$1.50 Worth of Etiquette Hell

by admin on December 30, 2010

I was a cashier/bookkeeper for a small chain of supermarkets in NYC.  I was about 18 when this story happened…

Part of my job as the bookkeeper was to handle phone orders.  A phone order is when a customer calls the store and I write down their shopping list.  I then shop for the items and our driver delivers them to the house.  We mostly get elderly, sick, or invalid people who cannot shop for themselves.  I shop for the customers in the order they call just to be fair, unless the phone order is very short and I’ll get that one out right away just to get it off my list.  Some of my phone order customer were really nice, but some were absolute nightmares…and the following story is about one of those nightmares…

BTW, when a customer comes in, shops themselves and has it delivered, we only charged $1.50 ( no matter how large the order).  A phone order was only $3.00…no matter how large the order.

It was a Saturday afternoon.  Anyone who has worked a register or shopped on a Saturday afternoon knows that it is very busy.  This day was particulary busy and I was running around the store…opening up the express line, dealing with cashiers, handling bills and money…it was craziness.  Inbetween all of this, I was still answering the phones and writing down phone orders.  I warned all the customers on the phone that it was very busy and would call them as soon as we had a total for them so they were aware of the final price.  Most understood.

This one woman “Evil Customer” (EC) apparently did not understand this.  She had a HUGE order (over $200), so shopping for it required a great deal of time.  EC called a number of times and rudely asked where her order was.  Again, I explained that it was very busy and I was shopping for the phone orders in the order they came in.

The owners of the store happened to come in that day.  When they do, the two store managers walk around with them and they all talk, so I deal with customers on my own.

All of a sudden, the HUSBAND of EC comes storming into the store and demands to know where his wife’s order is.  I was actually about to ring his wife’s order up and call the wife.  He starts screaming at me and says that I’m not doing my job, etc etc etc.  Meanwhile, my two mangers and the two owners just stand there staring.  One manager finally says, “She’s doing the best she can…it’s very busy today.”  In tears, I ring up the order and only charge $1.50 since he “came in” for his order.  Yes, I shopped for the whole thing and had to deal with his rude behavior and he was only charged $1.50.

I was so shaken up after that. Of course, I had to finish my job that day.  There was no apology from that husband of EC, the managers or the owners.  No one stood up for me the way they should have.

When I look back on it now, being older,  I should have said a few choice (and yes RUDE) words to this man.  He couldn’t be bothered to food shop for his wife, but can come in and yell at me.  Amazing.

I am ALWAYS nice to cashiers.   1228-10

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

LeeLee88 December 30, 2010 at 9:50 am

I would not say that you should have said anything rude yourself, rudeness doesn’t excuse retaliatory rudeness. Your one manager spoke up, and that was fine, but it would have behooved the other manager and the owners of the store to come to bat on your behalf. How betraying, to be so busy while they chit chat and amble around, leaving you to deal with all the madness alone and then to say nothing while you’re verbally abused by this cretin? Absolutely intolerable.
I can understand some shock on their behalf making them freeze, but I have a feeling it was because they didn’t want to lose business by speaking up. After all, he was placing a large order, and he was abusing you, a “lowly” cashier, so in their minds, they’re probably thinking “Why lose business over someone mistreating a mere peeon?” It is incredibly unfair and downright mean, but this is how many people actually think.

I’m sorry that happened to you, and even sorrier that none of your superiors did anything to soothe this man’s ire. They put you in a terrible position: either take the abuse or stand up for yourself and get fired (most likely). That was awful for them to do to you, and I’m very sorry it happened.

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Ashlee December 30, 2010 at 10:50 am

If that had happened in my place of employment (where we deal with all sorts of customers on a daily basis), you would have been publicly defended by management without a second thought, and the customer would have been escorted from the store. It’s our policy to not tolerate customers who disrespect our employees. We find that rude customers’ orders are NOT worth the hassle that they cause us. Consequently, we’ve developed a wonderful reputation — our business is one of the friendliest places in town, our employees are praised for their cheerful attitudes and good manners, and customers rarely try to push us around. We are friendly, fair, and firm. I think that it would be better for everyone if businesses stopped bending over backwards to try to please their loudest, rudest, most impatient and inconsiderate customers. Some people are impossible to please, and their bad attitudes make it so much harder for employees and customers to have a pleasant day.

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winter December 30, 2010 at 11:09 am

As an owner of a business, I know first hand there are customers who are just plain rude. I could let it ruin my day, or just basically ignore it and continue my job. Saying something rude or otherwise will not change this man. As the owner, and I think you as a clerk, has the ability to say, “I am sorry you are not happy with the service, would you like to cancel your order” –and that always seems to help calm people down because generally speaking they NEVER want to cancel their order, but kind of see me threatening to do so.

I will always stand up for employees, in fact, if I see anyone in a situation like this, I simply step in for them, shoo them out of the way, and I battle the customer myself. NOt that I enjoy doing it, but I don’t like to lose valuable employees. Someone shouldhave done that for you, but I would venture a guess to say that these managers saw you as a capable person who didn’t need someone to stand up for them. Either that or they were weasels who didn’t have a spine and didn’t know how to stand up to the customer (which is more common in management than you think)

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hex haight December 30, 2010 at 11:09 am

Echoing what LeeLee said, it really seems your bosses dropped the ball here. As an employer, even if my people really screwed something up, to the customer, I take full blame and I do not allow anyone to berate/abuse my people….If it was a mistake on our end, I take the abuse. I need my team and I want them to know I will have their back in public. If the error is bad enough, I will find a time when I’m calm to talk the employee alone or with just my business partner present. I also don’t like fussing at people, even when it is needed, in front of their co-workers. No point in adding insult to injury.
Ironically, I run a bookkeeping service. It sounds to me like the OP wasn’t really a true bookkeeper. They may have had OP doing those tasks, but a full charge bookkeeper would be able to command a position that did not include having to do the shopping. I see this sort of thing very often…One of my small business owners will hire (usually a young woman) to be sort of a girl friday. She’ll be the coffee maker, personal shopper, and “bookkeeper”. If all she is doing is accounts rec and accounts payable, it is not bookkeeping. If she is actually running the financial statements, then it is bookkeeping. My experience has been that trying to fill a skilled, detailed job slot with someone who has a zillion other duties and no experience with P & L’s results in incorrect books and other duties abandoned because the bookkeeping is time consuming. At least back in the pre computer days it was apparent quickly if the person as able to do the job. With the dawn of these rubbish “you can do this yourself” bookkeeping software programs, many business owners go for months unaware their books are a shambles and the person they have trusted has no clue they are making a mess because the program will just “correct” things for you. (I had a client bring me his year end stuff for his tax return, his small business owner home software progam and girl he had using it had created finanicals showing him with a bank balance of negative four million! The program had “compensated” for her incorrect entries over the last 12 months, she knew it was wrong, but never told him. Result- instead of just a tax fee, I also had to charge him to do 12 months of books in about a week and half.)
I don’t know the OP, so maybe, even at 18, she was qualified to be doing double entry. I’m guessing this was in the days before that awful mess called Quickbooks, and it wouldn’t have been uncommon for even a very young woman to be very qualified for a true bookkeeping position. However, there is no way someone could take care of all the day to day in house book work, plus the payroll liabilities that most in house bookkeepers used to deal with also, and still run around the store collecting orders. Any employeer who put all of his financial data and work onto an untrained employee, and then loads them down with completely unrelated tasks, is asking for problems.
I doubt the OP’s managers were ever really there for their employees. That’s a shame. Your team can make or break your business. (and so can your books!) I hope the OP was able to go on to bigger and better things, like the salary a full charge bookkeeper can get!

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Mjaye December 30, 2010 at 11:22 am

LeeLee: I have worked retail and for the most part; managers are a waste if you are busy. Either they hide in the backroom or if they do try to ring up people, snails move quicker. I have been yelled and abused by customers in front of management and their first question is what I did to set off Mr. or Ms. Psycho. It is not a win-win.
For example, one time an item did not scan. I had to do a price check. The customer was in a hurry and screamed ( yes, SCREAMED) why I did not know the price of this one item out of the thousans of SKU’s in the store. The manager came up and agreed with the customer that I should have known thee price. Being a smart-alec, after Psycho Woman left, I asked the manager what the price was. He had no clue either.
It got to the point where I just got fed up with being mis-treated that I luckily got an office job where I do not have to deal with the public. The manager asked me to work Sundays since they had no one. I said sure but I would not take any abuse from the customers. I so enjoyed kicking people out when they acted up but I was lucky. Most retail people have to deal with the miserable, obnoxious public. I
Feel for them, and am also nice.

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Caros December 30, 2010 at 11:34 am

I fully empathise with you! I too had the joy of spineless managers when I was working in a supermarket in my teens. The final crunch came for me when I’d taken my one and only day off sick in 3 years because I was suffering with a 24 hour vomiting bug (whether or not it is a requirement to make sure you don’t work, having a bug like that & handling food purchases doesn’t seem like a good idea to me….). When I was next working (I worked Saturdays), the relatively new manager hauled me into his office & had a go at me for being ‘unreliable’ because I’d taken the day off. The under manager who’d been working there for far more years than me (and would regularly call me up at 4.30 on a Friday evening asking if I could possibly help them out & come into work for 5pm because they were short staffed…) just stood there & didn’t say a work. I handed in my notice the next week, my resignation letter including the fact that I’d actually worked about 500 hours over & above what I was hired to do over the years, many of which were at late notice (as a full time student I appreciated the extra income, I freely admit!).

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Sandy December 30, 2010 at 11:50 am

Shame on that woman; shame on that man; shame on your bosses.

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Allie December 30, 2010 at 12:02 pm

I would have liked to have said “since I’m not doing my job, perhaps the manager here will be able to help you satisfactorily” and walked away. The manager probably would have taken twice as long as you would have to finish the transaction, and it would be interesting to see if the husband yelled at him too. But, as LeeLee88 pointed out, that might have gotten you fired.

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AS December 30, 2010 at 12:06 pm

I don’t know how businesses work, but nothing condones the husband’s behavior of shouting at an employee, and that too, a young 18 year old girl. Even if he thought you were not doing your job, he could have come and politely talked to you rather than storm into the shop start yelling. As a customer, I have had my share of trouble with sales people every so often (packing wrong pastry several times in a row; not wanting to ring up my order because they are too busy chatting with their colleagues and then acting irritable and making it clear that they were not happy about me coming into that line for checking out; accusing me of shoplifting because I didn’t want a plastic bag just for a bottle of milk though they just saw me pay for it in a relatively empty store and making me search the trash can for the receipt!; etc.). But there are polite ways of dealing with things, and shouting right away is not one of them. It is sad that many people are not cognizant about people they are dealing with.

Too bad that your employers did not stand up for you much, but at least one of them tried to tell that it has been a very busy day. It is true that they probably don’t want to lose a customer (and maybe several other customers who witness the scene), or create an even larger scene. But they probably should have come and told you a good word, so that you’d feel better.

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ferretrick December 30, 2010 at 12:10 pm

I’m the Office Manager and supervisor of staff who answer phones. I have always told them that if a customer uses profanity or is abusive to them (which is thankfully rare), they can immediately put the person on hold and transfer the call to me, that they do not have to deal with it. And if the customer keeps it up with me past my tolerance limit, I have no problem telling them to go elsewhere, because I know the owners will back me 100% and say we don’t need that person’s business. Your story makes me grateful for my job.

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Xtina December 30, 2010 at 12:23 pm

That’s really pathetic that the store owners/managers didn’t do more to defend the OP, but I’m going to hope that it was just shock at watching all that unfold. However, I have worked enough cust0mer-facing jobs to know that there are two types of managers when it comes to this–those that have your back and those that leave you to flounder on your own. Sorry that these turned out to apparently be of the latter variety.

EC and her husband are inexcusably rude. Stores get busy, sometimes you have to wait; that’s just how it is. I agree; if the husband could find time to go to the store and yell at the poor cashier, then why didn’t he do his own shopping? Some people will never, ever understand that it only makes them look stupid, hateful–choose your descriptor here–to be rude and unkind to service people, and you can only hope that one day, they will be forced to serve customers and be exposed to the kind of treatment they dish out.

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josie December 30, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Being rude in return, however meritted, is sinking to their level. You shouldn’t have to take abuse from customers but it happens. No good answer for you.

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Kelly December 30, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Everyone should work a service job at some point. They’d likely be nicer to the cashiers of the world if they did.

That said, it’s a good thing you didn’t say anything rude back. The most important thing I learned when I dealt with the public was that their anger really wasn’t anything personal. It’s wrong to scream at the cashier because the order wasn’t ready, but he wasn’t really mad at YOU, per se, you just happened to be the closest target. Now, if you had said something back, then it would have become personal – and that makes it a thousand times worse. Not to mention the fact that your employers clearly didn’t have your back when you were being abused for no reason. I doubt they would have stepped up if you had responded in kind.

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karma December 30, 2010 at 1:32 pm

I feel your pain, OP. I worked at a grocery store all through high school and the first few years of college. The public is often rude to cashiers, believing them to be uneducated or “lower” than them on the socioeconomic chain.
I understand what you mean about going back in time to utter a few choice words. We always think of things we wish we had said. I think that you probably were better off holding your tongue at the age of 18; at that age, based on my own experiences, you probably would not have made a sound reply or argument. You’d probably have just said something that got you in trouble with the owners that day.
The upside is that now that you are older, you *would* probably know how to reply in such a way that you could shut the guy down while maintaining your own work integrity.
I look at it like this: those experiences in retail taught you how to treat others. That’s a valuable lesson that you’ll never outgrow. Not only that, but you may one day have an opportunity to verbally stand up to some jerk on behalf of a cashier who is being abused.

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Enna December 30, 2010 at 1:49 pm

If you are rude to the costmer then you could loose your job. The mangers and owners despite it being a busy day decided to walk around lazily and not help out? Not very professional no wonder you were struggerling. They should’ve done more to help and support you. That way they look after and protect their staff from mean customers but also they can carry on making money. If they had decided to pull their weight more then maybe EC’s order would’ve been completed? Okay they’d still have nagged but it wouldn’t be so bad.

With rude customers it is imporant to keep neutral – if you challenge them or are too submissive it can make them worse. Any professional manger/employer would know how to do this well.

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NINA HEFFERNAN December 30, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Been there, done that, shopped that aisle. I managed the service desk at a big box store that I won’t identify. The only difference is that the manager of the store WOULD back us up. I loved that man. The worst offenders were the elderly. The mouths on those people would have stopped a clock. One Black Friday (Day after Thanksgiving) I only had 3 cashiers show up. (Service desk is responsible for register line) I had a return line out the door, and had no one on the express line. I hear someone yelling “Blondie, blondie”??? The person whose return I’m handling says, “I think she’s talking to you.” I turn around and there’s an older woman (Sure wasn’t no lady) who says, “Get your azz over here and open this register”. I explained I had no one to run it. She said, “You blind, deaf, dumb and stupid?” I explained I was waiting on returns (while continuing to process returns) but she wasn’t taking no for an answer, getting more and more verbally and profanely abusive. Finally she demanded to see the manager and I paged him to the service desk. David (the manager) was an ex-football linebacker, who was about 6’5″ on a slow day and loved to sneak up behind troublesome customers who were giving employees a hard time. I finally said, “Oh, here’s the manager” in my cheeriest tone and pointed behind her. She looked up, and up, and up, and he said, in his deep, slightly menacing voice, “You…have…a…problem???” She elected to wait in line with everyone else.

Everyone in line waiting patiently for their returns laughed themselves sick. Karma rules. David was the first person to help you, but you never abused his employees.

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Hal December 30, 2010 at 1:58 pm

I lived many years in San Francisco. I moved recently. I know what you experienced is too common. Please know that people recognize the bad behavior of the man who abused you as the behavior of a lower class of person pretending to be “upper class.” Keep smiling and sympathetic to such people. Kill with kindness. Once you do it it is rather fun. My grandfather once witnessed me being “upper class” to a neighbor of ours. I was about twelve. He took me aside and explained I must be respectful and kind to all people. He said, “Remember, you never know on which side of the barricade you will end up.”

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RP December 30, 2010 at 2:22 pm

UGH, spineless managers. As far as being an employee goes there’s nothing worse than a supervisor that won’t support their subordinates (short of said supervisors actually being abusive). It’s a shame you couldn’t have just quit because that would have been a choice time to, right there in the middle of the order he says you’re not doing.

Just know that those customers are miserable, selfish people who likely make each other suffer and those managers surely can’t keep good employees by treating them that way.

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SJ December 30, 2010 at 2:49 pm

I think you handled it as well as you could.

I’m sorry you didn’t get more support from superiors.

It is pretty crummy that the husband can’t do the actual shopping, but can come in and yell at the person who did.

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Rebecca December 30, 2010 at 2:54 pm

I worked in a drugstore when I was 18, and had to stock shelves, answer phones, sell lottery tickets, and run the cash desk. It was my first introduction to how incredibly rude people could be. I was shocked, especially at the way seemingly respectable, professionally dressed adults behaved; I’d been raised to be nice to people. This was in an upscale neighbourhood full of educated people too, so it seemed even more surprising to me as opposed to if it were some rough neighbourhood.

So the OP’s story, sadly, sounds fairly typical to me of the types of customers I encountered when I was 18.

People who phoned could be the worst offenders. They seemed to think you were sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring, and of course you had plenty of time to run all over the store to check if something was in stock. When in reality, they called and I had to answer it while I was at the cash register with a huge line-up of seriously impatient people, plus someone waving their tickets at the lottery kiosk, plus two people wanting help finding something, plus two other phone lines ringing, and the other cashier on her break and the manager hiding in his office doing who-knows-what. But they’d yell at you if you put them on hold for a minute or so.

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LeeLee88 December 30, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I have worked a variety of retail jobs myself throughout my life, and I have also had the unfortunate experience of multiple useless managers who also never said anything while customers screamed in our faces. I got fired once for telling a woman to get out before I called the police (she threatened to “key” my face… yeah.)
That being said, I’ve also had excellent managers who knew when to step in and take care of their subordinates when it was really needed. Sometimes when it wasn’t even really needed, they just wanted to be sure all was well. And it made such a nice workplace for all of us. Customers knew that their previous bad attitudes (if they had one) would not be tolerated, and we always got glowing reviews for our positive attitudes. That, and we were very loyal to our employers, because they actually cared.
My father has owned his own shop for years, and if a customer ever came in there and started screaming at any of his workers, you’d better believe Dad would have words with that guy. It’s just not right to let your employee be treated in such a fashion, especially after you essentially forced them into that position by taking away all their other resources for assistance. I’m still shaking my head at the OPs managers/store owners.

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anotherloginname December 30, 2010 at 3:45 pm

There is nothing worse than horrible customers, no backup, and the knowledge that a response other than sit back and take it can lead to unemployment (or being mysteriously given the worst shifts & jobs for the next month).

My first day at College we were told “always be nice to the people serving you. There are a lot of students in this city and, you never know if they are a Doctoral student- and may well be smarter than you”. I was disturbed we were being told to be nice for reasons other than it’s the right thing to do, but an amazing number of my peers seemed to think it was some kind of revelation (“OMG, that is soo true!”). At least it got them thinking about how they treated people, however misguided the reasoning.

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Sharon December 30, 2010 at 4:26 pm

I think you got the best kind of revenge…. You did not lower yourself to his level AND you are a nice person who is kind to cashiers and other service personnel.

That man and his wife, they are just miserable people and they like to leave everyone they meet feeling the same way.
Your bosses… BOO to them! They let everyone know what they were made of (and it ain’t nice). It makes me ashamed of them just to read your post.

(((Hugs))) to every single customer service person who has ever been treated like this by customers and management.

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caitlin December 31, 2010 at 6:21 am

I started in retail at 17, my first week on the job a woman spent 10 minutes screaming at me over the price of pstachios.

I cried. I was so shocked and angry that someone would treat me that way and sobbing was the only option that wouldn’t lose me my job.

Since then I’ve become a LOT more hard about this. I remain polite, and cool. If someone is rude, I ask them to stop. If someone is agressive, I ask them to stop. If they don’t, I tell them that I can’t possibly serve them under these conditions and I will pass them over to a manager.

Works every time. It’s astonishing how a calm, polite ‘please don’t talk to me like that’ will do the trick half the time.

Where I live I have the legal right to refuse to serve someone, and if someone is agressive I use it.

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Bint December 31, 2010 at 7:53 am

I had people threatening to come and ‘smash my head in’ when I worked in customer service, although at least my managers backed me up. Some people are just truly horrible. You were stuck in an awful situation. Appalling behaviour from that man. Appalling from your managers. Absolutely fine from you, I don’t blame you.

Unless the screamer is an obvious loon (in which case I’d fetch help), I quite often speak up and ask them to stop it. I don’t want to stand by and witness that, it’s outrageous and disgusting. I had to do it in a train buffet car once whilst dressed as a fairy – I’m five foot two, so I don’t have physical power, but the screaming woman must have thought I was going to hit her with my big sparkly wand. She left quickly, the entire carriage thinking what a ghastly idiot she was. I hope the man in your story went home and was ashamed of himself.

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Xtina December 31, 2010 at 9:31 am

The reason that a lot of customers act up at stores is that often, they get away with it. Stores need to do away with the idea of “the customer is always right”, because they are most certainly NOT in many cases. Some customers knowingly abuse this policy to within an inch of its life and get away with all sorts of dishonesty at a business’s expense, and at the expense of the dignity of its employees.

It is perfectly fine for a manager to be called in and to make an exception for a customer’s request if a cashier won’t—IF the manager backs up the employee by explaining that their cashier/subordinate is properly following store policy “but we’ll make an exception in this case because [insert good reason]”. However, it was my experience of the many years in retail I worked that most of the time, the customer complained when I wouldn’t allow them to return something for reasons I’d been told not to take it back, the manager would be called in, and then the manager would just say, “OK, we’ll take it back”—no rhyme, reason, or support of me at all—it made me look like a fool to the customer. I’d then be forced to wait on the customer, who by now was gloating at me and telling me that I was either stupid or giving them a hard time, etc. Talk about a loss of dignity.

The point is, when managers don’t back their employees, it perpetuates bad customer behavior. I absolutely loved my managers when I worked at a dry cleaner in college—if a customer was being rude or asking for something that obviously wasn’t right, the owner/managers would kindly tell them that they could take their business elsewhere if they were going to be that way. We didn’t lose too many customers, and it’s no wonder that place is still in business after 60-something years.

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Ali December 31, 2010 at 11:36 am

People act like that because “The customer is always right”. If more managers and store employees were able to treat people like the rude jerks they are and throw them out, they wouldn’t be so rude anymore because getting publicly reamed every few days while they’re shopping would start to get old.

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Kate December 31, 2010 at 2:57 pm

I work as one of the managers in a large retail store (we’re a team of six managers, with usually 3 or 4 in store anyday) and I rather take offence to the claim that manager’s are usually useless when you’re busy – where I work, if we’re busy, you can expect that we’ll be the first to jump on the tills to try and get the queues down before we call other staff over.

But regardless – however rude customers are, being rude back just makes you almost as bad. I generally believe this in life as well – just because somebody is rude to you, there’s no need to be rude back. I’m sorry they didn’t stand up for you, if it had been me I’d have stepped in, tried to calm the customer down and explain how busy we were, but I think with customers it’s best to calmly and clearly state the facts, apologise if necessary, but never sink to being rude. The closest I’d get to responding is calling the police if they become too aggressive and I’m concerned for the staff or myself.

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kero December 31, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Uggggghhhhh, I bet he feels so much better about himself yelling at a younger person in front of everybody. What a jerk! I’m sorry about your horrible experience and I hope your managers each grow a spine!!

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boxy December 31, 2010 at 3:51 pm

My son used to work for a lawn mowing company. One day an elderly customer became verbally abusive shouting the f-bomb and other obscenities and my son hadn’t even started to work on this guys lawn! His supervisor was there too and did absolutely nothing to stop the shouting or stick up for my son. This continued for a couple of months. The crew would show up to mow this elderly man’s lawn and several houses around him and the man would come out shouting left and right what a horrible job they did etc. (Which made the rest of us wonder if the job was being done so horribly why he didn’t just get someone else to mow his lawn.) Fast forward a few months and the supervisor gets fired and my son was promoted to that position. The next time they mowed for this elderly man and he started shouting my son says he told him to stop, it was unacceptable behaviour and if he continued they would leave. The man started shouting even louder so my son told his crew to mow the other houses but not that guys. The crew was more than happy with that plan and the owner of the lawn mowing company supported his decision.

No one should have to endure being treated like crap if they’re doing their job the way it’s supposed to be done.

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Ellen CA January 1, 2011 at 6:11 pm

I feel bad for the OP, he/she was put in a bad situation. However, I do have a problem with the attitude of “He couldn’t be bothered to food shop for his wife.” In this case the customer was simply availing themselves of a service offered by the grocer. Don’t judge your customers for purchasing your product.

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Ginger January 1, 2011 at 7:38 pm

OP here – thank for you all for your kind words :)

In regards to the “bookkeeper” position, that was part of my title since I counted out the cashiers cash drawers, made deposits, and wrote everything in the books, by hand (no Quickbooks or ANYTHING to make it easy back in 1998). On Saturday nights, we had to add up all the weekly numbers and make sure everything matched. The “real” bookkeepers in the main office would do the payroll and the adding up of all the stores. We were called bookkeepers because we did the job above the cashiers but below the managers.

You’re right, as an adult, I would have stood up for myself rather than sink myself to his level, but it’s nice to fantasize about telling him off ;)

And now, as a teacher, I have PLENTY of stories about how parents think teachers are very much below them and can be bossed around!

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Cat January 1, 2011 at 10:36 pm

I know just how you felt, having been in such situations myself.
I never return unkindness with unkindness though. I am an adult and I refuse to allow anyone to control my behavior as if I were a child. Be as rude as one wishes, I shall remain calm and professional. I did not raise the rude person nor am I married to him/her so the person’s behavior is none of my concern.

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bmyster January 3, 2011 at 11:57 am

I’ve often heard the adage “If you are on a date, watch how your date treats the wait staff. 6 months from now, that is how s/he will be treating you.”

If that’s true, imagine how horrible the marriage is if the husband comes in screaming at a young girl doing her job. We all have bad days, and can all feel frustrated sometimes, but there’s a big difference between feeling frustrated and taking it out on someone.

I feel sorry that the OP’s managers didn’t stick up for her more—abusive customers also can alienate other paying customers who don’t want to hear a shouting match while waiting to ring up their purchases.

I always try to be respectful and kind to the cashiers and other service staff—they didn’t cause the long line, store policy or other minor annoyance. So it’s not fair to give them more responsibility than they bear, which is negligible in the scheme of things.

That being said, I think it’s important for people to do their job to the best of their abilities—like the OP was doing. Abusive customers are rude, but loafing cashiers who are chatting while a line of customers is waiting, are just as rude (and not doing their job).

Respect is a two way street.

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Leslie Holman-Anderson January 5, 2011 at 7:35 pm

I worked in retail for many years, off and on, beginning in the 60′s. For the most part I deeply enjoyed it, and my enjoyment translated to customers who enjoyed their shopping day and were nice not just to me but to everyone. But there are were those whom no amount of helpfulness would please, as OP and many others here can attest. I found that the best response to an abusive customer is a shocked-sounding “I *beg* your pardon?” It usually makes them realize that they’re behaving not only poorly but illogically, and they start over in a more civil tone. And when (rarely) that doesn’t work, I’d offer to call the manager. Either that would calm them down or the manager would deal with ogre; either way I’d be able to move on to someone I could help.

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Caper January 6, 2011 at 1:40 pm

If this had happened in the department store where I work – one of the many managers would come to the rescue and tell this EC right where to go and how to get there. I don’t understand how some managers can be such pushovers and won’t speak up.

Example .. I had a lady try to buy luggage. Luggage was on for 50% off, which is a good deal, considering some of the prices. So, she puts the two suitcases up on the counter, one is regular $300 on for $150 and the other is $180 on for $90. She looks at my register and starts going on about how it’s wrong. I ask how and she says “luggage is %50 off though” and I responded “yeah .. half, which is 50% of 300 is 150 and half of 180 is 90…” and she responded “well, another lady bought a suitcase for $37 !!” me – “was it the same suitcase ?” .. “no, but it was similar and I want this for $37 cause it’s the right price” .. once again, I try to explain simple math. She doesn’t understand. The manager comes over, whips out the calculator and does the math right in front of her, telling her that it’s simple division and that I was right :)

Where I work, we all stick up for each other and work as a team. No one is a pushover, and store policy sticks, no matter how much a customer makes a scene. (That’s what security is for)

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