As anyone who has worked in the food industry can tell you, it's no walk in the park, especially when your position involves dealing with a lot of people on a daily basis. As simple odds might indicate, the more people you interact with, the greater the chance you'll meet with some loons that'll ruin your day with their crazy demands and nonsense. These jobs are not for the faint-hearted...
Whether it's a customer irate about a lack of cherry pies or a cafe patron who expects everyone to stop, drop, and roll for her every whim, these people are way outside the norm and make all who witness their antics ask, "What on earth are you doing?!" Here are some of Reddit food industry workers' wildest, most absurd stories about the worst customers they ever dealt with. Content edited for clarity.
"I have a few crazy stories, but this has to be one of my worst. When I was a bagger/courtesy clerk at a local grocery chain, during your shift you had to go out and bring in carts from the lot. When you go out to do it, you must wear a bright, reflective orange vest so cars can see you and you won't get hit.
One day I was in the entrance to a cart corral gathering the carts when an SUV backed straight into me, smashing me between his vehicle and the 7 carts I had. He then proceeded to get out of his SUV and start screaming at me for not looking and being in his way.
As he yelled, the other courtesy clerk who saw the whole thing was coming back out with all of the managers on staff. Once he noticed, he jumped back in his car and sped off before any of us could get his license plate. I ended up with some bad bruising, but my managers made me go back to work after I sat for about an hour to fill out paperwork."
"I used to work customer service at a major grocery store. We had all kinds of crazy return situations because we didn't have any policy about returns, so we literally just accepted everything and offered the customer some sort of refund, even products clearly labeled by another grocery store!
I found that quite frequently, lower-income people would bring in very old merchandise they had in their pantry in order to buy edible food for that week's groceries. One day a woman came in complaining about a bad chili pepper. It was partially sliced, but it looked fine. She didn't have a receipt, but I know chili peppers cost ten cents each so I gave her a dime back.
She looked kind of peeved that she was only getting a dime back and said, 'Well, this pepper ruined a whole pot of chili.' I said sorry but since she had no receipt, there was nothing I could do. Then she said, 'Well, I can tell you right now, it all came out to about $20.' Again, I said sorry but too bad, I can't just open the drawer and give you $20 based on good faith. She was really ticked and stormed off in a huff.
A couple hours later, an equally angry man showed up with a receipt. He slammed it down on the counter, saying, 'Now you can see just how much damage it did!' On the receipt he had circled the items involved in the chili and written a total at the bottom. I said fine and began to process the return when I realized that there were several odd items included in this chili, including marshmallows.
I was dumbfounded and said that I needed to call a manager to verify the transaction since they didn't have the product present (which was true). The man, fuming, snatched the receipt and left, as though I was the dark queen of customer service who had personally swiped the food from his children's' mouths. Amazing."
"I waitressed in high school and this happened when I was about 16 or 17. A guy came in to eat with his family, a little girl and his pregnant wife. They were really friendly and at first I thought it was a great table.
Then the wife went to the bathroom and the guy asked for the check, and on the check he wrote his phone number in the tip area along with, 'Call me, baby.' I ran the payment, waited until his wife came back, then brought over the guy's card and his receipt. I handed the receipt to the pregnant woman and told her something was wrong with the tip. She got SUPER upset and I got in a lot of trouble with my managers for stirring crap.
In retrospect, I probably didn't handle it the best way, but at the same time I was furious that some guy would come to eat with his PREGNANT WIFE and try to hit on a girl half his age. If he's doing that stuff so brazenly, God only knows what else he's doing behind his wife's back."
"I worked in a supermarket as a customer service employee for about 3 years and we had this one frequent customer that we called Chicken Lady. She originally got the name because we caught her multiple times attempting to steal chicken from the store.
She wasn't just trying to steal sealed chicken, she would open up the package while trying to hide and either stuff the chicken in her pockets or her purse. That's disgusting enough as it is, having raw chicken in your pockets.
But it gets better. One time we watched her as she left the store when we thought she took something. When she got to the car, we found out that we were right since she pulled a few pieces of chicken from her pockets. But then...she brought the raw chicken to her face and TOOK A BITE.
At that point, I was doing everything in my power not to start gagging as she was just standing there next to her car and continuing to eat most of a half pound piece of chicken, completely raw! I don't think I was able to eat chicken for like a month after that."
"I worked at a soup and sandwich cafe for 3 years while I was in college. We also offered quick breakfast options as well as a $1 small cup of coffee because Starbucks was 2 blocks down the road and my manager was savage. We typically broke even on the coffee, not really hoping to profit. We were just trying to get people in the door and serve quick, good food.
Then a super-yoga soccer mom started coming in every morning to buy a coffee. She would bring in her own bagel and her own cream cheese, purchase the coffee, ask us to toast her bagel and put her cream cheese on it for her, and then expected us to run the food out to her like we did for every other paying customer. While she was purchasing her coffee, she would ask that we put on new gloves while preparing her food.
Okay, fine, it wasn't a big deal the first few times because the owner (a working manager) was trying to keep his customers happy all of the time. However, this budding new cafe was starting to increase in business exponentially and the bagel lady started coming in every single day. The boss grew a little tired of her request because, after all, he wasn't seeing the benefit of selling her a $1 cup of coffee and having us prepare her food for her. She didn't tip, either.
Then she came in one Saturday morning, thinking she got special treatment because she was a regular customer, and decided she would skip the line and put her bagel on the counter near the register. She waited in line, purchased her $1 coffee, and noticed her bagel was right where she left it, untouched.
'Excuse me, I expected this to be toasted and ready when I purchased my coffee. I come in all of the time, you should know me by now. I am one of your most frequent customers.'
'Yes, ma'am. I apologize, I did not see it. Here is your coffee and I will bring the food out to you in a moment.'
'I just don't understand you people sometimes, so incompetent and rude to your customers. This is the kind of behavior that leads to disease and sickness in restaurants.'
I didn't realize my boss was standing over my shoulder during this encounter. He pushed me out of the way, grabbed her bagel (with ungloved hands), took a bite, went to hand it to her, dropped it on the ground, and asked her to leave with a mouthful of bagel. Then he went into his office and closed the door, still chewing the bagel. Minutes later he came out and said, 'Coffee is now $2.' Problem solved."
"I work at a large grocery store and one day I had a man come in and ask me if we had any cherry pies in stock. I went to the bakery to check and told him that we didn't. He didn't seem to like my answer very much, because after I told him he started to raise his voice at me.
He began screaming, informing me that we never ever had cherry pies in stock when he came in. Because I like to crack jokes every now and then, I responded with, 'It must be a conspiracy against you; they always take the cherry pies out of stock whenever you enter.'
After hearing that, the man called for a manager and proceeded to ask about the 'conspiracy' against him and how we know when he enters the store. My manager tried to tell him there was absolutely no conspiracy, that it was just a coincidence and he could get a pie soon. The man eventually left the store calling my manager and me some horrible names, swearing he would never shop at our store again. The next day, we had cherry pies."
"I used to deal with some pretty crazy people in the coffee shop I used to work at, but this was by far the worst. We had one regular customer who was a sweet angel of a woman, and then her cheerleader daughter, who was a complete witch from the underworld.
The daughter would start fights in the cafe and we called the police on her more than once for that crap. One time she tipped over our ENTIRE condiment bar by trying to balance on it, and to top it all off, she was INCREDIBLY rude to all the employees. I'm not talking about, 'I'm in a hurry,' rude, but, 'I think I'm hot stuff,' rude.
Every time we got her drink out to her, it was 'about freaking time, God!' and if we took more than a minute or so (mind you, there are huge lines throughout the day) she would say something like, 'Where is my drink?! God, you people are so slow!'
The thing was, we didn't know the sweet woman and the cheerleader witch were related. It wasn't until I saw her drop her daughter off one day that I put two and two together and admitted that I will never understand how something so evil can come from something so pure.
Well, I tattled on her. It was a classy, well-thought-out memorandum: 'Hey, I was just wondering...do you know your daughter can be rude to our baristas sometimes?' 'What do you mean?' the mom asked, and I explained at length.
Next time I saw the girl, she was with her mother...on one of those humiliating human leash things. This 17-year-old girl was outright crying and the mother was just folding her arms, not taking her crap. They were outside our store so I couldn't see what happened, but the girl turned around and shouted something at her mother. The sweet woman just BACKHANDED her daughter and pointed, saying something, and the girl continued to cry and walk along.
Unfortunately, we never saw the sweet, older woman in our store again. I think she was too ashamed of her daughter's behavior to come back, even though we would have been happy to have her."
"My favorite angry customer story happened about two summers ago while I was working outside the grocery store at a gas station. This guy pulled up in this rusted out, beat up Ford, rolled down his window, and asked how he could pay with a check. I told him that everything was pay at the pump and that we took cash, credit, debit, store gift cards, or prepaid fuel tickets bought in the actual grocery store.
He got annoyed and said, 'No, how to do I pay with a check?' so I told him we couldn't accept checks at the pumps because we didn't have a cash register out there, but if he wanted he could use a check in the store to buy a prepaid fuel ticket. He then went off, yelling, 'What kind of commie station is this that doesn't take freaking checks?! My check is as good as cash!'
I responded with, 'I'm sure it is, but I have no way of processing a check. I can talk to my manager later and see if we can rethink our policy, but right now we can't take them.' Then he yelled at me for several minutes before gunning his engine and driving off.
30 seconds later, he pulled back in and asked for directions to the nearest 'American gas station.' I gladly pointed him in the direction of the Holiday and Kwik Trip stations, knowing neither of them took out of area checks (he had an out of state plate on his truck). A few minutes passed and he came flying back into our station, extremely ticked and asked how to use his check card at our pumps because the other commie stations wouldn't take a check. I showed him how, walked back into my kiosk, and laughed my butt off."
"I worked as a waitress through college and it was awful. My state allows servers to not be paid minimum wage provided their tips make up for it, but my restaurant was so crooked that, looking back, I'm pretty sure it didn't matter.
The worst customers ever were the Kansas City Chiefs. I recall them taking over the place, ordering the entire menu, being creepily flirty, and pretty much demanding that we all bend over backward for them because they were an NFL team.
What made things even worse was them trying to exempt themselves from a rule that we had on the menu: tables of 8 or more had an automatic 18% gratuity added, which is pretty standard. Keep in mind, this was nearly the whole team plus a few wives and girlfriends.
The reason why they figured they shouldn't have to pay the 18% gratuity? They said they never found out their servers' names. We wore name tags, they were calling us by name the whole time, and we personally wrote it on their bill with our little, 'Thank you for eating here,' blurb. It was unbelievable...or believable depending on your views about pro-athletes and their attitudes. In any case, it was an, 'Are you kidding me?!' moment. They weren't successful in getting out of the tip, but I still root for whoever is playing against them."
"I used to work at Starbucks and my store was by the beach, so very busy during the summer. You could wait in the register line for up to half an hour or even 45 minutes. It's not like we were messing around back there, it was just that busy.
The thing about Starbucks is, people forget that the line to wait for the drinks is going to be a while too. You're still going to wait for a bit even after you order. But in a lot of people's minds, if you wait in line for 30 minutes then your drink is supposed to be ready lickety-split.
One time we had a party of several high school girls getting frappucinos and they'd waited in line for a while to get them, so they were getting quite sassy. This one girl, in particular, was acting like an entitled little witch, riding me and watching me like a hawk while I made these drinks. She kept asking me if each drink I was making was hers.
Finally I told her something like, 'I'm going as fast as I can, we're very busy and your drink will be out as soon as possible.' Her father heard me say that and decided I was being a jerk (I really wasn't) so he began to threaten me with violence.
It never came to that since I ignored the prick just like I ignored his daughter, but Jesus Christ, threatening to punch some 19-year-old kid that's half your size over the wait for a frappucino? First world problems!"
"This happened when I was working as a food services supervisor at a local tourist spot. Once near the very end of the day, a lady came up to our fish and chips window and ordered a four-piece chicken strip combo. She said that she wanted it split four ways for her four children and my coworker said sure but informed her that since the combo just came with a small fries, that meant each of those four portions would include just one chicken strip and a few fries. He repeated it a couple of times and she impatiently told him that it was okay. You can probably see where this is going.
When she came to pick up her order, she was irate. From the sound of things, she wanted each of those portions to have at least two strips and a small fries...even though she was only willing to pay the price of a single combo. She screamed at my coworker and told him he was incompetent, all kinds of things. She wasn't willing to pay more, though, and my coworker wasn't about to make her more chicken strips and fries for free, so he finally told her the outlet was closed and that if she had any more issues she should take it up with the manager.
She left and he closed the shutter, but then she came around to the side door of the building and screamed at him some more. Even when they closed the door, she waited for them and followed them across the park. But when they walked back to the main kitchen where they were able to meet up with the manager, she was asked to leave the park. We don't allow meal-splitting anymore; if customers want something split, we'll give them plates and knives and they can do their own portions."
"A customer called me an illiterate Mexican and said he would call immigration. His wife said I should take ESOL instead of attempting to read the menu and should learn English. He said that I should hop back over the fence with my people.
I'm half Filipino and half white. I was born in Florida and only speak English.
Another night, we had a group come in that we call The Gypsies (yes we believe they really are of Romani descent). The 5ish-year-old son punched the host in the hip telling her to shut up. He punched me when I had hands full of plates. He threw food at a table and told the lady to shut up. He smacked a full to-go box off of one of my tables. The mom stood by each time watching. The 12-year-old John Travolta wannabe son held his glass in front of me and said 'refill.' I wasn't their server.
I also once had a dirty diaper left on my table.
"While working at Subway I once had two older ladies come in and tell me how much of a nice young man I was, and how it was so refreshing to have a fast food employee be so sociable. This ultimately led to the question, 'This must be a summer job while you're in college, right?'
I said yes and told them that I'd just finished my sophomore year as an engineering major at Penn State. For context, this was right around the time of the scandal in which Jerry Sandusky, a Penn State assistant football coach, was convicted of touching young boys that participated in a charity program at the school.
This led to a ten-minute session of them screaming at me and claiming that I was a terrible person who supports child abuse. They literally told me I was no better than Jerry Sandusky himself, and said they didn't know how I could live with myself. Then they told my manager they couldn't believe that she could work with someone like me, and my manager told them in the nicest way possible that they could go eff themselves. I never saw them again."
"We get a lot of homeless and/or crazy people that come into the cafe where I work, and we also have a copy machine in the hallway by the bathroom (we're inside a bookstore).
One day a very dirty and very twitchy man came in and asked me if he could 'take a picture' with our copy machine. I told him yes, but copies cost 10 cents. Then he went into the hallway and I could hear him pressing buttons and swearing, so I went to see what he was doing.
When I got there I saw him open the copy machine, slam his face down on the glass, and make a bunch of copies. He grabbed most of the papers and ran out without paying, but he left one on top of the copier. It was his face staring out of a black void, squished and contorted by the lid of the copy machine, and his crazed eyes were WIDE OPEN. It was one of the scariest pictures I've ever seen and I hung it on the bulletin board in the hallway, but it disappeared a few days later. I think my boss probably found it too disturbing and threw it away."