Whoever coined the term “The customer is always right” probably never worked retail a day in his life.  Setting aside my bad customer service experiences for the moment, let me be frank: The customer is NOT always right.  A lot of the time, the customer is wrong and/or downright rude about it.  Take today, for instance, when I was shopping at Safeway for canned pumpkin (it keeps the dogs regular).  I was in the checkout line, standing behind a woman in early sixties.  As the cashier rung up the sale, the woman snapped: “Bagels are supposed to be two forty-nine!  Why aren’t they two forty-nine?!”  The young cashier pointed out that she had, in fact, charged her two forty-nine for bagels.  Rather than apologize or even acknowledge the fact she was in error, the customer quietly redirected her attention to the contents of her purse.  Awkward.  I turned around and started chatting with Akemi when I heard an outraged: “Excuse me!”.  I turned back, wondering what was up. It seemed I was standing too close to the credit card reader.  I stepped over and, after throwing me a baleful glare, Ms. Crankypants proceeded to swipe her card. As she finished up her payment, the cashier scanned my purchases.  Out of the corner of my eye, I watched my fellow customer eyeing her bill with a frown. Then: “Hey!  Why wasn’t I given air miles?”  The cashier politely informed her that she received a $10 dollar coupon toward her next visit.  She could have the coupon or the air miles but, unfortunately, not both.  “I don’t want this!”said the customer, throwing the coupon back at her.  “I want air miles.”  The cashier apologized, told the customer she would make the change, and rang me through.  I thanked the cashier with a: “You’re very kind.”  And then throwing a look to the woman beside me: “And infinitely patient.”  Ms. Crankpants stared back at me, outraged, her mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water.  And, while she was doing her goldfish imitation, I picked up my nine-pack of canned pumpkin and left.

Coincidentally, just this morning I came across this article (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/calgary-restaurants-band-together-to-stop-gift-certificate-scam-1.2617222) about a woman in Calgary who was calling up local restaurants to complain about poor service in order to score free meal coupons.  Word got out.  In one instant, she and her husband enjoyed a free meal – but then raised a huge stink because they weren’t comped their drinks as well. Finally, Teatro Restaurant (https://www.facebook.com/TeatroRestaurant?ref=stream&hc_location=timeline) decided to confront her.  On camera.


Her response to being caught out is priceless.  She’s sympathetic, shocked, and very disappointed.

So, do tell.  I want to hear stories from the other side of the battlefield.  Regale me with your “worst customer” experience.

Hey, it’s been a while since I’ve done a mailbag:

MFB writes: “About Delete: I saw “Delete” last year and liked it but I’ve always wondered why it wasn’t on your site under “Stuff I’ve worked on”. Is the reason that it was rewritten by Tim Phillips and barely resembles what you wrote?”

Answer: Never watched the finished product.  If I do, and like it, I may well put it on the list.  As for Tim Phillips, he was the music composer on the production.  Paul and I wrote the script for the mini-series.

MFB also writes: “Anyway, I thought the premise was intriguing and it was decent except for some of the directing, cinematographic and special effect choices. Not that they were bad, just awkward and weird. But as a writer on this one I suppose you don’t have control over that type of stuff like you would have on “Stargate” as a writer/producer.”

Answer: Paul and I were only writers.  We didn’t produce so had no say in prep, production, post, or any creative decision made after we delivered the script. Again, never saw the finished product.

MFB also writes: “About “Atlantis” in general: I’ve always wondered how the Atlantis crew interact with the Ancient consoles in the control room and I don’t remember an explanation for that. Are the displays holographic or something like that? I know it’s not practical for filming purposes to have stripped down LCDs like the one in the back of the control room in front of the actors, but I’ve always wondered.”

Answer: Hmmm.  Not sure to what you’re referring to exactly?  What we would affectionately refer to as “the pianos” that Chuck would work behind?  In most instances, McKay (and the science team) would use a universal USB (literally, universal) to hook up Earth tech (ie. their laptops) to alien consoles.

Sparrow_hawk writes: “Regarding the George RR Martin Song of Ice and Fire books: The most recent two books were supposed to be one book. He had too much stuff to publish in just one book and it was split into two.”

Answer: If true (which would imply he had an enormous chunk of the second book already written when he published the first), then it’s mind-boggling that there was a six year gap between their publication dates.

whoviantrish writes: “Sushi for dogs? Mine would love that!”

Answer: How about bento-style dinner for dogs?  Check it out.


Today’s entry is dedicated to whovian.  Condolences on your uncle’s passing.

28 thoughts on “April 25, 2014: Customer Service Hell! The Flipside!

  1. Yes! They’d definitely love bento-style dinners. 🙂 And thank you for the blog dedication.

    Ok a bad customer experience that stands out.. I was 16 and working in the children’s department at JC Penney. This man had a grocery store bag and pulled out an ancient and dirty looking cardigan sized 6X. He demanded I accept it as a return. I knew explaining that the lack of receipt would not be enough to win that argument. I gingerly pick up the sweater and see the tag inside reads “K-Mart.” Not even kidding. It was a sweater from K-Mart. I explain to him that JC Penney does not sell K-Mart clothing; K-Mart does. He gets angry and says “I bought this here! Are you calling me a liar?!”

    Thankfully my manager walked up and took over. The man left angrily vowing to tell corporate about us.

    The customer is most definitely wrong sometimes.

  2. Whovian, I am sorry to hear about your uncle’s passing. My condolences.

    As for bad customer stories… wow where to begin? I guess from a time in a previous job where I had a guy who used our return period as a cost free rental store. Had the last laugh on him when he showed up five minute after we closed on the last day of the return period to return his DVD/VCR Combo. He was banging on the door. I had to call security and escort myself and my coworker to our cars.. I also had some close calls with a suspected criminal, and the time on Black Friday where I called the police and had a person arrested with a fake ID of a dead guy.. Yea so many stupid people…

  3. I’ve been a retail store manager or district manager for 19 years. I’ve been yelled at, cursed at, had things thrown at me, had people try to hit me, been called a fat bitch, had people steal products, been robbed (cash register $), had fires set, and been subject to pretty much any other bad experience you can think of at the hands of people who call themselves customers.

    All that sounds terrible, but it really is just a small fraction of a percent of all the people I’ve interacted with over the years. A massive majority of people choose to be civil or even kind in their interactions with the workforce. Almost all problems that arise in a store can be easily and happily fixed for the customer, and being polite and kind to the store staff really does make the staff want to help the customer however they can.

  4. I figure most stores want the business of even people who have poor social skills so dealing with that lady’s level of bleh is in the job description. At a certain point, the customer is shopping for something that store ain’t selling, by which I mean the customer is just looking to get a little free venting therapy or try out what it’s like to be above reproach while deserving it and that’s about where I think the line of not needing to put up with it is.

    Having worked in customer service, I’ve concluded that I’m in the lower percentage of amicability in a customer. I’m uncomfortable with the types of conversations involved with the exchanges and I’m impressed that I’ve seen thousands upon thousands of people pull it off with ease. There are places in those conversations where I’m on the verge of mutism and I must seem almost angry when I push past that to blurt out whatever I need to say.

  5. Good for you for calling that woman out on her bullshit! I hope the message sunk in.

  6. @Joe: mind-boggling indeed. And the books keep adding new characters and “points of view”… the threads are going in so many directions that I despair of them ever being woven back together.

    @whovian: Sorry to hear about your uncle. My condolences to you and your family.

    I’ve got no customer service horror stories to share at the moment. I tend to be pretty sympathetic to folks behind the counter or on the other end of the phone – I worked as a telephone operator and a cashier for Northern Illinois Gas back when I was in college. I learned some new words from people who had their gas shut off for non-payment. Guido was the one who went out to do the dirty deed. He had great stories about the lengths to which some people would go to try to keep him out.

    My customer service pet peeve however is waiters/waitresses who, when I thank them for refilling my water glass or some other service say “no problem” instead of “you’re welcome”.. It makes me crazy.

    *sigh* I’m turning into an old fart.

  7. @whovian My condolences on your uncle’s passing.

    I worked in a mom and pop grocery store a while back. A husband and wife, who managed a senior’s apartment building in our little town and who did not shop at this store came in to buy groceries for an event they were putting on for the seniors. The housing authority had an account with us and these two were so not happy about being forced to shop at their favourite store’s rival. They were rude, snobbish and, after I finished ringing up their rather large order, they demanded an itemized list. This was before the days of cash registers printing out each item automatically. They both gave me a lot of flack, until my boss came along and wanted to know what the problem was. They were getting quite loud and obnoxious. As soon as my boss got to the reason for their temper tantrum he told them very firmly that he would hand write each item for them, but next time they needed to tell us ahead of time, before they went through the checkout. They never came back, as they either quit or were fired from their job at the senior’s building.

    Got my cat Roxy’s ashes back today. It caught me off guard, as I thought she wouldn’t be back until next week. It’s been two and a half weeks since she died. I cried all the way home, but feel somewhat better knowing she’s here with me again. Her urn is on a shelf next to her brother and his sister, who died before I got Roxy. (It feels like I’m collecting them!) The vet forgot to ask me if I want the name plaque that hangs on a chain around the urn, so that will arrive at another time. Hope I don’t burst into tears again when that gets here. I’m emotionally wrung out. I miss Roxy so much but can’t keep crying at random moments. Every time I think I’m handling this better and I’m able to laugh again another burst of emotion sneaks up on me. The fact that I’m able to write this without bawling gives me hope that I’ll get through this eventually.

  8. The thing that I keep noticing (at least where in the area where I live), is people who work in stores, who are so intent on their jobs of putting out merchandise, and they get in front of customers, push carts in front of the customer, etc. I am just baffled that employees think they have the “right of way”, and they make customers wait or go around. (This is especially baffling when I push an elderly friend in a wheelchair to do her shopping. They impede progress of the wheelchair, and in some aisles, there isn’t room to go around.)
    But…on the good side, many, many other customers are kind and polite–so thank you to them!

    For the next mailbag: Mr. Mallozzi, what are you working on these days?

  9. I work in customer service for a health insurance company and we carried an employer-based policy that had a limit on how many Viagra pills we would cover. This guy wanted an unlimited quantity because “he was fat and couldn’t reach IT unless IT was under the influence of Viagra”. No lie. He got quite graphic over what would happen without the Viagra….hope he learned to go sitting down!

  10. crap! one false typo and poof my entry is gone! here goes again:

    I was very jealous of that bento-style dinner for (is that Jelly being served dinner in bed?). It looked so good. Until I zoomed in. Not so jealous anymore.

    @ whoviantrish – Sorry about your uncle. Praying your entire family is doing okay.

    @ glowyzoey – I’m betting you cry when you get Roxy’s name plaque. It’s okay. Go ahead and cry. It will get better, but don’t be surprised if in a couple of years, something will remind you of her and you get a tear in your eye. That happens when you lose a beloved friend and member of your family.

    When I was 17, my first job for 4 years was working in a pharmacy. I learned how to deal with people. Sick people that did not feel very good. There was this one man, a regular customer. He would come in about every 2 weeks and buy the same box of antacides. He was very grumpy, never spoke. He would throw the box on the counter at me, sometimes with such force, it would slide off, over the other side and land at my feet. I decided I was going to be very nice to him, no matter what. I’d just pick it up and check him out, always smiling and treating him with respect. Slowly, over the months, years, he softened up. I looked forward to seeing him. He got to were he would talk a little, or chat with the pharmacist. Toward the end, he was like a favorite customer, and I believe he really enjoyed coming in and seeing us too. He turned out to be a very nice man.

    The moral of this story is, don’t give up being nice to others. What you give will come back.

    But Joe, if I knew karate, I would have loved to of done a round-house-Walker-Texas-Ranger style kick right in the face to that lady at the check-out! 😡 You handled it just right. I’m going to remember that in the future and instead of focusing my irritation on the rude person, I will compliment the worker who has to put up with it.

  11. Another BTW: I often give a hearty “Thank you for being here!” to workers who are on night /weekend shifts. Been there, done that, know how it disrupts one’s life.

  12. yes, mckay did have usb to everything in that show…I recall making many of them, especially in season 4, I think. ‘USB to Ancient’ and ‘USB to Wraith’ were my favorites 😀

  13. I have worked as a receptionist and in customer services for years before I got this stupid ME/CFS. I had loads of people who thought it was funny to try and piss of the person on the other end of the phone. Can’t really remember them though as you tended to zone out until the person had stopped ranting and then just replied certainly sir can I help you with anything else. 😀

    One does stick in my mind because it was just so silly. I worked on a facilities desk for a big company and one day I had someone come on the phone to complain about a parcel he had received. He had reported a fault with the photocopier and the eng had come out and said he needed to return He had the part he needed sent directly to this guy. You then phoned the eng to say the part had arrived and they then returned to fit it. The reason that the guy was on the phone complaining though was because he had got it and did we realise that it could have been a bomb!!!!! Really!!!! It had gone through I don’t know how many hands to get to him including the post room. But he was adamant and wanted to post a complaint about how badly we had handled the situation and how I was not taking him seriously! I was just wondering on the other end what he was like in the office.

    Kriss 🙂

  14. @whovian. My condolences to you and your family.

    @ glowyzoey. Cheer up! You are doing well. As Ponytail say cry not is bad go ahead.

    Usually I take of the way if there is any mess. I have enough excitement. Thanks

    I think next Iphone 6 have Wraith & Ancient Bluetooth. 😛

  15. Customer service nightmares??

    ALL people should work in CS for at least a year, perhaps then they would not blame the poor checkout staff, or the shelf stockers, or anyone else for their OWN stupidity. I loathed uppity customers with a mouth, (and, most often, they were the people who had nothing to complain about)
    I spent 20 years in CS, fortunately, the good people far outweighed the self important tools. It’s always the “good people” who make it worthwhile.

  16. Oh and the plate has a pug face on it! Akemi very detail oriented.

    Condolences to Whovian and Glowyzoey.

    I’ve got a few stories from my vet tech days but I’m turning over a new leaf (trying to). After spending time with an old friend and listening to his constant negative comments, I felt sorry for him. That’s why I loved Ponytail’s story so much. I want to grow up and be like Ponytail!

    While in Nashville, we went to Trader Joe’s and I bought some macroons. My friends and I ate the whole box at one sitting. Delicious but so delicate!

  17. @whovian:

    I’m praying for you on the loss of your uncle. It’s never an easy time, but hopefully you’ll get a chance to remember the happy times with him too.

    On customer service nightmares:

    There haven’t been too many in my life (or perhaps I don’t care to remember them?) On the receiving side, I have been the recipient of a few undeserved chew-outs by customers, but there was nothing that wasn’t resolvable in the end.

    When I worked as a doorman at a movie cinema in high school, there was one customer I got into an argument with over entry to the cinema to use the bathroom. The cinema had a policy of “bathroom use for customers only”, since the cinema location was at a community lakefront and during special events the traffic to use the restroom would be overwhelming if it was open to the public.

    During a July 4th celebration at the lakefront, a drunk gentleman decided he didn’t want to wait in the port-a-potty line so he came over to the cinema to demand to use the restroom. I politely declined him entry, citing the policy and the reasons for it, he then started yelling at me and shouting obscenities. After a minute or so of this behavior, he went to the ticket counter, bought a ticket, came in and “used” the bathroom, and then left. Shortly after that I got called in to the clean the stall he used. Being drunk, he missed the toilet, covered the stall with urine, and then added vomit for good measure.

    I learned a lot of hard-core cleaning techniques from that job. If you need to remove dried chewing gum from carpet, let me know; I’ve got a technique for that!

    The worst for me on the customer side was when our Maytag washer broke and the part took six weeks to come in (plus two weeks on either end for service scheduling). The annoying part of that deal was that I could order the part online (in stock) and have it in a few days, but that “wasn’t in their channel” so the warranty repair service couldn’t do that. This incident just reenforced my tendency to want to fix everything myself.

    And on the subject of something I’m NOT fixing myself, today I’m finally getting my roof replaced! It was damaged last April in a hail storm, but I didn’t discover the damage until October (when leaks started), and then I had to haggle with the insurance company (they initially denied the claim despite two other houses on the court being damaged in the same storm). I finally got them to agree to a re-inspection, but by then winter-snows had set in. I had to wait until 3 weeks ago for the re-inspection, but after that it was approved. So right now it is raining old roofing material into the yard, and sounding like the roof is being hit with 150lbs hail stones (our poor dog, Lucy, seems to think all the noise is thunder and she has wrapped herself around my ankles). But, thankfully, it should all be done by the end of the day.

    Up next is the siding…

  18. I worked at the first Wendy;s in Utah, we were always very busy. The girls on the drive up window got the worst abuse. The manager would not put up with it. One guy gave a rambling complicated order, which at the time was difficult, we only sold five items. The girl made a ten cent mistake with the change. He drove away, then came back, cursing out this poor 16 year old, and threw the bag of burgers at her. She was traumatized. The manager took back the bags of food, tossed a twenty ni the car and warned the guy to never, ever come back on the property or the cops would be called. He was just a kid himself, but he was not putting up with crap.
    I was often assigned to be in front of the counter, taking orders from folks in line (the old basic menu), our goal was always to have the food ready by the time the change was made. I fetched water for seniors and puppets for children. Mostly cleaning tables, but the manager knew I was polite and sweet, hence gold to walk in customers.

  19. I worked for a company that process payroll as a third party processor. My supervisor had me call a client who’s account I would be taking over. She was dissatisfied with her previous specialist (a good specialist, might I add), and so to appease her they were switching her account to me.

    I called her to find out what was going on, smooth things over, yada yada yada. She kept trying to goad me into talking poorly about my co-worker (who, I might add, I happened to like). I remained professional, redirecting the conversation back to the issue at hand. After a couple more vain attempts to get me to start co-worker bashing, her tone dropped and she replied, “I really wouldn’t mind if you put a pipe bomb under her desk.”

    I was stunned. My heart literally stopped.

    I took a second to compose myself and informed her that I would need to terminate the call at that point. She then went into a rage and started accusing me. “You’re her friend aren’t you? YOU LIKE HER!!” When I explained that her previous specialist was my co-worker she continued to berate me and scream that she had been promised she would never have to have anything to do with previous specialist again and how dare her account be transferred and… well I finally ended the call as quickly as I could. (We worked in a small office – we all knew each other, there was no way to get a specialist who didn’t know her previous one for crying out loud).

    My direct supervisor was a bit of a dunce (ugh). I told her I was *not* going to work with a client that advocated workplace violence. She told me I had to. I pretty much stood up, walked by her, and went straight to my department manager’s office. They called the client and told her that she was never, ever, ever allowed to speak to any specialist like that again and that we would voluntarily terminate her account if she ever did anything like that again.

    From the point forward, she never spoke to me by phone and would only communicate by e-mail (oh the stories I could regale you with there, including the time she found out an employee was using a false social security number). She was eventually fired from her job. But ugh, those were some terrible days. She was a nightmare to work with.

  20. The story on how George R R Martin’s fourth book became two books is here:
    Bridging the timeline gap (2000–2011)

    In essence, he had promised a shorter book, but it turned out much longer and he didn’t want to split it into part 1 and 2, with part 1 having no resolution. A friend suggested it be split geographically, and that’s what he did. And then he increased the size of the first part anyways, and then made the second part an even larger book.

    I remember this, the rumours were going around every year that it was going to be published “next year”.

    Eventually I stopped reading the series, my eyes got old and I got tired of reading never ending series that always wound up with the author dying before it was finished. I thought that was a pretty good chance for Martin, considering his size and how long it takes him to get out a book. I also could never remember what happened from the previous book, and the books had become fairly complicated with a dozen or so major characters. I was going to say plot lines instead of characters, but in thinking about it I’m not sure if there are any plots, or if it’s just killing, killing and more killing.

  21. Worst customer: A guy who was mad about the return policy. The product was expensive, but he had clearly heavily used it for 6 months and damaged it somehow. When I explained the policy (he could have returned it, but would have to go through corporate), he left.

    He came back 20 minutes later with a wooden baseball bat, slammed it down on the counter, splintered the bat, damaged the counter, and scared the HELL out of me. Let’s not forget the, um, colorful language, either.

  22. I was in my car with my wife and dog at the local McDonalds drive through window getting a soft serve ice cream cone for our dog, (I don’t eat there), when a guy who appeared to be about 60 walked up to the window, while my car was pulled up to it.

    He said “I have a tip for you” to the very young looking teenage girl working the window.
    She said “We’re not allowed to take tips, Sir, thank you.”

    The guy reached forward, grabbed her shirt and threw a handful of change down her top. Then he walked away. I was speechless. I opened my car door and started walking after him when the young girl practically begged me not to go after him. By this time he was running and disappeared around the corner of the gas station next door.

    My wife started telling her that she didn’t need to take that sort of crap from anyone, at the very least it was assault. She didn’t want to make a big thing out of it. My wife and I were both furious that she was treated like that by some old pervert, but she was happy and smiling like it was the greatest time in her life.

    My own story:
    I used to work in a bar. One night a customer walked in, I asked him how he was and what could I get him? He grabbed a beer bottle off the nearest table and threw it at my head.

    I have a lot stories like that from the bar. Eventually I quit working at bars, I quit going to bars and I stopped hanging around people who drink in bars.

  23. Looks like my “examples” post from yesterday got lost. To recap:

    My front-line customer-service job history goes back to the mid-70s; there are probably TOO MANY stories. I’ve worked public-contact jobs in government, commercial, and non-profit sectors.

    Limiting myself to three examples:
    –The Roman Catholic cardinal, in robes and biretta, who elegantly wrote his name but refused to complete the rest of his immigration documents.
    –The guy who, when I asked him to participate in a telephone survey, screeched: “It’s Friday night! Don’t you have anything better to do?”
    –The cursing complainer who apologized when I responded that I could not and would not continue the call if he continued using foul language.

  24. @Baterista9 and Tam Dixon Thank you.

    @Ponytail Unfortunately, I have been through this before with human and fur family, but what you said helped. I’ve been having such a difficult time because Roxy was pretty special. Very different from the average cat. She died unexpectedly after being diagnosed as constipated. She had cancer and there was nothing anyone could have done anyway. I was talking to her seconds before she passed, but didn’t get to say a proper goodbye. I’ve been struggling to accept what happened and make sense of it, but what the mind knows and what the heart feels are often two different things.

    Okay. enough. I miss her but I’m not dwelling on it any more. Today was a good day.. Hoping for two or more in a row.

  25. Not enough time to write a lengthy post about customer service things (being on the receiving end and watching others be rude). As far as the woman & husband, I would place these people in my liars and manipulators that I talk about in my pet peeves.

    Your dogs eat better than I do. Pumpkin is so great to keep a dog’s BM’s good. I have to run out to a new client meet & greet, but hopefully will be back later to catch up.

    Whovian–sent you a message. Hugs to glowyzoey. That’s always a difficult day.

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