Customer Service

Tell Us About Your Customer Service Nightmares

Kazimierz Rajnerowicz
Kazimierz Rajnerowicz · Updated
customer service hell cover photo

Working with customers is not easy at all.

Here is how it usually begins:

And before you know it, it can turn into:

Most customers act like they were always right even when they obviously aren’t. They can be quite demanding and still not satisfied with what they receive. No matter how hard you try.

We’ve crawled through the deepest crevices of the internet to collect harrowing tech support stories and Pizza delivery anecdotes. Additionally, we prepared a survey for the internet users and asked them to share some of their experiences.

Let’s take a look at some stats.

Now—

Here are some of the best, or rather the worst, customer service horror stories we got.

Oh, by the way, if you would like to share your customer experience straight out of a nightmare, you can submit your story here.

15 worst customer service stories

Terrible customer service experiences are often provoked by the shoppers themselves. We’ve all been there. Our list of customer service horror stories is actually an encyclopedia of customers from hell—illustrated with real-life examples.

Nightmare story #1: Customers who arrive 5 minutes before the store closes

Customers who arrive 5 minutes before the store closes image

Let’s face it. We all have the urge to buy blue food coloring at 10:55 PM from time to time. You need to prepare a Smurf-themed cake for your nephew. Totally understandable.

Here is a scene that looks like a massive attack by zombie shoppers. For some reason, these mysterious creatures love going out at dusk to do their groceries when the stores are about to close.

The corporate policy of some stores dictates that as long as the customer is in the store, the staff must wait for them to finish shopping. If the customer is causing a disturbance then the police may be called to have them removed.

However—

As long as they are shopping normally, employees should be patient and wait. All they can do is remind the customers that the store is closing and that they need to make their final selections.

Customers who think they have discovered some unique life hack and a loophole in the system are always a nightmare for customer service representatives. And most of the time they are not at all as clever as they think they are.

Nightmare story #2: Customers who think they are being clever

Customers who think they are being clever image

Some customers think they are being clever when trying to bend the rules. But usually, they just end up making themselves look foolish. For example, some customers cancel their orders exactly the day they get shipped. Some of them just expect that the company won’t bother about the return and will count it as a write-off. Sounds more like being cheap and not clever at all, right?

Here is an example of a customer trying to abuse identity politics so he doesn’t have to wear a face mask. 

Often this type of behavior stems from a confrontational nature mixed with making oneself the victim. Many difficult customers do not want to follow rules and are paranoid about being controlled by anyone. They perceive compliance with rules as oppression of their freedom.

Still, a separate type of customers are those who are convinced that someone is spying on them.

Nightmare story #3: Customers who think you are after them

Customers who think you are after them image

To be fair, many people are right when they think their personal information may be stolen or used for criminal purposes.

For example, telephone scamming is a booming industry in many countries, with scammers defrauding people out of millions of dollars each year. There are many different variations of the telephone scam, but all of them follow a similar pattern. The scammer will contact the victim and claim to be from a government agency or a bank.

It’s OK to be concerned about sharing personal information over the phone or the internet. But sometimes this makes funny customer service stories too.

In many situations, the agent will need to get some of the information in order to solve the query. If they can’t confirm that they are talking to the right person then their hands are tied. And this could escalate into another unnecessary conflict. This brings us to another type of customer from hell—

Nightmare story #4: Customers who don’t understand the standard procedures

Some customers think that customer service is just a bunch of lazy people who don’t want to help them. Obviously, they are very wrong. Customer support agents’ sole job, as the name suggests, is to help customers. But sometimes they can’t do anything. And they don’t do it in bad faith. The actions of customer service reps are usually strictly governed by a company’s policy.

Solving customer problems is exceptionally difficult when they don’t want to cooperate.

It may seem pretty obvious that if you need to fix something then you need to have free access to it. Understanding the basics of how devices work makes communication between tech support and users much easier.

Nightmare story #5: Customers who won’t learn how to use technology

Customers who won’t learn how to use technology image

There are many reasons why someone might refuse to learn how to use a new tech or product. Maybe they don’t see the need for it, or they think it’s too complicated. Whatever the reason, it’s important to remember that change is inevitable and those who don’t adapt will be left behind.

There are some people who will never touch a new piece of technology unless someone sits down with them and shows them exactly how it works. And some customers will downright refuse to learn how to use a device or software. They expect others to set it up and do everything for them. This can be a real pain, especially if you have to do it multiple times or if customers are constantly changing their minds.

Nightmare story #6: Customers who want to speak to the manager

I think it’s safe to say that all of us have had a “Karen moment” at some point. We’ve all been that person who’s just a little too demanding, a little too entitled, and maybe even a little too rude. But what exactly is a “Karen moment?”

Urban Dictionary defines a “Karen moment” as: “When someone who is acting entitled and demanding beyond what is necessary.” In other words, it happens when you’re expecting everyone to cater to your every whim. And while we all have our moments, some people seem to have them more often than others.

However—

Just because you want to talk to the manager doesn’t necessarily mean you’re acting like a “Karen.” Sometimes, there are valid reasons for discussing something with store managers. 

One of our respondents shared this hair-raising customer service story:

That sounds fair enough. But the majority of “I want to speak with your manager” moments are rarely a matter of life or death. The other side of the coin is customers who want to call your supervisor because they think you gave them a peculiar look.

It’s worth remembering that talking to managers for no apparent reason always makes you look bad.

We live in a time when employees are hard to find and customers are increasingly demanding and rude. Your “I’ll get you fired!” talk is not impressive at all and, behind the scenes, the manager is likely to side with the employee anyway. If you can find a way to diffuse the situation and de-escalate it, everyone will be better off.

Nightmare story #7: Customers who are in a hurry

Customers who are in a hurry image

Things like Christmas or birthdays always seem to sneak up on people and take them by surprise. It seems like no matter how much time you have, it’s never enough to prepare. People always buy online gifts last minute and then make a fuss if they fear their order will not arrive on time.

They will then write an angry email about how you personally ruined their Christmas/Valentine’s Day because their order didn’t arrive. In most cases, the problem is not that the order arrived “late.” It was ordered too late in the first place.

Online stores have to face this kind of problem on a regular basis, but so do many diners, restaurants, and coffee shops.

While some people have a problem with time management, some clients have strange spending organization habits. Let’s move on to our next story.

Nightmare story #8: Customers who aren’t big on spending too much

Sometimes customers are very stingy. Occasionally this takes a quite funny or unusual turn. Here is an interesting customer service story from the hospitality sector:

Old habits are hard to break. Still, sometimes trying to improve the hotel standard on your own may not be such a bad idea. Especially if you got tricked by the advertisers or your travel agents.

Nightmare story #9: Customers who mistake puffery advertising for the real thing

Have you ever tried comparing a picture of a new burger on the menu with your real order? If you have, you might have noticed that there’s a big difference.

Advertising is often based on slight exaggeration. For example, a shampoo commercial might show a woman with shiny, bouncy hair that swings as she walks. The ad doesn’t explicitly say the shampoo will give you shiny, bouncy hair like the woman in the commercial, but it’s implied.

Some people are very good at spotting false advertising claims, while others are more gullible and believe everything they see and hear. It is always a good idea to just do a little bit of research of your own or browse online reviews before you decide on buying something.

And you should never ever trust travel agents!

OK, this time it’s not entirely the customers’ fault.

In many cases, part of the responsibility for customer service misunderstandings lies somewhere in external factors and 3rd parties.

Let’s find out at how things look from the other side. Sometimes employees also have a bad day and they get cranky.

Customers’ side of the story

Bad customer service can take many different forms, but some common examples include long wait times, unhelpful or rude staff, and a general feeling of being ignored or unimportant. In some cases, poor customer service is simply the result of understaffing or poor training. Letting the standards go down the drain may also be a deliberate choice by companies in an effort to save money.

Here are some more customer service horror stories in which the staff are the “bad guys.” 

Nightmare story #10: The waitress who flirts with your partner

The waitress who flirts with your partner image

There’s a pretty fine line between good customer service and crossing boundaries. Here’s an example of a situation where an employee has eyes only for one of the customers—and ignores his significant other.

Nightmare story #11: The employee who thinks you should get a job

The opposite side of receiving too much attention from an employee is being ignored by them. Some customer service reps may even think you shouldn’t be visiting their store there at all. Don’t have a job of your own or anything?

Nightmare story #12: That one employee who knows better

Leaving aside the issue of offering good service, you might think that the topic of allergens is fundamental to not killing your customers. If you’re running a restaurant, it’s your responsibility to inform your customers about allergens and make sure they won’t have an adverse reaction to the food they’re eating.

Still, some restaurants act like it’s no big deal.

Nightmare story #13: The chef who wants to prevent you from eating your food

The chef who wants to prevent you from eating your food image

While some chefs will let you eat a dressing with lemon juice (because after all, you have a “citrus allergy” and not a “lemon allergy”) others will storm the restaurant to snatch the food out of your hand. For far less valid reasons.

Nightmare story #14: The pizza delivery guy who didn’t take his tip

As usual, most problems stem from a lack of communication. Someone misses a note or forgets an order detail. Then employees misread the customers’ reactions and misinterpret their intentions. And suddenly the situation becomes sour.

Nightmare story #15: The agent who takes revenge and kills with kindness

The agent who takes revenge and kills with kindness image

Drawing the middle finger is a pretty childish way to get revenge on a customer. Here is an example of a truly sadistic approach to dealing with customers who wronged you.

Conclusion

The above examples show that most of the time no one has bad intentions. Mistakes come from simple misunderstandings. They can turn into a customer service horror story but they don’t have to.

If you work in customer care, try to resolve the issue in a calm and professional manner. When the customer is unreasonable or uncooperative, you may need to end the conversation. But by remaining calm and professional, you can try to resolve the issue and avoid escalating the situation.

If you are a customer, remember that the customer service representative is a human being doing their best to help you. Be respectful and patient, and try to avoid getting angry.

Here is one final story with a happy ending.

In the end, we are all only human.

Methodology

Stories were collected on online topic groups and through our original survey. Some of the stories may have been slightly edited for grammar, profanities, or formatting issues. The statistics were based on the answers provided by about 250 respondents on Reddit and social media.

Sources:

Fair Use Statement:

Did this article help you understand “rude” customers a little bit better? Or maybe the results of the survey were surprising? Feel free to share the statistics and the article. Just remember to mention the source and include a link to this page. Thank you!

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Kazimierz Rajnerowicz
Kazimierz Rajnerowicz

Tidio's Content Editor and Copywriter. Casimir writes about live chat and chatbots and watches over the technicalities of the publication process.

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