What is wrong with these customers? Who thinks spending hours tearing apart an employee just because their online coupon code didn't work is a good use of time? How these employees survived these encounters without needing tons of therapy, I'll have no idea. These customers will live in each store's history as the worst customers to step inside. Content has been edited for clarity.
How To Play Customers At Their Own Game
“I have figured it out! I have discovered a way to defuse these sorts of idiotic customer interactions with 90% success. You have to act like you completely understand their stupid confusion. Tell them how you almost did or thought the exact same thing yourself, but then I learned this one strange fact just in time. That’s when you hit them with the explanation. For example, here’s what I did with this frustrating customer. She presented me with a light bulb attached to the base and said, ‘My salt lamp disappeared!’
I feigned the deepest concern that I could and said, ‘Oh my gosh, what happened?!’
She told me how she put the salt lamp in the dishwasher because it was dusty, and it just disappeared! This information only came to light after several minutes of the customer telling me literally everything except for an explanation. I exclaimed my surprise and got down to a whisper, like I was letting her in on a little secret. I told her, ‘I almost did the same thing! My lamp got dusty too, and I just about set it into the sink when I stopped myself. I got on the internet, and everyone else mentioned this same exact situation. It turns out they don’t put any sealant on the lamps, and since they are ACTUALLY made out of salt, they can dissolve! Isn’t that ridiculous?! I had to tell this annoying woman this whole monologue with as much shock and awe as I could muster. I then shook my head and complained about how unfair and stupid that was for The Himalayan Salt Lamp Company to do. That’s what sold it for her.
I’ve found that this approach takes the embarrassment, which the customer expresses as anger, out of the situation, leaving you free to work on ‘fixing’ it via refund, most likely since 99% of companies want to please customers no matter how stupid and wrong they are. This also works well when you’ve got to enforce a company policy that the customer doesn’t like. This other customer came up to me and complained about not being able to buy enough gift cards at once. I told her, ‘I’m sorry, we can only sell $1000 worth of gift cards at one time per day to the same customer.’
The customer told me, ‘That’s ridiculous!’
I replied, “I know, right?!’
Now the customer felt better about their outrage, plus it reinforced the idea that I wasn’t responsible for this policy, but I still had to enforce it. Then the customer didn’t feel the need to interrogate me about how to get around that policy.”
The Perfect Comeback
“This was a classic story from my younger days. I was working on escalation support as a regional ISP. Basically, I was the person you would turn to if you demanded to see the supervisor. I received some call notes from another agent about this elderly man who was super angry over their bill, but his account couldn’t be found. Within thirty seconds of talking with the customer, I determined that his issue wasn’t with the phone or internet (what we sold), but with the hardware on their own personal cell phone (which we didn’t sell or provide). We couldn’t find this guy’s account because he didn’t have service with us. It took me ten minutes to finally get this guy off the phone, and only because he gave me the snarkiest line I had ever heard in my life. He told me, ‘What do i even pay you people for if you won’t help me with this?!’
I told him, ‘Sir, you don’t pay us, which I’m confident in because we don’t provide service for or sell any cell phones. We work on home phones and internet only.’
The old man started angrily muttering threats to me. I told him, ‘I can understand your frustration sir, but if Papa John’s gets your order wrong, it won’t help you to complain to the Taco Bell manager.’
That seemed to get through to this guy. He finally understood and mumbled something about how I should be nicer. Clearly defeated, he finally hang up. I was so proud of myself.”
He Sunk To A New Level Of Petty
“I worked with this pizza place, and it always astonished me how heartless and cruel customers would be to the staff. I had this one lady call the store to complain that her pizza was cold, and she wanted a new one. Her house was maybe half a mile from the store. When the pizza was delivered, it was maybe five minutes out of the oven and was probably still the temperature of molten lava. My manager told me to take her a new one and to get rid of the old one. It was our policy to exchange the pizzas, but she probably ate the entire thing and didn’t have it left over. I told her on the phone, ‘I can’t give you this one unless you give me the other one.’
She replied, ‘We threw it out in the trash.’
I simply told her, ‘Show me.’
She exclaimed, “I’m not letting you look in our trash!’
The only thing I could tell her was, ‘Then I’m not giving you this pizza.’
She told me she would call my manager, but I told that I was too busy settling some other orders. She did end up calling my manager, so he made me take a refund back to her. After delivering the other pizzas to actual customers, I gave her the refund and told her she was on our banned customers list. I thought that was the end of dealing with this woman, but she called the store once again to complain that I didn’t refund her $2 tip. The manager told me to give her back the $2. He even offered to give me the couple bucks himself, just to make this lady finally go away.
I decided to go to the cash register and buy four rolls of pennies and unwrap them. When I pulled up to the customer’s house, she came out on the front porch. One hand was on her hip, and the other one was stretched out for me to hand her $2. She wasn’t expecting actual change, and she definitely wasn’t expecting me to dump two hundred pennies into her hand. Of course her hand was too small for that, and the coins immediately fell to the ground and went everywhere. I simply got in my car and got back to work. I told my manger what I had done, and he wanted to be mad at me, but he simply started laughing. I was so relieved she was on the banned customers list now, I never wanted to see that woman ever again!”
“Guilt-Tripped Over A Hot Dog”
“My family owns a small clothing store, and every summer I worked there since I was fourteen. Throughout the years, I grew such a thick skin for customer’s complaints, but that was tested one day when the most aggravating customer showed up. That day, we had been advertising this special: Buy three shirts, and take four home. Oh lord, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. This man in his forties entered our store and asked me about the offer. I told him how if he bought three shirts, he could get an extra one for free. He proceeded to choose two shirts, but he only gave me money for one of them. I tried explaining to him that you had to buy three shirts in one purchase, in order for the fourth one to be free. That’s when he started complaining how this was a scam. Apparently, he had bought another two shirts a month ago, and he thought the discount could still apply here. We go back and forth. He tells me to give him the free shirt, and I tell him I can’t because the offer started being valid today. The guy, instead of giving up in taking the free shirt, spent an hour trying to convince me that I should give him the shirt, talking badly about us to other clients, and making everyone uncomfortable. This is a family business, so we don’t have guards or anything. We couldn’t call anyone to take him away, and calling the police was too much.
Then my father arrived, and he is very soft with clients, so he ended up giving him the shirt. The guy then started asking for a reduction in price over the shirt he already bought, because wanted to use that money to buy his son a hot dog. My dad refused, but that’s when the guy called his son, saying that he would buy his son that hot dog, and to wait outside the hot dog store for him. I was furious that we were being guilt-tripped over a hot dog. This man was taking advantage of my poor father, because he knew how soft my father would be with clients. My dad kept refusing and told the man to please leave our store, because he really was making everyone there uncomfortable. Instead of leaving, this guy called his son again and told him to come to our store. It was some sort of weird guilt-tripping tactic, and it worked! My dad gave the man a discount on top of the free shirt. To this day, it still makes my blood boil thinking back on that guy.”
New Levels Of Stupidity
“This guy and his daughter arrived at our department store to see Santa. The guy set down his grocery bag somewhere in the store and left it there, completely forgot about it, and then came in the next day to complain that no one reported his bag to the Lost Property division. He wanted our store to pay him for that gallon of milk he left in the bag. Another lady complained because we wouldn’t refund a pair of shoes that she bought at our competition. She told us how she brought the receipt, and our store would refund you if you had a receipt. Maybe we should have spelled it out that she needed a receipt from this store?! Another lady complained to us that her friend got a $10 rewards club voucher for her birthday, but this lady never got one for her birthday. I had to explain that you had to be a member to receive those vouchers, and no, we would not just giver her ten dollars.
I must have spent at least twenty minutes each with each of these dumb complaints. I was being totally abused and screamed at, having to stand there and act polite with these total morons. After that last woman, I finally quit my position. I now have a much better job, where I don’t have any contact with the public!”
Who Was Worse In This Scenario?
“I once had a customer come in with a garden table with bent legs and a big hole in the top. It looked like someone got wasted and jumped on it, completely destroying it. Coincidentally, this customer appeared to be totally wasted and smelled awful. The store I worked at had these thirty day return policies on anything that wasn’t electrical. This was brought in five months after the date on the receipt. We also never had actually sold that table at our location. I denied the return, and this guy demanded to see my manager. I called my store manager, and she just snapped at me that I know how to do returns. I should just do it and quit complaining. All I could do was take the return and do as I was told.
When I arrived for my next shift, the till manager brought me into the office, demanding to know what I had done. My store manager was sitting there in the background. I explained everything that happened, and the store manager kept interrupting me with excuses and tried to shift the blame onto me. I ended everything by calling out the managers for not letting me actually talk. If both of them wanted to blame me, they could replace me, but we were already short-staffed as it was, and we had a really high employee turnover. There wasn’t anything more that my managers could really say to me. The till supervisor ended up quitting less than a month later, and the store manager was promoted despite her terrible behavior. I didn’t quit, but I did start doing things just to tick off my managers. There was this clause in our employee handbook that allowed us to gamble with each other, but only if customers aren’t involved and we do it away from the shop floor. I started betting with my colleagues as to who would quit next, which really upset my managers. I actually made a lot of money with these bets before the rule was changed.”
How Are they That Clueless?
“The best sort of nasty customer interaction happens with people who aren’t using your services or paying you for anything, but they still demand your time and attention. I was working at this vet’s office part-time, and every shift, someone would call in asking about some random medication, or they would demand that I look up the phone numbers and pricing for other clinics. It was like these people had no idea that smartphones and the internet weren’t at their disposal.
The best encounter was one time when this lady called because she found a wild rabbit and wanted us to give it an exam. I explained to her to put the rabbit back outside, as it could have a number of diseases, and it’s not safe to keep a wild animal in your house. Also, we don’t see anything other than cats and dogs. She then demanded I look up a vet’s office that did take wild animals, so I told her, ‘Ma’am, we are very busy, and this is a personal issue, and you aren’t a client. I will not do research for you. Have a great day.’
She then left us a one-star yelp review and tried to write a complaint to the Better Business Bureau. Oh, we get the most insane yelp reviews. We had a lady whose dog is ‘allergic’ to everything according to her. The dog just had fleas and a skin infection, and a quick round of antibiotics and some flea meds would clear it right up. She wasn’t having it. She tried to yell at the vet, the nurses, and the front desk staff about her dog’s illness. She left us a yelp review about how we let her dog almost die. It was ridiculous.
Mind you, it was a free exam we give all people if they are interested in enrolling in our pet healthcare plan. She didn’t enroll, didn’t pay a dime, took the test results, and she demanded we email it to her regular vet, so all she had to pay for was the meds. How do we know this? Her vet called us to confirm the results. So instead of getting a cheap exam and free meds, she had to pay out of pocket a lot of money for meds.”
The Customer Is Always Right, Even When They’re Wrong!
“I’ve worked at a few call centers, and only at one could I see the customer reviews we received. I was already on the phone with this lady for a long time, and she was having trouble using this coupon. She had to have a minimum of $20 in her cart to use it, but she wanted to use it without buying $20 worth of stuff first. It wasn’t exactly rocket science, lady! She was being a huge nightmare already, but I was keeping my cool until I misheard what she said and said, ‘Sorry, could you repeat that?’
She then starts attacking me for apparently not speaking English. I was born and raised in central Florida, and English is my native language. At this point, I sort of half-jokingly offered to switch to Spanish if she would be more comfortable with that, since I can speak Spanish pretty well too. It ended up being the case where my supervisor needed to come in and calm her down in order to finally end the call. Her review said something like, ‘Reps don’t speak English, disgusting!’
The worst part of it all was that this review was still counted against me, even though it was clearly a nonsense review. This witch still ended up getting her way in the end. I ended up quitting on the spot a short while later. I was already thinking about throwing myself in front of a bus that would stop outside the office building, just to avoid another day of working there. If you can help it, never work at a call center, it is soul-crushing work.”
A Mortifying Mistake
“I actually have an e-mail saved from a nasty customer, and I read it from time to time because it makes me laugh.
This person worked for a company that travels around the country to trade conventions to sell their products. The person sent their product and displays to our local convention center, but they didn’t make sure the label was correctly placed on the box and it fell off. I ended up getting a call about it and happened to find it in our warehouse, so I went out of my way to try and fix it, because I know how time sensitive and urgent these things are. The lady was frantic. I mean granted, I get it. But she didn’t want to talk over the phone because she was too busy and wanted me to e-mail her. She tells me she’s leaving our city and landing in another city tomorrow and to have her stuff forwarded there. I do this, then she tears me to shreds on the e-mail because she was just temporarily staying in that one city, and she now wants her stuff sent to another nearby city that she would be staying in for longer.
So I have to contact that station and have them fix it and send it there, it gets there and guess what, she’s now moved on to another city on the other coast. She proceeds to e-mail me five times over that night when I told her my work hours and when I’m at my desk. She then complains in the last e-mail that I’m ignoring her, even though she sent it at three in the morning my time. I was very clear in what I was doing the whole time, yet she threw me under the bus in the e-mail chain and included EVERYONE in her company. However, in these e-mails it’s obvious I was asking these questions and trying to help.
I then finally get her stuff fixed again and it ended up getting delivered, but she then tried to get my in trouble with my higher ups and wanted my manager to follow up, because I was so unprofessional apparently. The best part was that it ended with a Senior Executive responding, basically giving me praise for trying to help her, even if this woman didn’t think I did. She still works for that company somehow, no idea how.”
Negotiating With A Toddler
“Many years back, I worked for a store chain which sells all sorts of products related and connected to nature. Among them, the famous Himalayan Salt Stone Lamp. It’s a stone made of salt that encases an electrical bulb. It is supposed to help for regulating ions in your home/office or whatever. A customer called us to complain that their stone disappeared at home and asked for a refund. Because I can be so open-minded and understanding, I desperately tried to understand what she meant exactly by ‘disappeared’. The story was that the customer removed the stone from the bulb and put it in her dishwasher to clean it. I had to be super nice with her to make her realize that salt dissolves in water, especially in hot water. It was like negotiating with a toddler, trying to make sure she wouldn’t get upset or offended. I felt so lonely at that moment. Literally all you needed was a dry cloth to remove the dust on top, and you were good to go. It is the most challenging feat to apply empathy to these people. like why wouldn’t you just look up what to do on the internet in the first place! Sometimes you get so surprised by these people’s stupidity that you’re completely speechless. The first things you utter couldn’t possibly be empathetic enough to these bratty customers, and you risk stepping on a land mine and upsetting the customer.”
What Did He Expect Would Happen
“Here’s a great story, depending on your definition of great. I work in this small retail business with my mom, and we are strictly brick and mortar. Normally, we have a return policy of any item within twenty-one days for store credit. During the holidays, we extend that option, so anything purchased between Black Friday and Christmas Eve can be returned up until the very end of January. A few years ago, this customer came in at the end of April, trying to return this outfit he had bought from us. He brought the outfit in on dry cleaning hangers, which definitely weren’t from our store. When I told him that there was no way we could take this back, even for store credit, this guy completely blew up on me. He cussed me out in front of all the other customers in the store. He then proceeded to leave a one-star review and completely bash our store. His exact words were, ‘I have never been treated like that before at any store!’ Seriously, why do people lie this exist in the world?!”
Sweater Guy Strikes Again!
“I really do look back fondly on this event! I worked at this GM dealer in the early 2000s. We had this customer, whom I’ll call Sweater Guy here, because he would always walk in wearing a sweater no matter the season. He would visit us occasionally, but when it came time to talk about helping his car, he would never want to give us his VIN number, for fear that we would steal his identity through his car. Yes, this was something that a person legitimately feared. His final trip to our shop was an absolute doozy. As per usual, he would not give us any information on his vehicle, but he would expect us to get the right parts for his car, despite all the variations in the type of car he had. By providing us with the information, we could get him exactly what he wanted. Finally, I got him to cooperate after ten solid minutes of this obnoxious back and forth. We hand him the correct parts, and he just stands there, staring at us. My parts manager asked him if something was wrong, and he told us, ‘I want the freshest parts on the shelf! These parts are dusty and have obviously been here forever!’
The parts manager replied, ‘Well, there’s no expiration date on these. They don’t expire. It’s just kind of dusty in the back.’
But Sweater Guy didn’t appreciate that answer. He shouted, ‘I don’t care! I want fresh product or I’m going to the business manager!’
Maybe the business manager could have better luck with this guy? It was like trying to communicate with a brick wall. The business manager arrived and tried to rationalize with Sweater Guy. He only got the same response. My business manager leaves, comes back with a piece of paper and a pen, and tells the guy, ‘Please read and sign this. It states that you are no longer allowed on the premises, seeing as how you continue to harass my employees during each visit. If you return, we will call the police and get you taken off of the property. Understood?’
With that, Sweater Guy reluctantly signed his name and grumbled his way out the door, never to be seen again.”