I was covering for a coworker today at work and answering sales email, and I got a message that contained, in part, the following:

Paying for software sucks when the vendor is THIS MUCH OF AN IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!!!

I quickly typed my response:

Dear Sir: That may be, but it’s also true that answering sales email sucks when the customer is THIS MUCH OF A JERK.

PS. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh, of course I didn’t. I was ridiculously pleasant and professional, although I did start out my email with the words “Whoah there”.

9.999 times out of 10 in customer service, when someone has worked themselves into an obnoxious state of being and you respond with politeness and a willingness to fix their problem, they instantly deflate. Usually they end up being apologetic and perfectly reasonable.

Why take the low road to begin with, though? Why do so many people vent their frustrations on people who had nothing to do with their bad day/month/life?

I really don’t get it. I’ve worked a number of jobs where I had to deal with the public and I have taken a heap of abuse (although on rare occasion it’s been deserved, like the time at a Kinko’s job when I accidentally laminated a FLY onto someone’s antique map they got in Europe), so maybe I’m extra sympathetic, but I don’t think it takes the experience of having someone yell directly in your face about how they ordered it WITH CHEESE, JESUS FUCK, in order to understand that it’s just not right to treat people with a complete lack of respect. I mean, I think it just takes common sense.

Years ago I worked at a small video store where part of my job was to call the “late list”. The late list was a dot-matrix printout generated by our computers each day that listed all the late rentals and the customer who had them. I hated calling the late list more than anything else at that job–I’m including the time a small child barfed an entire Pizza Hut onto the carpet and I had to clean it with a broom and a box of Kleenex–because people were so incredibly defensive and rude. Admittedly it’s intrusive to get a call at home about your copy of “Weekend at Bernie’s” but people would lose their damn minds. They would deliver an impassioned speech at top volume about how of COURSE it wasn’t late THEY certainly didn’t have it and maybe I should check the fucking SHELVES, etc, and then five minutes later the video would come slithering through the drop box with a guilty thunk and a car would screech off.

Those same people would raise so much hell over a late fee I would literally feel a wash of dread come over me every time someone’s account had a fine associated with it. I’d clear my throat, tell them they had a fee, and take a step back to duck their flying spittle as they generally freaked the fuck out over $1.50. The patriarch types were always the loudest, bellowing about the injustice of it all while their family cowered beside them, and it went without saying that the late movie was always something like “Lusty Latina Lockup”.

Oh, and ONE time? A woman came storming in, accused me of not warning her that “Reservoir Dogs” wasn’t a child-friendly movie (I am not even kidding), and threw the tape (this was back when dinosaurs roamed the land, the earth’s crust was still cooling, and movies came on VHS) directly at my head.

Anyway, I seem to have gone off down Unpleasant Memory Lane. My point is, why be a dick? No one is paid enough to take abuse from strangers.

Well, maybe certain 1-976 operators. But that’s it.

Okay, your task for the comments section: tell me your worst customer experience, a bad-behavior situation that you can laugh at now but was a nightmare at the time. Ready, go!

(ETA: Oh my GOD your stories are killing me. Man, we’ve all been in the shit.)

:::
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(Dog always treats everyone equally. EQUALLY DELICIOUS THAT IS.)

Comments

112 Responses to “In the face of adversity”

  1. Kirsten on April 6th, 2006 3:14 pm

    oh FUN!
    I used to work at an ice cream parlor…and of course one Saturday – it was a beautiful, hot, California day – and only two of us were working. There was a line out the door, and I was a bit frazzled due to all the chaos. An older woman ordered a scoop of pistachio ice cream, so I scooped it up and handed it to her…she proceeded to tell me that it was wrong – and I needed to get her PISTACHIO ice cream. I explained to her that I DID give her Pistachio…which is when she proceeded to yell and scream at me because the ice cream I gave her was GREEN – and SHE KNEW that Pistachio Ice Cream WAS NOT green. Which is funny because it IS GREEN.
    I just stared at her and tried to explain over and over again that I had given her the right flavor. She actually cussed and yelled over this green ice cream…which was mortifying because everyone was staring at this pyscho woman causing such a scene, and I had no idea what to do.
    In the end, I gave it to her at no charge and she stomped off swearing up a storm. I was really pissed at the time – but now I can just shake my head and laugh.
    The good thing was that everyone in line felt sorry for me, so I got alot of good tips that day!

  2. robyn on April 6th, 2006 7:02 pm

    During college I worked as a bank teller. The morning we received our shipment of free calenders to hand out to the customers, the manager gathered us together before we opened and gave us a stern warning that they were only one to a customer and if we were caught giving out more than one our jobs would be on the line.

    Not long after, an older man came in and asked me for two calendars. I politely said, “I am sorry sir, we are only allowed to give out one calender per customer,” at which point a string of obscenities and insults poured forth from his mouth. (all over these cheap ass calenders with cheesy kitten pictures!) I don’t remember everything he said but the words “fat” and “stupid” stand out.

    I didn’t know what to say, I remember my face burning red from the embarrasment because he was screaming so loudly that everyone in the bank was looking at us.

    I called the manager over and explained the situation. He handed 2 calenders to the man and then, in front of everyone, chastised me for not giving the man as many calenders as he wanted and walked away.

    The customer made a few last smug remarks and left, calenders in hand.

    I quit that job soon after. The funny thing is the majority of my customers were very nice and I actually enjoyed the job. I would have stayed longer had it not been for the crappy management.

  3. Sonia(DDM) on April 6th, 2006 11:33 pm

    AAAaaaand I thought of another. Tanning salon, I’ve worked there on and off since high school, my best friend owns it. THE BEST JOB EVER! Easy, light, fluffy.
    Last year, we had to remove the little garbage cans in each of the rooms.
    Because someone POOPED in one.
    Seriously.
    And? I’ve had to go in rooms with a Hazmat suit to clean up semen on the top acrylics.
    Eeeeeewwwwww. Thankfully, those gross things don’t happen very often.

  4. Sonia(DDM) on April 6th, 2006 11:35 pm

    And? My phamacy tech job…..I’ve been robbed at work twice now. First time was at knife point when I was 19. Last year, when I was 31 it happened again, this time at gunpoint. Both times for drugs. I haven’t worked there much since the last incident. The first one scared the hell out of me, the second one scared the HOLY hell out of me…..it became much more disturbing for me once I became someone’s mother.

  5. quickie on April 7th, 2006 3:04 pm

    I used to work at a pizza place and one night I bring out the pie to a table and set it down. This woman looks at me and says, “There’s CHEESE on this!” I said, “Oh, I’m so sorry, did you order it without cheese?” “NO,” she says, emphatically. At this point, I was kinda at a loss, so I just stood there trying to assimilate the information. And no, she didn’t have an accent of any kind so there was no rational to be found there. She then says, “I have been eating pizza for twenty years and I have NEVER had one served to me with cheese on it.” Me…still silent. I mean, hello! What can you say in reply to such insanity? I looked around at the others at her table but none of them came to my defense. So finally, I say, “Well, I can take it back and have them make you another one if you like,” and she just huffs and says, “No, don’t bother (bitchy voice), I’ll just PICK it off. Humph!”

    Damn straight you’ll pick it off bitch! Like what freaking corner of America serves pizza with NO FUCKING CHEESE ON IT ?!?!?!?

  6. sarah on April 9th, 2006 7:29 am

    i’ve coached tennis in the summer for a long time and last summer, i took a week out of my regular job to work at the camp.
    one night, after bringing the kids back from the movies, i was in the office in the dorm, and the phone rings. i answer the way i answer any phone – camp name, my name, how can i help you – the woman doesn’t even introduce herself, she immediately begins questioning that she’s got the right camp, blah blah, and then starts into a tirade of abuse, about how her child has been neglected, is crying, frightened, can’t find a counselor, accountability, etc. it took me more than five minutes to get a word in edgewise in order to find out her name, confirm that her child was actually a camper at our camp, and try figure out what was *really* going on. fortunately, one of my bosses was in the office rooms at that time, and i got her on the phone with crazy. at this point, three counselors are running around the dorm, to find this kid, find the counselors who are on this kids floor, etc.

    crazy on the phone, it turns out, is drunk (shocker!), and her abuse, also abuse from her husband, continues for about an HOUR. in reality, her kid had started fighting with his roommate while his roommate was on the phone with family (these kids are about 12), so the roommate locked son of crazy out of the room so he could talk in peace, and then the kid starts screaming and banging on the door to get back in, and then calls his mom. there was a counselor who was two doors down who talked to the kid, told him to stop yelling, left it at that.

    this turns out to be about 90 mintues of drama, and i am threating to climb the nearest tree when the parents will be picking up their kids from a week of camp, because i don’t want to be anywhere near this lady. lord. thankfully, our director had no problem calling this lady on her bullshit.

  7. H.A. in VA on April 10th, 2006 3:47 am

    Last September, I picked up a part-time job at a local scrapbook supply store that I like to shop at (under the premise that I need to earn some extra money to support my habit, but that’s another story). I love working there – my coworkers are great, it’s a fun and creative environment, and the vast majority of the customers are fantastic. And then we get the odd customer like we had one Saturday in early November.

    OMG. There’s just no sugar-coating it. This woman (’cause she sure wasn’t no “lady”) was a complete and total bitch. My coworker (“C.”) and I were stunned at the level of rudeness this woman displayed. Pushy, demanding, inconsiderate – think of everything you can find to hate about a human being and package it into someone who looks like a sweet older lady. Holy CRAP.

    First thing she did when she entered the store was ask about the class we had going on that morning. Normally this isn’t a big deal – people ask about classes all the time. But the tone she used just struck us as extremely abrasive. The instructor let her know that no, same day class reservations aren’t done and that any class kits she had were either for people taking the class, or those who’d reserved the kits earlier. No extras available, so sorry – these things are prepared in advance. So old bitch lady was pissed about that. She wanted us to turn up the store stereo. She got snarky when asking C. to cut some ribbon. She tried cutting in front of another customer at the register and got huffy when we went to the person who had been polite and waited her turn. She was pissed when she asked for a store business card and we told her that there weren’t any. Old Bitch Lady: “Well, do you have anything with the store info on it?!?” C.: “Yes, the store name, address, and phone number is on your receipt.” OBL: “You don’t have a business card?!?” Me: “No ma’am, we don’t.” OBL: “Why?!?” Me: “Because the owners haven’t provided any.” That shut her up.

    Truly a nasty individual. What astounded C. and me was that she was with several other people (who were all lovely – one was very sweet and friendly, and dropped quite a lot of money into our register). C. and I came to the conclusion that OBL must be related to the others because we simply couldn’t imagine her actually having friends. I managed to keep smiling and was exceedingly polite to the point of almost being saccharine. C. told me later that she wanted to hit me for being so nice to someone who didn’t deserve it. I laughed and explained my “kill ’em with kindness” theory: be nice to everyone – those who deserve it will appreciate it, and everyone else will just get frustrated.

    Fortunately, she was the only really bad one I encountered throughout the entire holiday season.

  8. leslie on April 10th, 2006 7:49 am

    Many years ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I was working as 19-year-old telephone operator in a large city. This was back in the days when long distance calls were commonly made through the operator, and I worked at the switchboard. The kind with wires that you pushed into little holes to connect people to their “party.” The long distance world was filled with loud-mouthed jerks, who would go off on the operator at the drop of a hat. Most of the time I would be handling as many as 10 to 12 calls at a time, and whenever I would get two whacked-out screamers at the same time, I would say in the my most fake sweet voice, “I am so sorry, ma’am (or sir). Please hold for just a moment and I will connect you to my supervisor.” Then I would plug the two idiots into each other and sit back and listen. Now that I think of it, that was actually the best part of a really sucky job. Or maybe the best part was that I figured out there was value in education, and I eventually quit and went back to school. But the screamers screaming at each other were pretty darn good.

  9. Lisa on April 10th, 2006 10:07 am

    I SO had a “I’m going to reach over this counter and bitchslap you into next Thursday” kinda moment this morning…along with my boss.

    The following conversation is between me and my ex-husband, as I related the whole sordid story to him. It’s easier than typing the whole thing out again…

    [11:51] raspberryvixen: boss and I so had a clientcopia moment this morning
    [11:52] raspberryvixen: (you know you spend WAY TOO MUCH TIME on the web when you start using websites in referring to day to day things!)
    [11:52] JimmyZ SC2: heh
    [11:52] JimmyZ SC2: so what happened?
    [11:52] raspberryvixen: there was this job…these two women came in on friday and needed a quote
    [11:52] * JimmyZ SC2 has had several of those moments already today….I’m doing a server install in the most computer-stupid hotel I’ve found so far
    [11:53] raspberryvixen: what the job was originally described to me as
    [11:53] raspberryvixen: 1st page: Color copy
    [11:53] raspberryvixen: 2 and 3rd pages: B&W, single sided, stapled together
    [11:53] raspberryvixen: and then the color copy gets collated on top
    [11:53] raspberryvixen: I confirmed this with her THREE TIMES, especially about the black and white, ’cause i thought it was REALLY STRANGE to have it single sided and stapled like that
    [11:54] raspberryvixen: so we get the job
    [11:54] raspberryvixen: i explain the whole thing to boss (remember this for later)
    [11:54] raspberryvixen: boss calls the woman friday to confirm, especially about the b&w
    [11:54] raspberryvixen: so he starts the job this morning
    [11:54] raspberryvixen: i get into work and find him stapling the color copy to the black and whites
    [11:55] raspberryvixen: *facepalm*
    [11:55] raspberryvixen: soooo, we figure, he’ll call the woman and see if it’s okay like that
    [11:55] raspberryvixen: WELL
    [11:55] raspberryvixen: SHE FLIPS THE FUCK OUT
    [11:55] raspberryvixen: “THAT’S NOT WHAT I WANTED! WHY WOULD I WANT THOSE SHEETS STAPLED? THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO BE DOUBLE SIDED!” and yadda yadda yadda
    [11:56] raspberryvixen: so boss flips out at her on the phone and she says she’ll take what we’ve already done but to do the rest THE RIGHT WAY *cough*
    [11:56] raspberryvixen: here’s the best part….
    [11:56] raspberryvixen: (still awake?)
    [11:57] raspberryvixen: she comes in to pick up the box and proceeds to tell my boss…..
    [11:57] raspberryvixen: “I’M THE OWNER OF THE COMPANY! I NEVER MAKE MISTAKES! I’VE BEEN DOING THIS FOR TWENTY YEARS! I NEVER MAKE MISTAKES!!!!”

    The words “arrogant” and “bitch” went flying around from both me and the boss, even before the door had closed in her wake.

  10. Dana on April 11th, 2006 4:19 am

    I used to work at a major department store in White Plains, NY, and the worst experience I had was on the day after Thanksgiving (1996) the store gave out early-bird coupons for $10 off a purchase of $25 or more, which was written clearly on the coupon. My first customer of the morning handed me 2 sets of socks, the total was $10 and she handed me the coupon. I explained that the coupon was good for $10 off a purchase of $25 or more, and she called me a racist. What a way to start the day!

    Oh that reminds me I had another wonderful day-after-Thanksgiving experience a few years before that, same company different store. I came in later in the day and when I got to the sales floor one of my coworkers told me to have a look in the fitting room. I went in and immidiately got a whiff of jhiff and in one of the changing rooms there was a turd that, I kid you not, was no shorter than 16 inches long. And this, my friend, was in the fitting room of the lingerie department!

    I worked for that company for 5 years and have lirs of crazy stories but have managed to block out most of them.

    http://banadana.blogspot.com/

  11. Holly on April 11th, 2006 1:34 pm

    ive felt every bit of your movie store late list agony. i worked in a small-town movie store, the kind with weekly specials, cardboard disney characters and a porn room. (yeah, i dont know either)
    the worst late list moments were always porn-related. couples set up an account together, husband/boyfriend rents porn on the sly, wife/girlfriend answers phone when we call….not good. vast majority of them had no clue and vehemently denied their significant other would ever rent anything called “dont make my brown eye red”.
    honestly, though, it was worth it. free rentals and we always made mad fun of them after we hung up.

  12. Julie on April 11th, 2006 4:56 pm

    This has been great reading! I have to add one for my husband. He was working for a lawn care company doing chemical applications. Each day they had a “goal” to meet. After working a 12 hour day, and walking over 10 miles, my husband headed back in to the office. His manager asked him what he did for the day my husband said, “$999.00.” His goal was $1000.00 so the manager, in all seriousness, jumped his $^@# and told him that he get back out there if he ever wanted to move up in the company and have his prestigious position. My husband did not go back out for that extra dollar and quit about a week later.