The Customer is Always Right, Unless They’re Not

Been a while, eh? I know. This is how I roll. I promise to be more diligent about posting something here regularly, and I do it for a few weeks, and then life happens and before I know it, weeks have passed without a word from me. Sorry. If it makes you feel better, just know I’m like this with relationships as well.

Anyway, as we leave Halloween and the world gears up for the Christmas season, I’m reminded why I tend to hermit in my house with my laptop and only venture outside for work: People.

I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s the weather or the moon phase or just something in the air we’re breathing, but people get mean this time of year (meaner than usual in some cases). It should be the one time we all come together. Love, tolerance, happy fucking holidays, for crying out loud. But no. Maybe you don’t realize this, because you don’t work with the public or because you’re blissfully oblivious to such things, but how we treat each other in the wonderful world of retail is a problem.

When discussing my writing, one of the most frequent questions I get is “Where do you come up with these whackjobs/assholes/miserable sons of bitches,” meaning my “villains.” The answer is simple: I’ve met every last one in one form or another. I take the basics of the shitty personalities I encounter and expand on them to craft a character that readers will enjoy reading, but at their heart, each nasty I write is inspired by someone I’ve met.

Now, you might think I’m just dealing with a few exceptions to some rule. I wish that were true. I’ve worked in customer service most of my life. I can say with absolute certainty that we’ve all gotten worse in terms of how we treat each other. Did you know that most people working in retail, the ones you see folding shirts, stocking shelves, waiting tables or running cash registers, have zero control over the prices, stock, and policies of the stores they work in? I know, it’s a crazy idea, but it’s true. They just want to pay their bills, and you behaving like a jackass isn’t going to get you any special favors. Sure, you might get a “Thanks, have a nice day,” but it’s never genuine and sometimes, those sweet smilers are picturing your most painful death as you leave.

raw (1).gif

Here are a few recent gems I’ve encountered:

There’s a man who comes to the deli counter where I work, barks out his order, usually about three to five things, and walks away. Now, this means, he’s listing a particular meat and an amount. “Five slices of headcheese, two slices of ham, six slices of turkey and ten slices of salami.” He never waits to see if the deli person is listening or even close to the counter. Then he’s upset when he has to repeat himself and his order isn’t ready when he returns. Listen, dick-smack, wait for your shit like everyone else or at least make sure you have the person’s attention before you start barking shit at them. I have him almost trained to wait, as does the deli manager, but I see him doing it to other staff, and it’s annoying.

Another man tells us about the one time he got bad turkey at our store. That one time, MORE THAN A YEAR AGO. Every single time he comes in and buys, you guessed it, more turkey, he tells us about the bad turkey he got THAT ONE TIME. What do you want from us, buddy?

We have another woman who likes to search the store for the one item we don’t have, and then asks for it. We say sorry we’re out, and then she raises a holy ruckus about how we never have what she needs. And THEN, she asks for a discount on something else to make up for the inconvenience of not having that other item. Um… no? If it was a one-time thing, I’d be tempted to feel a bit sorry about it, but it’s almost every time I see her. If you’re so inconvenienced so often, why do you keep coming back?

Best of all was the woman who screamed (yes, screamed) at me, because our store offers “multi” sales. Basically, if you buy one of something, it’s this price, but if you buy two or more, you get a discount. In this case, by purchasing two yogurts, the woman would’ve saved about forty cents. FORTY CENTS. Two bags of chips would have saved her about the same. “This is age discrimination!” she said. I laughed, because I’m sometimes not good at this stuff. “I’m serious!” This is where the screaming starts. “I am a single, senior woman, and I can’t eat two of these yogurts. I can’t eat two whole bags of chips! You’re offering deals just to young people with families, which is discrimination, and I will sue if you don’t give me these for half price.”

giphy (17)

So I said, “Well, first of all, you’d only save forty cents, so I’m definitely not giving you these items for half price. Second, these items are good for two weeks or more. Eat one yogurt this week, the other can be eaten next week. Same with the chips.” Worst thing to say, apparently. She went on a bit of a rant (a loud rant at the front of the store, where she held up Lane 1 for a long time) about the discrimination she faces for being an old single woman. Listen, lady, I hear you on the old part, but let’s be real. Being single has its perks so don’t you act like you have it worse than the rest of us. You get to buy those chips without the fear that some asshole kid or husband is going to eat them before you enjoy a single one, nor do you have to buy anything for anyone else to make up for the fact that you bought a treat for yourself, so you’re actually spending way less than the rest of us old ladies who have kids and spouses to feed as well as our selves. Anyway, she demanded to know who to speak to about an age discrimination lawsuit. I was tempted to say “a lawyer” but I didn’t. Instead, I directed her to the corporate website and she informed me she was never shopping at our store again. I said, “Okay, if that’s how you feel.”

NOTE: She was in yesterday. Saw me, turned the opposite direction. Whatever.

We sometimes give scraps of meat to farmers, animal shelter types, etc. It’s scrap meat. Sits in a bucket with other scraps all day.

giphy (19).gif

Imagine our surprise when a man was pissed that he too couldn’t have the scraps for his dogs. We did try to be nice about it. Offered him some, share the wealth, if you will, as long as he asked, but no, that wasn’t good enough. He just went behind the counter and took all of it one day. So, he gets no more. When he realized this, he didn’t just save his complaints for management. Oh no. My kid works in the deli and was working when he went behind the counter (By the way, that’s employees only, fucknut), and she had to say no to him. He was not nice to her at all. But hey, she’s a big girl. She dealt with it and it was over. But it wasn’t. We were at the post office. Fucknut comes in and says, “Oh, there’s the bitch who won’t let me have scraps for my fucking dogs.” My daughter was going from the postal box room into the main area as he said it. Thankfully, she didn’t hear him. But I did and I said, “What bitch? My daughter?”

He blushed, and back pedaled a bit, and then said it wasn’t fair, blah, blah, and he’d never shop at the store again. I told him, “You gotta do what you gotta do, but I’m pretty sure you can afford to buy dog food, and if you think bullying some kid outside of the store will get you what you want, you’re mistaken. It’s more likely to get you punched in the nuts.” Then I left. Small towns. They’re great.

Note: He has not been back. We do not miss him.

Sometimes, people leave part of their groceries behind. If this happens, we put them aside, usually with a note that says when they were left, and a name, if we have one. Now, we can’t hold on to this shit forever, kids. In a larger store, they wouldn’t hold them at all. Your forgetfulness is your own fault, but let’s not get into that. We do hold items left behind, because we’re nice like that. After a few days or, in some cases if the items aren’t going to expire quickly, a week or so, we’ll put the items back out on the shelves. If we don’t find anything, it usually means you didn’t leave them behind. We’ve found items in the aisles that people set down to grab something else, meaning they didn’t pay for them anyway, and sometimes, if you’re like me, you misplace the item at home or on the way home. The store is not responsible for your hectic schedule or your sleep deprived brain.

I’ve had people who believe they’ve left groceries, demand replacement of said groceries and then lose their shit when we refuse. A recent example: Woman left a bag of milk (according to her). Calls the store a couple of days later. First of all, I notice forgotten items as soon as I unload my groceries, not TWO DAYS LATER, but whatever. No milk was left at the registers that week. I told her there was nothing set aside. Cashiers don’t recall what she’s talking about. She says, “Well I left it there. I want a replacement.” I asked if she had a receipt. Nope. But because she “drops thousands” in ours store (a lie) we should just give her the milk, without a receipt or any proof she even bought it. I apologized and said I can’t do that, because some people claim to have left stuff in order to get free groceries, so we require a receipt, which doesn’t even prove they left it behind anyway, but that’s unimportant. I was told I was a thief and she’d have my job. Take it, honey. (So far, she does not have my job. I continue to wait for my replacement.)

giphy (20).gif

Oh, and sales. Jesus, I hate when we have good sales. It’s a guaranteed reason for shit and abuse. We have a sale on soup this week. Fifty cents a can. Yes, it’s a damn good sale. Obviously, everyone wants soup. Cheap soup is even better. It’s Campbell’s, right? Good shit. Gotta stock those cupboards for the apocalypse, right?

giphy (21).gif

Bad example above. I mean, like bacon is ever on sale, right? Anyway, we sold out of soup in about two days. People were coming in and buying multiple cases at a time. God forbid we set a limit, because that would’ve made them nastier. First, chicken noodle was gone, which makes people furious, apparently, then the mushroom went. Mushroom soup people aren’t as easily enraged as chicken soup people, thank God. Chicken soup people were organizing a lynching the second they realized their soup isn’t available. Mushroom soup folks just kind of muttered and glared, possibly plotted a murder or two. Then the vegetable and tomato hung around for a while longer, but soon, they were gone as well. Those people were just like, “Oh, whatever. I guess this is just my life.” Tomato and vegetable soup people are more accepting of their bad luck, you see, which is sad, but I appreciate their ability to turn the anger inward. Thanks Tomatoes and Vegetables, for not taking it out on us.


I think we had one can of vegetable for an entire day. I did receive a few complaints about said can, though. They want twenty-four, not one. One is more infuriating than none. Get it out of our sight. Well, I’m sorry, one’s all we got, sir. Our order comes Mondays. On Sunday, I was informed by an irate man (he really NEEDED twenty-four fucking cans of chicken noodle soup IMMEDIATELY) that we don’t stock sale items on purpose. Apparently, we just use the sale to get them in the store, so they’ll buy other things.

Imagine that! We’re disgusting for using PROMOTIONAL TOOLS to get people to shop at our store. However, we do not purposely short stock items. Christ, do you really think we enjoy the shit and abuse we take for not having a sale item in stock? No, we do not. No one does. Also, we get whatever we’re sent for sales a lot of the time, so if we run short, there’s not much we can do about it. We try to order enough, but if the warehouse doesn’t have it, they just don’t have it. Have you been able to predict what people will or won’t buy and how much? I haven’t either. One of the main goals a retail outlet focuses on is to generate customer loyalty. Happy customers come back. Not angry ones. Short stocking intentionally goes against this basic rule of good business, does it not?

And when something rings up the wrong price, please don’t yell at the cashier. She literally scans the barcode. That’s the extent of her involvement in pricing. It’s all computerized. If the price is wrong, it’s because someone in an office somewhere, plugging in shit to change prices, fucked up. Not her. So, when you make her call the manager, don’t say “SHE charged the wrong price!” as though the poor girl intentionally tried to fuck you over by twenty cents or something. She only scanned your item. The manager will fix the price in a matter of seconds, and you can be on your way. Yes, we have to check the label to make sure it’s the price you claim it is. No, it’s not that we don’t believe you. We’re just doing our job. More than half the time, the customer has read the tag wrong, or has grabbed an item that another customer has put in the wrong shelf. And no, just because it’s in front of that tag doesn’t mean you get it for that price. If the tag identifies the product as Campbell’s chicken noodle soup and there’s a can of baked beans in front of it, you don’t get the beans for fifty cents, because the label clearly says the soup is fifty cents. Now, if it says the baked beans are fifty cents, and you get charged a dollar, that’s a whole other story. We’re sorry and we’ll make shit right. Being an asshole doesn’t magically entitle you to special treatment.

Best of all are the customers who claims to have waited fifteen minutes, or whatever, for service. This is a lie most of the time. An example: When I work the deli, sometimes I have to pee. There is no one to watch the counter for me, so I just have to time it properly. If there are no customers, I run down to the basement, where the staff bathroom is, I pee as fast as I can, wash my hands, run back upstairs, and then wash my hands again, because that’s the rule, and that takes about three to five minutes. I’ve timed it. I never shit at work, so it’s never longer than five minutes. Don’t you tell me you’ve waited fifteen minutes, Ms. Self-Important Douchebag. I know exactly how long you waited. This happens all the damn time. The second they get to the counter, realize no one is there, they have waited fifteen minutes. That seems to be the rule, multiply every second by at least fifteen minutes.

That’s not even half of it. I’m only telling you all about the most recent things we’ve gotten shit over.

There’s also the family with a bazillion kids. Mom and dad don’t work, and they and/or their kids like to steal shit, and then get pissed that we follow them around. Dad bullies the teenage boys we have stocking shelves, and treats the cashiers like garbage. Just this week he called one of the boys a name that doesn’t need to be repeated, and asked him if he thought he was tough, etc. (PS: This kid is small, weighs less than 100 pounds, and was only mopping the floor.) He got to the registers and extended said bullying to the cashier and then pretended to pull the fire alarm as he left. Go ahead, loser. Do it. I’d like to send the cops to your house. We really want you as a customer. Really worried about that complaint you might file with corporate. Fuck off.

If you’ve got nothing to hide, then you won’t mind someone DOING THEIR JOB by being visible in the store.

giphy (11)

Then there’s the guy who steals a single egg, a handful of coffee pods, a single pop from a case, etc. He’s annoying, but he’s good at it. We haven’t been able to catch him yet.

And let’s not forget the general disdain with which a lot of people treat anyone working in customer service. Look, I know you’re important, and your job is the shit, but someone has to work these jobs. In a lot of cases, it’s kids trying to earn money before going to college, or single parents who need flexible hours, or just people who need a second income to make ends meet and the schedules in customer service are often more accommodating when you’re working more than one job than other industries. Doesn’t mean you’re better or more intelligent than them. Without customer service employees, you’d have nothing. No one to abuse. No one to inflate your already massive ego. The customer is NOT always right and it’s not our job to bend over whenever you feel like fucking someone (unless you’re dealing with prostitutes), so fuck off. Okay? Good.

I know I’ve gone on about this for too long, but there is a point. First, to remind you all that we could be better and we should really try harder. Second, every one of these people is ingrained in my memory and usually gets a role in one of my stories in some way. Not them specifically, but a version of them, I suppose. And readers seem to enjoy them, so I guess I should be grateful that they’re assholes. Thank you, dicks of the world, for being you. You’re an inspiration.

6 thoughts on “The Customer is Always Right, Unless They’re Not

  1. You really threatened the punch someone in the nuts? 🙂 This post reminded me when I was in line behind some 50 year old lady at the dry cleaners who OBLITERATED the girl working the register because her pick-up wasn’t done. It was a Saturday and they do the cleaning off-site so there was really nothing that could be done at that moment. The girl working the counter was probably 17 and had a nose ring– obviously this was her summer job, obviously she doesn’t own the company. But the old lady demanded her head and kept giving her ultimatums, as if she was directly responsible. Her rant lasted 15 minutes (ok, you got me, it was probably 5), me awkwardly standing next in line. To this day (this was 15-20 years ago) I feel guilt and shame that I didn’t step in. I wish I had threatened to punch her in the nuts, or some more sensible body part, in the long run it would have saved me from years of holding onto the guilt…

    1. I didn’t say I’d punch him in the nuts. I just warned him that someone “might” do something like that in the future. 😉 I’ve been in the same situation in regard to witnessing that shit and not saying anything. Generally, if the salesperson is handling it well, I keep my mouth shut, because my two cents might make it worse, or (and I have to remind myself of this constantly) the person freaking out may be having a shit day, or month, or they’re just one inconvenience away from a mass shooting. These days, it’s hard to be sure. And I’ve been that 17 year old kid before too. They’re tougher than they look. 🙂

  2. I frequently use such role models of the community for my stories too and it is definitely the best use for these utterly useless and making the world a worse place people. My upcoming story in the EconoClash Review “Turning The Tables” uses such fine folk and really helped me blow off some anger in the process! By the end I was laughing my ass off even though I ended up having to cook my own dinner! Obviously you can’t do that with everything, but the times you can feel a bit like justice. Though not a speculative writer in the least, I learned from James Herriot’s biography that the characters many people came to love were pretty much the standout assholes in James’ life as a practicing veterinarian. I say “Write on my friends!” for that is what keeps us sane.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s