On Customer behavior.

Don’t you dare be an apologist :slight_smile: . Nothing excuses violence or near-violent aggression. Such people should, at the least, be removed by security. Such people are exhibiting sociopathic behavior, and should be treated as sociopaths.

Oh Brother…


No, you said:

Pretty clearly suggesting that I have a habit of closing the door on people. I just pointed out that I didn’t.


Wrongo. I said:

There’s no mention of numbers here fella. I didn’t say MANY times before. Or MULTIPLE times before or even TWO times before.

If you got an impression, it was because you were projecting it.


Sorry fella - I don’t think so.

You said:

Well, this proves that YOU’VE never yelled at a representative.

I said:

Well you are. Just because you’ve never yelled at a representative you assume that it doesn’t happen very much. Dude, you have an N of 1, the 1 being yourself. You’ll understand if I hold any conclusions of yours on this subject in dubious regard.

Well, as part of the group, I guess I’m aloud to respond. :slight_smile:

I didn’t inject myself into anything. You posted your opinion on the subject, consisting of this:

if I’m not mistaken.

So I responded that:

Merely pointing out that you may not have a complete picture of the issue on which to base your opinion, and perhaps my opinions would be of interest to you as I clearly have more retail experience than you, seeing as you have none. You know, an attempt at rounding out the discussion here guy.

At which point you started with your “debate”.

I am NOT the highest ranking representative. I am the lowest rung on the totem pole. If you have a problem, you ask to speak to a manager-you do NOT demand things from me. I am the lowest peon there-and I do not have the authority to do those things. If I did, I would LOSE MY JOB.

Businesses are there to make money. Just as you are welcome to take your business elsewhere, we are welcome to tell you to do so. It’s a give and take.

And yes, we get yelling on a daily basis. Try:
www.customerssuck.com if you don’t believe me.

You know, a lot of the customer attitude, and even the bickering and yelling, I think, is caused by the petulant “I’m a peon, I couldn’t care less” attitude that many low-rung employees display. So you’re the lowest person on the totem pole, that doesn’t excuse being disinterested and acting as though nothing matters to you.

“I need to make this return, but I don’t have my receipt. I looked everywhere for it, but I must’ve lost it. Can you help me?”

There are a variety of responses. Guess which one won’t prompt an argument from the customer.

a.) “We don’t take returns without a receipt. Next!”
b.) “I can’t help you, but a manager can.”
c.) “I can’t do that.”
d.) “You need a manager to do a return without a receipt.”
e.) “I’ll need a manager’s approval for this return. If you can wait just a few minutes, I’ll call him and get him to come up and help. (Picks up intercom) Manager, please come to the front.”

All too often, when presenting a problem to a cashier or customer service person, I get a response like a, b, c or d, putting the onus back on me. Why should I have to ask to see a manager, then? It seems to me that proper customer service would dictate that if a customer needs something that you are not empowered to offer, or has a problem that is beyond your ability to fix, then you go and find or call the person who can help the customer or has the power to tell the customer to go away if their demand is wholly unreasonable.

A response like a, b, c or d is already going to irritate me. It’s even worse when it’s presented rudely, with rolled eyes or heavy sighs or an unwillingness to even look at me while speaking. Then I am going to cop an attitude, if only because I’m human, and I tend to respond with a bad attitude with a bad attitude of my own.

To me, it’s all about respect. When I give it, I expect to get it in return. It’s a two-way street. When I’m the only car on the street, I get angry, especially when I’m being disrespected by someone who then expects that I’m going to give them (or the entity which they represent) my money. Like it or not, even if you are the lowest rung on the ladder, you still represent that company whenever you are on the selling floor. You make a bad impression, it’s a bad reflection on you, but moreso your employer. If your managers have any sense, they’re not going to allow that to happen on a regular basis.

From reading this thread, it’s fairly clear who has and who hasn’t worked in the service industry. I’ve always been one of the “I don’t know, but I’ll see what I can find out,” variety of clerk/waitress/receptionist, but that often isn’t good enough for folks. There are some people who just aren’t happy regardless of what you do. I’ve had people cuss me out and demand to speak to a manager for bringing them exactly what they ordered. I’ve had people tell flat-out, blatant lies about me. After dealing with that kind of crap, you start to get a not-so-great attitude if you stay in the game very long.

I think most jerky customers act the way they do because they’re on a power trip. The whole “oooh, I’m the customer, I have the power, they want my money so they have to make me happy” thing.

Incidentally, it is NEVER okay to go ballistic, IMHO. No matter how screwed over you have been, keeping your cool is going to get you a whole lot further than throwing a temper tantrum. By all means, write letters to management, refuse to pay until they make the problem right, but you don’t have to make a big production out of it.

I can see being very upset if you missed a plane or something, but some of the things customers pitch a fit over are so petty! Does it really matter if they put pickles on your cheeseburger when you asked them not to? Is the universe going to explode if you have to pick them off and deal with it? Do you have to hold up a huge line of other customers until they make it right? It’s a freaking $2.00 hamburger for Pete’s sake! Do you really want to take the chance of getting someone fired just because you didn’t get what you want for once in your life?!

When I worked fast food the customers who were sweet when we made a mistake on their order ALWAYS got extra stuff thrown in. The ones who acted like a baby didn’t.

PS: Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world where customers went out of their way to tell higher-ups when they received good service? Seems like most customers will only speak up when something bad has happened.

Another thing while we’re on the subject:

For those of you who worked in the service industry … after a while, did you start coming up with your own little demographics?

As in, did you have a “typical” bad customer? A type of person who was most likely to give you trouble (like, say, old men or something), and a type that was least likely to show their ass?

I did. But I wanna hear yours first.

OK, this is my pet peeve. When I place an order at a restaurant (fast food or otherwise), I’m asking to buy a specific product, and I’m being charged for that particular product. If they give me something else, they’ve broken their end of the deal and it’s their job to fix it.

Now I realize that accidents happen, and I’m always polite when I go back up to the counter. But I chose that restaurant and that order because it’s exactly what I wanted, I paid for it, and I expect to get it. If they screw up once, I’ll ask them to fix it. If they screw up every time I go there, I’ll start spending my money someplace where the employees pay attention.

And rude looks from other customers or members of my party are uncalled for. If you went into Nordstrom and asked for a size 8 shirt, and they sold you a size 10, you wouldn’t “just deal with it”; you’d expect them to fix their mistake. Why is it different just because you’re only spending $5 on fast food?

In the pharmacy where I worked, many years ago there was a sign, visible only from behind the counter.

The customer is usually wrong.

We didn’t hire you to tell him about it.

The only behavior of customers that matters to business is the one where they give you money. Your behavior that matters is where you do things that make them want to give you money. Simple, huh?


“When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.” ~ Eric Hoffer ~


While I’m certainly not saying that all service employees provide excellent service at all times, customers are often far worse ( and I haven’t worked in a service industry in over 15 years.) While a reasonable person will be satisfied with being asked to wait for a manager to return something without a receipt, that’s not even necessary in the bigger stores (although they only refund or credit the lowest selling price in the last 30 days or so) and usually isn’t where the problems come from. The problems come from the people who are told that the establishment will not do what they have no reason to expect it to do. The following examples are things I’ve seen as a customer- I wasn’t even in retail.

  • a customer going ballistic because the store won’t accept an obviously used toilet seat for return (I leave it to your imagination as to why it was obvious)

  • customers screaming because a store won’t reopen for “just one thing, after all you’re still in there”

-customers going nuts because the store won’t give a refund on an item they don’t even sell.

-customers threatening employees (including managers) for not giving a partial refund on something that went on sale because they bought it last month.

-or in the case of the return without receipt, customers getting mad that they get the lower price refunded when they paid more.
I don’t think Pencil Pusher’s wifes response:

would be seen as ballistic or unreasonable by most people in the service industry. But people yelling and screaming on a daily basis? Yes, I can believe it, because I encountered it when I worked in fast food, always regarding the same two policies

  • we were only allowed to give forks for certain items.We had a salad bar, and when we gave forks freely, a large number of people didn’t pay for the salad bar and made a salad on the burger wrapper. After we stopped giving them freely, if a manager gave in to a screaming customer who claimed he needed a fork for his fries, invariably that person went to the salad bar.There might have been people who really wanted them for their fries, but they didn’t cause a scene.

-if someone wanted a cup of hot water, we had to charge them for a cup of tea. People would want a cup of hot water for free, want lemon or milk and sugar, and brought their own teabag.

I saw someone getting loud about one of these virtually every day I worked, along with people who weren’t satisfied if you simply fixed the mistake in their order. They also had to scream to be satisfied.
My employer’s position was " Customers like that I don’t need" And he was right. No one needs customers who are going to cost them money or other customers (because, believe me, if I saw that store take the toilet seat back, I’d have never shopped there again)

For the record I don’t think Pencil’s wife went “ballistic” either. She apparently demanded that they fix the problem but I imagine that she did it in a dignified way.

Shop from home a lot, avoiding retail establishments?

Your story from the airport is clearly an example of poor customer relations, however:

I have stood at the front of a store filled with 85 - 110 people and politely tried to explain without ever raising my voice that I had, indeed, refunded the customer his money: he had purchased the merchandise with a Mastercard and I had issued a Mastercard credit. Both the store and the card-issuing bank had policies prohibiting the refunding of cash for a charge sale–as was printed on the receipt I used to calculate the amount of his refund. He went on at the top of his lungs for over five minutes about how I was stealing his money and he was demanding a cash refund.
I have stood at the front of the same store (this time with only 20 people present) while a woman screamed at me that I had ruined her whole Christmas (five days earlier) by selling her a diseased Poinsettia (it had clearly been overwatered) and when I offered to exchange the plant (despite the fact that she did not have a receipt) she demanded that I give her the cash for the plant, then quoted a price for the next larger size pot.

I only suffered through retail for around four years, but I have several similar stories.

Then there is my in-law who always sends back at least one dish at every meal at every restaurant (and the story in the family is that her parents each do the exact same thing).

Having been in retail, I know generally what can or cannot be done for a customer and I judge the staff on their proficiency. However, the notion that the customer is always right is simple bullshit. The customer is owed courtesy and professional service, no less, but no more. Lots of customers are jerks, many are thieves, and abusive behavior is one method that each group uses to gain their ends.

“Excuuuuse me. I specifically asked for sour cream on the SIDE. This is NOT acceptable. Take it away.”

What a jerk. I totally agree with everyone who says it doesn’t matter how much the meal cost, such behavior is uncalled for. Even if the customer was correct, there is no need to be an unreasonable and petulant creature about it.

“I demand that you double my coupons, and I don’t care that the big sign above the register says ‘Coupons over $2.00 in value will not be doubled’.”

No excuse for this one too. The customers in line probably want to slap this person just as much as the employees.

“WHAT? Don’t you tell me I’m being rude. I simply asked why I need to give you 24 hours notice when I see that my item is right there. I wasn’t being rude, I was asking you a damned question. I was asking because I’m the only person in the shop, and if you need to fill out some paperwork, I’ll wait.”

Well, here we probably start to disagree. When the business representative stops treating customers with courtesy and professional service, indignance is right around the corner.
NO. You are the sixth person I’ve been transferred to. Each time I’ve been put on hold for another half an hour. I’ve been on the phone for three hours now. I will not let you tranfer me to another department. I want your name and then I want to talk to your damned manager.”

Once again, I can understand this customer. They no longer care that the representative is a lowly peon. They have been (repeatedly) wronged, and are speaking to the legal representative of the party who has wronged them. No, its probaly not productive. However, there is a point where you simply start to loose it.

Oh, how untrue this often is. I worked as a retail employee and manager for years. While the sales manager of a (huge chain type) Sporting Goods store I was the person called in to deal with abusive customers (being a 6’2", 200# former Marine they were often surprisingly less abusive towards me, he he). I know exactly the kind of jerk-offs ans theives some customers can be, but…

My wife is a very sweet and polite customer (because she has also worked retail herself). She hates to be loud, and as a result, people give her terrible service (when there’s a problem she needs fixed.) She had to go back to a car dealership FIVE TIMES to get the new fancy “anti-theft” key programmed so it would start our new car (we had 2 sets, one worked, one didn’t). They STILL didn’t fix it. FIVE TIMES!!!

I went once and was an abusive asshole. I got it fixed in 10 minutes.

don’t tell ME it doesn’t work.

Actually, Sgt.J, I think that women in general have trouble with auto-repair people (not ALL auto-repair people - I love my mechanic deeply - occasionally, I just wanna grab him by the ears and lay a big fat one on him. I manage to restrain myself).

I used to go to a Certegard for basic car maitenece - oil changes, tune-ups, blah, blah, blah. Then the management changed. I took my car in for a basic oil change, and the guy phoned me with a laundry list of items that HAD TO BE FIXED RIGHT NOW!!!. Well, I know a bit about cars so I inquired about some of the items - he blew me off and said “So, what do you wan’t us to start on first?”

I said “Nothing”, and went down there with 3 of my big, burly guy friends. I tried to pick up the car and the guy wasn’t going to give it to me - “I can’t let you out of here with the car like this, pretty lady. he he he Wouldn’t want to you get hurt, he he he.”

At that point, big guy #2 stood up and asked what was wrong with the car. Suddenly, it was perfectly road worthy. I got my keys and haven’t been back.

I will point out that at no point did I go balistic, or yell, or scream or anything else. I just brought the brute squad with me. :smiley:

I concede this to be equally effective.


Well, it depends-if someone is allergic to pickles, then no, picking them off will NOT suffice. However, they can simply say, very politely, “Hey-I don’t mean to cause a fuss, but I did say no pickles. I’d pick them off, but I’m terribly allergic to them, and even the residue would cause a reaction. Would you mind fixing this? I’d appreciate it-thanks!”

Firmly, but politely. See?

What I mean, more flies with honey-that’s how I am. When people are nice, I am so willing to help-one guy was super polite and I went all over the store with him, looking for something that was in the paper, on a VERY busy day, right before Christmas, in a packed, hot store, customers yelling left and right, then got him all the necessary papers, helped him get through the line, and explained to the service desk the problem exactly. I didn’t mind-he was a really nice guy, and fun to talk to.

BUT, if he had started screaming and demanding things, I would have called a manager to deal with him.

I don’t have an attitude of, “I’m a lowly, abused pee-on.” More like, I’d LIKE to help, but I don’t have the authority to do so.

And btw, Pencil Pusher, though I have quite a foul mouth outside of work, the minute someone swears at me, I refuse to help them. That is NOT acceptable.

Sgt. J-well, I would go the extra mile for your wife, because she sounds like the best customer!
Oh, and btw, it works both ways-if the CUSTOMER starts to lose it, and that’s okay-well, don’t get upset when I lose it. I’m only human as well.

I was in retail management for many years, before I had the good common sense to get out of that field. I have the utmost respect for anyone involved in customer service in the retail field in particular.

Often times, these people are between a rock and a hard place. They are given store rules to comply with, and unsatisfactory training. In addition, due to corporate cost cutting, they are often expected to do about 50%-75% more than they were 5 years ago, because hours are an expense retail stores can control and cut back on to allow the rest of us to get shampoo for $1.99. Now, often times store management HATES getting customer complaints. Managers like to live in a world of happy customers-makes 'em feel good. So they expect the customer service associates to do whatever it takes to deal with a ‘situation’. Many of them, when called upon, immediately cave in and give the customer what they want. This usually leaves the customer associates pretty bitter at the fact they have to deal with the bullsh*t of some customers, working within the rules given them, and the person still gets what they want.

These people know when a customer comes in with a legit problem. My experience is most of them will empathize with the customer, and do what they can to help, sometimes going above and beyond the call of duty. Unfortunately, they cannot always help you, for one reason or another, and have to take the brunt of your anger with a faceless corporation. But they also know when a customer is taking advantage of the store, and those customers tend to be the loudest and the most obnoxious. But those customers know that that behavior works as often as it does not, which makes it worth their while if they can return the 5 year old, terribly weathered patio table for a brand new one. And that is what this thread is about, because there are a lot of people out there that manipulate the system in this rude, loud, obnoxious, abusive way. And you know what, those customers are not “right”. And taking their dollar, and having their business, is not goal #1. In fact, smart managers know they are better off if those customers go to the competition, because they cost more than they buy, and they make for an unpleasant shopping experience for the truly good customers who keep you in business. Unfortunately, smart managers are few and far between.

When I had someone who was angry for legit reasons, I would work with that person as best I could to help them out. However, the angry customer making the unreasonable demands in order to manipulate the system, they did not go very far with me. Invariably, they left telling me they would never shop in my store again. And the customer right behind them, the profitable one with a legitimate problem, would say good riddance.

I’m an Administration/Customer Services manager for a retail firm and if there is a rare day we don’t have a screamer we look around going “wow, that was a good day!”.

Screaming, shouting and swearing at me will not make me change my mind. Saying “we’ll see about that” and “you’re going to do this for me” won’t have the effect you’re hoping for. Why should I make an exception for you when someone else accepts my decision? Why should they lose out because they haven’t thrown a tantrum? Just because you don’t like the answer I’ve given you doesn’t mean I’m rude and unhelpful.

On a related note, I hate managers who won’t back up their staff. The people where I work pretty much know what my response will be to a situation so can feel confident if the customer calls for a manager I will confirm what they’ve said. Rather annoying for them to take the grief and for me to then swan in and say “oh yes, Sir, certainly, whatever you want”. Very, very rarely will I overrule them; I’ll always explain why though.

Most people are very nice though and we all enjoy having a joke and a laugh with them. And there are some people out there who will bring in gifts to say thank-you, more of them please!

hear, hear!

I’m really lucky in this regard - the owners of my store completely trust my judgement. If someone were to call and complain about me, both owners would back me 100%.

Interestingly, no one ever has phoned to complain about me, which I think is a good thing. Owner #1 has a theory that people will come in to the store and behave like total ass-hats, not get anywhere, and the walk out. About 15 minutes later they think to themselves, “Wow - am I ever a big, fat bitch.” That’s her theory anyhow. Owner #2 always gets complaints phoned in to Owner #1 - ABOUT HER! (Owner #2, that is.)

Imagine this:

Customer - “I want to complain about your sales associate that was working yesterday.”
Owner #1 - “Yah - She’s the owner.”
Customver - “Uh, oh. Do you think she meant it when she said I couldn’t come back to the store?”

Hilarity ensues…