Monday, April 25, 2011

Customers behaving badly...

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.


  1. Actually, she didn't take her dog out of the store. Nope. And when I requested that she did, my baby and I were subjected to verbal abuse. And, to clarify, she didn't bend down in passing -- the comments were made from the counter to where he was playing, ad then again on her way out the door.

    And, as I was upset, I neglected to get her to fill out the form. I just wanted her gone before she could go off again. She left her receipt behind -- thus providing her identifying info.

    But, seriously: I can take whatever someone dishes out. Involving my baby is another thing altogether! It's taken me all evening tocalm down and I'm still pretty angry about it.

  2. I am speechless. And my husband, upon hearing the story was also taken aback. It's these situations that make me put my faith in karma. Restrained by professional conduct, all you can do is fume and trust that she'll get hers in the end.

    I do hope that you ensure when she returns for her keys, she also receives a ban from the store. Your staff certainly do not need the kind of venom she seems to spit.

  3. Maybe you should email the other store to warn them.

  4. Oh my God!! That is utterly inexcusable! Every part of those encounters would be bad enough on their own, but to compound them all with each other is unfathomable.

    I cannot understand how someone could go into any store - but particularly the EBS, where I have never failed to be treated beautifully and like a personal friend (I can't count the number of times I've walked out of your shop with complimentary items) - and treat fellow human beings that way. Wow. Just wow.

  5. Oh the drama that ignorant people trail along with them. Makes you wonder just how they were raised, with the feeling they have that proverbial silver spoon shoved so far up their arse that they can't see straight anymore. You are a much tougher woman than I Melissa, I have a temper when it comes to my babes, had it been me, I would have not so daintily escorted her ridiculous self right out onto the curb, where trash is normally kept.
    The self indulgent attitudes of some people is beyond me...
    I hope you are feeling better now, and that your wee one isn't affected by the idiocy that was thrust upon him

  6. Wow. Just wow. I called the store two weeks ago (or was it three?) and Barb was working. I explained that I wanted to purchase some AMP whatever-they-are-calleds and that I would be in Westboro around 7 and asked if the store would be open. She said that it wouldn't, and we made arrangements for me to pick the items up at her house that night. I'd never met Barb and yet she offered for me to come to her personal residence, after she was DONE work to make the transaction happen. That is the type of staff that I know at EBS. Sheesh.

  7. That is beyond reprehensible. If you have her information I'd mail that disgusting woman her keys. She can deal with the delay/inconvenience and yoh wont have to look at her (inner) ugliness again.

  8. That kind of treatment warrents a potential police report. Her threatening behaviour toward a woman and her baby are unacceptable.

  9. I can't even believe that! Speaking of bitch. Though having worked retail in Ottawa before, I may have met her husband LOL!


    I don't know how people can justify behaviour like that to themselves. Seriously.

  11. Wow, unbelievable! It's awful how entitled people can be sometimes. There is NO excuse for that kind of horrible behaviour!

  12. That is just awful!!! My husband also got really upset when I told him this and started listing all the thing that he would do if someone would say something like that to one of our children.

  13. Karma is the bitch here.

    We all experience something like this at least once in our lives. These crazies are out there. They do exist. And their negativity and self-centred behaviour will only serve to make them more and more miserable.

    <3 EBS and all the wonderful employees.

  14. Wow that is truly unacceptable. I would inform her on her return to retrieve her keys that she is never welcome in the store again and that it is not acceptable to speak to people (and that includes babies!) in such a nasty manner. Man I'd have to stop myself from throwing that can of Nellies right at her when she came back! lol

    So sorry you had to deal with that Melissa. I've had nasty customers throughout my years, but never quite that nasty. And I worked in the Toronto Eaton Centre for 5 years! We got all sorts of crazies there!

  15. I've actually contacted her and informed her I will be dropping her keys off at the Community Police Centre down the street as she's no longer welcome in our store, there's no point in exposing anyone to her abuse again. I will be sure to tell them why she can't pick her keys up from the store.

  16. I find it amazing that businesses are required to bear the burden of a "bad reputation" but privacy legislation prevents us from fingering dishonest people like this woman!

    I have to tell you, I've only shopped at your store once. Yes, once! I came in to buy a Babyhawk in 2008 for my newborn (who is now 3). Let me tell you that the experience was so wonderful that every single one of my new mommy friends who has needed something has heeded my advice and visited the "cute little baby store" and I've always had rave reviews and plenty of thanks to boot!

    I think the bigger injustice here is that this woman actually has a CHILD! She was merely projecting her own insecurities and deficiencies as a mother onto Melissa. That is not to say it was appropriate or excusable (it was not), but people who act like that either have mental problems or are in some form of pain in their lives. I really feel sorry for this poor woman, just think of how much effort it took to go out of her way to be horrible to a perfect stranger! Her existence must be a miserable one.

  17. That's awful. I'm sorry your employees had to go through that. :( (Especially Melissa with her baby there with her in the store!!)

    It blows my mind as well how some people can be so downright awful and inconsiderate. Luckily, the vast majority of people in our world have basic human decency.

  18. WOW!

    My mom owned a clothing store in BC when I was a teenager, I don't think I ever remember any person being that rude. But working as a waitress from the time I was 13... I've had my fair share of rudeness.

    Sometimes... the customer is not right and needs to be told that. My sister kicked out a lady over the Christmas holidays from my parents Bakery, this lady almost made the staff cry.

    Good for you for taking her keys off premise.

  19. Glad you black balled her. And that you got rid of her keys - your staff are great and do not deserve this abuse in the least. Good on you for publishing this.

  20. Disgusting... some people!! Never ceases to amaze me that anyone feels justified to be so rude. EBS not only has fantastic customer service... it is a haven for so many new (and veteran) moms (and dads). I cannot even count the number of times you (Susie) and your staff have helped me on this journey of motherhood... not just with 'stuff', but more importantly with support and conversation and a place to know I am always treated with courtesy and respect.
    I am glad you shared this experience, perhaps it will give others the permission to also speak up. The customer is definitely not always right. And 'retail abuse' should not be tolerated... and this situation is beyond reprehensible. I am sorry you had to go through this Melissa. Hope everyone is feeling better. Sending hugs!!!