Yikes! I thought the holidays were supposed to be about spreading joy! These employees share how they got the last laugh against a terrible customer during the holiday season. From grocery store grumps to maddening mall shoppers, these employees have truly seen it all. I have a good feeling about who’s on the naughty list this year! Content has been edited for clarity.
Bad News Brenda Part One
“According to a customer, an unknown someone ‘ruined’ her holiday season. In all actuality, some things just got moved around accidentally. The holiday season in retail was so crazy!
My first ‘real’ job was at a retail clothing store. I helped women pick out clothes they loved in their wardrobes. Helping women learn how to find clothes to fit their styles was fulfilling, it created confidence and affected their self-esteem positively.
The customer in question, ‘Brenda,’ was a regular at the store. Brenda had been coming into the store and spreading her particular brand of misery for at least one year before I even started. She was the type of person who appeared to love nothing as much as she loved making someone else feel terrible.
Brenda was an expert at all of the tricks. She delivered demeaning remarks just loudly enough for the subject to hear, her eye rolls and rude gestures were never quite out of view of the target, and she made venomous comments under the guise of ‘just being honest.’
If you could name a mean girl tactic, Brenda knew it. And if she wasn’t in the mood for games, she didn’t play them and went straight to being plain nasty. She reduced a lot of other customers to shamed silence and a handful of tears, causing them to leave the store. Even Brenda’s husband, who seemed to be a kind man, wasn’t spared from her antics. She frequently joked about how it was a good thing her husband was rich because it was the only thing she liked about him. She was truly one of the vilest human begins I ever had the misfortune of meeting.
About two weeks before the holidays, Brenda came into the store.
Between being rude to either the staff or other customers, she explained, ‘My idiot husband finally found a decent gift for me. It’s a month-long cruise! We’re leaving Florida and will go to Washington. We will be traveling all around the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, and then back up along the coasts of Central America and the United States. The cruise starts about five days before the holidays, so we’ll be celebrating out at sea.’
Since Brenda would be leaving soon, I only had one chance to plot my revenge against her, and I knew I had to do it quickly.”
Bad News Brenda Part Two
“Before Brenda’s vacation, she was going to take home the items she bought the same day, consider her wardrobe needs for the cruise, then come back and pick out the clothing she wanted for their trip. Whatever items she wanted she would put on hold, send her husband in to pick them up, and he could gift them to her during the holiday with her other gifts.
As part of our clothing for the holiday season this year, we received a major shipment of blouses that came in about fifteen colors. When Brenda came back a few days later, she liked the blouses a lot, and picked out one in every color she found acceptable. She only found light colors ‘lady-like,’ and suggested the dark colors I wore, like black, were unacceptable.
By the time Brenda was done, she had a dozen blouses on hold. She added some nice dresses for dinner, more casual clothing for around the ship and visiting ports of call, and casual clothing for lounging and relaxing. It all went on our hold rack. There was so much stuff Brenda picked out that we had to hang it in separate groups and label each one. Normally, at such a busy time of year, we wouldn’t hold something overnight, but we did it, not as a courtesy to her, but to her husband. We all knew he would be in the next day to buy it.
I was working at the cash register on this day. It was in the eighties, and everything had to be entered by hand, as there weren’t scanners yet. I kept looking over at Brenda’s hold rack between customers. I thought about how awful Brenda was, and how funny it was how she preferred colors I didn’t quite like. An idea began to form in the back of my mind. I told myself it was unprofessional and mean, but it mainly made the idea more appealing.
When one of the blouses in her size went on the return rack to go back on the floor, if it was a color she hadn’t picked for herself, I moved it to her holding rack. It was busy all shift, and I was in a hurry. All I figured was maybe I put things too close together ‘on accident.’ Later in my shift, a very nice woman asked about the group of items on Brenda’s holding rack.
She asked, ‘Is the lilac dress still available? You only have it in three colors, and I need the lilac one for a wedding.’
I grabbed the dress off of the rack and replied, ‘Here. You should go try it on.’
The woman loved the dress and proceeded to purchase it. I replaced the lilac dress with a dark emerald green one on Brenda’s holding rack.
The next day I worked, all of the clothes on Brenda’s holding rack were gone. I asked if her husband had come in and purchased the clothing, and I was told he had.
We didn’t see Brenda again until February when she came in to return the blouses and the dress. She threw one of the craziest tantrums I had ever seen when she was told the items could not be returned or exchanged because there was no receipt, and the items had been both worn and washed multiple times. There were even food stains on the skirt of the dress. I’m not sure why she bothered to make a scene, as she knew our return policy.
When Brenda realized she wasn’t going to get her way, she shoved everything back in the bag and declared loudly as she started toward the door, ‘You are rude and insensitive girls. Someone here absolutely ruined my holiday and gave me the wrong clothes, and I don’t think any of you care!’
She was right. I didn’t care.”
“We Had To Call The Police And Have Them Removed From The Property”
“I previously worked at a popular retailer around the holidays. Of course, Black Friday was one of the worst days to work.
A lot of things put on sale for Black Friday were usually of limited quantity in the stores. It was supposed to get you into the store, and when we ran out of promotional items, you were supposed to buy something else similar but had a higher price tag.
One year, I had a customer who behaved nastily toward me. They wanted ten of a particular item, even though the advertisement said only two of the item were allowed per customer.
Well, the store only had four left when the customer came in because the other twenty-one had already been snatched up by other customers. And it wasn’t even ten in the morning yet.
So naturally, the customer began ranting, raving, and screaming at the manager. They wanted the items. When they realized they wouldn’t be getting the items the same day, they wanted a rain check so they could come back the next week and get the same items at the sale price. When the customer figured out that wouldn’t work either, they wanted a different item at the same sale price.
Thankfully, the manager didn’t give the angry customer a rain check and went back to servicing other customers.
I was working the floor on this day instead of my usual job. One of the store’s best and kindest regulars came in looking for four items we were already out of. He had his wife with them so they could each get two of the items, totaling four for each of their children.
I saw the nasty customer wandering around, occasionally leaving their shopping cart alone for a couple of minutes at a time, and even taking items out of other peoples’ shopping carts for themselves. After taking a closer look at their cart, I noticed they had the items our nice regulars wanted.
I asked the regulars, ‘Could you wait here for one minute? I’m just going to check the back quick to see if we have any extras of the item you are looking for.’
I snuck away, took the four items out of the nasty customer’s cart, and give them to the nice regulars instead.
As the regulars were leaving the register, the nasty customer started screaming about how someone stole the items out of their cart. They ranted for another fifteen minutes, to the point where we had to call the police and have them removed from the property.
My regulars looked at me as they were leaving and I just winked. The husband laughed and gave me a salute.
A week later, the regulars came back in for something else and we chatted about how I ‘found’ the extras lying around. We all had a good laugh about it.”
The Grocery Store Grump
“I worked at a grocery store in a fairly wealthy neighborhood. One or two holiday seasons ago, a woman in her early thirties came in with her kids. They were all dressed in nice clothes like they were either going to or coming from somewhere important.
There was a specific type of milk she liked to buy her kids. It was organic almond milk something or another. She wanted a specific brand, and honestly, it was no different than the other four or five other brands we carried.
The shelf was empty, and I heard the woman yell, ‘Um, hello! Over here! This milk I need? It’s empty!’
I was busy, and I knew we didn’t have the milk in stock.
I shook my head and replied, ‘Sorry, it didn’t come in this week.’
I could tell the woman wasn’t having it. She began talking to me like I was four years old with her eyes wide and a fake grin on her face.
The woman nodded as she replied, ‘Well I think the sensible thing for you to do would be to go take a look in the back for me. Could you do that for me? Make sure you look extra hard, though! I’m sure you have it.’
No lady, looking in the back would be a waste of time.
However, I didn’t want to argue so I responded, ‘I’ll go take another look. You’re right, we probably have some almond milk somewhere.’
I walked to the back, replied to a few text messages, and had a sip of my coffee. I had other stuff to do, but I had to make it seem like I looked extra hard for her almond milk.
After a few minutes passed, I walked back out and said, ‘Sorry, I checked every box. We just don’t have it. We have other brands, though.’
Well, now the woman was livid.
The woman went on a tirade and stated, ‘You never have anything I need! I’m just going to have to shop at a competitor’s store, then! You just lost a very loyal customer, because this was my last straw!’
I apologized again, and I advised the woman to fill out a formal complaint with customer service.
The woman continued yelling, ‘How is a formal complaint going to change the fact my kids have to drink this garbage for the next week?’
As she kept complaining, she attempted to grab the store-brand version of almond milk from the top shelf. Once she got a hold of the carton, she used it as a prop for her little outburst. The best part? The carton must have been slippery.
The next thing I knew, the milk carton slipped out of the woman’s grip, hit the side of her cart, and exploded all over her groceries, her, and her children’s fancy clothes.
The woman simply stood there for a second, mouth agape, face a little red, let out a huff, and stomped away, beckoning her kids to follow. I went to go get paper towels for her, but when I came back out, the only evidence of our encounter was the leaky almond milk carton on the floor.
I hoped she did start shopping at the competition.”
Not On My Watch Part One
“Years ago, in the early nineties, I worked for a now-defunct consumer electronics chain store as a sales manager. This incident occurred the weekend before the holidays, so the store was extremely busy. Many customers were getting their holiday shopping wrapped up. Only three employees were working, myself, two registers, and the line of customers waiting to check out nearly went out of the door. It was barely noon, and we had written up over one hundred sales tickets already.
A woman was waiting in line, and she probably waited around ten minutes until it was her turn to check out. However, she didn’t have any items in her hands.
When she reached the counter, she grumbled, ‘It’s about time. You guys made me waste my entire day standing around here in this dump!’ then she began digging for something in the bottom of her purse.
I replied, ‘Ma’am, I am sorry about your wait. What can we help you with today?’
The woman slammed a watch down on the counter then stared up at me, then down at the watch, then back up at me.
I asked, ‘Is there a problem with your watch, ma’am?’
‘No, stupid!’ the woman condescendingly replied, ‘Can’t you see? The watch needs a new battery!’
How was I supposed to know? The display showed the watch was still working fine. But alas, I went to our watch battery rack and found the correct size battery the watch required.
The woman yelled, ‘I told you to put the battery in the watch for me! Do you think I know how?’
‘No problem,’ I replied.
The store I worked at installed watch batteries for something like five bucks including the battery, even if it wasn’t our watch. So I opened the watch, installed the battery, then closed it back up, and began writing up her sales slip. By the time I was finished, there were about nine or ten other people behind her waiting to make their purchases.
Just by looking at the woman’s face, I knew her tirade was far from over.”
Not On My Watch Part Two
“I handed the woman the sales slip and she screamed, ‘Hey, wait! You’re charging me for the battery? Why? I have a one-year manufacturer warranty on this watch and I bought it less than a year ago. You can’t charge me for replacing the battery!’ she shouted.
I calmly replied, ‘Ma’am, the warranty covers the watch, not the battery.’
‘I am not paying!’ the woman shouted, ‘In fact, I refuse!’
The woman just stood there for at least a minute as all of the waiting customers watched, some even snickering at her.
I strongly contemplated taking her watch back, opening it, removing the new battery, fishing the old one back out of the garbage can, and reinstalling it. But, the store had a ‘twenty buck rule,’ meaning you gave the customer what they wanted if it was under twenty bucks, and it saved the company some ‘face’ by eliminating a disgruntled customer.
I told the woman, ‘No problem, ma’am. Let me void your ticket.’
Then, I slowly slid the watch back across the counter to her.
She rolled her eyes, pushed the watch back across the counter, and yelled, ‘Now set the watch for me! I don’t know how to!’
‘It’s easy. Here, let me show you,’ I offered.
The woman sneered and replied, ‘No, you do it yourself! I don’t need to know how, and I don’t read those stupid instructions they print in a million different languages.’
I set her watch to the correct time and handed it back to her, but she still refused.
‘No, you’re not done yet!’ the woman yelled, ‘You still have to set the alarm to wake me up at six in the morning, every morning!’
I took the liberty to set the alarm for two in the morning instead.
‘Okay, ma’am. Here you go,’ I responded, ‘The alarm is set to wake you up each morning.’
The woman grabbed her watch, shoved it in her purse, and left without thanking me.
I hope she enjoyed the two-in-the-morning alarm set until she took the time to read the instructions and learned how to use her watch.”
“She Demanded I Take My Shoes Off And Give Them To Her”
“Years ago, I worked at JCPenney’s during the holiday season in the women’s shoe department. I honestly loved my job, I loved shoes, and most of the customers I worked with were wonderful people. However, there was one woman who visited the store who all of my co-workers hated working with.
The woman would only go to my one co-worker for help because he faked being nice to her. On one occasion, the woman kept asking for a pair of shoes to be held for over two weeks so she could get the sale price. At my location, we only allowed items to be held for customers until closing time.
When I explained this to her, the woman became extremely upset, and she would call my store every day afterward. One day, my co-workers and I waited for her call, but it never came. So, when I closed the store the same night, I bought the shoes she wanted and wore them to work the next day.
When the woman entered the store the next day, she demanded I take the shoes off my feet and give them to her.
My co-worker explained to the woman, ‘I’m sorry, but the shoes were put back the night before because we didn’t receive a phone call.’
The woman was furious and began to go on a tirade of yelling and cursing. I just walked away smiling. I didn’t do anything wrong, after all.”
“The Mother Was Absolutely Fuming”
“This incident happened a few days before the holidays, and I worked in a high-end homewares store. The mall where the store was located was open late, and it was getting to an angry, stressed-out, and desperate point of the night. It was at a stage where you could wrap just about anything in holiday wrapping paper and a customer would buy it.
A middle-aged woman came into the store last minute with her teenage daughter. The daughter was a walking cliché. She kept rolling her eyes, had her face glued to her cell phone, and only answered her mother with grunts and theatrical sighs. The mother selected an expensive cookbook and stand, and she wanted them wrapped as a gift together. Sure, no problem. I was not an expert gift wrapper at the time, so it took me a while to wrap the items. I gave the mom a ticket and she came back to pick up the wrapped gifts about thirty minutes later.
Something had transpired between the mother and daughter by the time they arrived back. The daughter was looking sulky, and the mother was absolutely fuming.
She slapped the ticket down on the counter and angrily said, ‘I changed my mind. I want a refund!’
Then the floodgates opened. The woman complained about how the store was too expensive, about how our products were tacky, how our hours were inconvenient, you name it. Oh, the woman also complained about how I took too long to wrap the gifts and how my attitude was awful.
I replied to the woman, “Okay, here’s your refund ma’am. Have a happy holiday.’
The woman walked away, only to return ten minutes later with some items she fished out of our discount section.
The woman looked at me and hurriedly said, ‘I need these wrapped immediately!’
So, I carefully wrapped the gifts for the woman, making sure to leave the price tags on every item. Who looked tacky now?”
“She Was At A Loss For Words”
“I previously worked at Toys ‘R’ Us during the holidays a couple of years ago.
During this particular shift, a woman approached me and explained, ‘I am looking for this gaming console for my son. Do you have it?’
I replied, ‘There aren’t any more on the store floor, but I can check the back.’
I went out of my way to walk back to the unloading truck and pick up the gaming console the woman was looking for.
After I grabbed a console, I began walking back toward the woman. She wasn’t paying attention and didn’t see me walking toward her, and I overheard her talking to someone on her phone.
The woman said, ‘I am going to Target right after I leave here. I’m just waiting for this idiot to come back with the console. I’ll call you back once I leave the store.’
The woman turned around, saw me, and immediately turned pale. She knew I had heard what she said. I had the game console she was looking for in my hands, and she was at a loss for words.
I looked at the woman, smiled, and said, ‘Here you go. I hope your son enjoys it and happy holidays!”
I saw a look of sadness and guilt sweep across the woman’s face, and she knew she messed up. At the same time, I didn’t acknowledge what she said to me because I felt like it wasn’t worth it.
Sometimes I wish I would have ripped the gaming console out of her hands, but I am glad I didn’t let the customer get the best of me.”
The Fabric Fiasco
“I previously worked at a craft store. Around the holidays, I had a customer complain about her fabric being cut unevenly.
I checked the fabric, and sure enough, she was right. Then, I looked at the sales receipt and found she had bought the fabric as a ‘remnant,’ which is the last piece of fabric on a roll. The end piece had been cut by the factory, and remnants were always sold ‘as is’ because they are deeply discounted.
I had another roll of the fabric and offered to exchange the remnant for a fresh-cut piece, but the woman declined. She continued to rant and rave about how our store did a ‘bait and switch,’ and some other nonsense. Then, the woman switched to complaining about the cost of gas it cost her to bring the fabric back to the store.
Customers were lining up when I reached into my purse and handed the woman a buck. A couple of customers busted out in laughter as the woman sulked away afterward.
I never understood what her problem was.”