Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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I worked in the pharmacy department of a well-known drug store chain. As the pharmacist, I would sometimes have what are called externs - college students fulfilling the "practical experience" part of their education (essentially, a college course). I also sometimes had what we usually called interns, mostly to differentiate them from students - these were graduates of foreign universities who had come to the US to work. Interns must fulfill specific requirements to be licensed to practice in the US; one of the requirements is a period of internship under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist for a specific period of time. Typically, the graduate is hired by the company and works as an intern until he or she fulfills the requirements and becomes licensed. Until then, he or she must work with a licensed pharmacist.

One of my interns was a young woman who had moved with her husband from a Middle Eastern country to the US. She'd already worked, licensed, in her own country, and was very smart, very elegant, and very gracious. She was tri-lingual; one parent was Middle Eastern and one was from Spain, so she spoke - fluently - Arabic, Spanish, and English. Her two native languages were Arabic and Spanish and she'd learned British English in school. She spoke with enough of an accent to identify her as a non-native speaker, although she was very easy to understand. (All of us, including my intern, sometimes had fun with this, as there are some amusing differences in the British and US versions of things such as boots and Band-Aids.)

The intern's linguistic skills were also particularly welcome because she could act as a translator for the very large population of Spanish-only-speaking people who lived in that area. It was always so much easier to help these people get the right OTC (over-the- counter) medications for their children or themselves, or to explain their medications to them, if I had someone who could translate for me. We did have an English-to-Spanish translating program that would print the medication guides and prescription labels in Spanish, but it was a direct word-to-word translation without taking into consideration the grammatical differences, such as word order, of the two languages. And that only covers written information, anyway. How do I help the woman who is standing at my counter who can only tell me, "Baby sick"?

One semi-regular customer at this particular pharmacy was a relatively young man with a lot of... material goods "presence." Because he wore a lot of jewelry, among other things, he was fairly recognizable to most of us. While in general he was very matter-of- fact - neither overly pleasant nor unpleasant - he did have a temper and had been known to unleash it, fairly nastily, on someone if he was displeased for whatever reason, particularly if the person helping him was young and female (the majority of my help in the pharmacy). His first name was a typical male name - we'll call him "Andrew". His last name was a compound word, along the lines of Greenpeace (which is what we'll call him), that could be split into two separate words.

One day, my intern was working at the "out window" of the pharmacy - where people picked up their medications - when this man came in. This particular job required that she get the customer's name, verify it to make sure the right person was getting the right medication, and several other steps such as signing the log to cover the "signature on file" requirements of the third-party payers (insurance companies). Unfamiliar with most common US names, particularly surnames, she misunderstood him and repeated, in her accented English, "Green Peace? Peace is the last name, or Green?" He flew into a rage and proceeded to give her an incredibly hard time, speaking nastily and calling her stupid, and explaining loudly that ANDREW was his first name and that his last name, GREENPEACE, was one word - upon which, still nastily, he spelled it out . I intervened in order to calm him down and rescue her from his wrath. After he'd left, I apologized for his behavior - not my job; he should have been the one apologizing - because I wanted to make sure she was okay.

Several weeks later, my intern was again working at the out window when this man came in. She took one look at him and said, "Andrew Greenpeace," and turned around, searched through the orders waiting to be picked up, and presented him with his medication. Preening, he said, "Wow. You remember my name, and you haven't even been working here for very long." She proceeded to finish the transaction with her usual graciousness, while he spoke to her as if it were a social occasion. But after he left, she came over to me and said with a rueful smile, "He has no idea that I remember him because he was so terrible to me the first time he came in." After that day, he always joked and chatted with her as if they were the best of friends, and I don't think to this day, if he remembers her at all, that he realizes exactly WHY she remembered him.


One thing that used to bother me most about working in a retail setting was the number of people who would either walk up to one of the pharmacy counters with a cell phone to their ear, or who would answer a call during a transaction at either the "drop-off" or "pick- up" end of the pharmacy.

I won't even get into - other than how frustrating it is - the potential problems with trying to discuss a customer's private medical information with him or her while in a position where every protected piece of information can be overheard by the person at the other end of the phone. It's bad enough trying to talk to someone in a retail pharmacy anyway, with people standing in line behind your patient or you having to talk through a speaker at the drive-through window so that anyone in the car or even walking by can overhear it all.

Anyway, I never felt like there was a good way to handle the cell phone talkers - it's frustrating to try to help someone who is having a conversation into a cell phone yet expects you to help them at the same time. I would often wait a moment until I could catch the customer's eye, then say pleasantly, "I'll be with you as soon as you finish your conversation." It was amazing the number of people who would give me dirty looks before muttering some version of "I'll call you back" into their phones. Sometimes, the person would apologize - sincerely - after ending the conversation, but more often than not, they viewed me as the rude one.



As has been mentioned over and over, there are many, many examples of rudeness when one works in a retail environment. It certainly was true during my years working as a pharmacist for a large, well-known chain drugstore, which we'll call "Chain A".

This story, however, ends a little differently.

The state in which I worked had a "transfer law" that allowed an individual to "transfer" their prescription from one store to another, as long as authorized refills remained on it. One very common occurrence was that, particularly on weekends, customers would come in and request a refill of oral contraceptive pills (OCs). There had been a strong push by drug manufacturers for a universal "Sunday Start" on new packages of 28 tablets, so we tended to see more refill requests on Saturdays and Sundays. In general, these were quick and easy to fill, as you simply had to type the refill number into the computer, generate a label, and affix it to the new package.

One Sunday, a young woman - maybe in her mid-twenties at the most - came in and handed me a package with a prescription label indicating it had been filled at a different pharmacy, "Chain B." I told her, politely, that it would take me a little longer than usual to fill the prescription, as I needed to call Chain B and get all of the information required by the law - if, in fact, she did want me to transfer the prescription. I've found it's always wise to ask first, just in case.

She was consistently friendly and polite (and no cell phone glued to her ear!) during the entire encounter, just exactly the kind of customer I enjoy the most. Yes, she did want me to transfer the prescription, and no, she didn't mind waiting, she told me.

It wasn't until after I'd finished ringing her purchase up at the end of the transaction that she added, "The last time I was in Chain B, I made a big scene. I'm embarrassed to go back into the store, so I'd like to get it filled here from now on."



 I currently work in the field of Higher Education/Student Affairs, which means I work at a university and help students and families adjust to college in different ways. Some people within this field work in Admissions, some in Financial Aid, some in Student Activities...etc. You get the picture!   One thing that we ALL have in common are "Helicopter Parents", so aptly named because they hover over their students and take care of everything FOR them. They are rude, abrupt, condescending, and expect everything to be done with a snap of their fingers. I've had parents call professors if their student fails a class, and I've even had parents show up at my office to yell at me. One of the most common phrases I've heard is "I'm going to sue you..."   

For 2 years, I worked at a small private university that has a very active Greek community (fraternities and sororities). Every January, the sororities would have recruitment, and select their new members. Now, regardless of your personal opinion about going Greek, many people have positive experiences and it can be a great leadership opportunity when done correctly. However, it's not for everyone. I had one student, we'll call her Sally, who went through the recruitment process and was not matched with an organization. It's really sad when that happens, and I knew that I'd be getting either a tearful phone call from Sally or an angry phone call from Sally's mother/father. I was right!   Sally's mother called me that day and DEMANDED I place her daughter in a sorority. According to her, I had ruined Sally's life, she was miserable, she was dropping out of school and transferring to another school. I was a horrible person, I didn't have any idea how hard it was to be a freshman at ABC School and she was going to sue me for Sally's emotional trauma. When SHE was a student at ABC School (in the 70's), she had been the most popular student and she was determined the Sally be placed in her sorority. Right now. 

I have never been yelled at like that, expect by my parents when I was really in trouble.   After letting her vent, I explained the process to her, and told her that I would be happy to speak with Sally if she would like to call me herself. I was then haughtily informed that Sally was not going to call me, and she (the mother) would deal with me herself. I repeated that I was sorry Sally was upset, but I could not do anything until Sally spoke with me directly. Finally, she said that Sally would come to my office the next day.   

The next day, Sally comes to see me. I expected her to be "emotionally traumatized" like her mom had said she was, but she wasn't. Sally immediately apologized for her mom's behavior and said that she never wanted to join a sorority, but just went through the recruitment process to "shut her mom up." She was happy she didn't get matched and she didn't want me to do anything about it. After sitting there for a second, I asked her to please explain this situation to her mom because she would keep calling me until Sally was placed.   I would see Sally on campus after that, and she was always polite. I can't imagine how a sweet girl like that put up with her mother! 



During college I was a manager at a chain coffee store we’ll call Moonchange.  During my time at Moonchange, I was a witness to many acts of appalling and amazing bad customer etiquette; I think you might enjoy my favorite story, though.

Moonchange, being the classy, expensive coffee place it is, has created many customer service policies to achieve their mission statement of providing the best customer service possible.  One of these policies states that if a customer complains that a drink was made incorrectly, that customer should be made a correct drink, free of charge, while being able to keep the incorrectly made drink. 

About a month into working at Moonchange, I was allowed to make drinks by myself without a supervisor watching over my shoulder.  One customer came in during a busy time in morning, and asked for an iced coffee with decaf.  I made the drink and was handing the cup to the customer when I realized I had forgotten to make the drink decaf.  Apologizing, I offered to allow the customer to keep the regular drink, while remaking her drink correctly, free of charge, of course.  To cut to the chase, I made EIGHT, count them eight, drinks in total for this woman!  She kept changing her drink order slightly every time I made it, e.g. “I wanted non-fat milk”; “I need 2 ½ shots instead of 3”; “I want those shots half-decaf”; etc… 

Being the unsuspecting, naïve girl I am, I continued to make her drink over and over again with varying details.  My manager eventually caught on to the situation, and had to ask the women to leave the store.  Before she left, though, she kindly asked if we had any empty boxes to carry her EIGHT drinks in; after all, she was surprising her co-workers with a treat and didn’t want the coffees spilled all over her car.  Incredible! 

Later that day, another woman came in and the same scenario began again.  After re-making her drink order three times (she has four drinks in her hand at this point) my manager comes over to end the situation.  The customer complains that a co-worker of hers got 8 free drinks this morning, and she didn’t understand why this was an inappropriate and rude, not to mention probably against the law.  Honestly, if someone wants to pull this scam on his/her local Moonchange, please don’t mention that another customer did it and it worked out fine for her!


It's hard to decide whether to laugh at the hubris of such entitlement or bemoan the decline of honor, integrity and character.  I must admit to getting a rush of adrenaline when I get the rare chance to witness that kind of audacity firsthand.


My husband worked as a retail manager for years, and had all kinds of strange customers, but this lady really took the cake. A few years ago, his store had a sort of pre-Christmas promotion going on in December, in which customers who donated $1 to a local charity could receive a coupon for $10 off their next purchase. The coupons weren't valid until January (to get people back in the store!), and it clearly stated on the bottom of the coupon that only one could be redeemed per purchase. Sounds pretty straightforward and logical, right?

Fast forward to January, and he gets a customer in the store who wants to use 5 coupons to obtain a $50 item for her son, basically for free. He attempts to tell her "no" in the nicest possible way--states that he can't accept multiple coupons for a single purchase, points out the policy, etc. At which point she launches into an obscenity-filled tirade about how she's driven 60 miles to the mall specifically to redeem these coupons, and she needs the stuff right away, and no one told her before that she couldn't use them all at once, and hubby is a racist chauvinist pig, blah blah blah. Finally she winds up with, "Well, I never would have given that money if I had known that these stupid things weren't good all at once!" At which point she ASKED FOR HER MONEY BACK. Yes folks, she wanted back her $5 from the Boys and Girls Club because she couldn't get free stuff. My husband insisted she hand over the coupons (which she wanted to keep for her "trouble"), gave her $5 from the till, and she left muttering threats. She proceeded to call the district manager and give him an earful about how "rude, unhelpful and condescending" my husband was, and how she'd never shop at the store again. When the DM called my husband to see if this actually happened, he was laughing so hard he could hardly talk. 

I just found it so unbelievable that someone would take back a charitable donation because they couldn't make a profit from it. Way to get into that whole holiday spirit, lady. At least your kid had the sense to be embarrassed at the scene you were making.......



I work at a natural foods store near my house to earn some spending money while I'm in college and for the most part, the customers are very nice and polite.  Regular customers know cashiers by name and ask after them if they're not working that day.  Because most people are so nice, it's always surprising to get a rude customer.

I had just had an extraordinarily stressful morning and this woman was my first customer at the register.  Her order rings up and she hands me her debit card so I can scan it.  I scan it, put in the total and turn the machine around (it swivels) so she can enter her pin number.  When she's done she turns the machine and I see that she only inputted three characters (there were only *** on the screen) so I tell her that she inputted her pin incorrectly (pin numbers have to be 4 or 6 digits).  I clear the wrong pin and when she inputs the pin a second time she only put in 1 digit.  I again tell her that her pin is incorrect and she'll have to input it again (very politely).  At this point she looks at the woman in line behind her and gives her a "can you believe this idiot cashier?!" looks.  The 2nd woman says that she has the same card and wonders if it will work.  The 1st woman says that it probably won't because I'm too stupid to do it correctly.  At this point I see that the 1st woman has only entered 2 digits so I have to tell her that she put in the wrong pin again.  She sighs and tells me to do it as credit which I do and everything works fine.  I hand her the receipt and say "thank you, have a nice day" which is what I always say.  She gives me a dirty look and walks out.

It almost made me burst into tears at the register.  It's frustrating how often people assume we can't do our jobs just because we're "only a cashier".  Ugh.



When I was young I put myself through university by working all-night shifts in a nightclub. Since I usually worked 11pm-11am, people were usually worse-for-wear by the time I came on shift. I saw some charming customers, but one guy in particular has always stayed in my memory. The place was always packed, and the exceedingly long bar littered with drinks in various stages of consumption. Using the crowd and profusion of glasses as cover, this gentleman would order a pint of water (from some newbie unaware of his tricks), pour it out, and then cruise the bar filling up his glass by tipping in the dregs of everyone else's drinks. This was not a discriminating man. He'd often mix wine, spirits, beer, and condiments together; when he had a full pint, he'd sit and savor his cocktail of dregs and backwash. Management would usually get him out, and I wish they had this one night before I was treated to the following sight. 

This poor bloke looked short of a dollar or two, and some kindhearted regular customers included him in their round of tequila shots. The man in question insisted on the prized shot containing the worm (apparently the worm absorbs a lot of alcohol so you'll get a kick. Don't know if it's true!). Anyway, I happened to be watching to see if he was really going to swallow a worm. He did-for a moment anyway. Down went the shot. The gentleman gazed at the glass in deep thought for a moment-the puked up the shot again, in its entirety....perfectly in the glass and -I kid you not- with the worm circling lazily in the bottom of the glass. I wouldn't have believed it unless I saw it with my own eyes. I didn't know whether to puke or laugh hysterically. The good news is, the incident was witnessed by so many amazed people that the gentleman became a hit and had drinks bought for him from then on until I graduated and quit. He never needed to trawl for 'cocktails' again. However, I don't know how many of those people saw the sequel I saw-the gentleman regarding the puked-up shot, shrugging his shoulders, and downing it-again. I guess old spendthrift habits die hard. I personally have never touched tequila since.


I recently moved to Toronto, Ontario from a small town in Arkansas to attended university. I started a job in ticket services for a rather large opera company where I answered incoming phone calls and helped patrons with ticket and subscription purchases, exchanges, etc. Needless to say, in a customer service field where you assist people who give your company thousands of dollars annually, you're going to run into some very pretentious, very rude customers. However, this one tops the charts.

Now, I am fully aware that I have an accent. I'm from the south! Having said this, it's not that bad of an accent, just a mild twang on certain words. One day I answer a call from a woman who wants to exchange tickets. I ask her for her name and account number, and upon accessing the information, I discovered the account given wasn't under her name, and it didn't have her listed as someone who could access the account. Due to privacy laws, we can only speak to people explicitly listed on the account. Additionally, this account had only purchased single tickets, which aren't eligible for exchanges. (You can only exchange tickets that are part of a season subscription.)

I very nicely explained this information to the woman, who instantly became belligerent, yelling and screaming about how inept I was at my job, and how my company's policies are "insane". I tried my best to calm her down, and told her if she had the account holder to call, we could see what we could do for her. At this point, she stops yelling abruptly and says to me: "Where are you located?" I gave her our business address. Again she asks, "Where are you located?" Confused, I repeat the address. This time she elaborates, " No, where are YOU located? You have an accent. Does your company outsource?" Ok, I understand now. I explain to her that I am located in Toronto, and that I'm from the states, here for school. Her response?

"Well, now that you're in Canada, you need to speak proper English and stop talking like a redneck retard."

Wow. I know that I say my "I" sounds a little longer, but I wasn't under the impression that I couldn't speak coherent English. I don't think I've ever been so offended in my life.


Dear Jeanne:   I was reading your "Customers" section, and was reminded of the time I spent as a paralegal in a Worker's Compensation law firm.  In my state, WC is run by private insurance companies, so lawyers have been very useful.  However, some clients needed something OTHER than an attorney... 

1.  One client I dealt with called to tell me that her weekly compensation check was late.  When I asked what the dates on the last check indicated, she told me that it was for five days previous through the next day.  I suggested that her next check was to be issued two days from then, and that she would receive it about four days later, to which her answer was, "SO?"  Apparently checks were due when SHE wanted them, not when they were legally required.  When I tried to explain things, she demanded, "Whose attorney are you, anyway?  You're sure not representing MY interests!" 

2.  Another client felt that my cordiality was inviting her to confidences, so she described--in gory detail--the side effects of her medication on certain--ahem--appetites. 

3.  A doctor called me and asked me to contact a third client about scheduling her elbow surgery.  I did so, only to be informed in a haughty tone that said client had no intention of "walking around in a cast during the holidays."  I suggested then that we could schedule it for early January, to which she responded in an exasperated tone, "You expect me to do my dance recital with an arm cast?"  It turns out that she had taken up tap dance while she continued to insist to her employer that she was completely incapable of any work.  Her recital was in February, and she fully expected to be paid a weekly check while sitting around doing nothing for three months!  I informed her that, if an investigator happened to catch her in her dance recital, the insurance company might decide to suspend her benefits.  Haughty tone again:  "I want to speak with your employer.  Now."  She got me in trouble over that, but vindication came in February:  she was, indeed, caught on tape by an investigator, and wound up being sued for all the benefits she'd received, with fraud allegations against her. 

4.  One gentleman whom I served got it into his head that, just because I had talked him out of suicide, I had a thing for him.  He showed up at the office on Valentine's Day with a box of candy, a bouquet of roses, and a large diamond ring--and then asked the receptionist for me.  He proceeded to offer me these gifts, and promised that I had been named in his will, should he not survive his impending surgery.  Now, I was twenty years old at the time, so I was at a loss.  I excused myself, went a good distance back in the offices, and had a total and complete nervous breakdown.  My supervising attorney--a good lady!--went back to the reception area and managed to get him to leave.  I hate to thank God for someone being diagnosed mentally ill, but for the remaining time I was there, the gent in question went from his surgery into the psych ward.   The next time you wonder why your attorney charges so much, think of these examples!  It's the nutty and/or unreasonable clients who make hazard pay necessary.  


I used to work in an upscale bridal salon. One of our regular problems is that brides would want to us to fit/pin garments that were not purchased in our store. They would also want us to do this for free.  Our written policies clearly state that we do not do that (and the reasons why, which are both reasonable and logical).   One Saturday, a bride comes in with what seems to be every female member of her family, including a little girl, for her bridal fitting. The fitter (me) does not appreciate having to deal with a party in the room while she is trying to do her work, but my assistant and I are dealing with it. Until… the little girl disappears, then reappears now clad in flower girl costumes and the bride insists that I pin the hem and not only to pin the hem but to make it match a flowergirl who is not even HERE at the moment. My assistant and I politely decline the opportunity to do work for free and point out the written policy that forbids us from doing us. The bride and the rest of her family proceed to harangue us, getting louder and more nasty with each passing moment. My assistant and I, I am proud to say, stay calm but also continue to firmly but politely refuse to violate store policy. They are livid with us. How livid we did not know until we went to clean out the room when they had departed – sitting on the middle of the floor in the fitting room was a Ziploc bag full of urine. To this day, we don’t know what lovely lady in that fabulous group squatted in our boutique and peed into a Ziploc in a room full of your family, but whoever you are you win the prize of nastiest customer EVER.



I work in tourism.  Tour boats, to be specific.  The company I've worked at for several years is an institution; extremely successful, but still family-owned.  While I love my job and the company (and even my bosses), the customers are just special sometimes.  There are days during peak season when I come home and burst into tears (not often, but it's happened).  I've come to the conclusion that tourists are just TENSE, because they're trying to take a vacation but are torn between trying to relax and realizing how much money the whole thing is costing them.  That's the only possible reason I can come up with for how some people act.

The stories I can tell, you would not believe.  However, this one, happening months ago, is fresh in my mind and has been for some time.  It's perhaps not as unbelievable as some of the rest, but it's the first time I actually almost lost my cool in front of a customer.

My company only recently began selling tickets online.  We treat online tickets as advanced reservations, and since our boats tend to fill up quickly, our policy is that all tickets can only be exchanged before the ride.  (Okay, the official policy is that tickets are non-exchangeable, but that's only to cover our butts just in case.  In almost every situation, we will exchange tickets before the ride.)  However, exchanging tickets after the ride would just be unfair to others.  The policy listed on the internet is that we don't exchange at all, since, after people print their tickets at home, it becomes near-impossible for our computer system to do a switcheroo.  It's possible, but it takes a lot of finagling that only a few of us know how to do, and it's something that we just don't have time for on busy days.

At any rate, it was a rather slow day, and the boat had just pulled off the dock for the X:00 tour.  Two women came rushing onto the dock, waving pieces of paper at the boat, frantically.  I turned to my co-worker and mimed slamming my head into my computer.  This happens sometimes, and people get PISSED when they miss their boat - like it's our fault that the boats actually leave on time.  The women walk up to my window, shove their printed tickets in front of me, and look angered.  The one apparently in charge blinks at me and says, "Was that the X:00 tour?"  I tell her it was.  "Well, we had TICKETS," she tells me, as though I should have made the other 100 people on board wait for her to show.  "I apologize for that," I say, and take their tickets to look them over.  I punch their confirmation number into the computer bring up their order.  I tell them that strictly speaking, we don't do exchanges after the boat leaves, but I ask if I can get them on a later tour.  It's a slow day, and I figure I can just make it all better. 

Apparently, they have other plans All.  Day.  Long.  She insists that I put them on a tour tomorrow, which I could actually get in trouble for.  I tell her that it's impossible, but to fix the situation (i.e. her own mistake), I'll put her on any other tour she wants tonight.  They talk it over, glaring at me the whole time, then pick a time that they GUESS they could make.  While I'm doing the aforementioned finagling, the following exchange takes place:

"You guys don't leave a minute late, do you?" She asks, smirking.  For a second, I think maybe the situation has defused.  "No, ma'am," I say, and gesture to the huge clock on the wall, "Always right on time."

"Well," she growls, "I guess we should have set our clocks by YOUR time, then, because according to my watch, YOU left early."  Semi-distracted by what I'm doing on the computer, I reply, "That's an atomic clock, set to atomic time.  Like a cell phone." 

"OH," she yells, "Set by YOUR cell phone, huh?  Oh, I guess we should have all set our watches by YOUR cell phone to make our BOAT!"  Taken aback, it takes a minute for me to realize she misheard me, but by then she's too far gone to stop her.  Keep in mind that I have never been anything but polite to this woman, and have already implied that I'm doing her a favor and making an exception for her.  I meekly hand over their new tickets, smile and tell them to have a nice day. 

She smiles back at me, and asks for my manager's phone number.  I groan inwardly, but hand her a brochure with our number on it.  She insists that I write my manager's name above the number, along with my own, and informs me that he'll be getting a call from her about me.

"I intend to get you in LOADS of trouble, little girl," she informs me, "I've worked in customer service for YEARS, and we NEVER treat customers this way."  Stunned, I can only blink at her as, once again, I've just done her a favor, even though the folly was hers.  She continues, "When I said YOU left early, you shouldn't have argued with me.  Never argue with a customer, EVER.  I hope you learn that lesson soon, because we are NEVER coming back here, and we'll tell our friends the same thing."  She storms off with her fresh, new tickets. 

My co-worker and I gape at each other as we watch them leave, and I place a call to my manager to warn him, explaining what happened.  He laughed it off. 



And here I never thought I'd be writing to anything like this, I'm still kind of in that obnoxious, semi-vulgar college student phase, I have little to no right getting on someone else's manners. But this just irked me.

I work at a rather relaxed partial service restaurant. The customers come up to the counter to place their orders and get their drinks then we, the cashiers/servers bring them their food as soon as its ready. No one ever tips, but I don't mind that, I make just fine money. That has nothing to do with this.

I have lettering tattooed around one wrist, ink which I am very, very proud of and happy with, it has a lot of personal meaning to me, and none of my managers or co-workers mind it at all. A lot of the time customers will try to read it, and I'll angle myself so that they can, talk to them, etc. Most of what I get is "how much did that hurt" "that's lovely" and the like. Its a subject of conversation, both I and the customers seem to be grateful for the interaction. Most of them are more fascinated than anything else, and I'm not the only person at the restaurant who looks like that.

But no, oh no, not this woman. Little miss high and mighty, you know the kind, thinks they know better than anyone else and just has to give her opinion, I had brought out her food and was just taking my hand away from the plate when she GRABS my wrist, turns it over, and commences to give me the lecture about how irresponsible it is to get a tattoo, how I'm never going to be able to get a job looking like that, if God wanted us to have words on our bodies we'd be born that way, she goes on (I'm very busy, and as much as I want to walk away from her and get back to work, I get the feeling she'd go give my manager a piece of her mind about my walking away, and I don't want to get him involved) for give or take five minutes.

Think she'd like to have seen all my piercings and other ink? Some days I really want a "We reserve the right to refuse service" signs.



I worked in a shoe store for a few months, as an assistant manager. A woman came in with her daughter, and the girl desperately wanted a pair of white sandals for summer. But she had to wear leg braces, so she was difficult to fit.

I tried every sandal in the store, and nothing worked with the braces. I whispered to the mom that she might try another shoe store in the same mall, because they carried different brands. This little 8-year-old was sad, but so polite, and thanked me for trying. I wanted to cry.

The store manager chewed me out for spending 35 minutes with one customer, and then the mom pulled her aside and told her how much she liked the service in that store. (Then she came back an hour later and showed me the white sandals that her daughter had found at the other shoe store. That was one happy little kid!)



I used to work in a well-known chain craft store. It was a pretty bad place (they once tried their hardest to avoid giving me a $100 paycheck and never did give me the promised 6-month raise or whatever it was - I guess they thought the raise in minimum wage was good enough). However, I'll limit my story to one particular customer.

We regularly had to deal with people complaining royally about not being able to use coupons, but this guy was the worst. He approached my register with two boxes of colored chalk and manufacturer's coupons, which the store does not accept. I politely explained this to him. He was incensed, and demanded to speak to a supervisor...and another supervisor...and a manager...all of whom told him the same thing. He was actually yelling at this point, and finally exclaimed, "Well if I can't have the discount, I don't want them!" He then stormed out in a huff, leaving the items on my register.

Best part? He had forgotten he was leaving, I sweetly called out "Sir, you forgot your wallet!" It was a very red-faced man indeed who returned to collect it.


When I was seventeen my Mom worked at Shoppers Drug Mart. Around Christmas-time she came down with bronchitis so I came in to replace her. I did such a good job that, even though they were not hiring at the time, I was offered a permanent position as a cashier/merchandiser. I think that should say enough about what I am like in a working environment. Which is one more reason I was so very shocked at this one woman's behavior towards me on one very memorable Seniors Day. Every last Thursday of the month is Seniors Day, where, if you are 65 or older, you receive 15% off your purchases. We also run Bingo games, serve tea and cakes, and offer free beauty make-overs. I was working the extra cash when a serious looking thirty-some woman came to be rang through. She ended up purchasing over $200 worth of beauty and body items. After her transaction was complete, instead of moving ahead so the others in line could come forwards she went over her receipt. Perfectly normal. Then she turned to me; obviously with a problem. No worries, I had dealt with these situations before. What I had not expected was the following transaction:

Her - You didn't give me my senior's discount!   Me - ...umm, M'am? You're not a senior.   She then very angrily stormed away, into the crowd of seniors who were gathered about playing bingo nearby. She grabbed an elderly woman by the arm and literally dragged the poor woman over to my cash. Quote, "Why do you think I brought her here?!" I was aghast. What made things even worse was that the elderly woman was completely spaced out. She must have been suffering from dementia or severe Alzheimer's. She had no idea what was going on. The moment her daughter (?) let go of her arm, she just kind of drifted back into the crowd. I had no idea what to do.

At first I tried to explain to the woman that I could not give her 15% off, since she had also used her Shoppers Points to take an additional $75 off her purchases, and that it was impossible for our machines to reverse that transaction. Then I explained that for the seniors discount to work she really should have had her mother (?) there with her so I would have known and that I was really sorry but, she's not a senior. She. Freaking. Flipped. I called my Manager really really fast. My Manager came, I explained, the woman then took off and DRAGGED HER MOTHER OVER A SECOND TIME to show my Manager (!!!) and THEN proceeded to take out her cell phone, call her husband, and cry. I stood back while my Manager did some fancy math and figured out how much money we should be giving back to this woman so that it would be as if she had been given the discount. While I was there, I overheard the conversation she was having with her husband. The snippets went something like this:

 " F***ing Store screwing me again!  - And I went all the way out of my way to pick her up and bring her here today, now I have to go all the way to drop her off too, and they weren't even going to give me the discount, like, why else would I go all the way out of my way to bring her?"

She spoke as if her mother were a piece of meat. She dragged her around as if she were a two year old child. It became obvious during the conversation that the elderly woman lived at a home, and that she did, indeed, suffer from some kind of debilitating illness that left her mentally incapacitated. After my Manager gave the woman the right amount of money back, she disappeared into the crowd, grabbed her mother by the arm, pushed her forwards with one hand and the cart full of oh so precious 15% off beauty care products with the other and exited the store...still whining and crying on her cell phone. She did not say thank you to my Manager.

My Manager told me to go into the back room and to stay there until she came for me.   I went back there and FREAKED! I nearly started crying. My Mom, who had been working the cash opposite me while all of this had been happening, came back and told me that everything was fine, but I was going nuts. Eventually the whole staff had made it's way back there to tell me I was ok, but I only calmed down once the Manager came back and started swearing so vigorously about the customer from hell that I think I blushed. Wanna hear the worst part? According to my Manager? She's seen this happen before. People come in and treat their elderly like cattle. It's disgusting. That woman, and all others like her, deserve to be shot.



Hi Jeanne!! As anybody who has worked in retail can tell you, customers can be awful, awful people. I work as a cashier and one day, I had a youngish man (probably in his late 20's or early 30's) come into our upscale grocery store and spend over $500. Like I said, it's a somewhat fancy store, but $500 is still a very rare amount for anybody to spend. He'd been sort of annoying throughout the transaction--leaning over to scan things himself, for example. I'd asked him to stop and explained his doing that could get me in trouble. His response? "Nah, it can't." And he continued doing it. Cute.

When he handed me his credit card, I turned it over to check his signature--though frankly, with that large a transaction I'd have checked his ID anyway--and was surprised to see that he'd signed only an X. (How goofy and pretentious.)

"May I see your ID?"

"Nope," he said, smiling.

I laughed, assuming he was kidding, but he didn't move. "Um, seriously, can I see your ID?"

"No," he smirked.

I repeated the question. He told me he didn't have anything on him, so no, I couldn't see his ID. Oh, and didn't I know he came in ALL the time?

I went to get my supervisor. He argued very loudly with her while other customers turned to stare, about what a loyal customer he was and how "X" WAS his signature and how we were giving him a hard time. He had two women with him--presumably a mother and sister, or possibly a girlfriend, who stood so silently throughout this entire mess that I almost forgot they were there. I wonder what they thought of his behavior!

He had other cards with him, all of which were "signed" with an X, so rather disappointingly, my supervisor allowed the transaction. To her credit she was quite irritated with him and let it show, and didn't make me look like an idiot who was just being difficult.


I work part-time for a major clothing retailer, who prides itself on excellent customer service.  I gladly strive uphold this standard despite customers' attempts to have me respond otherwise.  By far the worst experience ever occurred when a one Ms. Bible (She seriously had a name reflecting piousness) graced us with her patronage.  This woman spent at least 45 minutes in the store with her daughter and made time to select many items but instantly became hasty at check out.  She explained that she needed to get to a cooking class that would take place in the store directly across from ours (I estimate about a 13.4 second walk).  Due to her multiple complicated payment methods, we offered to hold her items until she was able to return from her cooking class.  She seemed pleased with this, dropped her credit card on her pile of clothes, and rushed out before we could catch her.

Upon her return, she was welcomed and her transaction was begun.  She immediately became livid and began pounding her fist on the counter and shouting disdain at the fact that her transaction had not been completed in her absence.  One small lady left the store and returned later explaining that she had become fearful of the “nasty woman.”  Despite my attempts to explain to Ms. Bible that we had locked her credit card in our safe and had been unable to sign the sales slip on her behalf, she became more belligerent and obviously unappreciative of our attempt to protect her.  

I responded by efforts to engage her in appropriate interactions to hopefully model adult behavior and lessen the embarrassment she was causing herself before the other customers and her poor daughter.  I completed the transaction, thanked her for her business, and expressed my desire that she have a safe journey home.  She walked away and was apparently not pleased that she had failed to bring me down to her level of behavior, so she stepped back in to say to me, “I can’t stand untrained humans!” 

This was one of those times that I regretted being so well “trained” in etiquette. I would have LOVED to inform her of the fact that I have a Ph.D. and am a practicing licensed psychologist and additionally offer her my professional services.  Since then I have been affectionately assigned the nickname “Dr. Untrained Human” by my fellow retail workers.


Page Last Updated September 15, 2008