You work at a grocery store and another angry customer comes up and starts giving you attitude. You've tried to be cordial and respectful, but that doesn't work. You've tried to shout them down and that didn't work either, in fact, you probably got fired for it. Every option has been exhausted, so what do you do?
Fear not, a new answer has been found.
Reddit user en256 recently posted a story on /r/TalesFromRetail of a customer that was giving him grief, and how instead of dealing it with kindness or anger, he dealt with it in the ultimate way possible; complete indifference.
Did it work? Only one way to find out. Read on!
Our story begins with our hero at his job, as an employee of a grocery store. His job is to oversee the self-checkout station. Before we get into the heat of it, some backstory is required:
"For a bit of background, my store has two sets of circulars with coupons people can get. One you have to sign up for and it gets mailed to your house. The other we have stacks of in our store that anyone can take. The one you get in the mail often has a coupon to get you two times as many rewards points which can be used to save on gas."
Coupons in the hands of nasty customers are almost always a bad combo and this story is no different. The better the deal, the bigger the trouble. Customer service employees deal with all kinds of irate guests, but this one was much more memorable than the rest.
"A woman came through self-checkout and at the end of her order she brought her mail flier up to me and asked me to scan her double points coupon. So I scan it and start tearing it out when she asks me to give it back to her so she could use it another time."
Uh oh. This is already a recipe for disaster.
Our hero states the obvious and says that he cannot give back the coupon after it's been used, even pointing to a giant sign that says 'LIMIT 1 PER HOUSEHOLD,' as if further proof was needed. Of course, that wasn't gonna stop the customer from going off.
"But she starts arguing with me saying I can do it and that she does it all the time. I happen to see our store manager walking by so I flag him down to come help me out."
Instead of the store manager being asked for by the customer, the employee calls in the store manager. Smart move. The manager comes over to handle the situation:
"The store manager says to me: What seems to be the issue?
Lady: I just asked him to-
Manager: Hold on let me hear his side first. What's going on?
Me: She wants me to give back her double points coupon after I already scanned it for her. It says limit one per household on it though.
Manager: It does say limit one per household. He has to keep it and be accountable for all his coupons.
Lady: But I do it all the time at the other location! They even hand them out at the registers!
Manager: Well they're not supposed to be doing that.
Me: Yeah it's just company policy, we have to go by what the coupon says."
I wonder how she is gonna handle this unfortunate news...
Well, she did not handle it well, as it were. She continued to hold her position and argue with the manager that she should get her coupon. The store manager, being the smart man he is, agrees to go to the back to see if there's a coupon she can have. Of course, both the employee and the manager knew that there was nothing back there, but hey, if it gets you away from the customer for a minute and can help diffuse the situation, it's worth doing!
While the manager goes to the back, our hero keeps helping people at the self-checkouts while the woman is just standing there. She decides to engage the employee:
"L: You know, the whole reason I shop at [store] is for the savings I get on gas.
L: I mean, really, I just spent $150 here.
L: But honestly after this, I don't think I'm going to shop here anymore.
L: No, don't just stand there and say okay!
L: Can't you just give my coupon back?! They really let me do this all the time.
Me: No, sorry
To really put his foot down on the situation, the employee crumpled up the coupon. It was clear that the situation was not going to change for her.
The store manager comes back and tells her what we all knew; there were no more coupons in the back. Attempting to diffuse the situation, the manager even offers to take the angry customer to the service desk to see if there's anything they can do to help. They both take off so surely, that must be the end of the story, right?
Remember, this is retail. Nothing is ever completely resolved peacefully.
About 10 minutes after they left to the service desk, the woman is back with a vengeance. This time, she brought one of the circulars from the front door and shoves it right in front of our hero before beginning to berate him again.
The situation went down like this:
"L: I just want you to know that all of these coupons in here say one per household too.
L: Yeah but I bet you just zap them with your little machine all the time and let people keep them!
L: You know what? Where's the boss? Call him over again!"
The effectiveness of our hero's indifference is in full force at this point. She's tried time and time again to be difficult with him, but because he didn't cave or snap under pressure, she is all but defeated.
"So I pick up the phone to call him and as I'm talking to him she just walks away. Store manager comes down a few seconds later asking where she is and I shrug telling him she walked away. I tell him the general direction she went and he goes to look for her. He didn't find her."
Clearly, she knew that this battle was lost and stormed out of frustration. The employee's sheer apathy had caused her to retreat...for now. While this specific employee didn't have to deal with the woman again, she would be back to try and sneak some coupons later on:
"I heard from one of my coworkers that the next day a woman matching her description came in asking cashiers at the registers if they had any double points coupons in their drawer."
After the story was posted to Reddit, several commenters weighed in on the situation, praising the employee's indifference tactics and the store manager's willingness to take his side.
"Every person in retail is jealous with how much your manager has your back."
The other location excuse from the lady didn't go over well.
"Okay, but was it okay if she could get that coupon back? She does it all the time at OTHER LOCATION.
Total disinterest is such a great way to deal with angry customers. I'm also glad store manager wanted to hear your side first. My store manager won't back up his employees and will always apologize about us when we're following policies."
A behaviorist even chimed in with some advice on how to deal with angry customers even more effectively:
"I work with behaviorists a lot in my field and one thing that I've learned works very well with people like this is to agree with them. I don't mean give them what they want but just say something like 'yeah that does suck' or something similar. It works surprisingly well with my disabled clients so I started using it outside of work."
The story on Reddit prompted other users to share their experiences dealing with bad customers and having quality store managers on their side:
"I was called over to a ridiculous customer telling me I had to sell her a set of chairs for less than half of the price because another one of our branches had done so on a 'manager's special'. I told her I don't have to honor that, and that seeing as we are selling out of the chairs at full price, I'd be stupid to sell it to her for half the price. She, of course, gets mad and asks to see the manager. He comes over and they start explaining the situation and he clicks pretty quickly. He interrupts her mid-sentence and just says 'why am I even here? He's already told you, and you're wasting my time, bye.' And walks off.
He's the manager I aspire to be."
The world of retail is fighting back against unnecessarily nasty and unfair customers, and we should all take notes from these good store managers and apathetic employees.