Author Topic: When a customer really, really dislikes you...and won't shut up about it!  (Read 5629 times)

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SamiHami

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I work PT in a gift shop/contract post office. Most of our business is for the post office side of things. About two weeks ago I encountered an incredibly rude customer! She is an elderly lady that comes in a couple of times a week. This was my first time waiting on her.

Essentially, she had 3 letters with her and wanted one of them to go into a Priority Mail envelope. She handed it to me, I put it in the envelope and processed her postage. She then realized that the wrong letter was in the envelope and proceeded to throw a loud tantrum about it, claiming that it was all my fault, that I was incompetent, etc. I reminded her that she handed the letter to me to place in the Priority envelope, but she loudly denied that (how would I know which of he 3 letters she wanted to go out priority?).

Trying to remain pleasant, I told her it was no problem, we could easily fix it and I carefully reopened the envelope, placed the correct letter in it, and taped it shut. Well, she didn't like that. It didn't look neat enough for her. I explained that, since postage had already been printed and affixed to that envelope we had to use it. Her tantrum continued; I remained calm and tried to placate her. A coworker saw what was going on and took over the transaction, doing precisely what I was doing. The entire time the customer was loudly carrying on and on about how the envelope didn't look "neat" enough for her and how incompetent I was. She then dropped to a whisper as she carried on to CW, but I couldn't hear what she was saying. She was bad enough that after she left the other customers in line started talking about her ("what is wrong with that woman?" "Is she crazy?" that sort of thing).

Later CW told me that the woman had been whispering to her about the government. Did you know that the government uses lasers to open the trunk of her car frequently? CW pointed out that she might be hitting the trunk button on her key ring by mistake when using the auto door locks. No, it's the government. She didn't explain why the government would want to do this. She also explained that the people at COSTCO are "out to get her." She apparently rambled on with more interesting comments before she left. Her final words to CW were that we were not permitted to talk about her after she left the store.

She has come in a couple of times since then and refuses to let me serve her, which is fine, but she carries on loudly every time about how awful I am! She asked my boss (the store owner) why she keeps me on when I am so terrible, she might just have to take her business elsewhere, etc. Of course my boss knows better than to believe her-we've known each other for 30+ years.

I don't care if she dislikes me; not everyone is going to love me. But I really don't like the way she carries on in front of other customers. I doubt there is much I can do about it b/c I think if I say anything to her it would just set her off again. Still, if anyone has ideas for getting her to quiet down when she comes in...

What have you got? Is it food? Is it for me? I want it whatever it is!

LeveeWoman

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I'd duck into the backroom when I saw her coming.

SamiHami

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Not always practical since there are other customers there that need to be served.

What have you got? Is it food? Is it for me? I want it whatever it is!

Yvaine

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She sounds batpoo crazy. I'm sure the other customers can tell she's a few marbles short; I wouldn't worry too much about what they'll think of you after hearing her. And look on the bright side: If she won't let you serve her, you don't have to listen to her diatribes about the government. I think every workplace has a regular or two like this.

LeveeWoman

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Not always practical since there are other customers there that need to be served.

Your boss needs to take over. I don't know what she should say, but dealing with nuts is one of a boss' jobs.

blueberry.muffin

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I really, really, really, REALLY hate blaming behavior on medical things...

... but I'm in the medical field, and your description of an "elderly lady" coupled with everything else is raising quite a few red flags for me. :(

If you're concerned about her welfare, and if you have the time, a quick call to Adult Protective Services might be a really good idea. They might be able to give you tips about how to work with (or avoid) her. It's not how she treats you that concerns me, though. How is she even getting to the post office? Is she driving? That would concern me more than anything else.


Kaypeep

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Kill her with kindness.  Give her a big Hello! when she comes in, and inform her that "co-worker" is also on duty to help her with any of her needs.  Do not ignore her or back down, but be proactively nice to her so she can't go into rant mode.  If she does, then just accept that she's batpoo crazy and can't be helped and don't take it so personally because no one else seems to, not even your boss.

RubyCat

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I really, really, really, REALLY hate blaming behavior on medical things...

... but I'm in the medical field, and your description of an "elderly lady" coupled with everything else is raising quite a few red flags for me. :(

If you're concerned about her welfare, and if you have the time, a quick call to Adult Protective Services might be a really good idea. They might be able to give you tips about how to work with (or avoid) her. It's not how she treats you that concerns me, though. How is she even getting to the post office? Is she driving? That would concern me more than anything else.

I have to agree with this.  Went through something similar with an elderly relative. In my opinion, it would be a kindness to have somebody check in on her. 

cicero

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Kill her with kindness.  Give her a big Hello! when she comes in, and inform her that "co-worker" is also on duty to help her with any of her needs.  Do not ignore her or back down, but be proactively nice to her so she can't go into rant mode.  If she does, then just accept that she's batpoo crazy and can't be helped and don't take it so personally because no one else seems to, not even your boss.
yup.

and sorry you had to deal with this

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cookiehappy

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This could be a case of dementia setting in (or having set in already).  Some older people may seem offensive or horribly cantankerous, but it could be dementia.  Either way, you handled the situation professionally and with sublime patience.

People will look at her badly, not you.

Next time, when you see her coming, take a deep breath and put on your biggest smile.

Girlie

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Re: When a customer really, really dislikes you...and won't shut up about it!
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2013, 10:25:07 AM »
This could be a case of dementia setting in (or having set in already).  Some older people may seem offensive or horribly cantankerous, but it could be dementia.  Either way, you handled the situation professionally and with sublime patience.

People will look at her badly, not you.

Next time, when you see her coming, take a deep breath and put on your biggest smile.

The bolded is how I try to handle my problem customers. I go into "pasted smile" and "overly polite" mode. I sometimes have to practice keeping my tone even, too.

I don't think much there is else can do about this lady if your boss isn't willing to take over and make her either stop coming in.

Perhaps reminding yourself repeatedly that people like that deserve pity will help you cope with her better.

Wulfie

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Re: When a customer really, really dislikes you...and won't shut up about it!
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2013, 10:44:33 AM »
I feel for you. I have 2 tenants who could both be this same lady. I try to remember that my boss knows that they are like this and that she will pretty much ignore them.  It is not easy however. It IS hard when someone is harassing you like that, this is exactly what harassment is.   Huge hugs.

SamiHami

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Re: When a customer really, really dislikes you...and won't shut up about it!
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2013, 10:45:03 AM »
I don't have a problem being polite and nice to her. In my ongoing effort to improve myself I have been reading a lot of stuff by the Dalai Lama; one thing he said is that Buddhists believe all living creatures are a part of the same source/energy/deity etc. so disliking or hating someone is the same as disliking or hating a part of yourself. I try to view people through that lens so I can reduce negative feelings about them.

I just want her to stop with the loud talk, esp in front of other customers!  :P

What have you got? Is it food? Is it for me? I want it whatever it is!

JennJenn68

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Re: When a customer really, really dislikes you...and won't shut up about it!
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2013, 10:51:21 AM »
At this point, your boss needs to address the issue.  If you try to do so, you will come off looking as though you are at fault.  Your boss needs to say, very clearly, to this insane customer, "You need to stop talking about my employee in that disrespectful fashion.  Immediately.  If you do not, you will no longer be permitted in this store."

Dementia?  Possibly.  It's still rude, hurtful, and dangerous in that other customers who are not aware of the history may start believing her.  A medical diagnosis should not relieve people of the consequences of their actions.

(I used to work retail.  To this day, I loathe seeing customers in stores acting like evil, spoiled children--and I haven't been behind a cash register full time since 1995!)

TootsNYC

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Re: When a customer really, really dislikes you...and won't shut up about it!
« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2013, 11:21:18 AM »
I wouldn't focus any energy on trying to control her.
Focus all your energy on how to manage the image.

(And I am absolutely sure that the other customers have her number. THEY know how rude it is, and that automatically makes them say, "This person probably isn't completely normal.")

And if they don't, you can ensure that they do. Here's how:

Just smile at her kindly and indulgently. And then smile at the customer you are interacting with.

Show by *your* reaction how the customers should view her comments. "Look at the silly lady, she's starting to show signs of dementia, she really doesn't know what reality is, poor old dear, but I don't hold a grudge, I understand."

They'll pick up the cue, I guarantee you. Especially if your boss and coworkers play the same game. They shoot you an "insider's" look and you both smile at one another, as if you're both thinking, "There she goes again, that dotty lady that we humor."

If nobody acts as though what she says is in any way offensive but has instead become a sort of inside joke, then everybody around will completely discount the substance of what she says. (Remember the Shakespeare line? "...doth protest too much"? If you act offended, people will think there's substance in what she says. But if she says something completely ridiculous, you wouldn't act offended, and your coworkers wouldn't act as though they needed to be careful with your feelings, right?

And then smile nicely at her. Greet her when she comes in. I bet you a nickel that if you be ultra helpful to your coworkers who are assisting her, etc., you'll win her over. If you go on a concerted campaign, I bet you can do it in two weeks.