I've worked in customer service for many years now. No matter what job, cashier or customer service desk associate, or where, whether Seattle Target or Tacoma Home Depot, the customers never change. You hear retail horror stories told from the customers all the time. Their opinions are all over the internet, in surveys for the companies, and even complaining to the employees themselves. You'll find that most of the people that are mean to retail associates are the people who have not every worked in retail themselves. Just in my year at The Home Depot, I had many horror stories happen, but I the associate was the one experiencing them, and the customer was causing them. So here are some commonly occurring nightmares in my not-so dream job.
1. Unsolicited flirting
I once was complaining to one of my fellow female employees about how I hated when creepy old men would come up and flirt with me at work when I could not escape. One of the male employees near me asked me if that really happened and I scoffed. I then told him it happened at least once a shift and he was flabbergasted. I then told him some of the following quotes I had heard just within the last month working at The Home Depot:
"I love a lady that can handle a big piece of wood."
"You sweet little thing."
"I saw you walk by me with your grande coffee and I was like 'that is one fine lady' and now you're here."
"You're amazing and cute and smart, and you don't ask stupid questions, like if I want cash back."
"I'll call you Bratty Maddy. Do you take that as a compliment? I would."
Now, I've had sexism within the workplace. I've had a manager on duty once tell me to 'put on the old razzle dazzle' but would not tell the men employees that. But I can report employees and have the situation remedied. I can even leave to another part of the store.
But it is my job to make the customer happy. However, it is not my job when they reach across the counter to pull my fingers off the keyboard to hold my hand. Being polite does not mean having to accept harassment.
2. Angry customers
When I talk about angry customers, I don't mean the ones who just raise their voice to get attention. I'm talking about the ones that are such a handful that you have to call a manager. Examples of such customers:
A customer threatening to call the police on me for denying his return, swearing at me, and when security arrived, kicking over our garbage can as he left.
A guest hanging up our phone on another guest that was put on hold because they were annoyed of the sound of the phone ringing.
People saying they spend thousands of dollars at the store annually and therefore want rules broken for them or else they will take their business elsewhere.
3. Weird returns
Return policies are not in place to inconvenience customers. All the rules are set there for a reason. I've returned merchandise dumped out of a McDonald's bag that also had cookie crumbs and a spider in it. We even return defective (aka broken) merchandise all the time. But some products I can't return because either we can't resell it, it is out of policy, or the computer literally won't let me. Some of the kinds of conversations I have with customers where I can't do anything for them go like the this:
The can squirts, not sprays, it's broken.
That's because it's near empty. I can't return it if there isn't any product.
Can you return it if the product inside didn't work?
Did it not work?
Well, the can doesn't work now.
We both know this isn't 12 ft, and I can't return it if it isn't. Has it been cut?
No, it hasn't been cut.
It measures at 9 ft.
Yes, because it was cut by your staff.
So it has been cut then.
I am disgusted. This place is horrible. I hope you tell someone higher up all this.
That's why I want to transfer you to a manager to speak with them on the phone directly.
No. Disgusting. Useless.
I have many more stories to tell, and I'm sure all my other friends I've worked with have even worse stories than I do. But despite all this, I still go into work every day with a smile on my face and a coffee in my hand. If I don't do it, then who will? At the end of the day, they only see one me, but I see hundreds of them. I know what I can and can't handle, and more importantly, what I am allowed to handle or not. I may cry some days and feel like giving up, but I am good at what I do, so I keep doing it.