Alternate working titles:
"The post where I call a customer an asshole."
"You're an asshole."
"No shoes, no socks, no assholes."
"Asshola non grata."
Working in the retail industry (or the high tech industry, or the food industry, for that matter), I have encountered my fair share of assholes (the figurative kind, not the literal kind). Fortunately, they are few and far between. Most (99.99999999%) of our customers are simply fabulous, they are a large part of the reason why I enjoy what I do so much. But (but!) the handful that choose to treat employees (myself included) with less respect than what they'd show a dog, this select group of people is unfortunately the one I tend to remember the most.
I have had a few encounters with customers over the past nine years that have left me wondering what may have happened to them to let them think it is okay to treat another person with anything other than the same courtesy I assume they would expect themselves from the people they come into contact with. Over the years, I have debated writing about it, but to do so may be interpreted as unprofessional, there's an unspoken rule when you own a business that you should just take whatever abuse a customer chooses to throw your way, "The customer is always right", as they (the assholes, I presume) always say. Well today, after a particularly unpleasant exchange with a customer that reduced an employee to tears, I'm going to write about it.
This particular individual had e-mailed me last week to complain about an employee who she felt was 'rude and unhelpful'. What was the complaint? After several requests for more information, I found out she was angry because she called the store (a half hour before it closed) to ask that a tin of Nellies was set aside for her. Barb (who has never been anything but professional, courteous, and all-around-helpful to anyone who comes into the store) told her we have 'plenty instock'. That reply, apparently, constitutes a 'rude and unhelpful' attitude. I politely suggested to this individual that Barb was simply letting her know we were not going to sell out of Nellies before she arrived, and that Barb had indeed set aside a tin of Nellies for her (that she never picked up).
Fast forward a couple of days, and this individual comes into the store to pick up her tin of Nellies. With her dog. That she brought into the store a week ago, when she was told dogs were not allowed in the store, but since the store was empty, we would make an exception for her. Big mistake. It seems that once you make an exception for an asshole, you are actually giving them the green light to be an even bigger asshole. Since an employee's baby was on the floor in the store this afternoon, this person was politely asked to leave her dog outside. Given a recent incident whereby a Home Depot employee's nose was partially bitten off by a customer's dog, you would think this simple request would be met with understanding and compliance, but it was not. Nosirree, not at all. The asshole customer grudgingly took her dog out of the store, stomped back in to make her purchase, then on her way out, bent down to the baby (the baby!) and called his mother (Melissa, another staff member who has never been anything but professional, courteous, and all-around-helpful to anyone who comes into the store) a "bitch", suggesting to Obi that "you're going to have a miserable childhood with your nasty bitch of a mother".
Melissa was quite taken aback by this attack (as anyone would be), calling me in tears. Upon hearing that this individual had purchased a tin of Nellies, I assured Melissa that she had done nothing to justify this woman's tantrum, and I suggested she's likely the same individual who had complained about Barb last week. Of course, only knowing what she had purchased, I couldn't make the connection for sure, until she stomped back into the store 10 minutes later to return her purchase. This time around, she left her dog outside, and she held her tongue as there were other customers in the store (I very much doubt she would have had the balls to say what she said in front of other people). In returning her purchase, she had to fill out a form with her name and contact information, thus confirming the asshole with the dog was in fact the asshole who called Barb last week.
It absolutely blows my mind that anyone would think it's ever acceptable to talk to another person (and their baby!) in this manner. It doesn't matter if you're chatting up the Queen of England or the person who cleans your toilet, nor does it matter if you're having a really bad day and you need to let off some steam, as I would tell my own children, you should always treat others as you expect to be treated yourselves. The kicker in all this is that as she returned her tin of Nellies, this customer inadvertently left her keys in the bag she returned, so she will have to come back into our store to retrieve them (sans dog, I would hope). I let her know we have set her keys aside, she let me know she has found another store that sells Nellies, and she's going to "tell all her friends about it." It amuses me when assholes suggest they will tell their friends to shop elsewhere, as they say, "Birds of a feather flock together," if her friends are anything like her, they are not welcome in our store anyhow.