Woes of Retail: The Awful Customer

Working in the service industry, you're bound to encounter your worst nightmare: the awful customer. They come in varying types: the one who asks the same question ten times, the one with the "Can I see your manager?" haircut, the one who resorts to threats, the inappropriate flirt, and the one who breathes on your shoulder. Of course, there are many more types that come in varying sizes and genders; however, those five types previously mentioned are the worst. The truly embody the definition of the awful customer.

Now, let's dive into these five types of the

1. The One Who Asks the Same Question Ten Times

We've all had a customer who has asked questions, usually about price signage, as it can be very confusing. A sign that is plastered with "80% off" in huge font, but has "up to" in tiny font. Yeah, thanks a lot marketing strategies for the sign that makes every customer confused and mistakenly excited about cheap prices that don't exist.


Anyway, normal customers tend to ask that question once. BUT. The awful customer, s/he makes it a point to ask multiple times. S/he directs you to every sign in the store with "__ % off" and is easily confused by the price point signs for products. They ask, "Well, what about my additional % off?" They ask, "So, that's the price?" They ask, "Can't I get anything more off of that?" They will ask again about the additional % off as you ring them up. Or they will angrily leave the store, fist in the air, proclaiming they will never shop there again.

2. The One With the "Can I See Your Manager?" Haircut

Okay, so maybe the customer doesn't have THE haircut. They might not be wearing mom jeans, and they might not have terrible, chunky highlights. But they do have the look and the tone as they ask to see the manager.

Here is a word-by-word conversation; one of my many encounters with this customer type:
Customer: "Can I see the manager?"
Me: "Yes, I am a manager."
Customer: "Can I speak to a manager, please?"
Me: "You are still talking to a manager. Do you have a question?"
Customer: "Oh," says with attitude. Continues to complain about how we don't have a type of wallet we used to sell 10+ years ago.

This customer type will also proceed to blame said manager for any problems they've experienced from the store. Whether it was the actual store you work at, a store in a different location, or the online site. The customer, without fail, blames you for receiving the wrong shirt they ordered online. And once you've fixed someone else's mistake, the customer will be angry for how much time it took, as if you purposely strung out the situation. Oh, yes, how you love telling this customer type you are the manager....

4. The Inappropriate Flirt

I've personally encountered this customer type as mostly old men and small teenage boys. They both act the same--very bold, loud statements. Except old men typically say it directed toward you, while the boys tell it to their friend as they snicker.

You did not expect this. You were merely answering a question, grabbing an item from a tall shelf they can't reach but want to buy, or saying hello. And the boy says to his friend, "She's hot. Look at her butt." Or the old man says, "How about hello to you, pretty thing. Call me sometime." Yes, they could be jokes, but it never stops being uncomfortable.

5. The One Who Breathes on Your Shoulder



Like all the other customer types, this is very self-explanatory. You're helping a customer pick out a yellow purse. You bring her three: a solid yellow, a multi-colored, yet mostly yellow, and a twinge of yellow. Maybe that's all you have left; maybe you wanted to show her variety. She doesn't take them from your hands. Instead, she walks up to you, staring at the purses and then back at you, and then back at the purses. You feel her breath linger after every word of her sentence, "None of these will work. Thank you for wasting my time."

Or maybe an older gentleman comes in, looking for a certain type of winter coat. You take him to the warmest ones, upon his request. You try to let him browse on his own, but he keeps asking you questions and walking closer to you. He is three inches away from your face now, and you can smell that he hasn't brushed his teeth lately. You're stuck in this situation for a few long minutes. Although he does buy a coat, you can't help feeling that the customer that doesn't believe in personal space wasn't worth it.


This list merely scratches the surface of the awful customer breed. Sadly, they come in more types; sometimes, they come in hybrid types. Hopefully, this breed of awful customers will cease to exist any day now.

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