Things Bad Customers Say

There’s no denying that everyone has had at least a few bad customer service experiences. But if you find yourself always on the receiving end of bad customer service, if you can’t get good service anywhere, if you’re convinced that there’s no such thing as “good help” anymore, chances are, you’re a bad customer. 

This is not to say that there aren’t situations in which the service you’re receiving is bad. There are bad employees in service industries, just as there are bad employees in every industry. But if you seem to have a terrible experience everywhere you shop or eat, well, I hate to break it to you, but it’s not them, it’s you. Here’s how I can tell. You say things like this:

“I don’t tip.”

I have no interest in reigniting the same back-and-forth that happens every time tipping is mentioned anywhere. The point is, in the U.S., waitstaff makes $2.13 an hour, and the rest of their wage is paid in tips. Whether or not you think this is a terrible employment model and should be abolished, the point is, if you are a known non-tipper, you’re not going to get great service. “People should do a good job because it’s their job!” People will do what they’re being paid for. I know that most non-tippers aren’t working for free at their jobs; they expect compensation proportional to the quality of their work. If you don’t want to be part of tipping culture, that’s totally your choice and totally fine. But stay home.

“I’m never coming here again.”

This is not a threat. This is an empty promise. That employee behind the counter you just spent 15 minutes screaming at until you’re blue in the face would LOVE it if you never came back. But you will. You always do. Usually within a month or two.

“The customer is always right.”

I want to find the first person who said this and spread it around like gospel truth and make them work the returns desk at a big-box retailer for a month. The customer who thinks they’re always right also thinks that no policies apply to them, that they can be openly abusive to store employees, and that price tags are just suggestions. The customer is not always right. The customer is often a rude, lying jerk.

“That’s false advertising!”

You’re not using that phrase right. However you’re using it, it’s wrong. “Misleading”? Sure. “Mislabeled”? I’ll accept it. But “false advertising” is a very specific set of circumstances, and no customer ever has been correct about what it is.

“It was like that when I bought it.”

Just because someone works in retail doesn’t mean they’re an idiot. We can tell when you’ve worn something, used something, dropped it on the floor, tried to open it wrong, crammed something into it that doesn’t belong there, let your dog chew on it, let your kid throw it, or otherwise abused or misused an item. Retail workers are not as stupid as you think they are or as you’d like them to be. Either be honest or accept the fact that whatever’s wrong with it is something you did.

“It must be free!”

Shut up. It wasn’t funny the first 700 times I heard it, it’s not funny now. If it doesn’t scan, the employee needs to go track down a UPC and a price. No one thinks “It must be free!” is funny but you.

“Do you know who I am?”

Currently, I think you’re someone who is behaving like a jackass or trying to get something they aren’t supposed to, almost always accompanied by being a condescending jerk to the employee in front of them. If you’re someone who’s actually important, either the employees will already know that, or you would be dealing directly with whatever bigwig it is whose name you’re about to drop. Don’t know, don’t care. Right now, you’re just some entitled asshole holding up the line.

“But it’s my husband’s card!”

YOU CANNOT USE SOMEONE ELSE’S CREDIT CARD. THAT IS FRAUD. If you’re an authorized user on someone else’s account, the credit card company will send out a card with your name on it linked to that account. A store has every right to deny a sale if the person presenting a card is not the cardholder. Even if it’s your mom’s. Even if it’s your husband’s. Even if you have a note. None of those things will protect the merchant when the cardholder turns around and disputes the charge and it turns out the names or signatures don’t match. Can you get away with using someone else’s card at some retailers, especially those with PIN pads? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK everywhere. Use a little common sense. If you left your husband and he swiped one of your cards, wouldn’t you be a little ticked if stores let him charge up a storm, even though he is clearly not Jane Doe? You might get reimbursed, but the store won’t. Use your own cards or pay cash.

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[E] Rachel

I punctuate sentences with Oxford commas, and I punctuate disagreements with changesocks. Proud curmudgeon. Get off my lawn.

16 thoughts on “Things Bad Customers Say”

  1. Oh god, all of these. And people trying to get in before the store opens by sneaking in the employee door, or refusing to leave at night (I used to call people out; “We are now closed! This means you, sir, browsing in the art department! We’re closing the registers and if you don’t come up here NOW, you aren’t getting those books!”). One time a girl actually called the police on us because we wouldn’t let her in after we’d shut down the registers.

    Also, rude-ass people. One time I was talking to a coworker and a guy just barged up to us and this was our actual conversation, with him screaming the whole time:

    Man: Skinny Bitch!
    Me: Excuse me??
    Man: Skinny Bitch!
    Me, with epic bitchface: I assume you want the book with that title; it’s downstairs. (He starts to storm away.) You know, with that particular title you might want to preface it with something else…
    Man, interrupting me: I DON’T HAVE TIME TO HAVE A WHOLE CONVERSATION ABOUT IT!

    We actually used to keep a list of customers we hated that we planned to throw into a hypothetical cage match. Last I saw it, it was 20+ 6″x8″-ish notepad pages, front and back. Fun times.

  2. What EXCELLENT timing! Yesterday was my final day at the grocery store I worked at, and I had one of my worst customer experiences – a woman who refused to take off her headphones, so didn’t hear me when I told her the total, so was upset that the total didn’t show up on the credit card screen, because it shows up on another screen (AND I told her verbally, but…headphones!), and when I told her that it was unfortunately how our system works, she flipped.

    Why is it so hard to understand that the front end has absolutely no power over how the system works? We’re all in this together, folks.

    Luckily I managed to keep my composure, but – my grocery store doesn’t do references anyway (not even employment confirmation unless they’re feeling generous), so she’s fortunate that I chose to.

  3. I’ve noticed that big chains usually have more consistent service than individually owned retailers. With the smaller shops when the service is good, it’s great. But when the service is terrible, it’s really bad and there’s often no recourse to deal with it, except complaining online.

    My bad customer service experiences are few and far between, but when they were bad they were really bad. The last two bad ones I remember are a local computer repair shop frying my processor trying to fix a broken screen and a local hair salon trying to cut my hair without brushing it first and then when I stopped the stylist, she threw a tantrum and the owner who wasn’t in the store at the time, said I was lying about the entire thing. The last incident in particular makes me angry because the owner of the salon went on yelp and told a bunch of lies about me, then contacted me daily for a week straight. Bad reviews are not a conspiracy, they’re a natural consequence of running a shitty business.

  4. I might have made the “It’s free/well that’s cheap” comment a couple of times and I am sorry. Probably because it makes me nervous to see someone else scramble and I know how annoying it is to keep a customer waiting/be thrown off your groove/know how many customers will complain about the missing price tag taking up their time.

  5. On the flip side, I’ve purchased clothes online, tried them on once and determined they didn’t fit, and then gotten a whole heap of attitude when trying to return them at the store. “This has obviously been worn… a lot” doesn’t make sense when I can’t physically fit the item on my body. Retail is hell, but it also sucks to be called a liar and get stuck footing the bill for clothes you can’t wear.

  6. I was a waitress for just under a decade and the no tip thing is the worst. What is so hard to understand? If you are a known non-tipper then the service I will be providing you will be to scale with my pay which BTW is LESS than minimum, good luck getting a refill on the water pal.

  7. “I barfed under the booth.” – drunkard, at Denny’s, at 4 AM
    “We seem to have had a blowout.” – another Denny’s patron, with infant at arm’s length, as if I was supposed to take it.
    “If I say you have nice tits, can I get free chicken fingers?” Patron at bowling alley bar.

  8. “It must be free!” No, it must be the one item in your transaction which forces me to leave my register and go hunt down another one identical to it. Have fun standing there like an idiot while the ten people in line get annoyed at the fact that I had to leave because of your lack of perception and awareness of the world around you! I’ll see you in a few minutes or more!

    1. What is SO HARD about grabbing an identical item with the same price so that the retail person can scan it or look up the price or whatever it is they do?? (I have no idea what retail people actually do other than take my money. I applaud all retail workers for doing so well at letting me buy ALL THE MAKEUP.)

      1. At my store, because correct inventory is so important, it makes no difference if a customer tells me an item is $4.99, because I have to tell the computer which $4.99 item is being sold. We also, despite so many people’s bafflement that I don’t give a shit about, can’t type in a number and scan an item indicating there are X of Item in the transaction. I found that out when I had to scan 75 little American flags a few years ago. If I’m told “there’s five of them” and it turns out there are six, I’m going to bring that to their attention, usually with, “actually there are six, did you just want five?”

  9. I was working as a manager at a kid’s retailer and we had this one middle aged white guy that was a total asshat. Screaming about service, propositioning my teenaged staff for dates (while his 8 year old daughter was in earshot), talking loudly about his accounts in the Cayman Islands, etc. He came up to the register and yelled, “DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?” I looked him right in the face, dead pan, and said, “Nope.”

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