Some customers are mean to employees because they’ve either had a bad day, don’t have home training, or have never been called out on their unacceptable behavior. Working in customer service is not for the weak-hearted, but everyone has a breaking point. Here, workers recall the very moment they finally stood up for themselves in the face of a customer who needed to be knocked down a few notches.
All stories have been edited for clarity.
“At the time I was working at Staples. There was a lady who came from time to time with an annoying little yappy dog.
I absolutely hated that dog. He was yappy, ugly, he was a biter. You didn’t have to reach to touch him for him to try and bite you. Literally, anybody who got near the cart would face the wrath of this terrible little demon dog that the owner did nothing about.
In fact, the owner would put him in the child seat on the shopping cart, so anybody who got close enough would get nipped at. I knew she was doing it on purpose. It completely baffled me how she brought her dog out in public seeing how violently it behaved.
During one of my shifts, I was re-stocking a shelf and the woman walked up behind me with her dog in the child seat. Her cart was inching closer and closer, but I was so preoccupied that I didn’t see those tiny, razor-sharp teeth closing in on me.
When I felt something grab my shirt, I immediately turned around and saw the woman’s dog snarling as he grabbed my shirt again and tugged it. The woman made no attempt to correct her dogs behavior. In fact, she stared at me like I had done something to her dog.
Livid, I told the woman, ‘If you don’t get that dog out of here, I’m going to drop-kick it across the store.’
The woman was absolutely stunned at my threat. ‘You can’t do that!’
I then informed the woman we were no longer going to tolerate her intentionally bringing an aggressive dog into the store. There was no policy that prevented us from refusing her service because of this violation of safety. I then told the woman if she couldn’t put a muzzle on the dog or control it, her best interest was to take it right back out to her car.
I had waited months to be the only member of management in the store to say that to her. I kept telling my general manager prior that if the dog ever bit me, there was going to be a serious problem. I also told him he could tell her to take that dog out because service animals do not bite unless the person they are working for is in danger.
That woman knew she was in the wrong bringing a dangerous animal out in public. That dog could bite a child on the face or worse. I wasn’t the only member of management in the store that day, but I knew my operations manager hated that dog as much as I did.
Our district manager came in because the entitled old woman complained to corporate because I refused to apologize or back down. I told him he could fire me, but I was not going to apologize to that woman because her dog bit me. The dog grabbed my shirt, but he could very easily have grabbed my arm.
No, it probably wouldn’t have hurt because he was some little yappy Chihuahua mix, but he should not have been in public without a muzzle.
In the end, I didn’t lose my job because the district manager went to his boss and showed him the video footage of the incident. We also pulled video footage from numerous other incidents.
Justice was served.”
“I worked as a lifeguard every summer during my high school years. I was pretty responsible and good at my job, so I had a decent reputation. I had also been a member at this pool since I was seven, so I knew quite a few of the members personally and was even friends with some of their kids my age.
I say this because it gave me a lot more confidence in dealing with the occasional uptight and arrogant parents who thought the world revolved around them.
One day, I was working a party shift. I was absolutely exhausted by the end of the shift, so I hopped into the pool the second my watch hit displayed it was time for me to clock out. Apart from having my red lifeguard bathing suit on, I was just another member enjoying the pool.
Unfortunately for me, I happened to be swimming right next to two notoriously uppity parents. For a bit of context, adult swim time was supposed to end at the top of every hour. The lifeguards on regular shifts that day were mostly new, so they weren’t quite on top of the rotations yet.
It was the wife who started scolding me for swimming in the pool when I should be blowing the whistle to start adult swim hour. She was mad her kids were still having to wait at the edge of the pool. The wife started going on about how we were the worst group of lifeguards she’d ever had to deal with, and that we were irresponsible and lazy.
This really irked me because I prided myself on being a responsible worker and earning my wages, so I told her that I was actually off duty and enjoying the pool as a member. I then asked her to be more respectful.
That’s where everything went to hell.
Her husband completely blew up at my comment, and shouted, ‘How DARE you speak to my wife like that!? Don’t you know that I pay your salary!?’
Remember, I had a lot of friends in high places at this pool, and I knew as long as I didn’t cause a problem, I would be completely fine. Seeing how this guy and his wife started the problem, I simply decided to finish it.
‘Sir, what company do you work for?’
‘I’m a corporate lawyer at Exxon, and you are going to apologize to my wife,’ the man sneered at me. His wife raised her eyes at me and waited for this so-called apology I was supposed to give her.
‘Oh, I’ve bought gas at Exxon before.’ I then said, ‘I guess I pay your salary too.’
The husband’s mouth dropped. He didn’t know how to respond and it was glorious. His wife saw me smirking and told me to get my manager.
‘Let’s see if you’re still smiling when they fire you!’ The wife said in a shrill voice.
I happily went to get the manager and told her about the situation.
I knew by the look on her face I was going to be just fine. My manager marched over to the couple, had a few words with them, and told me not to worry about it. I never saw them at the pool ever again.”
“I volunteer at the local animal shelter every Sunday. Over time I’ve basically become a babysitter for anyone who comes in with children. Now I love kids, but I have my limits. Some parents would come into the shelter and let their kids wander around unsupervised which was bound to cause trouble at a shelter of all places. However, I was happy to watch little ones for a bit because it gave parents time to look at animals they might want to adopt.
One day, this adorable little girl came in with her mom and asked about the ‘fishies’ in the tank I was tending to. I explained to the girl that the ‘fishies’ in the tank were called axolotls, and showed her some information about them on my phone. I even let her help me give them a treat.
The little girl happily watched the pink blobs move around in the tank. Seeing this as an opportunity to get back to work, I said goodbye to the girl and started to check on some other animals we had.
After a few moments, I heard a loud scream! I ran around the corner and saw the little girl on the floor, soaking wet. Accessing the situation, she had climbed the little shelf we had next to the axolotl tank and it fell on her!
Thankfully she wasn’t hurt, and neither were the axolotls, but she was crying and visibly upset from the scare. I rushed over and didn’t make a big fuss.
‘Oh did you fall down? Let me get you a towel and you can help me clean up, okay?’
I’ve learned over the years, if you don’t make a big fuss over something, kids won’t either.
But as soon as I came back to the lobby with a fresh towel and a bin for the broken pieces, I was met by a furious woman.
‘What the hell do you think you’re doing?!’ She hollered.
I took a few steps back, before starting. ‘I was bringing a towel for the little girl and was going to clean up the fallen tank.’ One of my coworkers had already swooped in to rescue the axolotls and put them in a new tank. The tank was miraculously still intact but decorations lining the tanks had fallen.
I tried to step around the woman to get to the shivering little girl, but she just stepped in front of me again and said ‘Well, why is there a mess?’ The woman snapped.
‘The axolotl tank fell over’ I said.
‘Why? Why is my daughter wet!?’
I was starting to become very annoyed. I squeezed past her and rushed to the little girl, wrapping her in a towel and rubbing her a bit to help warm her up. ‘This little sweetheart was interested in them and tried to get a closer look. It’s okay though’
I quickly added in because the little girl clearly felt guilty, ‘We can clean it up in a jiffy. Just no more climbing shelves, okay?’ I gave the girl a friendly but expectant glance. The girl nodded and looked down at her feet in shame.
‘Well, why didn’t you stop her from climbing the shelves!?! She could have gotten hurt!’ The woman shouted at me.
‘Well, I had other work to do, and I don’t actually know her. It’s the parent’s responsibility to watch their children, and my responsibility to watch the animals.’
The woman audibly gasped. ‘ARE YOU SAYING IM A BAD PARENT!?!’
Without thinking I answered, ‘Yes.’
The woman froze. We sat there unmoving before someone came forward and said in front of everyone in that area that her husband had an animal cruelty charge so we weren’t allowed to give any animals to her family.
Embarrassed, the woman grabbed her daughter and left without saying a word. I was reprimanded for being rude but I honestly don’t regret it.”
“One day while I was working at Walmart, I was speeding through the line and having a decent day. There was a bit of a rush, but I was still being polite and helped customers as quickly as possible.
When I finished with the customer I was with, I turned with a smile toward my next customer, and asked how she was doing before I started ringing up her items.
The next customer was a woman who was dressed to the nines and had the nastiest look on her face. She scoffed at me before rolling her eyes and rudely saying she had been ‘just fine until she got in my line.’
Then she called me a heifer.
At that moment, I just knew I misheard her. I’m not bragging, but I was the fastest and friendliest cashier they had. I couldn’t think of anything I had done to set off the woman.
Stunned, I said, ‘Excuse me?’ Then scowled at me as she looked me up and down and told me I had heard her just fine and to hurry it up. She called me another disgusting name that rhymes with ‘punt’, just to add to her unforgivable behavior.
Outraged, I reached up and cut my cash register light off. I then leaned past her to tell the customers behind her to hang tight before turning to face the woman.
‘You can get your groceries off my conveyor belt and get out of my line. They do not pay me enough to be talked to like that.’
The woman shifted her face to one side but stared me down as I finished talking.
‘Now, I am going to the restroom and when I get back you had better be gone or I will have Security escort you out.’ I spun around and went to the restroom.
When I came back, I made a stop at our CSM desk to report my refusal of service. I then went back to my register to find the woman gone. I flipped my light back on and continued with my day.
Our CSMs were not exactly pleased with my actions, but I reiterated they did not pay me enough to be abused and I would not service anyone that called me names, cursed at me, or disrespected me. I am kind and respectful to everyone and demand that same respect. Oh, you can be grumpy and act a fool, but the minute you start cursing me, calling me names, or being nasty, you’re done. And so am I.”
Fast and Furious
“A group of six came in for lunch.
The restaurant I worked for had a fifteen-minute service policy. Per the policy, if we didn’t have food on the table within fifteen minutes of the party being seated, the meal was free.
So, the group of six was promptly seated and ordered. Soon after all orders were placed, the group announced how they each wanted separate checks. They were particular about the food and obnoxiously asked for special accommodations to the standard menu items. It took about ten minutes for them to be served.
Three minutes after serving the food, I did a full circle around my section and stopped to check on them. One person asked me to change something small. It was the girl seated next to him that ordered a burger that had a bigger issue. She complained she wanted her burger cooked medium but felt it had overcooked.
I replaced her entire meal without fault.
However, because the second burger was not served to her until after fifteen minutes, the entire table expected their meals to be free.
Unfortunately, my manager did not take my side and allowed it. The entire group ate for free.
Then, they left me a single nickel as a tip.
Infuriated, I followed them outside and handed one of the patrons back the nickel. I then told them I would rather they kept it, seeing as they needed it more than me.
The patron I handed the nickel to insulted me and my desire to serve. She then insulted the restaurant’s commitment to a fast but still well-served lunch before driving off.
I have no regrets. Those people deserved to be called on their rudeness.”
“Back in the early ‘80s, I was the manager at a fast food restaurant. Their slogan was ‘Have it your way.’
I had recently hired a lovely young lady who was very shy. I trained her for food prep, sandwich board, fry station, and front register. The more she learned, the more confident she became, and overall was a great employee.
One day, this star employee expressed interest in working the front counter for her shift. I always thought she would be great so I told her to have at it.
So her shift began with her taking orders. She was polite and very efficient working the register. All was going well until an all too familiar walked in. Things were about to go down.
One of our ‘regulars’ who was known for being rude, short-tempered, and just plain difficult, stormed in with a menacing look. Crazy enough, that’s how his face always looked. Like he was made at the world. He stood quietly in the lunch rush line, but I mentally prepared myself to deal with whatever nonsense he wanted to start today.
When it was finally his turn, he placed his order with the employee. He was a little snippy, but my employee was courteous nonetheless.
Knowing how particular this customer was, I personally made the burger for him. I made the same exact sandwich he had always ordered for three years.
Once I was finished, my employee placed his sandwich, fries, and drink on the tray for him. I returned to my station to start the next order.
The next thing I know, I heard yelling and obscene language.
I looked up and saw the nasty customer pointing his finger and berating my poor employee. He was shouting awful things at her while shocked customers looked on helplessly. I marched to the front to try to remedy the situation, but that’s when he started yelling at me too.
‘Why is she so freaking stupid?!’ The man snapped.
‘Sir, there is no need to speak to her that way,’ I replied. ‘What happened?’
The man continued to yell at the top of his lungs about how ‘terrible’ the customer service was. He then said his burger was completely wrong. I knew he was full of it because I listened and made the burger exactly like he wanted as he ordered.
‘What’s wrong with the order?’ I asked.
‘If you can’t see what’s wrong with it, then you’re just as stupid as her!’ The customer bellowed. Then without warning, he snatched up his soda and threw it on the floor. Cola splashed everywhere while the customers behind him stepped back.
‘It’s just not right you freaking idiots!’ The man berated us.
As patiently as I could, I grabbed the ticket and brought it back to my station to re-make the order. As I suspected, there was nothing wrong with the burger, but I sucked it up and served the new burger on a separate tray with extra fries and even made another drink for the irate customer. By the time I finished, the man had stormed off to the nearest booth and sat down, muttering to himself. I looked over at the employee who had already moved over to a different customer. She was red in the face and clearly flustered from the encounter. I walked out to the lobby to deliver the new meal to the regular as a courtesy to him.
‘I’m sorry you were not satisfied with your order,’ I said through gritted teeth. ‘Here is a new burger.’
Without another word, I returned to my position behind the counter and continued working.
Five minutes later, the man was back at the front counter cursing and yelling. This time, I stormed to the front counter and stared at him making a fool of himself.
‘Sir, please leave.’ I said, having had enough.
The man screamed at me, then picked up the burger and threw it directly at my face. I flinched as it bounced off my face and onto the counter. He then flipped the tray and soda over the counter at the shy employee who yelped out of fear. It was awful.
That did it for me. I picked up the burger and threw it right back at the customer. I threw it with such force, a satisfying SPLAT sound followed soon after. As horrifying as that was, all the customers in the lobby started clapping.
‘Leave and don’t ever come back here,’ I shouted at the man.
The man, clearly embarrassed, walked right out and drove away. I called the owner and told him what had happened. He was amused, but I ended up quitting. I dismissed myself not because I wanted to, but because I knew the situation the owner would be in had I stayed.”
“The agency I worked for had thousands of records of people and their personal information.
It was my job to provide tech support to the other offices, outside firms, and other outside entities and provide information to people who called to inquire about their cases.
One day, a woman called and asked for an update on a case she opened. To find her account, I asked for her Social Security Number. There was a brief pause before the caller started going off on me.
‘Are you crazy? You don’t need my SSN! You are trying to scam me!’
This kind of thing happened all the time. I waited for her to calm down, then I tried to find her account a different way. I asked for her full name, but hers was way too common. Dozens of people came up with the exact same name. It was going to be impossible to find her without her SSN.
Once I explained the situation, the woman started going off on me again and accused me of trying to steal her identity. The woman’s lasted forever. She kept cutting me off whenever I tried to suggest another solution. It got to the point I got completely fed up.
I had never been rude to a ‘customer’ but in this situation, I felt justified.
I spoke up and told her that once again, I couldn’t help her without her SSN.
‘For all I know,’ I added. ‘You’re trying to find information about someone when you have no business getting that information.’
The woman then pointed out how there was no way I couldn’t find her information and accused me of being a scammer even though she was the one who called me. I informed her I had access to thousands of SSNs and other identifiable information from people who were doctors, lawyers, CEOs, and just about anything else imaginable.
‘If I wanted to steal someone’s identity it would be one of those people who I think probably has way more money than you.’
There was a dead silence on the other end.
‘Hello? Is there anything else I can assist you with today?’
‘No.’ The woman said briskly.
‘Thank you and have a nice day!’ I said in a cheery voice.