stubs so I asked for her name. Her pictures were not there. She started yelling, getting nastier and nastier and calling me stupid and incompetent. I vainly went through every page of our log and her name was nowhere to be found. I went through every envelope of pictures in the drawer waiting for pickup and couldn’t find hers. I apologized profusely and told her I just had no record of her pictures, did she have the envelope stubs. By this time she is screaming profanity loud enough to be heard all over the store. I explained that without the envelope number, there was nothing I could do-there was no record of the pictures, and I couldn’t even put a trace on them with the lab unless I had those numbers. Finally, she admits she has the stubs at home and I tell her if she calls me with the numbers, I will put a trace on them and see what I can do. She screams more profanity and stomps out of the store, slamming our glass door into the adjoining brick wall hard enough to shake it in its hinges. I don’t know how she didn’t break the glass.
So an hour or so later, she calls and actually gives me the numbers. And when I looked for those numbers in the log I instantly discovered what happened. Someone else in her household with a different last name had dropped off the pictures and it was under THEIR name, not the name she gave me! That’s why I couldn’t find them! So I called her back and explained, as nicely as I could, what happened and that her pictures were there and she could pick them up anytime. She hung up very quickly. The kicker to this story? She sent someone else to pick up the pictures. She didn’t even have the guts to come back and face me and apologize. 0421-10
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I encountered a similar situation once, although the customer was rather less nasty about it than yours. I was behind her in line as she was trying to pick up her photos. The clerk asked for her name, which she gave, but there was no record of these photos anywhere. Finally, after what seemed like forever to my increasingly impatient self, the clerk asked if they could be under another name. The woman answers, “Yes. They’re under Blah.” And so they were. This was not a matter of “Oh yeah! My husband dropped them off, so they’d be under his name,” it was more like, “I knew all along but couldn’t be bothered to mention that. You should just know.” A little maddening. True, the clerk asked for the woman’s name, but anyone with any sense knows that the question actually means, “What name is on the photos I’m looking for?” Gah!
See, this is why I think it is stupid to start out angry when there is a problem. Start out nice — usually things will get fixed, you don’t alienate the people trying to help you, and then you don’t feel as much the fool when you find out it was your own fault.
She couldn’t face you? I can’t say I’m surprised. The kind of person willing to be as rude as that isn’t going to put themselves in a position where they might actually have to apologise for their behaviour.
That is awful! What a crass woman. I think that it is always a great marker of how good of a human being a person really is when one can see how he/she treats service personnel, waitstaff, etc. A person who mouths off to a clerk, is obnoxious to a cashier, nasty to a waitress or downright arrogant to a customer service associate, will at some point become nasty to a family member, significant other or friend. Having respect for other people means having respect for everyone across the board, from the highest CEO to the lowliest janitorial worker.
Sadly, this type of behavior from customers is even more common nowadays. The idea seems to be that employees aren’t human beings, so screaming and swearing is perfectly okay. I’m always amazed at how many people will blow up over any little mistake (or perceived mistake) and justify it with “I’ve had a bad day” or “if they don’t like it they should get another job.” 🙁
I remember once as a teenager getting huffy at a clerk. My mother told me to knock it off. I started to protest about how wronged I was by the store, and she said, “I know, but it isn’t her fault.” She made me appologize to the clerk.
I’ve never done that again.
My daughter works in a dress store and received profanity-laced rants often when people don’t see what they want. I don’t get that. I guess their mother wasn’t like mine.
This is what’s wrong with the philosophy of “the customer is always right.”
One of the common misconceptions of cashiers/customer service employees is that you have to take verbal abuse. Wrong. The instant someone raises their voice or uses profanity during the course of a transaction, you as the cashier give them their one and only warning that such will not be tolerated. If their out-of -control behavior continues, you call your manager or security and have them removed from the store. Period.
I first thought maybe the woman went to the wrong store (ie, a different location of the same chain or another chain altogether). What a nasty piece of work.
If that happened today the lady would get banned from the shop or arrested for disturbing the peace.
I’ve done my years in retail, and I am sad to report that I have also encountered many such nasty customers. Someone already said it, but this is a result of the “customer is always right” philosophy that businesses adopt almost universally. Unfortunately customers often push that idea to its limits as an excuse to act out, demand things that are ludicrous, and essentially cheat the store, all the while threatening the store’s employees and reputation if they don’t comply.
I dare say that everyone…..EVERYONE….needs to spend a year working in retail, and I guarantee that nasty customers would be practically eliminated from the general public.
I’m sorry you had to go through this. I get it all the time too- it seems that most parents can’t be bothered to teach their offspring manners. I think we’ve all gone through it at one time or another- I work in customer service and just last month one of my clients threatened to leave. Why? Because she didn’t bother to tell me one of the staff members was on maternity leave, employee got paid, and I told her I would have to charge her to fix it. It’s a standard charge in all their contracts. She ranted and raved and threw a tantrum. She complained to my boss. Thank God my boss upheld the charge.
Actually, I had a different problem with the same client where she asked me to change all the leave balances and gave me the wrong figures- apparently I should have *known* they were wrong.
It’s people like this that make me glad we have the Internet- it’s a wonderful medium to complain about them. Try notalwaysright.com – because the customer is not always right.
Amen to that, Cady! Some customers think they know more than the business person who has been in business 20 years – haha – oh well. I have an Internet business and when I read that the writer couldn’t find the order, my first instinct was that it was under another name (this happens to me occasionally).
Crystabee- that is only true if management has the same mentality. Most people in these positions DO have to take the verbal abuse. Sometimes you can refer them to your boss and have them deal with them, but I have never been in a position where I was allowed to tell a customer that something wasn’t tolerated. Waitresses and cashiers do not have the authority to have security escort someone out if they’re being a jerk. That’s why this behavior is so prevalent- people know they can get away with it.
The very second the customer started screaming and using foul language was the second you should have called the store manager and let that person deal with the customer. The store manager has more power to deal with the customer without as much worry about getting fired.
Raccoon Princess–your mother was obviously A Lady, and the world needs more people like her.
Crystabee–works in theory, but in practice, too many store managers/bosses expect you to roll over and take it. They’ll do anything to placate the customers, even at the expense of their own employees.
I agree with Crystabee! Unfortunately, the idea that it’s ok to tell a customer you can no longer help them and please leave appears to be a newer one. I work in a public library and we get this kind of behavior all the time. Over a twenty cent fine. We’ve now empowered the front line to just say no and pass it off to their manager or security.
Handy tip: calling someone, anyone, in to “consult” and then moving away from the scene often results in the story the customer is telling to shift. It has to be some sort of psychology thing to do with disengaging with your target and the effort to begin engaging with a second person.
I suppose I’ve been fortunate, because I’ve never had a manager who would allow me to be verbally abused in the workplace. I have always been taught and told at home and at work the zero-tolerance on verbal abuse/foul language policy. No one needs to take name calling or cursing, the work zone is supposed to be a safe zone. That being said, many customers are still rude beyond comprehension minus the cursing and name-calling.
If verbal abuse does occur, always let them know it isn’t appropriate, and have the manager handle them. They are paid more to be able to deal with situation like that.
I agree with Xtina, but I think you should take it beyond retail. EVERYONE should log at least 1 year in retail and/or the service industry. Though I have a great job now, I had part time jobs at an arcade (don’t get me started on parents just dropping off thier kid all day), deli (yea, I’ll hurry up on your order while I’m are running around on a juice/blood covered floor while working with whirling blades. Sorry I’m not going faster), and cashier (remember people, your credit card fails, it must be the cashier’s fault). Those jobs have given me a healthy respect for people who put up with a lot for little pay.
I still don’t get why I should have to work in retail or foodservice for a year – I’m always nice to servicepeople of all kinds, and I tip well.
I don’t think working in retail will make a difference for these sorts of folks… I know folks who have worked in retail/food service who still treat employees like they are scum. =/
I agree with Pheonix. I work in Retail myself, have recently come a member of the Management team, but we would never let one of our staff ‘I won’t tolerate you talking to me like that, if you continue to be rude, I will call security’. If they said that, they’d be in trouble. It’s not that I think they should have to put up with it, it’s that our Regional Director’s do. Oneof my girls was literally in tears the other week, we had to take her off the shopfloor, and make her sit down for twenty minutes, but the rest of us still had to be unfailingly polite, and we can’t tell them that they’re being rude. Because think about it – rude person goes away after having had everyone be polite and bend over backwards to help them, yes they brag about it to other people and other people think they’re a jerk, but that’d be the end. However, if one of our staff turns around to a rude customers and tells them to stop being rude – they are never going to come back to the shop, and they’re going to tell plenty of their friends, who will probably stop shopping with us as well.
@Kate- There is no need to return rudeness for rudeness, and in no way did I mean to imply that a cashier can be rude to a customer. However, you must realize that an extremely rude, abusive customer makes other customers uncomfortable, or even afraid, depending upon the severity of the occurence. I have been applauded by other customers and have ensured repeat business to the store by not tolerating this(politely), protecting others in the environment from abuse, and also lowering turnover of other cashiers by maintaining an environment of civility. Who wants to work somewhere if they know that they will have to continually deal with abuse? What customer wants to stand in line and witness another customer yelling and screaming at a hapless cashier? The few hostile people soon learn to behave civilly if the want to patronize the store, and other customers feel safer.We have seen an INCREASE in business due to this policy. My manager taught me how to do this, and she is supported in that by her manager. It is good business.
I do not get paid enough at ANY job to be talked to like a dog. Abuse is abuse, whether it’s physical OR verbal. I once told a Vice President that the next time this particular customer called (and he was our 2nd largest account) that I was transferring the call to him because I WILL NOT be talked to in such a manner. And when he called back, I transferred the call.
I own a retail shop and I have zero tolerance for abusive or rude customers. I don’t expect my staff to put up with it either.
We are pretty good with turning the tricky customers around and it is rare to have to ask someone to leave.
That being said, I also find the general public vastly entertaining. The above story reminded me of one of ‘our’ customers. We are also partly a photo processing place and this girl came in wanting to collect her photos… no collection slip.
So we spent ages looking up her name and variations of, all the while she is telling us off for not giving her a collection slip (Which we do 99% of the time). After half hour fruitless search she leaves disgruntled.
She returns…. another 20 minute to half an hour with another member of staff… same story.
FOURTH time she comes in, gets me this time. We have rung our other branch and they have no records or recollections or uncollected work over there.
She says she has rung them and they said the films were ready, but is unable to tell me who she spoke to (mind you we are STILL getting a telling off for not handing over that collection slip….)
She says…. you are the photo shop on (street name) aren’t you…..
tick tick tick goes my brain….
“Do you mean “Digital City” up the street there???”
Seriously her WHOLE face and body sagged with the realisation of the fool she made of herself.
(Yes we did wait until she left before laughing)
And because I could not help it I sauntered over to the other shop to tell them they should give collection slips to their geographically challenged customers!! (Tongue in cheek of course)
The thing is…. she wasn’t picking it up for someone else…. SHE dropped them off herself, and in the space of 2 days, forgot which shop she went to!! Seriously…. if you saw the monumental differences in the shops you would wonder why this person is allowed out alone!!
Working retail you have mountains of great stories of the outrageous behaviour of customers.
I do believe in zero tolerance.
If people were refused service everywhere because of their appalling manners, they might think twice with the way they talk to people.
I am quite content to lose a customer if they are abusive…. my staff are more important to me, and we have so many great customers, old and new, I can afford to be a little picky.
I don’t think working in retail/service would teach rude people any lessons. It boils down to your character, and some people just don’t have any. I’ve been yelled at for screw ups the customer made.–and they rarely apologize.
M – they’re not saying YOU should, they’re saying this should be a common human experience, like going to school.
I agree with Xtina that everyone should spend a year working in retail. I have worked in both retail and fast food. There are stories on both sides. I think a lot of the “customers suck” stories would dwindle significantly if customers knew exactly how it felt to be on the other side of the counter. On the other hand, there are enough wonderful customers that I would LOVE to make a living in retail if it paid a living wage here in the USA. But that’s another story…
In my experience, most of the customers are quite lovely and fun to talk to. However, there is a growing sense of entitlement out there that exceeds the “customer is always right” mantra; one that views the service worker as less than human. Example: A little over a decade ago, I made ends meet by taking on a 2nd full-time job in fast food (my first job being an administrative assistant to the owner of a manufacturing company). My 2nd job was at McDonald’s and I experienced customers of both extremes. There was the lady who literally threw her bag at me through the drive-thru window because she didn’t like the fries. Then there was the gentleman who was a regular and who had me call my manager to the drive-thru window so that he could tell her how much he appreciated my good service and big smile whenever he came to our McD’s, and he wanted me to get a raise. 🙂 Also, a manager from a nearby White Castle came through our drive-thru for a Big Mac and offered me a job on the spot because he liked my positive personality.
There is a level of human respect. Nothing drives it home quite like the treatment you get when you are doing service work. And nothing else tells someone’s character as when they are doing service work or receiving it.
Been reading this site for a while, just came across this thread and felt compelled to post. I’m surprised no one has mentioned the flip side of this. Because, while there are many a rude customer (I, too, did my time in retail/customer service) there are just as many employees who show great rudeness to the customer, act as if their job is beneath them, ignore the customer while chatting with other employees, etc. etc. The offenses are mind numbing. I might have to submit a story about a particularly rude encounter my sister and I had in a grocery store one evening. But for those who think “everyone working a year in retail” is the solution, I suspect that the rude customers are cut from the same cloth as the rude employees, so I’m not sure it would do much good.
Another retail employee weighing in here. A few years ago I suggested to a local TV station that they do a story about how retail employees are treated during the holiday season. Of course they declined because who cares about the retail employees, right?
Some thing people should know:
-During the 2009/2010 winter of 1000 blizzards, many retail employees slept on the floors of their stores because a) their corporate offices refused to let them close, despite the weather and b) they were told that they would be fired if they did not come to word the next day and, with public transit not running in many areas, they would have no way back.
-Most retail employees at the store level do not order inventory, set pricing or discounts, set hours, or design promotions. All that is done by the corporate or regional office. So when a customer decides to rip into an employee because the store is out of Wii systems, their favorite cologne, Twilight DVDs, or whatever, they are basically screaming at someone who has no control over the situation. Nine times of of ten, if the employee could fix it for you they would. Most retail employees do not get perverse pleasure from making customers mad. They have sales goals to meet and would like to meet them by making customers happy.
– Love Black Friday shopping? Many people do. That’s fine. Just be sure to be kind to the retail employees working that day. Many of them cut short their Thanksgiving or missed it all together to be at work stocking shelves for midnight or dawn openings. And if you think they are getting overtime for it, think again. Likely, their hours were simply shifted around or extended to JUST UNDER 40 hours for that week (so benefits can’t kick in.)
I used to work at a japanese fast food type place when this lady comes in and orders her food with some kind of salad. We had three different kinds of dressings and I asked which one she wanted. She would only tell me the one that we always served with that kind of salad. I said okay repeated her choices and again asked what kind she wanted and she told me the house dressing then. We didn’t have a house dressing and she told me yes that (competitoring japanese restaurant) always had a special house dressing to go to with that salad. I said okay but we’re not (competitor) but actually (company name). Do you think she believed me? Nope despite the fact she walked in there under a sign that had the name, my shirt had the name of the company and everything. She was not there she was at the other restaurant. And customers wonder why we give them the odd looks.
I am not defending rude behavior towards retail workers – but on the other side of that coin it does seem rare these days to get a clerk who smiles, acknowledges your presence, says thank you or asks if you found everything you needed. I seem to often get the ones who complain about having to work, make snide comments about the company they work for, or are just so complacent that the only thing they say to me is what I have to pay. No please, no thank you upon receiving payment. It definitely dictates where I choose to shop, even at higher prices, when I find friendly staff who know the layout of their store, and actually greet me when I walk in.
PS – I have also worked in retail – it is a very difficult job, but I didn’t take it out on my customers.