"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"We were at the dreaded big box store picking up potting soil because we are going to DIY ourselves through the isolation. Things aren't crazy here yet, but there is a two per customer limit on a majority of items. I assume this means everything, so we're getting two bags each of a few different types of soil. My husband is loading the last of 8 bags on our cart when I hear her. I know it's a Karen just by the level of unnecessary outrage in her voice.
Karen: 'Are you KIDDING me?!'
Not a lot of people out here in the garden center, but we all look to her. I was almost disappointed to see she didn't come with the requisite haircut. She actually looked like a frazzled mom. Her kid was tugging on her hand with an overfull hand-basket of groceries, and I had a moment of, 'Girl, I feel you', But she was pointing at us.
Karen: 'You can't buy THAT many! You. Are. HOARDING!'
My husband: 'Yeah we can, we're getting two each.'
Karen: 'Oh you don't fool me. I know what you're doing!'
My husband: 'So do I. Get Lost.'
Well Karen huffed at that, spun around, and yanked her kid back inside to go complain to the employee working the register nearby. Now, we already paid for our items. The employee had come out and scanned the bags earlier and he could easily see our cart from inside. So, being finished, we pushed the cart out of the garden center into the parking lot. And then the automatic doors open behind us and I hear, 'Now they're stealing!'
We load the soil in the car and turn around to bring the cart back and look at plants. By the time we get back, Karen has given up on trying to convince the employee we're the Bonnie and Clyde of Dirt and is now trying to negotiate skipping somebody in line. She has a child, you see, and her hand-basket, well it's just so full and heavy. The woman Karen is trying to skip is young, maybe college age, and wearing a mask. Not a medical mask, but the stretchy kind you'd wear while riding a motorcycle or when you're skiing. The mask is black and has like scary wolf teeth on it that honestly made the girl look like somebody you should not mess with, even though she was wearing a GAP t-shirt and flip-flops. Mask Girl is just shaking her head no, and that's all I got as we dropped off the cart.
I browse, pick up a couple plants, and we head inside to wait in line. Now it's showtime.
Karen and Mask Girl are near the register facing off, no pun intended. From the looks of things, Mask Girl finished her purchase and Karen stopped her before she could leave. I don't know if she grabbed her or anything, but Karen was still holding her full hand-basket so she hadn't checked out yet. Well, she hadn't paid for her groceries yet, because clearly this woman had checked out.
Karen: 'But you don't even need it now, you're leaving. My son could get sick because you won't give it to him and he needs it!'
Mask Girl: 'No, you can't have it. Back off, lady.'
Karen: 'But my son really likes it and it's obviously made for boys anyway, why would you even want to wear something so scary?'
Mask Girl: 'Because I like it. And it has my germs on it, why would you put a stranger's mask on your kid?'
Karen: 'Ugh, why are you being so rude? You wouldn't let us go through the check out first and now you're making my son very upset!'
Mask Girl: 'Your problem, not mine.'
And then Mask Girl turns to leave while Karen suddenly grabs Mask Girl by the back of her mask. Karen reaches out, people on both sides of me inhale loudly, Karen grabs the mask and yanks, a lady on my right yells, and my husband steps forward. Mask Girl tucks her head down and she turns to Karen like an upset bull with a bright and shiny new target. I think Karen was going to say something like, 'Don't walk away from me!' or something, but all she got out was 'Don't-' CRACK!
I looked around because the noise was so loud, I figured the roof was about to cave in, but out of the corner of my eye I see Karen spasm and drop to the floor writhing. Little Miss Mask Girl had a taser! I don't know when she pulled it out, but she laid Karen out with it. And not one of us moved for what felt like forever, like we were frozen. And then it was complete bedlam. Security guard shows up, more employees show up, Mask Girl is chilling like she's been through this before and knows what comes next. The kid is screaming that the wolf girl killed his mom even though she's groaning and sobbing on the floor and clearly not dead but maybe wishing she was, the people that had been in line with us were all talking at once trying to tell the security guard what happened.
We hung around just witnessing the insanity for maybe two minutes before Karen started choking out demands for an ambulance, the police, a lawyer, the mayor, restitution, and reparations. My husband made eye contact with an employee and got a thumbs up when he put the plants on a shelf and pointed towards the door. We got out of there superfast.
We drove home in silence until my husband parked the car in our driveway, and then we just burst out laughing. Neither of us have ever seen anything like that before. We live in a small beach town, where people are super laid back and mellow. Karen was anything but, and I hope to never see her again. Take care of yourselves and stay safe!"