To the customer who made me cry today

I’m sorry that happened to you, congodwarf. I remember one customer that made me cry. Called me every name in the book in front of my manager and other customers. I still remember their looks of sympathy as he went on his tirade.

If it helps any, I think the kind of people who do that sort of thing lead such sad, miserable, unhappy lives that they’re reduced to taking out their frustrations on people they think won’t fight back.

Either that, or they’re just assholes.

congodwarf, I really think that you might find the following website helpful in understanding yourself:

The Wellness Center

It gives a lot of attention to healthy ways to keep people from running all over us. But it’s a lot more than that!!

There is absolutely no reason why you should be blaming yourself for anything that took place involving this woman, but you have a habit of that, don’t you? I used to be just like that – at one extreme or the other. I would be blaming myself or really angry at other people, but not telling them.

One day something happened and I got righteously angry. I knew that I had to find a firm and fair middle ground on which to deal with the problem. I learned how to be assertive rather than aggressive (hostile) or passive (quietly sucking it up).

The best thing about being assertive is that it fits it with being a decent person! You are fair to yourself and fair to the other person.

Would you like to know what provoked my learning how to fight fairly?

I taught high school English. I did something or said something that the Executive Principal didn’t like and so he came up to the hallway outside my door during class and motioned for me to come out into the hall. I stepped outside and he began to berate me in a very loud voice.

It was an old building with small rooms. The doorways were close together. Many classroom doors were open and his voice echoed throughout that hallway. He was pitching one bitch.

One of the rules in our contract says that all complaints shall be conducted in private. So when he stopped to take in a breath of air, I reminded him of the contract, excused myself, opened my classroom door and returned to teaching my class.

He waited about fifteen seconds before opening the door and walking into my classroom to begin his tirade in front of my fifth period students! I picked up my roll book and my purse from my desk and walked toward the door. He stepped into my pathway. When I tried to go around him, he acted like he was guarding a basketball goal. I kid you not!

He finally allowed me to leave the room, but he shouted at me and followed me all the way down the steps to the teachers’ lounge. (I wanted to throw up and I wanted to be reliefed of duty for the day.) There one of the Assistant Principals, a true professional and friend, said quietly two or three times, “Return to your post of duty.”

I finally realized that he was saving my neck from the chopping block and I returned to my classroom and continued to teach.

I did tell my students not to be upset about what they had seen – that these things can happen on any job. But I asked them to remember what they had seen and if anyone asked them about it they were to tell the truth.

After I got them settled on task, I asked the one adult observer in the room to write a description of what she had witnessed and to date it and sign it. I also got her name, address and phone number. All of that information came in handy later at the hearing which I pursued.

I won two grievances against him. Eventually he was fired, but not just for what he did to me. That was child’s play compared to what else he got into.

But that was one of my first steps in learning how to be a much stronger person.

No one “makes” you cry but you, dear.

I work in a call centre. Two things I have learned. One is that the customer does not care about the call centre worker.
Second- if you get a person screaming or abusing you they get one warning. ‘Sir/Ma’am, if you speak to me in that manner again, I am terminating the call.’
Many calls are terminated soon after.
The management should be happy with you doing that. If they are not, find another place to work.
The person screaming cannot complain if you gave them a warning. What are they going to say when they ring up to complain- 'I was screaming and abusing the last operator I spoke to and they dared to hang up on me !

Working in a service industry will change things for these types of abusive customers.

I work in a bar as a means to pay the rent as of late, and my previous experience in such bars really helps me put things in perspective. On the one hand I’m more tolerant, on the other hand, I’m less tolerant.

I’ve narrowed things down to two separate categories: Things that are okay to bitch about, and things that aren’t okay to bitch about.

Things that are okay to bitch about: I think this is okay for a few things, mainly having to do with the actual person’s performance of his or her job. That’s really where I draw the line in most cases. For instance, the Burger King here has abysmal service at times even when there are no customers. When i see the employees walking around super slow when they see a long line, I get irate. Much moreso than before. After working in a job where I’m expected to really pick up the pace when it is necessary, I have little patience for those that can’t see that a lot of people are waiting. On the other hand, I rarely complain, unless it’s particularly bad, because I know what it’s like to have a bad day at work, and being slow for whatever reason. Nobody likes being bitched at for making people wait. Unless someone communicates that pressure to the workers things will never change. On the other hand, they are all teenagers making far less money than I do, and I have to say that my job is a lot more fun. But I also have to deal with a lot more shit, to be honest. Think customer service is bad? Try drunk customer service. And of course you always get the assholes who want another drink in the bar after close. I have probably done this once or twice and was pissed when rejected. Little did I realize that people ask for it EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.

Things that shouldn’t be bitched about: This is mainly for things that aren’t said person’s fault. It is a good thing to express your concerns about this, but make sure it isn’t personal. You can’t not say what your problems are because they’ll never get transmitted up to the higher echelons of the organization. But it’s not going to help you at all if you take out your anger on someone not responsible for it. Now if the individual is an asshole to you then do whatever you want, but at that point, they probably aren’t going to help.

This kind of shit is why I don’t do customer service or tech support anymore. I had a psycho bitch customer once. She started out at a more mundane level of irate, which I could deal with, but when I told her how she could solve her problem she didn’t like the answer and exploded. For some reason, company policy was not to transfer calls to the supervisor - rather, it was to get the customer’s phone number for the supervisor to call later. I managed to get the number, in between bouts of screaming, but then she cranked it up to 12 and started cursing directly at me. (“You’re a stupid fucking asshole!” as opposed to “I’m tired of this runaround bullshit.” A fine distinction, perhaps, but the latter is less personal.) I tried to explain once more about the callback policy, but finally I said that if she continued calling me names I would have to hang up. And I did. Unfortunately, either she gave me the wrong number or I wrote it wrong, because she called back a few days later and breathed fire in someone else’s ear. That time I think the supervisor intervened directly.

I worked as a CSR for a bank. I explained to a customer that I would be unable to waive (yet another) late fee on her account and she told me that I should be in Iraq with my nasty attitude. It made me cry.

That’s a really good idea! :smiley:

Nothing quite so debilitates a pissed off person as being unable to piss off other people.

A bit of conversation with my mother, last Saturday. The first word corresponds to about 20 minutes:
her: “blahblahblahblahblahyaddayaddablah is this thing working? Are you there?”
me: “I’m here”
her: “you’re not saying anything! How am I supposed to know you’re there if you don’t say anything!”
me: “you’re not leaving me any space to talk”
her: “well, I’ve been asking for your opinion”
me: “and every time I’ve tried to give it, you’ve cut me before I finished the first sentence. If you want my opinion I’d like to be able to give it, and if you don’t want it, I’d like it if you stopped asking ‘what do you think’.”

But apart of insane, she’s my mother and we’re at a point where I can tell her when she’s being a self-centered bitch. Firmly but politely, mind you.

As a Walgreens cashier, I find that the absolute best approach to dealing with assholes, whether on the phone or in person, is to abruptly terminate the social transaction (I won’t glorify it by calling it a “conversation”) by saying cheerfully, “Just a minute, let me get a manager”–blatantly interrupting the asshole in mid-rant if necessary–and then paging a manager, and then staring into the middle distance and humming along with the Muzak while I wait.

Never fails. Management turns up and the asshole’s assholery is transferred to Management’s unlucky head. But hey, I’m not getting paid enough to deal with this shit, and besides, it’s Management’s job. Goes with the territory.

Congodwarf, never again should this woman, or any other psycho customer for that matter, make you cry. Just memorize those magic words: “Just a minute, let me get a manager”.

And the important thing to remember, to make the trick work, is that you have to interrupt her; don’t wait for an opening, don’t try to be polite, don’t ask her, “Would you like me to call a manager?” Just jump right in there, shouting if you have to, to make yourself heard, “JUST A MINUTE, LET ME GET A MANAGER…” And then ignore her.

Sweet magic. Works every time.

And when Management does get there, don’t waste your time trying to explain Psycho Bitch’s problem to him/her, because (A) it’s Management’s job to deal with it, which includes the preliminary fact-finding, and (B) if it’s in person and not on the phone, Psycho Bitch won’t let you get a word in edgewise, as she’ll be starting her rant as soon as she sees Management sail over the horizon, and © let Psycho Bitch explain it herself, foaming at the mouth, so Management can see for itself just how psycho she is.

No, you just stand there and smile gently, and look off into the distance, and hum along with the Muzak.

If your Management is any good (and you say they are), then after Psycho Bitch finishes ranting and her carbon-dioxide-overloaded autonomous nervous system forces her to pause for breath, your Manager will look at you and ask for your side of it. So you’ll get your chance to rebut.

It’s a goodie, but an oldie. “Kill them with kindness.” Doesn’t always work, but it’s a useful weapon to have in your arsenal.

DDG, your suggestion to interrupt is a good one, but it works far better if you use the person’s name. It really gets their attention.

“You fargin mother sin of a mother fargin iceho…”



“What is the unit not doing?”

“Oh. Well…”

Of course, this assumes you know the person’s name.

I’ve worked in various Tech Support and Customer Service roles for a large part of my adult life, and there’s one determination you have to make:

Is this person bitching at you just to bitch, or do they have a real issue they want to deal with? If someone is pissed, I give them about 30 to 60 seconds of rant time to get the gist of what they’re talking about. As soon as their bitch-time is over, or the second they start repeating themselves, I will interject. I will generally reiterate what I think their problem is, and what I can or can’t do to solve it. For the people who really just want their problem solved, this takes care of them. The people who just want their pound of flesh will keep bitching. At that point, I ask them what their ideal resolution is, then start bringing them back to reality. Oddly enough, people will usually ask for a lot less than I can actually do for them.

And then there was the lady who bitched at me for saying “please” when I asked her to reboot her computer. :rolleyes: Sometimes the best you can do is go to your happy place. Hope your week gets better, congodwarf

Duck’s idea is interesting because it often pisses off the complainer even more when he has to start all over explaining the whole thing. :smiley:

congodwarf- This was just so weird. And typical. Some people just want someone to whip.

There’s a song by Tracy Chapman called “Change” part of which goes:

If you knew that you would die today
Saw the face of God and love
Would you change?

How bad, how good, does it need to get?
How many losses? how much regret?

I wonder if the person who abused you will ever have it come back to haunt them.


Today’s Moment of Zen brought to us by Little Nemo.

I believe this is the best answer I have ever seen to assholes like the one you had to deal with, congoddwarf. It’s how I have always seen it (and I am “the world’s best customer service rep” according to every employer I have had), but never put it into words.

You know that that psychobitch didn’t make you cry, you allowed yourself to give a shit about what she thinks of you. Fuck her. She doesn’t know you, she just knows that you let her go off. When I worked for the world’s worst cell phone company* in “retention” (ie, cancellations) I got people like that all the time. Heck, you don’t ask to cancel your account unless you are really pissed. Since we were not allowed to escalate calls (even if being cursed and having racial slurs thrown at us), I would often just move my earpiece from my ear so that I knew when to interject an “oh?” or a “wow” just so they thought I was listening and let them finish their rant. When they would stop talking long enough, I would simply say “I understand how frustrated you are, and I hope I have given you enough time to vent that frustration, but now, let’s actually fix your problem. I will need you to let me speak for a few minutes, ok?” It usually worked wonders – they mostly realised that they were being assholes and we got the situation fixed. If it didn’t work, I just stop responding to their venting until they a) wore themself out, b) STFU or c) disconnected.

The company I work for now doesn’t have much by way of irate customers and I am in sales, so I rarely get them. What I do get a lot of, though, are those women who are just rude people. Not rude because anything is wrong, just rude – you know the type – the overtalk you, try to talk so fast that you can’t understand them, put you on hold every 5 seconds, that type. When I get them on the phone, my voice goes suddenly from a very rapid pace with a hint of southern drawl to Forrest Gump stupid slow drawl. I can literally stretch a word out for 30 seconds – it gets the point across without being technically “rude to the customer.”

My advice? Take a breath, vent to someone (if this pitting didn’t help) and have a drink – you need one. You have a lot going on and having to put up with harpies should not be in that list.

*obviously, I won’t mention the name of the company, but it started with an “S” and ended in “print”

This was my main problem with her. I’m not so blind to the misery of others that I can’t tell when there’s a real problem. In her case, there was no problem at all. I’m not even just saying this as a way to make me feel better about myself. I was not the one who qualified her husband when he initally came in. I was not the one who set up the measure. I didn’t build the quote. I didn’t tell her husband to come to the store.
All I did was review the quote with him, find a problem, verify that the problem wasn’t a problem, and then called back. For this, I get my ass chewed.

I did have a nice talk with the coworker who DID qualify her husband and set up the measure. I told him that I am never going to close one of his sales again because all his customers are insane. This is through no fault of his own. He’s a good guy and a good employee. There’s just something about him which attracts nutjobs.
I do want to thank all of you for your responses. I’ve learned a lot about how to better deal with this in the future. I’ve also learned that I have a lot more work to do with my self esteem.

I will keep telling myself:

I do not have to deal with this shit

This is what managers are for

I do not get paid enough for this shit (not that the managers do either, really)

It is ok to interrupt a customer when they’re going apeshit

In some cases, it is even ok to hang up on a customer

and finally

I do not have to deal with this shit
One thing I’m surprised about though. How is it that this thread has lasted 3 days and not one person has told me to suck it up or get out of retail? No one has said the customer is always right and my whole reason for living is to be a punching bag.
Did I not post this in the Pit? :smiley:

This is truly a thing of beauty. Almost brings a tear (a good one) to my eye. May I use this as my first ever sig?

congodwarf, I’m really sorry this happened, at such a down point for you. I think noone has told you to get out of retail because this woman was obviously a 99th percentile kind of bitch. It’s easy enough for us to say get a thicker skin… but this lady was a fuckwad. You said yourself that you are an exceptional employee and you know this. :slight_smile: Remember that, and forget the bitch. :wink:

BTW, was her name Ang? :stuck_out_tongue:

For some years, I worked in the feedback center of a computer dating service. What this meant was, after people had their introductions, they’d call and give feedback on what we got right, what we got wrong, etc., allowing us to refine the criteria.

On one occasion, I used Guin’s “kill 'em with kindness” technique, to amusing ends. Now, to appreciate this encounter, those who don’t know this about me need to understand that, for all of my adult life, I’ve been morbidly obese. I also have a wonderful phone voice and presence (thereby allowing me several very successful years as a phone sex operator). Well, a guy called, and complained that all the women we were introducing him to were too fat. I was very nice, and explained that the only criteria we have to go on is the weight the woman puts on her application, and we were using that criteria to match up his minimum and maximum weight. I offered to tweak his criteria to help solve the problem. But he kept getting more and more agitated, going on and on about how much he hates fat women. The more he went on, the louder he got, the nicer I was. Finally, he said “You know what I’d really like?” “No, sir, what is that?” “I’d like to meet someone just like you” “Oh, no sir, I doubt that you would” “No, really, you, or someone just like you would be perfect! Can you find me someone just like you?” “Sir, I’m certain that wouldn’t make you happy” “Why not” “Well, I weigh well over 200lbs.” Split second of priceless silence on his end of the line. Then “You must think I’m a complete asshole” “No, sir, but if you feel I should include that trait as part of your personality profile, I can not it in your folder; have a wonderful day”. :stuck_out_tongue:

On another occasion, I used the “Warn 'em and then hang up” method. Woman called in, irate. She didn’t like any of her introductions so far. She worked herself up into something of a lather. I told her if she would speak calmly, we could see what we could do for her. She yelled “I don’t want to speak calmly! I’m mad!” I said “Ma’am, I can hear that. But when you’re mad, you’re not interested in solving problems. I’ll tell you what, why don’t you call me back after you’ve calmed down, and I’ll see what I can do for you”, and hung up on her. She called back about an hour later, full of apologies and ready to work on the problems.

Customer service is interesting, for sure!