There are laws that exist for the purposes of preventing discrimination in the workplace against employees based on their race, gender, or orientation. However, customers do not have to follow that rule and those with a prejudicial bias will gladly exercise that "right."
When you have a job that involves servicing the public, you are bound to witness every example of prejudice in the book. Racism. Gender bias. Anti-gay slurs. The following stories, edited for clarity, come from employees who had to put with (or take action against) customers whose prejudiced behavior really rubbed them the wrong way.
"I work in a service industry: law enforcement.
I was helping an elderly gentleman with some paperwork associated with a vehicle release. His hearing must have been on the way out because he very loudly whispered, 'By gosh, an [N-word] in a uniform!'
It takes a lot to stun me, but I'm pretty sure my chin hit the floor. I decided to kill him with kindness and go above and beyond. I figured that fighting hate with hate only leads to more hate. With that in mind, I waved his paperwork fees. But before letting him leave on his way, I told him, 'It's 'black guy' in a uniform.'
Then his jaw dropped. He apologized and went on his way. I figured he was having a bad day so I didn't take it personally."
"Shortly after Trump was elected, a lady came up to my concierge desk and noticed my sterling silver Jewish Star pendant on my necklace.
'Are you Jewish?' she asked.
'Yes,' I said cheerfully.
'Cool! Which concentration camp did your family come from?'
My job told me that if I wanted comments like that to stop, I should stop wearing my necklace to work."
"I'm a lawyer and I was in court for a friend's traffic ticket. The judge takes the people who are in custody first because it sucks to be in handcuffs. Anyway, a white college kid got charged with public inebriation and resisting arrest. He got released on his own recognizance, meaning the assistant district attorney didn't ask for bail. A few cases later, a black college kid got charged with the same thing and the ADA asked for $1,000 bail.
The judge (an old white guy) started laying into the young ADA. He didn't come out and say it, but everyone knew what he was so angry about. The poor fresh-out-of-law-school ADA kept trying to make excuses and the judge wasn't buying it. Even after she dropped the bail request, he questioned her judgment in asking for it in the first place.
I'm the first to say our justice system is broken, but at least there are some good apples."
"I'm white so, unfortunately, white racists think I'll commiserate with them.
I was at work one night (I work at a clothing store) and helped a lady wearing a niqab find the socks section. She was very nice and went on her way. Immediately after (niqab lady was, like, two meters away), this middle aged woman came up to me and said, in a very ticked off tone, 'I can't believe the gall of those people! How dare they dress like that! It could be anyone under there!'
I was dumbfounded (pretty sure my mouth had fallen open) and said, 'I'm sorry?'
So she followed up with, 'It's disgusting. They shouldn't be allowed here if they're gonna do that. And besides -' (she leaned in close and stage whispered the next bit) ' - we know they're all terrorists.'
Then, she bought a tacky sweater. I regret not telling her to get the heck out every day."
"I worked as a teller at a bank. I was very good at my job - very efficient and accurate. I was friendly, but not overly so. I was polite. I was helpful, I was knowledgeable and I worked fast. I had many customers who would actually pass up other available tellers just so they could come to me. They were my regulars.
One day, one of my regulars, a man in his 60s, came to my window. As I helped him, I mentioned that I was moving and would be leaving the bank soon. My last day was the following Saturday. He became very quiet, then very upset.
'You can't go,' he said. 'You can't leave me with all the freaking [racial slur against Asians] and [racial slur against Hispanics]. They're idiots.'
I was so shocked. And here I thought he always came to me because I was good at my job; but no, it turns out that it was because I was the only white teller at the bank.
I wish I had said a really good comeback, especially since my last day on the job was only a week away, so it's not like I had anything professional to lose. I couldn't think of anything appropriately zingery to say though. All I managed was, 'I'm sorry you feel that way. I really like my coworkers, and I know they'll do a good job. I hope you give them a chance.' His business was concluded and I don't remember exactly what he said as he left, but it was basically a big 'F U' to me, since I guess he expected me to be all racist with him.
The worst part is that I know both of the adjacent tellers heard what he said, and I know it really hurt them. After he left, I apologized to them about the whole thing. They were very kind. They understood I was in an awkward position, and they knew I didn't share his opinions. But, man, it has left a bad taste in my mouth ever since. As a white person I am rarely, if ever, on the receiving end of racism, but seeing it so blatantly like that was really awful, and I can only imagine what it's like to experience racism directly and regularly. My heart goes out to those of you who do. It really sucks.
A customer called me racist a few times too, because I wouldn't do something for them. It wasn't because they were a different race, though, it was because what they wanted me to do was against the rules and/or law, and I wouldn't do it for anybody whatever their race."
"I'm an ex-movie theater employee. One time, I had an elderly customer who came up to the concessions stand. I asked if he needed any assistance and he looked at me then looked back at the candy. I just stood nearby because, Maybe, I thought, he’s just looking. He went all the way down at the other end of the stand to my white co-worker who was on break and NOT behind the stand for assistance. My co-worker politely told him that I would assist him. So, I asked again, how I could help him. He looked at the candy, then looked at me again, and walks away without saying a word. I guess I spooked him.
Another time, one particular customer approached a manager to complain NOT about her experience, but about the 'atmosphere.' She openly said that the management seemed to enjoy 'employing a bunch of troublemakers in this establishment.' Given the fact that 90% of the employees WERE black, myself included, management knew exactly what she meant. The concessions manager who DOES NOT take any crap from anyone, mainly because he’s been through rough stuff in his life, openly called her out in front of everyone drawing attention.
MANAGER: [loudly] 'Ma’am are you insinuating that MY employees are troublemakers because of the color of their skin?'
CUSTOMER: [embarrassed] 'Uh… No!!.. That’s NOT What I said... Uhhh!'
MANAGER: 'That is what you just said! We don’t tolerate ANY type of discrimination here! And now I’m going to have to ask you to leave my theater!'
I guess the lady didn’t think he would say anything because he was white. Never seen someone run out of there so quick."
"I (white) was working at a movie theatre and I was the manager on duty. As I walked down a hallway with three black employees, a guest made a 'cough' to cover her uttering the N-word. I stopped and looked at the lady and told her to get the heck out of my theatre. She insisted that I give her a refund and I just said, 'No, get out.' We employed off-duty cops on busy days and I radioed one of them and they removed her.
I have a second story that is not racist, but just as bad. I was a manager at a different theatre and I was interviewing a kid. I asked, 'Why did you leave your previous employer?' and this kid didn't even think or blink, he just said, 'I don't like working with gays. They are gross.'
He did not get hired. My boss, a gay man, had interacted with the interviewee when he dropped off his application and was keen on hiring him. Since I did the interview, my boss wanted to know why I would not hire him. It was a tense moment when he pressed me to know what the kid said. I couldn't bring myself to say the quote to my boss. I just said something like, 'He spoke negatively about gay people.'
Even if I didn't have any gay people working in my business, I still would not hire someone who says something like that in an interview."
"I used to work at a well known department store as a cashier. It was a seemingly normal quiet evening close to the holidays and it was almost closing time. A lady came up to my register with her husband and I started ringing up her items and going though my normal routine: 'Did you find everything alright? Will this purchase be on a card?'
This lady then grabbed my arm and said, 'Stop - what are you?'
Well I was confused by the question. I said, 'Well, I am a cashier,' and then I told her my name.
She said, 'No, you know what I meant. What race are you? Because we will not be checked out by a terrorist.'
I happen to be a fairly brown fellow with very bushy eyebrows. I tried to keep my composure and told her that I am no terrorist and 'If you must know, then I am a mix between Hispanic and Caucasian.'
She then let go of my arm, relieved, and proceeded to tell me how it was confusing because we brown people all look alike and that they would not tolerate being checked out by a 'terrorist' because her husband is an 'all American hero' and has done military service by killing terrorists. I checked her out as fast as possible as my patience was at its limit. I told them to have a good night with the best fake smile I could give.
I found it funny that 'terrorists' wear dress slacks, polos, and work at department stores now."
"I drove an East Indian customer back to his place after dropping his wife's car at her work and he started talking about how he drove like an 'old Chinese man.'
He drove kinda quick and, at least, used signals, in all reality. But then he went on about how terrible Chinese people are at driving and that they have no respect for the road like he does. Meanwhile, racist me is thinking, But you are of the demographic that is also well known for being terrible drivers.
Yeah, I'm white. It was just surprisingly ironic at the time. He was very adamant and I didn't want him in my truck anymore. So, that was quite blatantly racist on two levels, at least."
"There have been plenty of rude people to me, which I can handle just fine. But there was one woman in particular who was just offensive for the sake of being a witch.
I work in a grocery store bakery. She wanted a cake out of the case, and called so I could pick one out for her and set it aside. She picked her size, flavor, and icing type. The only cake we had that fit her requirements had a rainbow on it. The decorators will do whatever they want for the case, which is why we tell customers to place orders ahead of time. Duh. When I described what it looked like, she said she did not want it because it was a 'gay cake.'
I should have hung up on her right then and there, but for some reason I was too caught off guard to stop her from speaking. I explained that we need to know a little further in advance so we could actually make something specific for her. She wasn't having it. She ended our phone conversation with, 'Here's a tip: stop making so many gay cakes.'"
"I work for a men's suit store. One day, I was helping out a black couple that had just walked in and the gentleman was explaining he needed a white or light tan suit for his brother's wedding.
An elderly white man toward the back of the store had evidently overheard the conversation and interjected, 'If y'all are looking for white suits, I'm sure the Klan would be able to help you out.'
I stood there in shock for a good 10 seconds."
"I've been waiting tables to pay for life as I work on my B.S. degree. I live in the Midwest and the people here are known for being nice,' so I've rarely experienced blatant racism. I do, however, experience the blissfully-ignorant type racism on a daily basis. I always get:
'Here's an extra tip. Buy the kids something nice' (I have no children).
'You don't have an accent.'
'Is that your real hair?'
'You're surprisingly well-spoken and well-mannered.'
My co-worker: 'You're not like other black people. You're not sassy and you're really nice.'
Ah, Midwesterners are just so darned cute!"
"I used to work at an office supply store. We had a girl who was from Iraq who worked at the register and wore her hijab. She didn't actually like wearing it, but her dad made her. Well, I was helping this little old lady find some stuff and she just randomly blurted out, 'I don't understand why they let those type of people work here.'
I just didn't say anything and looked at her. I was not sure what to say to that because this girl was one of the sweetest people I've ever met. Her brother even was serving in the air force. They weren't bad people.
The lady eventually just said, 'Well, I guess that's just my opinion,' and I just said, 'OK, so, I'll have this item up front for you when you're ready!' and I walked away."
"I work behind the counter taking and making orders for a pizza place I work at. I took this customer's order and, since it was slow, I decided to make this guy's food. I washed my hands and went to work. While I was topping his pizza, he called my co-worker over to talk to him for a minute and then the customer left.
My coworker told me that the customer asked him, 'Why don't you have a leash on that guy?'
So what did I do? I made sure to cut up his pizza and give it to him with a big smile so that he would probably be thinking in the back of his mind, He probably did something to my food."
"I work at a senior assisted living facility as a server/bartender. Anyways, we have an appetizer and two entrees of the night. Our appetizer one night was called the 'Mexican Caesar Salad,' so I told my table the name of the dish and one woman laughed and said, 'Oh, is it legal? Or is Donald gonna build a wall for that.'
Her whole table and I just stared at her like What did she just say?
So, that was the racist one. Although everyone there is racist, that was the worst comment I heard. It even beats out the one old, white guy who tries to ask the Mexican servers say things in Spanish and then asks if they 'understand' or should they just 'go back to the mariachi band around the corner.'"
"I'm mixed, but I look white - kind of like Mariah Carey coloring. Anyway, I was talking to this local artist who was a friend of the owner and known in the area. He asked me what I was. This question gets asked ALL the time. I replied, 'What do you mean?'
He said, 'You know what I mean. What's your nationality?'
I could've kept avoiding the question by being a smart aleck, but I knew what he meant, so I said, 'I'm mixed. My father is black and my mother is white.'
He paused for a second and then replied, 'Oh, I thought you were better than that.'
I told the guys in the kitchen what happened and they 'politely' asked him to leave. A few nights later, one of the owners (a married couple at the time) asked me to listen to his apology and that he didn't really mean it like that. I told her I didn't want to hear it and she kept pressuring me to listen to him. I finally had to tell her husband to let it be."
"We had a customer call my dealership. A service writer (let's call him 'Phil' - white guy, late 20s, little bit Southern sounding, very polite) took the call. The customer said she needed to schedule an appointment to have some recalls fixed. Phil asked for her information and she interrupted him immediately to say that she needed to talk to someone else. Phil said that there wasn't another writer available at the moment (which was true) and that he could just set her a time and that was it.
Her response, loud enough that I could hear it across his desk, was, 'No, I want to talk to someone else right this second. I won't deal with you white imbeciles...' etc. It went on longer.
Phil was pretty shocked, but he put her on hold for a minute, found our manager who was a mid-30s black guy (named 'Rob') to take that call. Rob took the call, she calmed down, he got her information set the appointment, and then came out to see what happened. Phil and I recapped the story. Rob went back and listened to the phone call recording.
Then, he called the customer back and informed her that her appointment had been cancelled and that he would not make his employees put up with that. He invited her to reconsider her attitude and call another dealer."
"I worked at Uniqlo. We had just opened up, so this dude was the only customer in the store at the time. I was also the only associate in sight, pretty much, standing by the cash register. He walked up with some shirts, expecting them to be a lower price, and I told him they were actually more expensive and mixed up with some cheaper ones. To be fair, the store I worked at had odd layouts sometimes and I totally understand why people would get confused with the prices.
But, this guy grabbed the shirts and stomped off to find the cheaper ones. I was just staring ahead, and he looked back at me and loudly said, 'What are you looking at?'
I literally was not looking at him, and I tried to explain, but he just kept getting more aggressive. He came back to the register and, at that point, my other co-worker was on the other register. The customer went up to my coworker and said, 'I don't want this dirty Chinese to ring me up,' nodding toward me.
As he was leaving, he said, 'This is why you work in retail and I work in Cisco,' plus some other racist remark.
I don't think I've ever been that mad in my life. I've been lucky enough to grow up away from direct racist remarks like that, so it was a huge shock. I'd like to say it didn't affect me but, honestly, it hurt a lot and it still ticks me off to this day. I've thought about it a lot and now I just sort of feel bad for him. To be that negative and such a butthead that he takes whatever problems he has on a stranger is a sad way to live. I hope he learns his lesson eventually."
"I was hosting at a Ruby Tuesday's when a family came in and requested a table. There was a wait and, instead of waiting where everyone else was, they went back to their hotel room, which was attached to the restaurant. When they were up, I loudly called their name and searched for them.
They came back a few minutes after I gave up and sat another table. They complained that I didn't look hard enough or check with the hotel desk to call their room, which is something we never did. You want a table? Sit in the waiting area or go to the bar. That's where we look.
They started yelling at me, saying that although I looked like a monkey I was dumber than one. Other guests jumped in saying that I clearly looked for them, called out their name audibly, but they were nowhere to be found. The guy didn't care and demanded I fetch my manager.
My manager just so happened to be black as well and when a guest told him that the guy made some monkey comments, he told them they were not welcome in the restaurant for the duration of their stay at the hotel."
"Not even joking - a guy straight up told my manager that he would rather have a white server.
Technically, I didn't have to switch with my co-worker. My manager told the guy, 'That's not how it works' and that he could certainly leave. He decided to stay. Once I found out what the guy said, I made an executive decision to not let this idiot ruin my day.
That was when I asked my co-worker if she would switch tables with me. She obliged and then made me a cookie. I think it was a pretty good trade. If I had to choose between prejudice and giant cookies, I'm choosing giant cookies every time. I don't have the patience for people who are unable to do even the smallest amount of self evaluation.
This why I can never understand racism. Here, I have a straight-up butthead guy, and then my co-worker is as nice as they come - two people of the same race with polar opposite personality. How can you determine millions of people act the same when you interact with less than 1% of them."
"I work at a club. All the workers there are nice and open minded. A couple are gay and most of them are older. That’s all fine. BUT, when you are a patron of a club, there is a sense of entitlement that you may think you have. This comes from being around your friends with drinks. Fun fact: you don’t and we the staff listen and remember what you say.
Politics in Australian pubs are usually racist. A bunch of old white men not liking the world changing around them and Trump being a racist scumbag doesn’t help. However, this week, Australia voted to allow gay marriage to be legalized. So I had this homophobic idiot say that now that gay people can get married there will be more assaults.
No, you freaking moron. Have you read the news lately?
Of course, I couldn’t say that, but I did yell at him for like a word and then realized that he was in the position of power because I was working there, so I pulled back and told him that it wouldn’t. I tried to hide the anger in my voice and I doubt I succeeded. He complained to one of the people at the counter and, as he did, she looked at me and she could tell I was angry and didn’t say anything. So, here is the thing: we always listen to racists and homophobes and, while this was the first one to be a casual homophobe, he isn’t the first one to say something terrible.
Here’s a bit of advice: when you are out with your friends and having a chit chat, don’t talk about politics. You are wasted and stupid and you don’t know who is listening. It also taught me to put a barrier up because no matter how nice they act, they aren’t my friends. They are customers."