Working with customers is not easy at all.
Here is how it usually begins:
|I recently started as a customer care representative for a very well-known chain of stores (can’t reveal too much). I was so excited cause now I was able to work in a nice comfortable office or at home and just talk to people on the phone. Everything was going to be great!|
And before you know it, it can turn into:
|Every day has been a nightmare. People calling and screaming at me, not listening to a word I say. Talking to some of the dumbest people I have ever spoken to in my entire life. Almost every customer I have spoken to acts like they are “holier than thou” and I don’t understand why. After finishing my shift, I just find myself crying and then falling asleep for hours because of how exhausting talking to these customers is.|
Mylove_calypso, Source: r/CustomerService
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.
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
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.
|We normally closed at midnight but we closed today at 10 PM. We had 40 people in the store at 9:45. So we were forced to lock the doors at 9:50. I was outside gathering all the carts and, my god, so many people were coming in the last 10 minutes and fighting with my manager over the fact we closed the door early. This normally always happens at midnight. People coming at 11:55 and we deny them. What made tonight different is just the number of people cussing and trying to force their way in. It got to the point where customers started fighting with each other—both the customers that defended us and the ones complaining. We want to go home it’s Christmas Eve. We literally were open from 6 AM-10 PM why come at 9:55 and fight us about it? Anyways, I didn’t end up leaving until 10:45 and my managers are still there closing everything. People have no idea what we actually go through. It’s ridiculous. People see the closing time and take it as a personal challenge to come a few minutes before.|
Curse06, Source: r/TalesFromRetail
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.
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.
|I had a guy one time who ran up to my store as I was walking up to the door to lock it and he whips open the door fast and leaps inside and goes “Made it! Now you have to serve me!” I quickly replied back with “no I don’t. we’re closed. Get out.”|
He spouted off the usual “corporate!” yada yada but this was before the labor shortage and this company was already struggling bad with recruiting new employees. I knew my job was safe to stand up to customers within reason.
llDurbinll, Source: r/TalesFromRetail
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
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.
|I’m outside our front doors when a man walks up. I tell him there’s a mask mandate in effect and he needs to wear a mask. Easy, right? Standard procedure.|
Mask Man tells me that he identifies as a fully vaccinated, fully masked individual. Mhm. Ok.
I repeat the need for a mask, he asks if I’m questioning how he identifies. I sidestep the question, repeating the need for a mask.
He keeps insisting that he IS wearing a mask. This back and forth goes on for an actual 5 minutes. Eventually, he asks me to call my lawyer and ask him about me questioning his identity as a fully vaxed, fully masked man. You know, that lawyer that grocery stores have.
He asks for the manager. I am the manager. He is not pleased.
He asks for my name, I give it to him. He said he will be in contact with HIS lawyer about how what I’m asking is illegal, and then do you know what this man has the AUDACITY to do??
He walks back to his car and gets a mask.
Potato-with-a-plan, Source: r/TalesFromRetail
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
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.
|I will never forget this one customer that got so insanely spooked when I repeated the number she was calling on & was able to see her home address in which she’s getting service for.|
She was worried the call would drop so for reassurance I said in my customer service voice “well if it does I can call you back on 810 xxx,” and she freaked saying “YOU SHOULD NOT KNOW THAT INFORMATION” and I didn’t know what to say, besides explaining basic phone knowledge in 2021.
smallmochacoldbrew, Source: r/CustomerService
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.
|It’s horrible. I dread every call I take. And it’s crazy because I know it’s not everyone. I have such a great time with a lot of people, and we chat or laugh so much.|
But the restrictions around what I’m able to do and not do, as well as the entitlement from the customers is just a terrible mix. There are so many little things that affect the customer a lot that are just completely out of anyone’s control, and so few are understanding.
Ok-Professional3429, Source: r/CustomerService
Solving customer problems is exceptionally difficult when they don’t want to cooperate.
|User: A PC has a problem.|
Me: Is the PC currently available? I can fix it in 3 minutes.
User: (Offended tone) Not during business hours. So why can’t you fix it?
Me: I need access. Can you call me when it’s available?
User: We have 50 patients and it needs to be fixed now!
Me: Can you call me when it’s available?
User: The DR is very angry!
Me: Can you call me when it’s available?
User: Is your boss named……….?
Me: Can you call me when it’s available?
User: OK, thanks. (Hangs up)
User: (Calls next day) WHY IS THIS NOT FIXED????
Me: Is it available?
User: NO! I’ll call you back. (Hangs up and never calls back despite my 5 follow-up calls)
CaptainTarantula, Source: r/talesfromtechsupport
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
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.
|A user submitted a ticket because the WiFi signal near their desk appeared weak when they looked at their laptop. The actual performance was fine but they wanted to get ahead of the issue. Their desk was directly below a WAP and should have had full bars.|
So, I grabbed my laptop and my cell phone and head on over to the user’s desk. I imagine it’s not going to be long before other users in the area start complaining and I better be prepared to open a war room if needed.
So after discussing the issue with the user, I ask them to show me what’s going on. They point to the wifi icon on their screen. Except it’s not the wifi icon. They’re not looking at one signal bar as they claimed. The WiFi is working fine. They’re looking at the volume icon, set at 10%.
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.
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:
|The employee was completely ignorant about the subject and giving wrong, unsafe, and possibly death inducing advice to another customer in front of me. To clarify, he was a new hire apparently, at a local gun store, giving dangerously false advice on powder doses for.|
408 CheyTac reloads [ammo]. Anonymous
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.
|A middle-aged dude came into my store and put a case of water and a couple of smaller items.|
I ask him the basic questions (like “Do you have a card with us?”) then I ask if he would like a bag for his smaller items and he says “of course, I want a bag you think I’m going to carry this out to the car by myself?”
I say “no, sir. It’s just company policy that I have to ask every customer.”
He replies, “no it isn’t company policy it’s very obvious I need a bag.”
I kinda narrowed my eyes at him and he says “what are you looking at me like that for?”
I finish the transaction with him like normal. He leaves with his bag and his water.
After about 5 minutes he comes back up after I ring out a customer and he’s like “are you the manager?”
“No, but he’s up in the office if you want to speak to him.”
He interrupts me and says, “I don’t like the way you looked at me.”
Kittycass123, Source: r/CustomerService
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
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 working as a waiter at a restaurant near the theater, we would frequently get guests wanting to eat a meal before the movie.|
Now, that normally wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that people like to procrastinate and come into the restaurant 10-15 minutes before the movie.
And here is where it gets worse.
They could easily order a simple meal, like pot roast, turkey, or chicken tenders, but they always ordered the longest meals to make. Every. Freaking. Time. Ribs, salmon, steaks, and anything that took more than 30 minutes to an hour to prepare. Needless to say, they set it up to never have to tip us, because “we made them late for their movie.”
We got in the habit of not giving much attention to tables who arrive to dine minutes away from their movie. It’s a lose-lose situation either way.
Uniquecannon, Source: r/AdviceAnimals
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:
|We had a guest who had a weekly standing reservation for the same room, and only contacted us when he was not coming.|
The housekeeper had a complaint one week about another guest being unable to close a dresser drawer. She removed it and found inside the dresser frame a stash of canned vegetables, votive candles (which we later learned were being used to heat the vegetables), a travel iron, a bathing suit, and other odds and ends. The guy who stashed these things was well-off. We gave him a special room rate as a regular guest. He ate the free breakfast but seldom visited the dining rooms during dinner. I guess the candle-heated green beans were his thing.
The manager removed the items and we kept everything in a box until he visited again, when we gave it to him and explained he couldn’t keep things in “his” room between visits. He was upset and felt we should leave the things there because it wasn’t hurting anyone.
After many years as a guest, he shared a lot about his personal life. There was no trauma. He just hated spending money.
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!
|Our hotel is located next to an artificial lake, which is more of a glorified pond, really—a leftover from the days when local authorities decided to drain part of a swamp area, in order to develop it.|
I checked in an older couple (in their late 60s, early 70s). Everything went fine until they asked me about the apartment’s location. They demanded a lake-view apartment. Well, she did. He was trudging behind.
I then informed them that there are no apartments with a view to the lake, since all lake-view rooms were studios, not apartments, and that their tour operator hadn’t contracted any studios with a view of the lake, so I couldn’t move them, even if there were any vacancies of said studios (which there honestly weren’t).
Cue wife going into full Karen mode.
“LISTEN TO ME YOUNG MAN (I always take this one as a compliment, since I’m pushing 50). OUR TRAVEL AGENCY PROMISED US AN APARTMENT WITH A LAKE VIEW. AND COULD YOU AT LEAST TELL US, WHERE WE CAN FIND THE LADDER TO GO INTO THE LAKE ?????”
I told them that there is no such ladder and that I’ve never seen anybody swimming in the lake in the decade that I’ve been working there.
“DO YOU MEAN THAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE SWIMMING IN THAT TINY POOL OF YOURS? OUR TRAVEL AGENCY PROMISED US THAT WE COULD SWIM IN THE LAKE.”
I said that there still is the option of going to the beach and having a swim there. We are located on an island, after all. But she wouldn’t have any of it.
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
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.
|A boyfriend of mine and I went out for dinner once. The waitress was polite to me and flirted all over him, touching him lightly, staring to catch his eye. He made it clear we were a couple in our conversation when she came around, but she didn’t care I guess. It got uncomfortable. At the end of the date, he asked for a to-go box, not being able to eat all he ordered. The waitress brought the box and foil, made a small speech about women taking care of their men, and proceeded to wrap his leftovers lovingly. I was watching her face and she looked at him and she turned red. So I looked at him and he was holding his mouth, trying to contain his laughter. I laughed too and he couldn’t hold it and laughed so hard he cried! She got mad and walked off.|
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?
|This morning at around 8.45 AM, I went to a small bakery to buy some takeaway pastries.|
As I arrived, the cashier was preparing some sandwiches with her back turned towards me. I did not want to interrupt her and just stood there, silently and patiently waiting for her to finish.
After about a minute, she looked up, saw me and mumbled to herself “Can’t they let me finish anything!?”
I ignored it and friendly said “Hello, I would like this and that please.” No answer from her.
While wrapping my order, she mumbled “Does no one around here have a job!?”
A bit taken aback, I was like “Excuse me, did you mean me with that?”
She answered “Customers are coming in constantly. At this time they should be at work somewhere.”
I just said “Well, then I am definitely not going to buy anything here. This is ridiculous.” And then left the bakery.
Striveuntildeath, Source: r/TalesFromTheCustomer
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.
|I went out to eat with someone who had a milk allergy. Not lactose. Milk. She ordered a pasta dish, and when she took a bite it tasted like cheese. She asked if there was cheese. Nope. Except when she lifted the fork there were strings, like from cheese. The server insisted it was celery strings. Except she started to feel ill and asked AGAIN. Nope, no cheese. When she asked a fourth time because she didn’t dare to keep eating, the chef came out himself, and he explained to us that he had used parmesan cheese in the dish but it was fine cause it didn’t have lactose. We told him that she wasn’t allergic to lactose, she was allergic to MILK.|
Nightmare story #13: The chef who wants to prevent you from eating your food
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.
|The lady at the register made repeated mistakes with our order; we had to repeat everything three or four times. She finally got it right, we paid, and then we went and sat to wait.|
The order only had one Chicago-style hot dog and also had a chili dog that we didn’t order. The waitress took the chili dog back, apologized, and said that the missing Chicago-style dog would be right out. We then started eating the food that we had ordered while we waited on the missing hot dog.
The owner immediately came out of the kitchen, looked at our table, and just glared at us and got redder and redder in the face. During his glarefest, my wife picked up the Eurodog and started eating it. The owner then yelled out “OH, YOU’RE GOING TO EAT THE EURODOG YOU DIDN’T ORDER?!!!” and started running towards us so that he could grab it out of her mouth and hit her. Right before he got to us I told him “No, we ordered the Eurodog, but mistakenly got a chili dog instead of a Chicago dog.”
He then stopped, about one foot from our table, mumbled “I’m sorry” and ran back into the kitchen.
My wife and I just looked at each other with a did-that-really-happen look.
We ended up getting the missing Chicago-style dog and finishing our meal. The food was horrible and the owner stayed in the kitchen until we left, although we could see him glaring at us through the door.
I posted a review on Yelp about the food and the wonderful interaction with the owner. He ended up creating several accounts to badmouth me and accuse me of lying.
The restaurant ended up only staying open about 6 weeks before it closed.
u/TexasAggie98, Source: r/TalesFromTheCustomer
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.
|I ordered a pizza last night because I was hungry and with the new year coming up I figured I’d leave a big tip to whoever got it. My total order was almost 30 bucks and I had 20 dollars on hand. I paid for the order online and wrote in the instructions that there was a tip under the doormat and to not knock.|
I left the twenty bucks under the doormat and my pizza got delivered. When I went to grab it I double-checked under the mat as sometimes drivers won’t read the instructions and I figured I’d just call the pizza place up as I’ve done before. Sure enough, the twenty bucks were still there. I called the pizza place and made it right by asking them to add a tip over the phone.
A few minutes later the receipt falls on the ground and I see that something’s been drawn. I look and it’s a middle finger that has the tip box circled and says “thanks for wasting my time” on it. I ended up not eating my food out of worry something was done to it.
Nightmare story #15: The agent who takes revenge and kills with kindness
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.
|Treat the customer like Dora the Explorer talks to her audience of kids. Not only is this satisfying as hell to speak to someone’s immaturity level and watch their blood boil as they’re treated like an actual child, but technically this IS killing them with kindness.|
So don’t just kill them with kindness, MURDER them with a voice so sickeningly sugary sweet, and whimsical, that it causes anyone in earshot to endure a diabetic coma. Give the most cheek-searingly painful smile that touches the bottoms of your eyes with its upturned corners. Speak with such dumbed-down words and made-up cutesy terms that make long-dead linguists roll in their graves.
Whenever you’re faced with a rude customer, just think of them as a tot throwing a tantrum, and treat them accordingly.
Day_psycho, Source: r/CustomerService
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.
|I call customer service and tell the friendly girl on the other end what I did to try and reset my end of the connection.|
She figures out in seconds that I am tech-savvy and agrees that this needs some more digging from her side.
She then tells me to please hang on while she investigates further.
This is where you usually hear a click, and that horrible waiting muzak starts.
But she did not hit the mute button correctly…
So I sit in total silence, trying not to laugh, while she curses and swears at the system, the computers, and how shitty the program and menus are.
She even calls over another tech guy and I clearly hear them as they both swear and curse at how crappy their system is.
At this point, I am almost pissing myself from held-in laughter.
Finally, they find the problem and get it fixed.
So she turns her attention to me again, sees that the mute button is off, and goes “Oh s***, you heard us?”
Laughing my head off I reassure her that all is good and that I once had worked in customer services, so I knew how frustrating it could be.
weirdlabs, Source: r/TalesFromTheCustomer
In the end, we are all only human.
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.
- Bad Customer Service: 5 Examples & How to Fix It (Tidio)
- How to Handle Customer Complaints & Response Examples (Tidio)
- How to Deal With Angry Customers in 5 Easy Steps (Tidio)
- Here’s What Readers Told Us About Customer Service Nightmares (New York TImes)
- Customer Service: Stories of Good and Bad Service (Reddit)
- Karma/Revenge Justice for Customer Service Workers (Reddit)
- All About Your Customer Service Experiences (Reddit)
- Tales From Retail: A Place to Exchange Bad CS Stories (Reddit)
- For When the Customer Isn’t Always Right (Reddit)
- Did You Try Turning It off and on Again? Tales From Tech Support (Reddit)
- Stories From the Front Desk of Hotels (Reddit)
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