Monday, January 24, 2011

adventures in customer service...

If there is one thing that I have learned from working in retail, it is that I'm not taking crap from people anymore.

I attract psychos at work.  I don't know what it is about me, but I really do.  Maybe it's because I try to be so nice to everyone, maybe it's because I dye my hair "crazy" colours... but, I attract psychos.  And, sometimes, it is really overwhelming.

So, here for your enjoyment, are some of the strangest stories of people that have approached me that I can recall.

I have organized them chronologically by job.  Not necessarily in the order that they happened, just, by job.

This list is by no means comprehensive.  There have been many more crazies than just these ones.

Let's start with the time that I worked as a cashier at the local CO-OP in the small town that I grew up in.  I only worked there for a few months, but it is definitely where the crazy began.

Bread Guy

There was a grumpy ass old man that lived in town.  Everyone hated him.


They even warned me about him when I started there.  Previous cashiers had even refused to provide service to him when he came into the store.

Apparently, he had previously managed the store, had been let go, and his wife had left him... something to that effect.  Anyways, he was ornery and always a douche hat.  He always had something to complain about, and when he didn't have something to complain about, he just outright insulted me... like the day when I was super nice to him, everything went through perfectly, nothing went wrong, so, as he was walking towards the door, he turned around and looked at me and said "yeah, well, you look like shit today," and then he left.

Not only that, but, one day, he came in with expired coupons for bread.  Not only were they expired, but, he was also trying to purchase AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT BRAND OF BREAD.  When I refused to honour his coupons, he got entirely pissed off, and threw the load of bread at my head, and then stormed out of the store.

He was a real joy to deal with.

Axe Lady

Our store sold not only groceries, but farming supplies as well.  We had a section of axes in hardware.

One day, a lady came in with about seven screaming kids.  They ran around the store, completely out of control, causing all sorts of trouble, which their mother did not seem to care about as she haughtily strode around the store in her big fur coat.

After she finished her shopping, she went through my till.  At which point, she looked me dead in the eye, and told me that I need to talk to my manager about something for her.

Normally, fine, whatever... I'll listen to people complain.  But this woman... this woman was utterly condescending, she spoke to me with an air of arrogance... she clearly was not one of us "country folk."

Anyways, her complaint was that, while her kids were running around and screaming like a pack of wolverines, one of them apparently picked up and axe from one of the shelves and chased her other kids around with it.

Ummm... yeah.  This is a farm store.  We clearly stock farm supplies AND groceries, we have never had a problem with any of our "country folk" kids chasing one another with axes... maybe you shouldn't be a lazy ass neglectful parent and you should supervise your kids... or teach them not to chase their siblings, or other people, with axes.

Now, onwards...

I worked at a long term care facility for the elderly after I worked at the CO-OP.  I have a lot of interesting stories from there, but they don't really fall under the theme of this post... maybe I'll write about my experience there at a later time.

After that, I worked at a 7-Eleven for a week and a half, an IGA for four hours (which I didn't get paid for, they tried to stick me in the deli, and all of the machines had OHEMGEE YOU WILL DIE sort of warnings written on them, and I was terrified and it smelled funny, so I lied and told them that I took another job, and then I ran away), and then I worked as a cashier at Wal-Mart for two months.  Ahhh, Wal-Mart, what a HORRIBLE job.

Creepy Cowboy

I worked at the Wal-Mart in Camrose, which is this little hick city, and, every year, they hold a country music festival called Big Valley Jamboree.  This is possibly the WORST TIME EVER to work in a cheap ass store like Wal-Mart.  I was working a bajillion hours a day, they consistently forgot about my breaks, people were lined up for miles, because we were understaffed, the customers were muddy and stinky, I was overworked and grumpy... and usually hungover.

The worst part is, the excessiveness with which people proposition you.  It never failed.  Every person that came to your till was either trying to steal something, or they were going to proposition you for sex.

Case in point, Creepy Cowboy.

Creepy Cowboy came to my till after a particularly long string of drunk, smelly, dirty, angry customers.  I was grumpy, he was creepy, it was not a good combo.  Creepy Cowboy's purchases consisted of three large bottles of Gatorade, and an economy pack of Trojan Magnums (probably wishful thinking).

I rang through his purchases, told him his total, at which point in time, he leaned across my till, nodded towards the box of condoms and fake Alberta drawled: "Heyy, pritty laydee... ya gon' be headin' over to the fair grouns later? You look me up, see..." and then winked at me.

I was not in the mood... and not just because I am repulsed by cowboys and fake cowboys.

Luckily, my supervisor was right behind me, waiting to put change in my till, and basically told him what he could do with his family pack of condoms.

Red Bull Lady

Red Bull Lady was my first experience with what people are like in the most desperate stages of drug withdrawal.

I was walking back from my break, minding my own business, when a panicked woman ran up to me, grabbed me by the arm and yanked me as close to her as possible.


She asked me where the Red Bull was.  I told her that it would either be in the drink aisle, or in the refrigerated cases by the tills.

She screamed at me that she checked all of those places.

She then demanded that I check the back.

I'm not sure if everyone here is aware of what the back of a Wal-Mart looks like, but I can assure you that it is not the vast world of where the actual stock lies that most people assume it is.  In fact, there is little to no stock back there, because there is no storage back there, because stock comes in at night and is immediately put on the shelves.  When you demand that someone check the back, they go back there, stand there for a few minutes, and then come back and tell you that they didn't find anything back there.

That is because, when we tell you that we don't have a stock room, you don't believe us.  As much as I love fucking with customers, I have better things to do than lie to you about whether or not we have a stock room.

Red Bull Lady was having none of this.  Red Bull Lady was about to show her true crazy.

When I told her that we were out of Red Bull, she got incredibly still, looked me dead in the eye, and started SCREAMING AND WAILING, freaking out, yelling about how she needed her Red Bull... she threw an all out shit fit, and it must have looked to passersby like I had punched her in the face or something, the way that she was screaming.

I didn't know what to do, so I ran.

I have a tendency to run away from things that I don't understand.

I ran back to my till, and she followed me, screaming and crying.

I had to take her to a manager and get them to deal with her, because I didn't know what else to do.  I have no idea what the managers did to get rid of her... and I didn't really care, either.

Leather Guy

Oh, Leather guy... Leather Guy is where my experience with true creeps began.  It all started with you, you creepy weirdo.

Leather Guy only bought leather, and fake leather, and sewing supplies.  And he always looked for my till.


If I was going on break, and he saw me, he would ask me where I was going, wander the store until I finished my break, and then go through my till.  Leather guy was a little off in the "human interactions" scheme of things.

One day, whilst going through my till, he asked me if I ever wondered why he bought so much leather.  To be honest, I didn't care to know.  He was really off, and I didn't want to find out that he made leather upholstered couches stuffed with people bits or something.

I gave a kind of uninterested "uhh... sure."

At this point, he got very enthusiastic.  He informed me that he lives in his mother's basement, and that he makes fetish wear.


He THEN informed me that he photographs his own work, as well, and asked me if I would like to model his creations for him.

Uh, right.  I may have been young, but I knew better than to accept an invitation from a creepy dude who has been stalking me for the past few months to try on home made fetish wear in his mother's basement while he photographs me.

No thanks.

My next place of employment was a bookstore in a run down mall.  You would THINK that bookstores would attract intelligent and possibly even non-creepy people.  WRONG.

"Stupid Girl" Lady

There was this old lady with a walker, who seemed to not really need the walker that used to come in the store all the time, and she would sit on her walker and pull herself around the store with her feet.  she was ALWAY grumpy, and, one day I made the mistake of deciding to try and be nice and strike up a conversation with her.

It was a particularly hot summer day, so when I asked her how she was doing today, she replied that she was too hot.  I concurred, and told her that, when I left the house that morning, I had made the mistake of wearing my jacket.  I laughed, she became angry.

At this point, she got all huffed, and started yelling at me:

Well, aren't you a stupid girl!  Don't you ever think, you stupid girl!  Blah blah blah stupid girl!  Stupid girl!  Stupid girl!  Stupid girl!

I was in shock, and I walked away from her after the first mention of how I was a stupid girl.  I could hear her yelling after me about what a stupid girl I was as I walked back to my till.

I still wasn't really used to how horrible people could be to sales people, and I won't deny that I was on the verge of tears at this point.

I then had to ring her through my till.  When I asked her if she had one of our discount cards, her response was "of course I do, you stupid girl."

After she left, I started crying.  Serves me right for wearing a jacket in the summer... I guess?

Ring Guy

Working in an entirely dead mall was ridiculously boring sometimes.  You had to develop ways to entertain yourself.  Sometimes that involved making paper airplanes and throwing them out into the mall, or shooting paper clips into the mall with elastics, sometimes it involved staring at passersby and trying to get them to make eye contact.

It was on an eye contact day that I ran into trouble.  Trouble in the form of Ring Guy.

So, he made eye contact, and then came into the store.  Made idle chit chat, for wayyy too long, talked about his girlfriend, asked me if I had a boyfriend, which I did, etc. etc.

Then he kept coming in.  Every time he came in, his relationship with his supposed girlfriend was apparently getting worse and worse.  He would come in and talk and talk, vent about his supposed girlfriend (who, my co-worker informed me that he believed to be fake), and I would listen, because I was too nice.  He would talk for too long, and then buy some fifty cent trinket.

This went on for a few months, through Christmas, which was way too busy for him to just be hanging out, but he still did.  His visits became more frequent, it was weird, and suddenly his girlfriend had supposedly had enough, and left him.

Then, one day, he got even more awkward.

He came in to the store, and he had a super weird smile on his face.  Something was up.  He walked to my till and put his hand on the counter, told me he had something for me, and pushed his hand towards me.  He lifted up his hand, and, I shit you not, there was a ring box... with a diamond ring in it.


I was entirely freaked out, I shoved the box back towards him and told him that there was no way that I could keep it, that I didn't want it, that he needed to take it back.

He tried to convince me that I needed to have it.  He knew I had a boyfriend.  This was entirely awkward.

Eventually, he left.  I was totally weirded out.  Thank GOODNESS he never came back again.

Kite Runner Lady

Kite Runner lady had supposedly called in earlier in the day and talked to another employee and asked him to put a book behind the till for her.  Unfortunately, it didn't get done, so when she came in, I had nothing to give her, and she couldn't remember the name of the book.

She immediately became irate and annoyed, and started yelling about how she didn't want to have to walk all the way back to her truck to get the name of the book.  She then demanded that I figure it out.  Apparently my co-worker had told her that we had "a million copies" of the book.

So, I suggested that she check the best seller wall, because the books that are the most popular are the ones we have the most copies of.

She started yelling about how it wasn't a best seller, and that it was for her daughter's class, and then told me that I needed to tell her every book that we had multiple copies of in the store.

Uh, are you kidding?  I work in a book store, we have multiple copies of every book.

I suggested that she take a walk around the store and look at all of the books that we have facings of.  If we have a lot of copies of the same book, we will turn the book so that you can see the cover, and not just the spine.

She started getting more and more pissed off that I basically couldn't telepathically figure out what book she was looking for, and, really I had offered all of the most likely suggestions for her.  I had even walked around the teen fiction section with her, because that is where she insisted the book would be, pointing at various facings of books, asking her if the titles rang a bell.  She had already been in the store freaking out on me for longer than it would have taken her to get the title of the book from her truck.

Eventually, because she refused to take my suggestions, she had to go to her truck.

She came back, fuming, telling me that the book she was looking for was The Kite Runner.

The Kite Runner.

Had she TAKEN my suggestion to look at the bestseller wall, she would have noticed that, right there on the wall, we had about a hundred copies of the damn book.  I pointed at the bestseller wall, and informed her that it had been right there all along.

By this point, I had had enough of her yelling at me, and I will admit that I was incredibly irritated and snippy with her at this point.  Because, really, she had been YELLING at me since she got in the store.

I was telling my co-worker what was going on when she and her daughter walked over.  Her daughter, apparently, did not appreciate the sarcastic tone with which I was telling my co-worker about the situation, and she started yelling at me as well... it was when she screamed at me that I supposedly need better customer service skills that I lost my shit.

"Excuse me?!" I screamed, "I need better customer service skills?!  You and your mother need better human being skills!  Just because you're a goddamn customer, doesn't mean you have the right to treat the person who is trying to help you like shit, especially when none of the situation is her fault, and ESPECIALLY when she has been very calmly trying to help you and your mother find what you're looking for for the past half hour while you act like total assholes for the entire time!"

By this point in time, my co-worker had called mall security (I shit you not), and the security guards had arrived.  We both told the security guard what had happened, and, after I finished my side of the story, they decided that they should both be escorted from the mall, and were politely asked to not return.

They didn't have a chance to buy their book.

After this, I briefly worked with a national phone company, doing 411.  Let me just say, be nice to your 411 operator.  Many people chose to not list their numbers, and many businesses choose to not list their numbers, as well, there's only so much that the operator can do to help you.  I didn't last long as a 411 operator, because people are truly terrible.  I lost a lot of my faith in humanity working as a 411 operator.  I had one woman scream at me that she didn't know why they hired retards to do this job (if you're looking for a Starbucks, try to know the general area that it's in.  When you do 411 for an ENTIRE country, you don't know where everything is, and when you tell me it's the one beside the bank, it does fucking nothing to help me), I had people proposition me for phone sex... I had to deal with it all.  Mostly, though, the people were awful, they were rude, they were utter assholes with no souls who didn't care that the voice on the other end of the line was actually a person with feelings.  Basically, I spent most of my days being screamed at and being called horrible things, while I spent most of my shift crying, resulting in me becoming so stressed out that I became incredibly ill and had to quit for my own physical and mental health.  Be nice to the person on the other end of the phone.

The next place I worked at was the Home Depot, in the paint department.  I actually LOVED this job.  I loved working with paint and mixing colours all day long.  Were there things I hated about the job?  Yes.  But I still loved this job... and part of me thinks I will return to it when I go back to school in Canada as a part time job.

Firstly, let's get all of the sexual innuendos about working in a hardware store out of the way, because I heard them all every single day.

Yes, I know how to handle a stripper.

No, I don't want to show you everything I know about handling wood.

Yes, I do know my way around caulk, and no I don't want you to tell me how much you like a girl that can handle some good caulk.

The list goes on, just use your imagination.  Screw, hammer, nail, blah blah blah.

Now that we have that out of the way...

Creepy Camera Guy

Creepy Camera Guy appeared on a particularly busy day.  I don't know how long he was behind the back counter for, but I was working by myself, and I didn't notice him until after all of my customers had been served and I turned to go to the back of the department to get some water.

There he was, Creepy Camera Guy...

Filming me.

I asked him if I could help him with something... and he informed me that, nope, he didn't need help with anything, that he was just filming me, because he found me interesting.

Uh... at least he was honest?

Sex Toy Guy

Sex Toy Guy was this very large man that came into the store one night when I was working alone.  He seemed a little weird at first, but I just figured that he was overly friendly.

He needed help picking paint colours for his apartment, which was apparently a basement suite, and he wanted colours to brighten the room.

I pulled and co-ordinated some suggestions for him, some bright warm tones... they weren't really masculine, but they weren't overly feminine, either.

Apparently, he thought different, and informed me that "his public" wouldn't approve.

I made the mistake of asking him "your public?"


Apparently, he owned a sex toy store, and his "public" were his customers.

At this point, he grabbed my arm, and asked me if I drove or rode the bus.  I told him that I take public transit.  He pulled what I assumed were his keys out of his pocket and he jabbed something on my arm...

Something vibratey.

Oh god.  It was one of those friggin bullet things... except key chain sized.

He told me to imagine how much more fun his little "toy" would make riding the bus.

Uh, excuse me?  I'm sorry, maybe it't just me, but, masturbating on public transit just ISN'T my thing.

I finished helping him, though beet red and totally uncomfortable the entire time, and he eventually went off to find his other stuff.

Five minutes later, he passed by my desk again, whistled, to get my attention, shouted "OHHHH DARLINGGGGGGG," pulled out his keys, buzzed his key chain toy twice for effect, and with the most gleeful smile said "CHRISTMAS IS COMINGGGGGGGGG!"

I spent the next few weeks horrified that he was going to come back into my work and bring me a key chain vibrator.

Penis Guy

Penis Guy is exactly what he sounds like. He is the pièce de résistance of customer service weirdos.

He came in one evening, looking for stain for the new floor he was putting in.  I suggested a few colours for him, and he decided to take a couple of samples and try them and see how they turn out.

He was really flirtatious, telling me that I was beautiful and that my hair colour made me glow (I had bleached my hair blonde and was letting it sit for a while before I put the blue dye in it).

I had to work at seven the next morning, and, as I was putting away stock, he came up to me and asked me for help again.

Apparently he had really liked the colour that I had picked for him, but he wanted something a little more red.

I took him over to the stains and started offering some more suggestions, even instructing him on how he could blend two colours together to make a colour that he would prefer.  

He finally decided on one that he thought would work, I found him a quart of it, and handed it to him.  While he was contemplating, he asked me to find him a few other possibilities.  So, while I looked, he started doing something with his phone.

This is normal, I was entirely used to people doing crap on their phones while I tried to help them.  What he did afterwards, was not normal.  

He asked me a question about the colour, and, when I turned to look at him, he was holding the quart of stain up at my eye level, holding his phone against the side, with the screen facing out.

He had a picture of his penis, at full attention, on the screen.

He had been looking through his phone, to find a picture of his dick that he had taken.

I immediately turned back towards the display and thought to myself "there was no way that was his penis..." and answered his question.

He asked me another question, and, because I'm STUPID, I turned and looked again.

DEFINITELY his penis.

At this point, I turned to walk away from him, quickly, but, he kept pace, with the quart and the phone held at my eye level, pressing the button that lights up the screen so that you can still see what you have on your screen; in this case, his doodle.  

Completely in shock, and unsure what to do, the only thing I could think to say to him was "uhhhh.... maybe you should try Minwax next..." and then hide behind the paint desk.

Yup, he showed me his wiener, I suggested he try a different brand of stain.

The rest of the day was filled with police reports, looking at security camera footage, my manager laughing in my face when I told him that it wasn't another employee, that it was a customer, and then him telling me that since it was a customer, there was nothing he could do about it, oh, and the story spreading rapidly around work, and me getting the nickname "Penis Phone."

It took like half a shift for me to stop being in shock, and to eventually find the humour in the situation.  I mean, come on, who gets accosted with pictures of a penis at seven in the morning?

He must have liked the stain colour I suggested, because I never saw him again.

So, there you have it, folks.  A small sample of a few of the crazies that I have encountered in my few years of working in customer service.  I'd be interested in hearing your stories, too!

Don't forget to read this post and get in on some free handmade goodness!

Toodles <3


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  1. Twas a long post but very nice. What a good read to end my day!Thanks.

  2. Why are men so creepy sometimes? I served and had an old guy give me a fifty dollar tip on a 30 dollar meal... then he asked me if I liked older men (he was about 60, I 19) and I lied and said I had a boyfriend. It's always weird taking money from someone knowing they expect something else in return than just good food and service.

    I had a friend in high school take a picture of his penis with my phone and set it as my background while I was on stage practicing for a play. It was hilarious, but only because I knew him and he wasn't creepin on me.

  3. Christmas is comingggg!! Oh man, people are so crazy. That's the problem with working customer service jobs, you will always get some nut cases and have to deal with them.

  4. Always love reading your entertaining blogs Tara. Sometimes have a good laugh, sometimes just shake my head and agree.

  5. Haha, yes, I realized what a long post this was after I wrote it... it was kind of funny remembering all of the crazy people, though!

    Oh man, Denise, that's so creepy! I've had weirdos at my various jobs try to tip me, which is really awkward, because I have always worked in jobs where I was never allowed to take tips. Although, one time, in the bookstore, this dude threw a $20 tip at me and the girl that was working with me... he was SUPER stoned, though. I wonder if he missed that money the next day...

    I still shudder every time I think of the way that weirdo said "Christmas is cominggggggg," it was made excessively worse by the fact that the dude was entirely unappealing and really greasy.

    Ahhh, customer service... never a dull moment.

  6. WOW...that is awful and disgusting. I worked in customer service for a bit, and although it was brutal at times with the rude customers and crooks...i luckily never experienced anything like that!!

  7. Bahahahaha so funny tara!! i worked in retail for almost all my working years and have had some funny incidents too... i was def called a bitch before, and an old women in LUSH told me no one would buy anything from me becuase of the way I looked. People are horrible and rude!!


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