It's hard enough working retail, but then a Karen comes along to annihilate any happiness on the job. These entitled customers, usually suburban moms, only want to make everyone else's life a living nightmare. Steer clear of them if possible. These people couldn't, and they were in the middle of the worst adult tantrums imaginable! Content has been edited for clarity."
"When I was 18, I had my first 'real' job as a cashier in the magical land of minimum-wage retail. I knew it’d probably be a terrible job, but I desperately needed money. I quickly learned the most difficult customers were almost consistently middle-aged women. Within a month at that job, I’d been called so many nasty names. One woman tried to hide in a corner and deliberately ripped a t-shirt, while I could see her, then demanded a damages discount and claimed it was already ripped on the hanger. Another tried to threaten me into giving her my employee discount. I met our Supreme Karen antagonist in my last week of working there. Our store had an unpopular return policy: no money back, just store credit or an even exchange. It wasn’t uncommon for customers to complain about it, but most accepted that the teenage cashier fresh out of high school had no control over it.
Karen came to return a pair of her daughter’s shorts. I gave her the choice of store credit or an even exchange. She immediately takes on this sneeringly condescending tone and says, 'Nope! I want my money back!'
I told her, 'I’m sorry ma’am, but unfortunately our return policy doesn’t do cash back. Would you prefer-'
'No! Shut up. I’d prefer my money back. Get me your manager!'
So I press the bell on the counter to call my manager and waited an excruciating twenty-ish seconds with this woman. She mostly refused to look in my direction, but glanced at my face and says, in that syrupy-sweet tone that gives you the overwhelming urge to slap someone, 'Smile, little girl. I’m the customer, okay?'
Her preteen daughter stood meekly behind her, eyes glued to the ground with complete submission. My manager arrives and Karen launches into her tirade. But now, she’s shifted her strategy: she lies. According to her, I’d tossed the shorts at her, rolled my eyes, talked back to her with lots of 'whatevers', and gave her a 'stuck up little girl' attitude the entire time. At 18, I was practically terrified of offending people. I was also extremely eager to please in my first job, even though I hated it. I didn’t even have the guts to defend myself. I stood in humiliated silence while my manager tried to talk her down. By this point, a line had formed behind her. Now she has an audience, and keeps repeating her same lies to continue the show. My manager has now spent almost ten minutes repeating what I’d already said about the return policy. He tries to move her aside, but she won’t budge.
I glanced at the price tag, and the shorts are $15. They’re not worth it, and Karen knows this. But it’s not about the shorts, it’s about winning this petty power trip because that’s how pathetic her life has become: the extent of her unhappiness, her bitterness, is so overwhelming the only solution is to spread it to those she deems easy targets. It's an easy little confidence boost to last her a few hours. Even at 18, I realized this. Finally, my manager says, 'Ma’am, you’re wasting everyone’s time. You can get store credit, make an exchange, or leave. Those are your options. They’re not going to change.'
Karen realizes this is the end. She has lost her noble battle, and publicly too. But she can’t go down without giving the final blow. She must retain her dignity somehow. So she leans across the counter towards me and spits on my face. SHE SPAT ON MY FACE.
I almost wish I was exaggerating. What really got me, and was the saddest thing of all, was her split-second little smirk afterwards. A few of the customers behind her actually gasped. One person piped up and yelled at her. My manager has snapped. 'You need to leave, or I will have you arrested.'
Finally, she concedes and follows her daughter out of the store. She also left her shorts. After she left, my manager looked back at me and gestured toward the register, then walked away. Never mind that I had a glob of bodily fluid trailing down my face, or that I was shaking and couldn’t speak because I was on the verge of bawling. Thankfully the next customer gave me a tissue and a minute to collect myself. I quit at the end of my shift. My manager probably didn’t want to make a bigger scene by calling security. You think Karen would’ve gone quietly? He wanted her out ASAP and no, he didn’t care about me individually."
"My most memorable Karen experience was also the best instance of instant karma I've ever witnessed. I worked as a cashier in a Dollar General store, and we had this nightmare customer come in and try to buy a large bag of dog food. I rang it up and it was $19.95 This is when she released her inner Karen. She said the price was $7.95 Now this dog food came in a 5 lb bag and a 30 lb bag. She was quoting the small bag price, and she had the large bag. Just to be sure, and to make sure the shelf labeling was correct and the product stocked in the right home, I went and checked. Everything was as it should be and clearly labeled. I explained it all to her and she insisted there was a sale sign. There wasn't. I pointed out that there is no sale signs for those products. She insisted there was, and that I must have removed the sign. At this point I was getting mad but keeping my calm, and merely told her I don't do that.
Arriving back to the register, I insist that the price is correct. I also apologize to the other customers, as they were starting to get annoyed at the delay. She insists on speaking to a manager, and I call my manager up to the front and explain everything to her. What was clearly obvious by now was that this was a deliberate attempt by her to bully us into giving her a lower price. She figured if she was Karen enough, that we would give her the price she wanted just to get rid of her. My manager was having none of that and told her she could buy it at the regular price or not, but she needed to make up her mind and move on because we had other customers. One or two other customers in line were also starting to give her a piece of their mind, and she eventually backed down, paid full price, and left.
I again apologized to the customers in line and moved to quickly catch up the line. We could hear yelling and screaming coming from outside in the parking lot. I walked outside to see what had happened. Nearby our store was a Rent-A-Tire. The employees there saw her pull up and recognized her vehicle. They knew she was delinquent. The whole time she was inside our store bullying us into giving her an unjustified discount, guess what they were doing? They removed her tires. It was glorious."
"I am a retail assistant store manager, so I am well-versed in having to deal with Karens. One of the most ridiculous and recent experiences I had was as follows: My cashier paged me to the registers. I get up there, and there’s a livid customer waiting for me. This Karen screams, 'SHE WILL NOT HAND ME MY RECEIPT!'
So I turn to my cashier for some clarity on the situation. She explains that with everything going on in the world, she just does not feel comfortable touching hands to give people their receipt. Instead, she places the receipt in the bag, as well as informing the customers that it is in their bag. So this Karen decided that she needs to have her receipt in hand. I very kindly explained my cashiers reasoning for placing the receipt in the bag. She was NOT having it. She proceeds to tell me, 'I am the customer. You do what I say. And I say to hand me my receipt!'
I again explained that with everything at hand, I will not force my cashier to touch her hand to give her the receipt. Lots of irrelevant screaming happened. This went on for the longest time. I eventually grew tired of this. She absolutely was not leaving until her receipt was handed to her. So I reach into the bag and get the receipt. I slam it into her hand and say, 'HERE! I hope you have an AMAZING day! Now please kindly leave my building!'
She was infuriated. She stomps out of the store screaming that I, along with my cashier, was going to be reported to HR. After she left, the customers that were behind her in line gave a round of applause. It was just so frustrating because there was no difference in having the receipt in hand and having the receipt in the bag. Either way, she had it. It was just a power move.
The other worst experience happened one day when we were very under-staffed. My cashier needed her lunch break, so I took over for her on register. I get this lady in line. It was a typical transaction. She was very nice to me. Then comes time to pay. Her card declined. I always try to be respectful and discreet when this happens, as I don’t want to embarrass the customer. I simply turn the screen around and say, 'This is the message I got when you swiped.' It shows the declined error and that the customer should contact their bank. For some reason, this customer decided that I was responsible. She tells me her card is NOT declined, and that I’m doing something to it. I try to tell her that I apologize greatly, but there is absolutely nothing I’m able to do. If her card does have money then maybe her bank is having issues and she should give them a call. She then proceeds to threaten me.
She tells me she’s going to beat my face in and have fun with it. At this point in time, I was still newly promoted and had only been in my manager position for about two months. She was the first Karen I experienced. I told her that threats like that are not taken lightly. If she so chooses to continue this behavior, the police would be called on her. Luckily an employee had just walked in for their shift and actually knew the lady! She was able to talk her down and get her out of the building. I just don’t understand people sometimes."
"My first real job was at a clothing store. I landed a position at the register and I was good at it. I was promoted to lead within months of being hired. I was given the authorization to do escalated transactions. It really isn't that big of a deal, but I was 17, and it meant a lot to me at that time. I had this little old lady come in once. We chatted while I rang up her clothing and folded them neatly into the bag. Apparently, there's an art to folding and I was decent at it. The woman even complimented me on it. When we were done, I waited for her to throw her wallet back into her purse before I thanked her and told her to have a nice day. I didn't want the customer to feel like I was rushing them out the door. But before I could say so, the old Karen told me, 'You're very rude!'
I was stunned. I'm not one of those people who think on their feet. I'm the person who doesn't know how to respond until I've unpacked what happened hours later. So I simply stared at her in surprise.
She again called me rude and told me to call over my manager. She proceeded to tell my manager that I was rude because I didn't say thank you. She hadn't even given me a chance! She said she came here often, and she was never coming back unless something was done. She was so offended that she wanted me reprimanded right there in front of her. My manager tried to tell her it was probably a misunderstanding, but this woman started getting louder and louder. She told everyone waiting in my line that I was this rude little girl, and they should have someone else check them out. I had a total panic attack. It came out of nowhere. I felt like I couldn't breathe. I started dry heaving. It turned out that I had anxiety and had no idea about it until that very moment. This old Karen shouted that I was just trying to make her look bad, and she deserved a full refund because of it. My manager ended up sending me home. In the end, I don't think she got her refund, and I wasn't reprimanded or anything. I was super ashamed of how I handled the situation. But it did lead me to find some very effective therapy."
"It was my first job: a cashier position at Lego Land. That particular day, I was working at the gift shop, which would also make 'driver's licenses' for kids. Now keep in mind that these were not meant to show high-quality photos. We took the photos with a pretty low-grade digital camera, then we uploaded the photo to our computer. The guests were able to see what we were doing on another screen, and they could choose their color scheme and any special effects before we printed it out on a card for them. My job for that day was to line all the kids up for the photos. Anyone who has ever tried to photograph kids, especially ones under eight years old, know that is is nearly impossible for keep them all still for a single picture. This was also a theme park, so these kids were practically bouncing off the wall with energy.
So this particular Karen apparently thought that I was staging a professional photo shoot or something. She yelled at me for taking the worst photos of her kids that she ever saw in her life. She proceeded to force me to take several more pictures of her kids until she was satisfied. Her kids were three and five, and I managed to get one decent shot after trying for ten long minutes to get them to stand still. I then had the displeasure of ringing her up, where she continued to grumble at the quality of the service. As she was paying, another customer came up to my register to ask me how the whole process worked. Before I even had the chance to respond, this Karen stated, 'This man here takes a stupid picture of your kids and pastes it onto a stupid colored background and prints it out on a stupid card for you!'
I just about lost it on this woman. I'm a woman, and my badge at the time clearly stated my feminine name. Also, my hair was in braids at the time specifically because I kept being mistaken for a guy. It was clear that this Karen was simply trying to get whatever jabs in that she could. She knew that I did nothing wrong, and I actually was trying to fix whatever she saw as a mistake with her kids' pictures. I still have no idea how I stayed so calm throughout the entire thing."
"I worked at a children’s amusement park inside a mall. I was probably 17 or 18 at the time when I worked behind the register. To make more money, there are several arcade games all over the park, and these games take tokens. We offer deals on the tokens. Normally $20 would only give you 80 tokens, but we go ahead and give you 20 extra to give you an even 100. A guy came in with his two kids and wanted to play some games. So he bought some tokens, the $20 deal. I handed him his tokens, which were in a pre-counted cup.
I printed out the receipt, which had a little 'tip' line on it, because we throw parties where it’s customary to tip the hostess. But, working at the register, we don’t expect to get tips. What happened was that I handed the guy his cup with the tokens. He then proceeded to jokingly ask for more tokens for free. I lightheartedly let him know that I couldn't give away free tokens but, since he got the deal, he was already getting 20 tokens for free. He then stopped joking and actually started to demand I give him free tokens, just because he asked for them. I still said I couldn’t do it. He then got all flustered and shouted, 'Fine!' and looked down at the receipt. Then, with the biggest gesture I have ever seen, he said, 'Tip? Oh, that’s gonna be a big ZERO!'
He then walked off like he was some kind of big man. Well, the joke was on him because the next customer in line saw it and bought $20 in tokens, then he TIPPED me $20. The second guy was the real anti-Karen for sure."
"This was about four years back, when I worked at a shoe store. It was near closing time nearing ten at night, and that means the late night scammers were on their way.We get at least one scammer a night, and tonight was when we had our usual couple scammer. This mother and daughter walk up with the shoes, and we do our usual check of the shoes, making sure there are no hidden socks in the box. While I ring them up, they pull out their phone, telling me they have an online coupon. Not to my surprise, it was the exact same code that they had used last week and the week before that. Nonetheless, I proceed to scan like it’s different. Same result happens, I get an error on my screen that says the discount had already been used.
I tell them that it’s not working and they want to check the screen, so I show them the error message. They ask for the manager, so I radio her, and my manager comes to see what the issue is. She’s dealt with these people before, and instead of declining their purchase, she tells me to just bypass it and give the discount. They’ve done this trick two times already, and now the third time they’ll be cleared just because our manager didn’t want to receive a bad review online! But whatever, orders are orders. So I bypass the error and give them their 50% off. They leave with a smirk knowing they had won again.
Fast-forward exactly one week later, and they come in just on time. The mother and daughter once more brought up a pair of shoes, and I graciously did my usual inspection and began to ring them up. And just like clock work, they show their coupon. I scan it and get the same error, explain to them that I got the error and the same dialogue occurs. Little do they know that we have a new manager now who doesn’t take any nonsense. A different manager came, to their surprise, and my new manager looked at it and asked several questions. Their faces turn so red. They started screaming about how this was nonsense. Before they left, we were sure to put them on a watch list, so that whenever they came inside, any employees wouldn't take anything from them.
Another Karen encounter happened when an associate radioed me that this customer was being super difficult. I walk over to assess the situation, and the Karen is arguing that she wants the price that’s exactly on the sign. I tell her that we won’t be able to do that because sales tax is automatically added once the item is rung up. The absolute price isn’t listed on the sign. She says, 'I can’t believe that! That’s hogwash! Come with me, I don’t think you know what I’m talking about!' so we walk to the shoes she wants to get. I tell her, 'Yeah, that’s not the price that anyone gets it for. Sales tax is added once the item is rung up.'
She was visibly distraught as we walked back to the counter to proceed with the item. She was still going to pay for it and then she saw my manager and called her up. My manager came and told the Karen exactly what I told her. Then! She said this, 'I've, never had to pay any taxes here in America!' and, 'The customer is always right!' out loud for everyone in the general area to hear, somehow thinking she’d get someone to support her. She merely received total silence. People eventually snickered and laughed, and she only turned red as she paid. She left with her shoes and came back a week later, much more humble when buying a new pair of slippers. Working in retail was an experience. So many Karens and so many stories. Some people will outright lie and scam to get their way. Others will whine and complain. And others will act as if the rules don’t apply then get mad when they’re hit with the rules."
"When I was working as a service clerk at Walgreen’s, it was really late one night and during the last hour when the store would be open. I had just rung up a woman’s merchandise and then saw that I did NOT have enough change to give her in my register. So I took out enough quarters to make up the amount that I had to give to her. She started fussing at me that she did NOT want a bunch of quarters and ordered me to give her cash. I told her that I did NOT have the correct amount inside my register, and then she rudely demanded for me to call my manager out to bring some. There were several people lined up behind her, and I thought it would be rude to make them have to wait. Since this was NOT long before we would be closing the register I was working was the only one open. Otherwise, I normally could have had another employee take over a different one and check out those other customers.
I paged the only assistant manager on duty and let him know that I needed that amount of cash brought up to the register. It took almost five minutes for him to come out, since he was working in the office and busy handling paperwork. So I saw those other customers NOT looking very pleased that they were being held up. The guy finally came walking up and gave that rude woman what she demanded. I was so glad when she walked out of the store, and I felt like apologizing to those other customers for being made to wait, just because she thought that she was ‘so special’. It was people like her who made me hate having to work in retail."
"With everything going on right now, masks are mandatory in our stores unless the person has a severe medical condition. With Corona active, the law is that Masks are mandatory in all stores unless of course, the person has a severe medical condition. We have a fair share of people that come in just covering their mouth, with their noses fully exposed. When I see them, I say, 'Hi, how are you, please make sure your mask is covering your nose!'
This male Karen (who I'll call Ken) comes to my register with his nose exposed, and I kindly remind him about covering his nose. He proceeds to tell me he had asthma. I told him that it would be a common courtesy to use the self-check out lane. While I am cashing him out, he is yelling about how he cannot breathe properly under his mask, and he will not stop. Finally, I’ve had enough, and I have a long line with customers is wearing a mask properly. I tell him, 'Do you see all these people? You think they are wearing a mask for enjoyment? They are being considerate of your health, the least you can do is show them the same consideration instead of behaving so entitled!'
He then changes the subject and says, 'I’ve seen employees many times without any masks, I’ve even seen you without a mask, and I have proof! You’re lucky I haven’t posted this on social media!'
I tell Ken, 'Clearly this is so important to you, even though you can’t seem to comprehend how to wear a mask properly, so post away, no one is stopping you.'
Then he is left speechless and he’s like, 'Well, you have yourself a great day!' and he leaves and I hear him muttering some curse words on his way out. I’ve had enough of these fraudsters that try to pretend they have a medical condition that exempts them from a mask. I know he was lying because people who truly have these medical conditions don’t act defensive, they let us know. This Ken kept going on and on about how he has difficulty breathing, repeating the same thing so many times. With the guy I had, he was acting very defensive just for being advised that he should be using self-checkout. It’s that entitled attitude it’s saying that he doesn’t give care that he’s exposing himself. We have customers who have medical conditions, but they are very aware of their surroundings and use the self-checkout so they don’t get too close to others."
"It was around ten last night. I had just started my shift. My scanner was being wonky, and it had trouble scanning the barcode of this woman's soda bottle. For some reason, this really irritated Karen. She demanded to see my screen, but I couldn't rotate it to show her, and she couldn't come behind my counter. My manager had come over since hearing this Karen screech about her precious soda. Karen grabbed my personal phone and threw it across the counter. My manager picked up the phone, checked for any damages, and asked her to step out of the line. My manager called the cops on Karen while I served the next customers in line. This much nicer lady thanked me for working that day. She told me, 'Some people just can't help but wreck other people's day!'
Karen apparently was waiting for her husband to get out of the bathroom. Big mistake. The cops showed up before her husband did. Her husband tried to apologize to the cops and everyone around him over and over again. Karen made a nasty face to everyone involved. She definitely won't be allowed back into this store, but she probably didn't learn anything from her brief but ferocious encounter. That's the problem with ego. It doesn't let you change for the better. It strips you of any possibility of growth."
"One of my first jobs was in a discount store called '50 Off'. Pretty much everything was 50% off the ticket price. Of course the ticket prices were inflated tremendously, but people fell for it and thought they were getting a rocking deal when the register cut their bill in half after ringing everything up. Personally, I didn't buy anything there because most of it was junk. One day I was working in the household goods and toy department, when an angry Karen came up to me holding this tattered object. I recognized it immediately as one of the faux brass coat racks. You know those the ones made of hollow poles painted with cheap, brass-colored coating. She started yelling at me, 'You sold me a coat stand with no bolts! I got it home and the box just has the poles and no hardware to put it together!'
I could see Karen was primed for a fight, as she was turning colors and balling her fists with increasing rage. I told Karen to wait there briefly. These coat racks were shipped in these flimsy boxes that broke apart in shipment, so I had no doubt that the bolts had fallen out somewhere. Luckily we still had a couple of these left in the back room, so I reached in and grabbed the packets of nuts and bolts. I walked back out and handed the packet to Karen. The look of shock on Karen's face was priceless.
Karen: 'I'm not paying for these!'
Me: 'Of course not. You received an incomplete product, and I am fixing the problem.'
Karen: 'You believed me?'
Me: 'Why shouldn't I?'
Karen: 'You don't know that I didn't lose the bolts myself.'
Me: 'Those boxes are full of holes. I have no doubt that they fell out somewhere between Beijing and Texas.'
Karen: 'I'm literally shocked that you actually helped me.'
Me: 'No problem, ma'am. A happy customer is worth a lot more than a coat rack.'
Karen: 'No one has ever been helpful and nice to me in these situations...EVER.'
Me: 'I'm happy to help, is there anything else I can do for you?'
Karen: 'No, that was it and I'm going to call your manager as soon as I get home!'
I didn't know what that meant.
The following week I had completely forgotten about this encounter, because stuff like that happened all the time. Karen actually called the district manager and he came in and personally thanked me. He asked me if I would like to be a store manager. I told him, yes I would, but I was only 17 and still in high school. Karen had told him I was 25. He said, 'Well here is my card, tell me when you graduate and I will find a position in our company for you.' I was surprised Karen had followed though."