Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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2003 Archive

Jan - Jun 2004 Archive


Years ago when I worked as a cashier for a large discount store/pharmacy, we had a busy, busy night.  I can't recall if it were close to a holiday, but it may have been.  In any event, we'd been hopping. Anyway, a man with his small daughter, maybe 5 years old, put their items on the counter for me to ring up.  In addition to whatever the man had put on the counter, his little girl had added several toys---six or seven, at least.  He stood their quietly, watching me ring everything up, while a lengthy line formed behind him.  I gave him his total, and he looked me square in the eye and told me that he wasn't' paying for all those toys.   He went on to explain that he had not told his child she could have those toys.  She had just picked them up as they wandered the store.  He never said he would buy them for her.  He then acted surprised when I asked him why he didn't say something when she put them on the counter, before I rang them up.  His answer?  He didn't TELL me to ring them up, so it was my own fault that I'd have to go through the hassle of voiding an order, further holding up the line.   Evidently he thought that "cashier" is synonymous with "psychic" and that it is somehow presumptuous to assume items put on the counter are being purchased.  This was almost 20 years ago, and it still irks me when I think about it.  What a jerk.


It was New Years Eve, and I was working in my soon-to-be-in-laws' restaurant while on a break from college. We delivered subs and seafood. I expected drunk obnoxious customers later that evening, but not at lunch. Well, this guy took the cake, or the sub, as it were. I was pulling out of a driveway in my little car after delivering a sandwich when a man in a huge monster truck blocked me in and said rudely, "This is my house, and I'd like to know what the hell you're doing here." I was terrified of being robbed or assaulted, being a woman and having heard so many horror stories about delivery, so I looked as mean as I could and said, "They ordered food; I delivered it!" He moved and I left, shaking. Before I got back to the store, he had called and told my fiancé, now DH, that he couldn't understand why their driver was so rude, they were never calling again, blah blah. Not a mention of what he had done of course. When I told my FFIL he called the guy back and told him he'd better not call us, because no one would be delivering to his house ever again. Yay! I have many more stories for another time. Love the site!


I worked retail for five years while a student in the 80s. Perhaps the most subtle but utterly rude remark from a customer was heard when I was working at the now out-of-business New York area music store The Wiz. The assistant manager of my location, Mark, later became the classical music buyer for the entire company--he was an expert in the area. One day, while still an assistant manager, he asked a customer in the classical music section, "May I help you with anything?" The customer replied, very snobily, "I hardly think so." Another remark from a customer was shockingly inappropriate. He was in the greeting card section of a drug store I worked in while I was straightening the merchandise. He seemed to want to make small talk, mentioning something about the graduation cards already being out. Trying to be friendly, as we were supposed to be towards customers, I replied that I couldn't believe it had been almost a year since my prom. He said how expensive proms are, with the tickets, limo, tuxedo, etc. He wanted to know how much everything cost me, including the corsage. When I told him I think it was about $10, he suddenly screamed out "TEN DOLLARS!!? DID YOU AT LEAST GET LAID?" I couldn't believe it. I tried being polite to customers without small talk thereafter.


 When I came back from my first year at college I started working at a local Walgreen's pharmacy.  I had a woman come up to my register with two full carriage loads of items.  After ringing everything in the total came to over six hundred dollars.  When she started to write a personal check I asked for her ID.  She told me that it was illegal to ask her for her ID and absolutely would not give it to me.  I told her I wouldn't accept her check without an ID (actually the ID was only the first part...I planned on paging a manager for approval after she gave it to me!)  She became quite angry and threatened to call the police so I wound up paging for a manager anyway.  As we waited for the manager I tried to explain to her that, while she was not required to present an ID we were also not required to accept her check.  The manager came and I handed him the check and explained the problem while Mrs. No ID butted in saying I had been rude to her and offended her.  The manager excused himself and left with the check.  A few minutes later he came back and said he had called the bank and there was less than $50.00 in her account.  She countered that she was planning on making a large deposit and it would be in the account before we tried to clear the check.  He suggested that she should use another form of payment or make the deposit first and then come back with a valid ID.  She, needless to say, left in a huff without her merchandise.  I can't believe she actually stayed and waited when it was obvious the manager had left to call the bank!



Just saw your new "Customers" category in the Business Etiquette section. I've spent about 5 years dealing with retail and support customers, and have a lot of stories. Here are a few.

This is one of my favorite stories; and it occurred when I was working in the Customer Service department of a large, well-known online retailer. It didn't happen to me personally; but I was listening in to the phone call at the time (something that was done regularly for training and employee-evaluation purposes). It was just after we added a new department to the site. The call went like this:

CS Rep: (answers the phone) Hello, thank you for calling (name).com, this is D, how can I help you?

Customer: Um... How come you changed the color of your site. (Background info: the various departments on our website were accessible using a series of colored tabs at the top of the screen, and each tab and department were color-coded.)

CS Rep: Uh, I'm not aware of any color change; although we did launch a new site this week, which site are you looking at.

Customer: Your bookstore, you change the color. I liked the old color better, how come you changed it?

CS Rep: Um... sir? I'm looking at the bookstore right now, and it's the same color it's always been. Are you sure you're looking at the right site, like I said, we did launch a new site this week.

Customer: (voice sounding very petulant and insistent at this point) No, you guys changed the color, I liked the old color.

CS Rep: (very confused at this point) Sir, what color are you seeing?

Customer: It's like red... no, now it's yellow... heh, whoa, now it's blue... Oh wait, now it's green again.

CS Rep: Um... sir... are... um... you taking any... um... medications or... uh... any... drugs of any sort. (you could tell by the rep's voice that he did not want to just flat out ask what drugs the guy was on.)

Customer: Heh, oh yeah, bye. (hangs up).

Needless to say, we and the CS rep had a good laugh about that one.

Thinking back, a lot of stories from my customer service days involve drugs or alcohol. We all got quite a few calls from people who were drunk or stoned, often too drunk or stone to give us requested information, or follow instructions. When working for a major Internet service provider, I had several calls from customers who simply wouldn't or couldn't follow instructions, would make really stupid jokes, demand that I fix their connection, all while I could hear bong noises in the background. One girl, who couldn't follow instructions for more than a few seconds at a time without getting distracted by something, wouldn't even put the phone down when she was smoking, so I could hear it quite loudly in my ear. There were many times that I really wanted to risk getting fired by telling customers to call back later when they were sober. Drunk people were the worst, since they almost invariably became abusive over the course of the call, sometimes violently so, and it was almost impossible to get them off the phone (we weren't allowed to hang up on someone unless they were using excessive profanity, were clearly not going to work with us to resolve their problem and the call was becoming excessively long, or were obviously just prank callers). Stoned people simply became too distracted and eventually hung up.

To the rest of you out there, I can understand wanting to have a drink, or smoke a joint, now and again; but please do not call your customer service or tech support folks after you've been indulging. It's just a waste of your time and theirs; and they're the ones who have to deal with bad performance reviews because of your excessively long calls.



I worked at a catalogue company in the customer service section. We answered phones, fielded questions about products, took orders, and checked on previous orders. We ran a few different company catalogues ranging from expensive, yet tacky, women's clothing to knick-knacks that looked a mere step up or two from Wal-Mart brands. All in all,  it wasn't a bad job. The morning of the incident I'd had a call from a lovely older woman with bad hearing. She was wonderful. Even though I was on the phone with her for nearly half an hour she was so pleased with my help that she asked to speak to my supervisor. It was heartwarming.

Unfortunately, later that day I had the customer from hell. This woman had called to find out about an order that she'd ordered a mere four days before. Unless requested we used UPS for shipping these larger orders. I told her what my computer had on it's location, letting her know it had left our warehouse and was in route.   From that point, until it had reached another UPS post office there wasn't much I could do. We had a tracking number but it took a day to get the info back on whatever order I wanted to find out about. I told the woman about the day's wait and she wouldn't hear anything of it. She demanded that I find out where her order was that minute, even though I explained to her that we couldn't find out when the order was in a truck on a road somewhere. I even offered to give her a call back in the morning, first thing when I got to work to let her know where the package was.

I was very apologetic about the whole thing, saying "I'm very sorry, I wish there was something more I could do..." because there wasn't really anything I could do except submit the tracking number and wait until the morning. I'd felt so grand that morning after helping the older woman that I actually felt bad that I couldn't help anymore than I'd already had. This, of course, wasn't good enough for her and when I'd explained the situation, had my supervisor explain, and apologized yet again. The woman paused then in a cold, heartless sort of way stated, "I do not detect a note of sincerity in your voice." And hung up on me. Ouch.



I work as a security guard, doing nightshifts. I'm usually stationed at large construction sites. My first worksite was a nice four story condo under construction, a lovely apartment-style building. My job was to watch out for hazards, and to keep intruders off the site. Especially the latter part of that job description in the wake of a break in that occurred while another guard was on duty. Somebody had broken into the building, looked at a few things and then left before the guard even knew they were there. Disgruntled construction workers, perhaps? Even though nothing was taken, the developers who were building the place were very angry. They had already seen their share of incompetence from other guards. So on the night of the incident I will relate, I was being especially wary, considering that the break-in had occurred just a couple of weeks prior.

I had just completed rounds, and was comfortably ensconced in a corner apartment that I referred to as "the perch". From that room, I could look out over the driveway and yard, seeing anyone who tried to enter the site. So there I was, relaxing a bit until my next set of rounds when a not-too-glamorous white SUV pulls into the yard, a bit past the real estate agent's sales trailer. I got up, wondering who could be coming for a visit at 7:30 pm (it was still light out). Out of this SUV came a middle aged man, wearing a nondescript sort of polo-style t-shirt and shorts. At first, I thought he might be related to the contractors who were working on the building. He kind of had that look to him- dressed neater than the tradesmen, but not super-fancy, either. He would not have been the first manager-type figure I had seen around there, so I leaned out the window and addressed the gentleman, who was now starting to look around the site.

"Excuse me, sir? Do you work here?" Now, bear in mind that this question was delivered in a polite tone- More inquisitive than demanding. I got a fair number of workers and bosses showing up after hours to check on things. "Nooo," He sneered back. "I'm a potential buyer!" In a semi-snotty voice. "And I wanna have a look at the building!" Now, my orders were simple- unless they are a tradesperson or other worker, they don't get in. Not unless the real estate agent accompanies them and has them sign a waiver. So I simply could not let this gentleman in. As diplomatically as I could, I informed him of the access control policies of the site, and tried to tell him when the sales trailer would be open, which was usually enough for anyone else who was interested in buying a condo. But not this gentleman. He seemed to think that Just Because he was a "potential buyer", that he was entitled to violate site policy and wander around a very rough construction site unchaperoned and unmolested. I tried to reason with that man, but he got more and more flustered, snarling about how I treated buyers. Nothing could convince him that I simply was not allowed to let him in, and that I was not the one making the rules. He wanted in and he wanted in NOW. Never mind that if I let him in, I could lose my job. Never mind that if he injured himself, the developers could have their butts on the line- no signed waiver from him, after all. Never mind that nobody, including myself was allowed on the site without a hard hat and safety boots, which he had none of. (legit visitors were given loaners from the site trailer). This guy was arrogant beyond belief, even demanding my full name, which I refused to give him, only giving him my surname and title- we are under no obligation to give our full names to anyone except law enforcement. Finally, he left in a huff, promising to make a complaint about me to my security company. Off he went, to the condo across the road. While he was doing this, I decided to go on an outside patrol, and while I was at it, I got his plate number- a good thing to have in cases where intruders are concerned. As he drove off, he flipped a gesture at me- to this day, I am unsure whether he waved or gave me the finger. Classy, huh?

As an aside, when he left, I immediately called my superiors and reported the incident, including the part where he promised to make a complaint about me. I was later told that one of the office bosses who heard of it sat by the phone for two days, waiting for that "gentleman" to call, and planning a real earful for him if he did. Something about how Mr. Yuppy-snot should consider himself lucky that I did not have him removed by the police, and that by denying him access, I was doing my job. And the building's developers also got a copy of my incident report and were pleased, even saying "He can go buy his condo elsewhere. We don't want his business, with that attitude he would only be a problem".

A big yay to bosses who actually back their employees, and a big boo, hiss to snotty customers who think that even security protocol should not apply to them!



Oh Miss Jeanne! First, I adore your site! Whenever I think there is nothing  to look at on the Internet, I go to my favorites and click on your site and I am happy-for hours! I have worked in customer service for seven years now, and every year I ask myself why I put myself through the torture! From fast food to bookstores to the supermarket, it's been crazy! But I don't think I've ever been so fed up as I am now. I just moved to the Mid-West from out East, and work as a checker in a brand new supermarket in a small town in a very rural area. The large majority of customers are wonderful-very polite and welcoming when they hear I am new to the area. But some of the customers-wow. I have people who throw money at me, don't look me in the eye through out an entire transaction, don't respond to any greetings. Despite my "open" sign and register light on, people will only come into my lane if I am standing at my register and call for them to come in the lane, keeping me from helping others bag and assisting older folks. We sell alcohol and I must card people if I think they are under the age of 30-this drives the local 21 year olds crazy. Some complain because I require them to empty their carts as opposed to me magically scanning the items from inside the cart. Others complain because I am not allowed to cash checks unless their bill is over $10. I also really enjoy the customers on cell phones who stay on their phones from getting in line to walking out the door. I have several customers who must think I absolutely have no life, for they often complain to me about how tired they are and when I commiserate with them, they look me in the eye and say "Well, I work." I can't imagine my expression to this. Do these customers think I am a robot? Do they not realize that I am at work right now? I realize that people are tired and busy and hungry and I am the only thing standing between them and the door and no one likes to part with money, but please, I'm a human being, just like you! Of course all this behavior has taught me to treat everyone, especially people in retail and food service with the utmost respect. 

But my absolute favorite customer... It was a Wednesday-Senior Discount Day-all seniors get 5% off, and being a town heavily populated with seniors, it gets really busy. And the seniors are great. No, on this day I got a woman and her 14 year old daughter. I greeted them upon entering my lane, as I do with every customer and got no response, which I am getting used to. The woman puts her purse down and says to me "Use the store card. I don't have mine." She meant her discount card for the store. I responded that unfortunately, upon moving to the brand new store we no longer have a "store card" but if she would like, she could fill out for a new card right at the register and receive three new cards. She glares at me and tells me that she doesn't need a new card, she already has one, she has forgotten it, she wants the store card. Again I apologize, and repeat myself, offering to give her a new one. She tells me that at the old store they had a "store card", and I agree and repeat what I had already said. She is furious. She cannot believe that we no longer have a store card. She no longer wants some of her groceries. She proceeds to start throwing frozen pizzas back onto the belt, telling me to take them off her bill, this is bullsh**. 

Now let me tell you that to get a card, it takes as long as it does for you to write your name address, phone number and signature on a piece of paper. After she is done throwing things at me, she tells me that she needs them back, to ring them up again. And that she can't believe that we don't have a store card, that she can't get the savings. I finally say to her" Look, I offered for you to get a new card. YOU CAN GET THE SAVINGS." She blows me off, throws her check at me and storms away with her daughter in tow. Nevermind that all the time she spent yelling and throwing pizzas could have been spent filling out for ten new cards, I couldn't help but think of what an awful example she was setting for her daughter!  



My mother worked at a supermarket, and had many stories of rude customers:   One time she was in the salad dressing aisle, and witnessed a man opening a bottle of dressing, dipping in his finger, and tasting it. He then screws the cap back on, moves down the row, and repeats this procedure with a different brand of dressing. She confronted him about how this was not only disgusting, but illegal and a health code violation. He was defensive and felt he had a perfect right to do this - how else would he know whether he liked the dressing enough to purchase it? Thank heaven for safety seals!   

A woman came in to shop with her young child. The child was fussy, so the mother opened a package of cookies and gave it to her. The child ate the cookies while the mother shopped. When the child had enough cookies, my mom saw the woman put the package back on the shelf. She went up to the woman and calmly explained that she would have to buy the cookies, and put them back in the woman's cart. My mom actually followed her through the store because the woman kept trying to sneak this open package of cookies out of her cart. She finally thought she ducked my mom at the register, only to have my mom walk up and hand the cookies to the cashier and say "She's paying for these, too."   

This isn't an etiquette violation so much as just plain weird. Mom was in the produce section, when a man accosted her and said that he knew that they (the store) painted the oranges. Of course my mom had no idea what the man was talking about, so he explained. Seems he had taken a trip to Florida, and while there he had seen many orange trees. And guess what? The oranges on those trees were *green*! Therefore, he reasoned, oranges are really green in color, and stores *paint* them orange to...I don't know, be more attractive? Match their name?    


 I was working as a manager trainee at a local McDonalds in MA around '84 or '85.  The men's room had a small stall and an adjacent large handicap stall.  We had a problem with perverts punching peepholes through the joining wall, sitting in the small stall and "peeping" at the people in the large stall (this was a common problem in a lot of public restrooms in the area at the time).  It got so bad that about every hour I would go to the men's room and if there was someone in the small stall I would go into the large stall, plug the hole securely with toilet paper, pretend to go about my "business", leave the stall and open & close the bathroom door without exiting the bathroom.  I would then go back into the large stall and if the wad of toilet paper had been pushed out of the peephole I would knock on the small stalls door, announce that I was management and demand that they leave immediately or I would call the police.  Most of the men would leave meekly, very embarrassed to have been caught but there were two notable exceptions.   

Once, a man refused to leave the stall so I told him that was his choice and the police would be on there way.  I had just left the corridor where the bathrooms were located and was heading through the children's play section (which you had to go through to get to the bathrooms) when he came running out with a jar of Vaseline and an armload of porno magazines, dropping magazines on the floor as he booked it full speed to the front door (at least he had taken the time to pull up his pants!).   

The other oddball became belligerent screaming that he had a wife and two kids (boy do I feel sorry for them if it was true!) and that he would personally see that I was fired.  He followed me to the front counter screaming and he screamed at my store manager as I explained the situation.  When he tried to step behind the counter the store manager told one of the employees to lock himself in the office and call the police so the guy finally took off.  It was crowded that day and a guy with two little children came up to me with his hand out and thanked me.  As I shook his hand all of the customers started clapping (I mean people were standing up from their meals and was the first and only time I had a personal standing ovation).   I went back to that McDonalds a little while ago and went into the men's room out of curiosity.  There is only one stall now, they converted the small stall into a locked storage area.



I worked in a drugstore as a slave-clerk for five years. One of the most stressful jobs was being the pharmacy clerk. We often had lines of twenty people since the management refused to hire extra people at about $4.00 per hour back in the late 80s, even though the prescriptions would make them about $10 to $100 a pop. Anyway, we lowly clerks did our best to help the customers as quickly as humanly possible. One frantic evening I was helping about three people at once. I was crouched down behind the counter looking in a bin for a filled prescription when a woman who was not in line said "Can you see if the prescription for [name] is ready?" I glanced at her quickly, but continued to look for the bag, and by the time I stood up she was gone. I would have told her that I was helping other people (not to mention that many other people on line were ahead of her).

Sure enough, about half an hour later the pharmacist told me that a woman called who said she had asked for help, but I "ignored her." Naturally, the store had to bend over backwards for her, letting her know on the phone exactly what her bill would be so she could come in with a check and swap it with her prescription, ignoring not only all the strict check-cashing procedures, but all of the other customers waiting civilly.

This was not the only time a b*tch just had to start screaming (often literally) so that she wouldn't have to wait. I always thought it was ironic that the least civil people were treated better than the polite ones. I guess it was easier to just smooth over those few cases. Now that so many people are uncivil, sadly policies about waiting in line are probably more strictly followed. I'm glad that was just a high school/college job.


You need more stories in this section, eh? No problem!

 I used to work for a huge chain of copy centers. Our particular store prided itself on doing everything it could to make customers happy and to have confidence in our services. If something went wrong, we went above and beyond to fix it, doing everything we could to lessen any inconvenience it could cause the customer. While we were fortunate in having many good customers who appreciated our hard work and commitment to great service, there were others who used us as a means to get revenge for the lack of control they had in the rest of their lives.

 One notable customer brought in a multi-page document that he wanted to have turned into booklets. This included copying onto nicer paper than regular copier stock, binding the booklets, and cutting them down. Everything came out perfectly and solidly on time – something he’d stressed was vitally important, and we took extra-special care to make absolutely certain that nothing went wrong. When he came in, I cheerfully fetched his order and asked him (per our usual process) to check them over to make certain they were as he’d ordered. At first, he was ecstatic. They looked just as they should. Not one flaw. He would make it to his appointment on time, the booklets looked great, and we’d found a way to save him money on the whole deal.

 And then he appeared to notice something wrong. I watched his face go from happy to angry almost immediately. I tried to see if I could spot what he was upset before he said anything, but failed. He turned the booklet around, slammed it onto the counter, and said, “What the hell is wrong with you people?” in an extremely loud voice. Since this was during one of the busiest points in the day, there were about thirty other customers who could hear his outburst. Again, I tried to spot the problem. Still didn’t see it. He shoved his finger into the booklet and bellowed, “Didn’t you people notice THAT?!?” Now the other customers were looking at the spectacle. I looked to where his finger was pointing, and realized he was indicating a typo on the front page.

 We had this practice that if a customer brought in a document and you could quickly scan it for errors, you did so and then asked them if they’d meant for something to be a particular way or not. We only did this out of the sincere desire to give our customers the best experience at our store. This definitely wasn’t an official or posted policy – it was simply something we tried to do when possible. It was the responsibility of our customers to make certain the content of their documents was correct. Since the typo was in the business name, part of a specialty font that looked like a logo, it had probably completely escaped anyone’s attention that it could be anything other than how he’d intended it. Either way, it wasn’t something we could be held responsible for.

 Rather than outlining all of that (and possibly giving him the wrong idea about official policies), I stated very apologetically that we had to assume that documents looked as our customers intended when submitting them for an order, and that it wasn’t something we had the ability to fix. I then told him that we could re-copy his cover sheets and un-bind and re-bind the booklets, and would do it in an expedited fashion. He asked how much it would cost, so I figured it up, checked with the manager about any discounts that could apply (none – sadly, for the customer; appropriately, for us), and let him know what the extra costs would be. While I was checking, he’d been pacing, flipping through one of the booklets, and occasionally slapping his hand onto the counter. When I stated the price, he became obviously more agitated – turning red, almost trembling with tension – and asked what I meant when I said “expedited”. I checked with the folks that would be responsible for doing the work, checked our job backlog, and told him a time that was about a quarter of when something like that would normally take.

 That did it. With all of the other customers already watching the show he was putting on, he grabbed one of the booklets and tossed it at me. It missed, going over my shoulder (oh, goodness, sometimes being short is a blessing!). He shouted, “You people are going to ruin me! Do you understand how important this is? I can’t believe you didn’t fix this!” Despite the stretch of logic in thinking that we had any responsibility to be his proofreaders or that we would just willy-nilly correct what looked like a business logo, he was adamant that this was our fault. My manager came out to the counter and tried to calm him down. One of the best managers ever, he repeated to the customer precisely what I’d offered him, and told him that he needed to calm down. The man grabbed a bottle of correction fluid from the countertop and flung it – again, at me. This time, he didn’t miss. Unfortunately, it hadn’t been tightened before it had been set down. My uniform and face were spattered with the gooey, chemical-smelling white stuff. I looked at the man in shock.

 He started shouting again, but now I couldn’t really focus on his words. I was stunned that an adult in a professional setting had just done something so childish. My manager stepped in front of me and told me I could go to the backroom and take a break. The man continued shouting. Finally, my manager told him that he had two choices – he could pay for his order, take the box, and leave OR he could take his originals and just walk out. Either way, he needed to be out of the store as soon as possible or the police would be called. He was also told that he wasn’t allowed back in the store at any point in time, so he’d better be certain about the option he chose.

 The customer grabbed the bag with his original document, shoved the box with the booklets into my manager’s midriff, and stalked out of the store. As soon as the man walked out the door, the manager called shopping center security to detain him outside the store and call the police. They did both very quickly, including coming in and getting facts from me and the manager. We then watched (while helping the customers that had suffered during his outburst) as he was apparently ticketed for his bad behavior. Security came back in and said he’d been banned from the shopping center as a whole.

 All of the customers still in the store that had witnessed the scene applauded.



I work as a cashier for a large warehouse-style company.  To shop at our store, you must pay for a membership, and in order for me to ring up your purchases, I need to scan your card.  In addition to regular shopping carts- which are about twice the size of a normal shopping cart, we have flatbeds a member can use instead.

One day, we were very busy (10+ registers open, lines 6-7 people deep) and all of the cashiers were working as fast as we could.  I had just gotten off my lunch, and I was going to take over for another cashier.  When I arrived at her register, she was helping a member with a flatbed.  Flatbeds are large, flat carts about 2 feet by 5 feet with a handle at one end to pull them around the store.  You can get a LOT of stuff on a flatbed, so they take awhile to ring through.  So the other cashier finished with this flatbed, and we switched and she left for her break.   I was ringing up peoples purchases rather quickly (spending 2-3 minutes ringing up purchases and packing a full cart is about average) and a couple members later I scanned one guys card and there was a problem.  If a person hasn't renewed, or lost their card, or any number of things happen, a little screen pops up and I can't ring anything.  So I flipped on my light to call over one of my supervisors.  Meanwhile, the member is telling me to ring up his stuff, which he neglected to remove from his cart and place on the belt, he just expected me to scan it in his cart.  I told him, very politely, that I was unable to ring his purchases up just yet because there was a problem with the card, but I had called someone over and we would figure out the problem in just a little bit.  He insisted that I ring up his purchases.  I tried scanning the card again and it worked this time.  No idea why, it shouldn't have because of the problem that had come up before, but it did.  Whatever.  So I flipped off my light and started scanning.  The member then began berating me for

1) not being fast enough- he had waited in line for 10 minutes only to be delayed by me --- not my fault- lines were long, he was behind a flatbed, and I had just gotten there

2) the problem with his card- like its my fault you wrote a bad check

3) not being able to read my register and unable to do my job---- I've worked at my job for over a year and have people who look for me every time they come into the club because I'm polite and do my job well and quickly

At this point, I was very upset and wanted one of my supervisors there so I could possibly explain what was going on.  I flipped on my light so one would come to my register.  I then, as politely as I could, and trying to speak clearly as my eyes were filled with tears and I was choked up, "Sir, there is no reason for you to be this rude to me.  Please do not ever come through my line again."

His reply?  "Damn right!  You're too stupid to read your own computer!"  He then threw down his money, accidentally gave me an extra dollar which he then ripped- yes ripped- out of my hand, grabbed his card and receipt and walked off.  It took everything I had to not start bawling in front of everyone.  My supervisor came over just then, and I barely got the story out I was trying so hard not to cry.  He went over to see if he could find the member and either revoke his membership, or at least put in a comment that the member was very rude so we would have a record of it. 

My next members were very nice and sympathetic, asking me what his problem was and just being very nice in general, since I was still barely able to talk and could barely see since my eyes were filled with tears.  That is the first and only time I have ever  cried at work and if that man ever comes through my line again I'm going to call one of my supervisors over to observe the entire time in case he's mean again.  


 I went down to a local grocery store ar\fter work one evening to buy a few groceries. Because it was a weeknight shortly after rush hour, the checkout lines were enormous. All but three of the registers were open, and there was an average of about ten people in line at each one. I parked myself in a line, and waited for about five minutes before I got to the front of the line. Just before it was my turn, the cashier asked the guy behind me to put the "line closed" sign up for her, despite the fact that there were about two people in line behind him. She explained that her shift ended in four minutes which would give her time to do me and the guy behind me, no one had come to replace her, and she wasn't paid overtime. She also tried to get the attention of the cashier next to her to see if someone was coming to replace her, but he was too busy with his line to hear her. About two minutes later, when she was just partway through my groceries, the lady at the back of the line suddenly pushed her way forward and started telling off the cashier. "I've been waiting in line already for five minutes already," she all but shouted, "and all the other lines are like seven people long! What do you MEAN you're closing up?!" The cashier stated again that her shift was ending, and that she wasn't paid overtime. The lady (I use this term loosely) said she didn't care. She'd been waiting for FIVE MINUTES already, and all the other lines are huge.  How DARE the cashier close the line now!  She suggested that the cashier get her supervisor RIGHT NOW, because she wanted to log a formal complaint against her.   The cashier kept repeating, "I'm sorry, but my shift is ending, and I am not paid overtime.  This isn't my fault."   To which the lady replied, "Damn STRAIGHT it's your fault! Do you realize how long the lineups are here? Get your supervisor RIGHT NOW. I've been waiting in line for..." and so forth.  

She kept complaining and yelling at the cashier until the supervisor finally showed up, then turned her vitriol on him.  It took a while for me to find my jaw on the floor and put it back in place after that exchange. I mean, this cashier makes something close to minimum wage, and stores won't even let you work once your shift is ended if you're not paid overtime.  This means that this lady was basically asking the cashier to *donate* her time, against the rules of her contract, so that the lady could get home ten minutes sooner. If you're going to ask for a gift like that, the least you can do is be civil about it.  And finally, if you're going to effectively complain to someone, how about talking to the person in charge (like maybe the supervisor?) as opposed to taking it out on the person at the bottom of the pole?   I was so ready to tell that woman off, but was afraid of making the situation worse (and the wait in the line up longer).  Thanks for maintaining a wonderful site, Jeanne!   



This happened at that slice of Americana known as "Wal-Mart". Apparently, this lady, and I use the term loosely, felt that it was perfectly reasonable for her to choose the moment of checkout to place a cell phone call regarding the merchandise before her. It was then that she began to debate the matter with the person at the other end of the phone. I watched as she picked up approximately one dozen boxes of band aids and read the labels into the phone, making verbal notes as she went along. 15 to 20 minutes later, she realized that she had none of the correct merchandise, at which point she asked the clerk to hold the register for her while she continued to shop. Mind you, on a busy Saturday afternoon, with the registers packed, this woman expected to reserve her own personal express line. The sales associate, of course, informed the woman that she would have to simply get back into line, and I might add, was extremely polite about it, which I found remarkable considering the circumstances. The lady seemed a little miffed, but she backed off quietly. The real kicker for me was that as she left the register, the woman turned to me, directly behind her, and flashed a smile. "Sorry", she said, as if that excused all.

I wanted to explain to her that she was not sorry at all, or she wouldn't have done it. Instead I said "Don't be sorry. Just don't do it again." She gave me the oddest look.


 I was working a late Saturday night shift at Walgreen's when a young scruffy guy came in, put a credit card on the counter and asked for ten cartons of Marlboro cigarettes.  I picked up the card, said no problem and started dialing the phone.  He asked me what I was doing and I didn't even finish saying I was calling the credit card company before he ran out the front door.  The company said the card had been reported as stolen, had already been replaced and could I destroy it for them.



My parents were friends...acquaintances...with another couple with whom they used to play tennis. I never understood why they hung out with these people, as they were obnoxious, racist, classless morons who thought they were God's gift to the suburbs. One night, they told my parents about how they got a gift certificate for $100.00 to a fancy restaurant as a gift. They spent the entire thing on drinks, dinner, appetizers and finally dessert, getting as close to a hundred without going over as they could (I think the bill wound up at like $98.50 or something).

My Dad said, "Not bad, a $100.00 dinner for $20.00." They asked him what he meant. He said, "Well, all it cost you was the tip, which would have been $15 or $20." They said, "No, we didn't leave a tip. You only leave a tip when you're the one who's paying. It's a gift certificate, it's supposed to be free."

My Dad said he was never so close to throwing people out of our house as that night. Luckily they drifted apart after that. What completely repugnant people.



I used to work at a print shop. Generally, when someone ordered a job they would look at a proof before we printed it so they could make any needed corrections or changes. One day a woman came in and ordered some flyers for her company, but she said she didn't have time to proof the job so we were to just go ahead and print it. She wrote out the copy right in front of me. Since she was a brand new customer she had to pay cash in advance as per company policy.

So we printed the flyers, and she and her husband came to pick them up. About ten minutes later they came roaring back in, very upset because there was a wrong phone number on the flyers. They were demanding that either we refund them their money or reprint the flyers for free. This is normally what we would have done if it had been our error, however I went and checked the copy they had supplied first before making any promises.

I brought their copy and showed it to them - the lady had put the wrong phone number on the copy so it wasn't our fault. They were still adamant that they wanted a refund, so I went and got the print shop manager. They started yelling at both of us, saying that we should have looked in the phone book and verified the number. The manager tried to reason with them, pointing out that most people can be expected to know what their own phone number is, so we shouldn't have to check in the phone book for each job.

I have to admit I felt a bit sorry for the woman because her husband kept shooting her dirty looks and he looked like the type who might be abusive. That might explain what she blurted out next: "Well, I didn't write that. That girl must have written it," while pointing at me. My manager paused and tactfully said, "Well, um, I've been working with her for three years now and I know what her handwriting looks like, and I don't see any reason why she would write some random phone number on a customer's copy. So there will be no refund or free reprinting."

The couple left, still yelling at us, telling us to expect a call from their lawyer. We never heard from them or their lawyer again.



While I was in college, one job I had was in a Video Store.    Anyone who has worked on the other side of a counter naturally has many customer stories, good and bad, but the following still sticks out nearly eight years later.  One holiday (I believe it was the fourth of July), the management had expected the store to be quite busy, but as it ended up, we weren't quite so much.  This would not be important, except that two employees had been scheduled just to shelve returns - with less to do than expected, they shelved videos as soon as they were returned.  

That day, a couple, I'll call them "Mr. and Mrs. Furlough," walk in.  In advance, I'll tell you that they had signed up for the first time the day before, and rented two videos, Movie X, a new release due the next day, and Movie Y, an older title that could stay out several days.  Please bear in mind that I don't have this knowledge at the time.  Mr. Furlough handed a video to one of us, it was checked in (with a scanner, so no need to read the title) and one of the "shelver guys" took it out on the floor along with a couple of others that were brought in at the same time.  The Furloughs were back in a few minutes with another movie, and I got the pleasure of checking them out.  I brought up their account and noticed there was still one movie out.  As we were trained to, I politely asked "and you still have movie X out, due today?"  "No!" Mr. Furlough snapped, "I just returned that!"  Thinking that the scanner might not have read properly, I went out to the shelf and checked for it.   It was not there.  I told him it didn't seem to be on the shelf, and asked him if possibly he had a second movie out?  Yes, he said.  Could he have returned that one instead?  Having worked there some time, I know that it's very easy to get a new video in the old video's case, and vice versa, returning the wrong one by mistake.  Absolutely not! was the answer.  He and his wife hadn't even looked at that other movie yet, taken it out of the case, or anything. It isn't due until tomorrow.  And he's not leaving until we give him a receipt that he returned Movie X and no other (he's nearly shouting at this point).  

Besides shouting at me, he's also attempting to yell at the 17 year old who was assigned to shelve - it seemed he saw the young man shelve his video and others immediately upon return, and apparently thought this was strange.  Yes Sir, efficient workers are terrible ...At this point, I check his account history, and see the record of Movie Y, which he had checked out at the same time as Movie X.  I check Movie Ys record - and guess what?  It's in.  And it was returned just 5 minutes previously.  I told him he must have returned the wrong video by accident and was rewarded with him yelling once again that he couldn't have, and suggestions that all of us video store workers were involved in theft.  As he's saying this, one of my coworkers returns with Movie Y in hand, which he had pulled off the shelf.  As we only have one copy of this older video I explain to him that he must have returned it by accident.  Lo and behold, this finally makes him stop yelling.  I tell him that since it was an honest mistake I'll recheck it out to him at no fee.  He takes it, apparently calm now, and he and the wife leave.  Just leave.  No apology.  No thank you.  They're back about half an hour later, with the movie they meant to return.  He puts it down on the counter and contemptuously informs me that this was their first time renting videos - and the last.  It's just too much trouble.    If you hadn't seen the scene he had put on previously, you'd never have known it was entirely his mistake. 


 I am a part time server at a casual dining chain restaurant.  On a daily occurrence, we servers deal with absolutely rude and obnoxious customers that check their common courtesy at the door! I could go on for days about various instances I have had with customers but this woman takes the cake.  

To preface the story, it was the weekend after the East Coast Blackout of August 2003, where our town was still on a “boil water” alert  and most businesses chose to stay closed that Friday.  My restaurant chose to open for Friday night but under the knowledge that things would have to be done differently -  from buying bagged ice, washing the dishes 2 times, selling bottled water, etc. It was Friday night at the height of the dinner rush and I was sat with a middle aged couple decked out in classy outfits including the woman’s sun hat with the leopard accent scarp wrapped around it!  I greeted the couple and the woman ordered a bottled beer and the husband ordered a draft beer.  I had a fellow server run the drinks from the bar to the couple while I stopped at a neighboring table to take another customer’s order.  

I was in the middle of taking the other customer’s orders when a wadded-up napkin hit me square in the side of the head.  I look around stunned, only to see the woman in the sun hat holding here bottle of beer out over the aisle while she yelled “ Hey! Where’s my f*#!%king mug!”  One customer at the table I was standing at muttered something about if there  really was a  need to throw something at me while I walked away shocked at the rudeness( and technically- assault)  I had just experienced.  I went and told a manager and had another server deliver her a mug for her bottled beer (which she had not mentioned at the start) That server- Bob* - took over waiting on them at this time while I explained what happened to the manager.  Bob, not afraid to give a customer a run for their money, greeted the couple and said “ I’m bob and I will NOW be your new server. “ The woman with the sun hat looked up, and with a smirk said “Aww…she gave up on us so soon??  And I was going to whip my beer at her…….”  Bob looked the woman in the eye and said point blankly “You already had your chance with her but you will not be throwing ANYTHING at me!!”  

The husband finally then spoke up and said angrily that their dinner would be completely ruined if they stayed so they were going to HAVE to go next door to the steakhouse.  Bob spoke up with “I think it would be in everyone’s best interest if you did!”   The couple was getting up to leave when my manager approached them and asked them what we (the restaurant) could do to please them and make everything better!!! When I heard that my manager not only did not defend me by kicking this couple out for throwing something at me and swearing at me, but that she actually apologized to them and asked them what we could do for them, I was outraged!!! I don’t know who was worse – the sun hat lady or my manager!  Payback followed though since, again, we were the ONLY restaurant open within 5 mile radius!!!


Just a quickie...   When I was about fifteen years old I was working part time in a grocery store. I was a little overweight, and as you can imagine, very sensitive about it. One day, there was a huge queue, and I noticed a woman about third or fourth in line who was wearing one of those "Lose weight now --ask me how" badges on her shirt. I read her badge but didn't think anything of it until I served her and she thanked me, handed me a brochure and then said, "And this is for you to read later" and walked away. At the time because the store was so busy I didn't look at the brochure until all the customers had gone. Lo and behold it was a brochure for a weight loss business she was running.

It sounds minor, but I couldn't believe that someone had the nerve to do something like that!! I guess she thought that she was being helpful to me and would possibly gain another customer. All I remember is feeling extremely hurt and embarrassed and even more self-conscious than I already was!  


 Hello!  Great site!   This was about three weeks ago.  There is a nationally known chain of ladies wear that I like.  One reason I really like them is because there is actually sales help,  and it's even pleasant!  This particular breach of etiquette I found particularly offensive because the saleslady who always helps me is very sweet, we enjoy chatting and we have come to address each other with first names.  (This is not to say that she forgets about other customers that need attention.)  She is very good at her job.  I will call her Riva.    

There was an item that had been incorrectly placed, that is, put on a rack of lower-priced items, even though it was supposed to cost more.  A couple took this item to Riva and told her that they should get it for the priced indicated on the sign.  The husband loudly said at least twice, "It's the law!".  *I* was offended by this because this is, for me anyway, a pleasant environment and he was disturbing that.  More importantly, Riva did NOT deserve this abuse.    She let the manager handle the problem. I don't think they got any satisfaction because they were grumbling as they left the store.  Why is it so difficult for some people just to be polite?   


This is for your Business Hell/Customers section:

I am a family doctor in a large (27 doctors) all-family-practice clinic. One day in April a woman called at 9:30 AM requesting to be seen for a headache. She was given an appointment with me at 11:40 AM. She arrived on time, and the 11:50 patient also arrived at the same time. He was so short of breath he could not talk, and was turning blue. The receptionists called my assistant and he was taken to a room immediately. I took one look at him and gave orders to start oxygen, give nitroglycerin, start an IV, get an EKG, etc. My assistant and another assistant began these tasks. I went to the nurse's desk to call the paramedics to transport him to the hospital, 4 blocks away. I picked up the phone and instead of a dial tone, the front desk was on the line, the phone had not had time to ring. They said the lady with the 11:40 appointment was upset and wanted to know how long she would have to wait. I said "We are dealing with an emergency, she'll have to wait a few more minutes". I hung up, called the aid car, the paramedics arrived and loaded the patient onto a gurney. My assistant was busy putting away the EKG machine, cleaning up the room, etc. so I went out and got the woman with the 11:40 appointment. It was now 11:55. It turned out the headache she had had been in December, FOUR MONTHS prior to her appointment. A friend had told her that "she might have a brain tumor" and she was very worried about it and wanted an MRI that morning!

Then she started loudly griping about having to wait so long, and was particularly mad that the patient who had the appointment after her was taken first. I tossed her chart onto the counter and recapitulated for her: "You called at 9:30 AM and were given an appointment for the same morning. The patient taken ahead of you was taken first because he was DYING. You waited a grand total of 15 minutes, and were personally taken back by a physician. You're not happy. I want to know what clinic you are used to going to that does better than this, because I want to sign up there as a patient myself!!"


 Several years ago when I was in college, I worked as a clerk in the stationary department of a well know southern chain. As part of our service we offered free embossing on Christmas cards. I had one woman inquire about the service and depart only to return with several boxes of cards that she had purchased form the local discount store. When I explained that the offer was only good for cards purchased from our store, she became irate and demanded to speak to the store manager. Fortunately, both he and my department manager stood behind me.



As Assistant Manager in our small office, it is my job to provide customer service to our clients, collect payments, and provide basic bookkeeping for the office on the days I work.

We have a beautiful little office with lots of flowers and soft, soothing music.  We provide hot coffee, cold water, and a sympathetic ear to our clientele, treating them like we would want to be treated...with friendly courtesy.  This method of doing business has worked for years, developing customer loyalty and has made us one of the most successful businesses of our kind in the area.

Most of our customers tell us their life story, or at least their version of it.  But there are times when we will make idle conversation, trying to show an interest and draw our clients out, listening while they talk, and gradually getting to know them.  We have one client who seems to be particularly shy, and I made a concerted effort to make him feel at ease, asking about his family, employment, etc.

In October, this client (the contract holder) came in with his wife, and she proceeded to spend the next 30 minutes telling me everything I had ever done that was, in her opinion, inappropriate.  Now keep in mind that this woman is not a contract holder, and we have no obligation to give her the time of day.

To start with, last December she came in by herself to complete a transaction on behalf of her husband, and when she was ready to leave I told her to have a Happy Holiday, then sent a "personal message" to her husband with her.  The personal message was "and tell ** to have a Merry Christmas".  She had polled her entire family, all of her neighbors, and her friends, and all had agreed with her it wasn't appropriate for me to send a holiday greeting specifically to her husband, who is the contract holder, and technically "the customer". 

Now "You have a Happy Holiday, and tell ** to have a Merry Christmas" is such a mundane comment that I don't even remember it...but I smiled and apologized for "saying something in a manner that could be misconstrued"...about a dozen times. 

She wasn't going to let up.  The next item was that I had ask our client where he worked (I remember this conversation...he came in with $120.00 in one dollar bills that I had to count three times, so I commented that it was unusual to receive payments all in ones, inquiring where he worked that he would be paying in one dollar bills.  If I was really interested I could have looked on his contract for the information.),  later he came in wearing a uniform...and I commented on that too (OHMYGOD). 

She went on to tell me that she hadn't believed in divorce 30 years ago, but if he wanted his freedom, he could leave anytime he wanted, but the house was hers and he would have to be the one left homeless.  She then called her husband on the carpet, making him say "Sweetie, you are the only woman I'm interested in."  The poor man was red from his collar to the top of his balding head, and it was easy to see he was humiliated by the whole confrontation.

She then inferred that she would take her business elsewhere by saying she "Didn't want to have to take her business elsewhere."

At this point I quit smiling and apologizing.  I then proceeded to lose my cool.   I explained that I no longer found her amusing, pointing out that I had apologized several times for her stupidity.  It is one thing to come in upset because she is insecure and making mountains out of molehills (I've never even stood on the same side of the counter as her husband.), but I'm not required to stand here and listen to her accuse me of having an affair with her husband.  I not only wasn't interested in her husband, I wouldn't have him on a silver platter.  If he was such a mouse that he would allow her to embarrass him in public like she just did, no self respecting woman would want him! 

She interrupted to say "I didn't point any fingers!"  and I informed her that her inference was so thick you could spread it on bread!  I didn't have to listen to her accusations, I told her the days I work, and invited her to make sure her next visit was not on a day I was working.  I then told her to get the hell out of my office!

I called my managers and the business owner to report the confrontation, and both of them laughed at the situation (they know me pretty well, and know I'm not the type to flirt with anyone).  The managers said they would terminate the clients contract if she created any further problems, and the owner concurred. 



Hello Miss Jeanne! I have been a huge fan of this site for a couple a years and always look forward to the next update, this is a fabulous site. Anywho's, seeing that you have a new category for "customers" I immediately perked up. Here's my story, forgive me if it's long. 

I just recently left a job working as a cashier in a very snooty upper-class grocery store here in Toronto. Being there for 2 years I have accumulated a LOT of experience with customers who believe they can be as rude as they want and not be held accountable, because as you know, the customer is always right. This takes a toll on anyone and I can tell you my faith in people took a real hit after getting this job. But I digress, so I will go on with my story. About 2 months ago a lady (I use that term loosely though) came up to the cash and put her groceries on the counter that my co-worker and friend "Amelia" was working at. One of the items was a single plum that Amelia put on the scale to be weighed. It came to about 70 cents, which isn't bad considering plums weren't even in season. But the "lady" thought she was being ripped off by her so she the audacity to accuse Amelia that she put her hand on the scale and jacked up the price as a result. She yelled at her to re-weigh it. (side note: I was with a customer right beside and she was just as shocked and appalled as I was, it was late so luckily there weren't many people to witness this scene.) It came back as 70 cents and instead of apologizing for the accusation she defended herself by saying she was trying to protect her own money and she has a right to question, which I agree with, but you don't out-right accuse someone of trying to rip you off. 

Amelia didn't say anything, just trying to avoid making the situation any worse. But the lady wouldn't stop going on about how rudely she was being treated. This was when I started chuckling a little bit, not only do I laugh when I get nervous but this person was really making as a$$ out of herself. At the end of the transaction, Amelia said, "Have a good night", and they lady said, "You're welcome." "You're welcome"?, Amelia repeated confused, to which lady said, "No, you're welcome! You should be thanking me! You're lucky you even have a job here!" Amelia's jaw dropped and I started laughing in complete shock. She gave me such a dirty look but at that point I really didn't care. She started ranting about how she was going to start going to another high-end grocery store just up the street instead, muttering insults about our store. I could understand her being angry at me as I was laughing at her, but she had no right to go off on Amelia(who by the way has the patience of a saint). We told the manager about her immediately afterwards. He had a good laugh, he knew exactly who we were talking about as such things have happened before with the same person. I quit shortly after, needless to say this wasn't the first time I had seen things like this, and if I stayed it wasn't going to be the last.


Page Last Updated May 18, 2007