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September 17, 2008

The Worst Customer – Part 1

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 2:55 pm

Almost a year ago I wrote a post that was called the 10 minute interview in which I talked about my method of hiring fast food employees and how it can be adapted to other professions.

I realized that these 4 questions don’t only serve as a great interview guide, but they also remind me of some very interesting stories. So, I’d like to take some time and share those stories. We’re going to start with question 1: Baardheere Tell me about the worst customer you’ve ever had to deal with.

It was Wednesday, and I was working the morning shift (7am to 5pm.) I had just finished collecting the money from the registers and was preparing a bank deposit when there was a knock at the office door. Opening the door I saw my cashier standing there with a crisp new $100 bill.

“Can you make change for the lady at the counter?” she said, handing me the bill.

I said “Sure, no problem” as I grabbed 5 20’s off of my desk and locked the door behind me.

As I got to the counter, I noticed my store was nearly empty. There was a family near the back sitting at a table, and one single lady busy holding down my counter.

I walked up to her and said “were you waiting on some change?” but she simply gave me a blank stare.

All of a sudden, the lady in the back of the restaurant came charging up to the counter saying “that’s my money, why did you assume it was hers?”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I was told the lady at the counter, and this was the only lady at the counter. Here’s your change.” as I held out the stack of $20 bills.

She didn’t take it. Instead, her scowl embiggened and she repeated (only louder) “Why did you assume it was her $100 bill?”

Again, I repeated “I’m sorry, I was told to make change for the lady at the counter, and there was only one lady at the counter.”

“No, that’s not what you assumed,” she said. “You assumed that because I was black that I couldn’t have a $100 bill, so you thought it was the white lady’s. You’re just a racist.”

Somehow managing to restrain my laughter I once again said “No Ma’am, I simply thought that somebody waiting for $100 wouldn’t get up and walk away. Here’s your change” and I held it out for her again.

Still, she didn’t take it.

“I don’t need to sit here and be mistreated because of my skin color. You think that black people can’t have any money, that we’re all on welfare don’t you you little prick? I don’t have to take this shit from an ignorant racist like yourself.”

At this point her food was being placed on the tray in front of her and her kids were starting to pick at the food.

“You’re right, Ma’am” I said. “And I don’t have to sit here and be insulted by a customer either.”

“Here’s your $100 bill back,” I announced as I placed it on the counter and proceeded to dump her tray of food into the trash can. “We’re not going to serve you. Have a great day.”

This pissed her off even more. She started calling me every name in the book, at which point I simply told my cashier to help the next customer and went about my job without acknowledging her.

My non-responsiveness wasn’t enough, and she took out her cell phone and dialed 911. I couldn’t restrain my laughter this time as I heard her telling the officer that she was being racially discriminated against.

Shockingly, within the next 20 minutes two policemen actually showed up. When they walked into the door the lady flagged them down. Before heading over to them though, I noticed that the one officer whispered something to the other.

That’s when he went over to the lady and spoke to her. About 20 seconds later they were placing her in handcuffs and exiting the store.

Laughing hysterically I asked one of the officer’s what was going on.

“is she the one that called us?” he said.

“yup, why?”

“well, she’s got felony warrants out for her arrest. We recognized her as soon as we walked in. I can’t believe she actually called us.”

That was the end of that. At least she managed to take her $100 off the counter before going to jail. She probably needed it for bail.


  1. Ah, good old bad customer stories. The worst customer I’ve ever dealt with? Heh.

    There’s this one guy, about a year ago, who was something of a regular customer. The problem is that he was a complete douchebag. Every time this guy came through (and I do mean EVERY single time) he would come through drive thru order his food like this-

    (Talking really fast, really quiet, and with his radio on)
    “I want a fucking Double-Cheeseburger, a drink, and some god damn fries”, and then speed off to the window before the order taker has a chance to clarify exactly WHAT drink he wants, and also give him his total (it messes up the order of cars in Dual Lane Drive-Thrus). He would be rude as hell, trash the lobby, (we believed, and I eventually proved) pissed in the bathroom trash can and sink, and threw food against the windows.

    He was a regular customer who I had to deal with many, many, times a week. I hated him, I hated serving him, I hated the fact that the other people in the car were relatively decent and were at risk of being permanently banned because he’s an unrepentant asshole. Day after day after day I had to deal with him, I even had his car memorized so I could steel my nerves and prepare to deal with him.

    Until, on one particularly bad night, he came through drive thru with me there. It went something like this-

    Me (normaly friendly tone of voice)- “Hi, can I help you?”
    Jerkface- “Iwanttwofuckingdoublecheeseburgersone *NO* pickleoronionsadrinkandaMc.Chicken” *speeds off to the window*”.
    Me (At window, in a non-threatening tone of voice)- “Ok. I’m going to need you to please repeat your order. You spoke way too fast, and I couldn’t hear you over your radio.”
    Jerkface- (In a sarcastic tone) “Did you graduate from high school?”
    Me- “What does that have to do with ANYTHING?” (Note- Yes, I did graduate, with honors, which is more than that jackass will ever be able to say).
    Me- (Cutting him off, and remember this isn’t some random run of the mill irate or otherwise annoyed customer. I’ve been taking shit from this guy for months, I was pissed, and I was done with it) “Okay. Here’s how it works. You WILL start treating me with respect right now, or you will not eat here. Got it?”
    Jerkface- “Let me see your fucking manager”.
    I get manager, and he treats her like fucking dog shit the entire time he orders. She takes the abuse, takes the order, and as this asshole is pulling out of the parking lot I write down his model of car, and his license plate number. I take 5 to go work my frustrations out on the freezer door (nice solid steel, and no cameras in the freezer). A few minutes later, a country sheriff pulls through drive thru who is a regular customer. She gives the sheriff the license plate information I took down and puts in a formal (and official) harassment complaint against the guy. The sheriff finds the guy, pulls him over (and yes, Jerkface was doing something illegal at the time (reckless driving), so there was reason to pull him over), and tells him he is forever BANNED from the premises- even the parking lot. Jerkface now sends his friend (who was in the car that night) to get food for him, and he treats me with the utmost respect every single time he comes through.

    Nod- 1
    Jerkface- 0

    Comment by Nodnarb — September 17, 2008 @ 6:41 pm

  2. Ok, this isn’t a fast food story, but it’s about a horrible grocery customer.

    I was 17 and working at an organic grocery store and it was 9:55 and we were closing in 5 minutes. As I was making sure everything on the isles looked good, a middle-aged soccer mom came up to me and asked me to find her rasberry-leaf tea. I said yea and she came with me to the tea isle, where I began looking carefully up and down the isle.

    After not finding it, she politely asked me if I could look again. I was supposed to be off already, but I just wanted to be nice, so I looked again. I didn’t find it. She was really quiet, so I said have a good night and walked in the other direction.

    Then, as I was about halfway down the isle, she yelled, “Where the fuck are you going?” I turned around, half shocked, half confused. Then I look at her and she’s pink and shaking. “You fucking lazy-ass, dropout, delinquent sonofabitch, you’d better get over here right now!” Flabbergasted, I came to her.

    Then she got face-to-face with me, and told me that she comes here to buy the food that she wants and pays so much for it and how I’ll never have enough money to even understand what she’s saying. All while globs of spit came from her almost-foaming mouth.

    Then she pushed me and started knocking off all of the tea boxes off the shelves and telling me to pick them up them up and calling me a monkey. Then my friend and my manager came to check out the commotion. Thankfully, my manager was a big ole gal and she wrestled her down and we called the cops.

    I had to stay and wait for the cops to come, then I had to go through the motions and telling them what happened and whatnot. I didn’t press charges and I didn’t get to leave until 11:30.

    Comment by Rich — September 17, 2008 @ 6:53 pm

  3. This story goes back many years before I started my own business. I took a job as a manager of a small auto repair business about 4 months after it had opened. The sales were pitiful. Within a short time I had the place turning a profit. I wasn’t exactly what the owner might have wanted his manager to be. But sales were there and I had a good rapport with the customers.

    About a year later he acquired a son in law. He asked me to take him on as an assistant to learn the business. It was fairly obvious my days might be numbered, after all blood is thicker than water. On the first occasion the son in law had to run the shop on his own, (I had taken the weekend off) An irate customer decided no other vehicles should be serviced before his own. The people skills of the son inlaw were sadly lacking and by the time the police arrived, a shit storm had ensued with a customer going ballistic. The customer had at one point jumped on top of another vehicle in order that it not be raised into the air and for his car take it’s place. Genius son in law decided that if he did raise the lift the customer would have no choice but to jump off. He didn’t. Now he has a wild man atop a car 6 feet in the air, yelling at the top of his lungs, screaming to the other customers in the waiting room and as I came to understand it, probably anyone else within two or three blocks. How it ever got that far I haven’t any idea. When I came back on Monday my replacement was situated in a different capacity at another of the owner’s businesses and the owner never said boo to me again.

    Comment by Fido — September 17, 2008 @ 7:29 pm

  4. On an AMBULANCE, in Gary Indiana (haha the GI bleed of America.) :::Back story:::: I’m an EMT, white, worked in Chicago, then moved to Los Angeles working in Compton, Inglewood, etc as a 911 and critical care unit. Never had ANY problems, everyone was always very receptive and helpful and respectful.
    So, my FIRST shift in Gary, and the shit hits the fan. Myself and my white female partner are called for an unresponsive patient at a residence. The patient’s daughter called. We arrive within 8 minutes (at around 9pm, in February.) The patient is chronically ill, elderly, and yes, unresponsive. Her respirations are sky high, shallow…basically anyone could look at her and know this is the end. I take her blood pressure, reading 220/160…aka a frickin time-bomb. I state we are taking her to the nearest ER (which is in Gary, maybe 5 minutes lights/sirens.) She screams bloody murder, and takes a $25 Walgreen’s BATTERY OPERATED home BP cuff, comes up with 120/80 (text book perfect) and says nothing is wrong. I say that machine is a piece of crap, I’ve taken almost 10,000 blood pressures, I know what I’m doing. Besides, your house is 85 degrees, she’s in distress, and will die momentarily. Daughter wants us to TRIPLE the driving distance to a hospital in a white neighborhood. (they don’t even want to go to the hospital in their own city because their neighbors work there and the hospital accordingly sucks.) I say I can’t do that, ethically or legally. NOW the shit storm starts. We’re “racists” we’re “slave drivers”, etc. She’s throwing things, calling lawyers, her children, everyone. I send my partner outside to call for backup (the patient is easily 300+ pounds.) Backup arrives, and I give him report on the patient. Then, I couldn’t believe it, SHE CALLED THE COPS ON US for kidnapping. ??????? Really? YOU CALLED US!! WE’RE SAVING YOUR MOM’S LIFE!!!! Cops show up, her kids show up, the kids say “shut up mom they know what they’re doing,” cops physically restrain her so my partner and the newly arrived medic can go to the hospital. WTF?? YOU CALLED US!!! Who calls the cops on “racist” medics that you called over in the first place? Best part: Black cop starts laying into her about getting jobs, entitlement, welfare, etc…now HE’S racist!

    Thanks for reading!

    Comment by chicagoemt — September 17, 2008 @ 10:57 pm

  5. I work customer service at a major big-box retailer, but it is to put myself back through school (2 bachelor degrees already, got the third yesterday!). I grew up in a family of lawyers and I’m very diverse in my knowledge. So, it usually catches people by surprise when they can’t browbeat me like my teenaged coworkers. However, I love what I’ve been doing and am very good at helping people solve problems within what is allowed.

    I get a customer coming in wanting to return some software. We actually can’t do this as it facilitates copyright infringement if the box is open. I tell him we can’t return opened software. He goes BALLISTIC. He is yelling so loud that it is attracting attention from managers on the other side of the store. Nobody comes to help because they can see the general manager sitting just a few feet away (a really great guy… I wish if I was continuing in retail I could have 20 just like him!).
    The customer continues, “See, if you don’t return this, I’m going to sue this company and you personally. Doesn’t your little high school dropout mind comprehend that you are culpable in this situation?” (Note: I would have been within the rules of my store to walk away without a word once he said he was going to sue.)
    I retort, “Culpable? You sound like a lawyer.”
    “I’m a better lawyer than you will ever meet again!” He said smugly.
    “Well,” I begin, “Then you should be aware that under the 1999 DCMA, what you are asking me to do would deprive the copyright holder of this software from compensation on something you just didn’t know how to use. So, if I did so, I would be helping you commit a crime. Moreover, if I did it for you AND anyone else, the government could seize all assests of the corporation under the 1923 racketeering laws. Not to mention that you can’t sue anyone for refusing to perform an illegal act. Are you sure you are a GOOD lawyer?”
    I can see my manager in tears from laughter. He didn’t even get up to help!
    At this point, the customer began to pout. “I want to talk to your manager…”
    I said flatly, “Okay, but he’s not as smart as me.”

    My manager fell off his chair at that point.

    I just hate it when people assume I’m some kind of failure because I work where I do (happily!). I’m done there next week, but I will never treat line employees the way I’ve been treated.

    Oh, and he didn’t get the software returned. It was $9.99.

    Comment by Grant — September 21, 2008 @ 3:51 pm

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