The phrase “The customer is always right!” might be a popular one, but that doesn’t mean they can act however they want! Cashiers describe the rude things customers have done while shopping. Content has been edited for clarity.
She Planned On Saying That
“The last customer of my nine-hour shift came through, and I was looking forward to clocking out as soon as she was gone. She paid by check – a normal thing to do for the older generation. I sent the check through the reader, and it took the numbers just fine – but it needed the 16-digit number on her driver’s license.
So I gently said, ‘I’m sorry, this machine needs me to input your ID number to make sure it matches this check.’
Well, not only was she annoyed I needed it, she didn’t actually have her ID with her. She had driven to the store without her license. She told me to try again – but trying it again just brought up the same message: Insert ID#. She told me to just put it through without ID, she comes here all the time. Which I could not do – even a manager could do it.
So she’s on the phone with her husband, asking him to read out her ID number from her check. Over the phone. No dice. My manager needs to see the ID in her hand. She offers to hold the groceries and the lady can come back. Lady does not like that idea, nor does she have a different payment method. She keeps snapping she comes here all the time, her checks have never bounced, and we shouldn’t even need her ID. But that doesn’t matter to this machine.
Now, I was 15–20 minutes past the end of my shift at this point. I was trying to balance my own impatience, trying to be understanding of her point of view, and just wishing she would be a bit nicer to me – none of this is anyone’s fault, just unlucky circumstances for everyone. I am sure she didn’t mean to leave the house without money or her ID. And I certainly didn’t trigger the machine to ask for ID (though she has been treating me like I did).
And at the very end, she finally, finally relented, tossed a few twenty-dollar bills at me, and said the cruelest, calmest thing I’ve ever heard from a customer, ‘Just take this. At least I have people waiting for me at home who love me. I can’t spend all day here.’
I was already stressed and frazzled from a long day and a difficult situation, and I was so shocked by the unfairness of these words that tears literally sprang to my eyes. I blinked them away but had to look at the floor for the rest of the transaction – handing her change and her receipt. I managed to keep my cool together while I handed over my till, clocked out, and got into my husband’s car. Then I properly started crying.
There have been many other disrespectful things I’ve seen in three years of cashiering – someone threw a chicken snack wrap at me, someone offered to massage my bare feet, your average customer hissy-fits here and there saying they’ll never shop here again, but that lady sticks out as the worst to me. It was personal, and it was calculated. She didn’t say it in the heat of anger, she said it to make me hurt, which was the only way she could make herself feel better.”
Picking The Lesser Of The Two Evils
“One holiday season a friend of mine whose mother was a sales manager at Macy’s hired me as a seasonal salesperson at their costume jewelry counter. I was 18 years old on a month-long break from college and it was quick cash. I stayed on a little past the holiday to help handle the day after Christmas return frenzy.
I expected to handle lots of returns because taste in jewelry is so personal and all that, but I couldn’t imagine how sleazy and dishonest so many customers were.
I tried really, really hard to stay professional as people marched up to me and demanded their returns NOW, at times throwing on the counter a piece of jewelry that had been laying at the bottom of their purse with junk piled on top. I was asked to issue refunds on bracelets with food stuck on them and broken bracelets that buyers insisted had been sold to them that way. I had people pretend not to speak English when I asked for a receipt (that they didn’t have). Of course, when I told them I could only issue store credit all of a sudden, they were able to threaten me in fluent English.
On my last day, I got another nasty, nasty piece of work. As she stomped by people, knocking into them with her bags, I could already see the anger rolling off her. She slammed her return down on the counter (a costume ruby/diamond bracelet) and demanded to return it. The bracelet was quite worn and there is no way that thing had been given to her a week before. But she had a receipt. I looked at the receipt and the bracelet and yes, it was my last day, and I was beyond fed up.
So I said, ‘Ma’am really? This is a clearly used bracelet, and it’s not even the bracelet described on the receipt.’
She said in response, ‘Listen here, brat, I have no time for this nonsense today. Give me my money back.’
It took every ounce of self-restraint I had but I said calmly, ‘The item listed on the receipt is a yellow gold plate CZ bracelet and you just handed me a white gold-plated ruby CZ bracelet that looks quite worn. I cannot issue a refund on merchandise that doesn’t have a store receipt and was likely not purchased at Macy’s.’
She leaned very aggressively into me and pointing a finger on which was what looked like a two-inch press-on claw, said, ‘Just wait right here,’ and walked away.
By that time I was shaking and feeling like I picked the wrong person to deny a refund to. I feared she might punch me or come back with a weapon because she was the angriest person I had ever encountered. I tried to look calm and received a couple of sympathetic nods from some other customers, but I could tell everyone was disturbed by her too.
She returned shortly after with a manager, who looked at me sheepishly and said, ‘We gotta make the return.’
I whispered to the manager, ‘Seriously? This isn’t even the bracelet on the receipt! How do we know this was even Macy’s merchandise?’
The manager whispered, ‘I know, I know, trust me. Just issue the refund, it’s our store policy, and believe me the alternative will be a lot worse.’
I said, ‘Ok, but stay here in case she punches me.’
I knew she would insist on receiving cash. But I played dumb and started moving really slowly. I took forever to process her return. First I issued a credit. I acted like I had forgotten it was supposed to be a refund. She flipped out. Then I rang it up wrong a few times. And I told her the register was having issues and was jammed. I called over a repair person to help me open it and acted surprised when it worked. Yes, it was juvenile and passive-aggressive of me, but it helped me regain a bit of dignity and I ended my time at Macy’s on a mostly decent note.”
All Of That For Such A Small Amount?
“I served a young woman who had her toddler with her as well as her mother. I scanned their items, they paid and went. It was an extremely busy day as it was around Christmastime, and the queues were just getting bigger. Each till was occupied with a cashier, and we were still struggling to serve that many people quickly (as some like to make our lives even harder). It was really busy.
The woman came back with an issue which she was very polite about. However, instead of approaching me or any other staff member by the side of the tills (as customers are told) where the customer service area is, she cut the queue and came to me as I was serving another customer. I kindly asked her to wait at the end and said I would be right with her after I finished with my current customer. She didn’t move and stood in the way with the stroller so other customers couldn’t get past.
I called her over and asked what the problem was. She said I overcharged her and would want the money returned to her. I checked her receipt and couldn’t see the issue, so she pointed out the item to me. It was a jumper for her toddler worth $10, but it was discounted by $2 due to the 20% off offer. Still not seeing the issue, she huffed and said I was supposed to discount $3 as the offer is actually 30%.
Sometimes the prices can be incorrect, so I went to check on the shop floor. The discount was indeed 20%, but I looked for any indication to why she may have thought otherwise. I found a 30% off sheet laying on the floor facing upwards. It was from the previous sale and someone failed to pick it up. Again, it was not displayed, but simply laying on the floor; it was the only one. I contacted my superior and explained the situation. She was forced to discount the 30% as she didn’t want any more fuss, and that’s just how we deal with things like this.
We went to discount the extra 10%, but the final price was either too low or too high. It was evident there was a problem with the system. We tried for 45 minutes with no solution. We simply couldn’t give her too little or too much, as it would throw the entire transaction out of whack and affect the revenue. This woman had me, my colleague and my superior standing there for almost an hour trying to get her the $1 difference.
Eventually, we had to give her a voucher for $5 she could spend at the store because we simply couldn’t refund her the $1 without her or us losing out on money. She was acting surprised when we handed her the voucher and was ‘grateful.’ The woman then turned around to me and asked if she could then use that $5 voucher to further discount her shopping. I was beside myself, I couldn’t believe someone would go to such extents.
To make matters worse, to get the voucher we have to fill out a form, get the customer to sign it and find the appropriate manager to authorize it — in the middle of the biggest rush hour we had.”
Tried To Switch Things Around
“There’s this guy who comes into the grocery store every single morning, between 7:00–7:30 a.m.
And every single morning, he grabs a shopping cart, and reads the small list in his hand. The list always has the same stuff on it, including a head of iceberg lettuce, tomato, potato, newspaper, and a gallon of water. Occasionally his list would include things like ‘dessert,’ or ‘hamburger.’
Now, this part is important. Every single day he buys a single plum tomato.
During the summers, our store would purchase local produce from local farmers, including tomatoes, raspberries, blueberries, squash, and so on. These local tomatoes are usually massive, and shaped more like a traditional tomato, and nothing like a plum tomato.
This guy went through my co-worker’s line to check out. She also knew the difference between the two tomatoes.
He had put the produce tag from the plum tomato, which is less expensive ($1.29/lb), onto the local tomato, which is much more expensive ($4.99/lb).
My co-worker rang it up under ‘local tomato,’ and this is where things went south.
‘That’s a plum tomato,’ he said.
‘No sir, this is a New Hampshire tomato,’ my coworker explained.
‘It has a tag on it for a plum tomato,’ the guy argued.
At this point, my manager was poking her eyes over the office door. It wasn’t maybe 8:00 a.m., and there wasn’t much action in the store at that hour.
‘Hey, *Lydia,’ my co-worker said.
Lydia opened the door and made her way to the cash register. She asked them what’s going on.
He tried to argue my co-worker was trying to overcharge him for a tomato, when in reality, she was charging him the correct price for the tomato.
He huffed and puffed and walked back to the produce section to find a plum tomato, and bought that instead of the local tomato.
There’s no doubt in my mind he switched the tags.
Plum tomatoes come into our store with produce tags already on them. Our produce department workers put tags onto the local tomatoes as we get them in by the box.
The pettiest thing a customer has done? Try to buy a $5 tomato for $1.29 by switching the stickers, and then putting up a fuss when we called him out on what he did.”
She Handled That Correctly
“I had a cashier working for me in the shoe store. She was a complete pain in the neck. The first words out of her mouth when she came in were always a complaint. She was in high school. She got the job because her sister was dating the boss’s son. He dad was a doctor and she felt entitled to everything. She only worked one or two days per week.
We were busy. I mean, people lined up at the only cash register busy. The girl was doing what she could to keep up, but the line kept growing. More customers were coming in, so each of the salespeople would take the new customer instead of helping her ring out the old ones. We were commissioned. This was in the old days when each credit card transaction required a phone call to get approval. The system was to ring up the sale, write the information into the multipart paper credit card form, run the form through the imprinter to capture the customer’s credit card info, and then pick up the phone and dial the authorization center. When connected, give the card info and sale amount to the center and get back an authorization code, write the code on the form, hang up the phone. Give the customer the form to sign and hand the customer a copy of the form, receipt, and the purchase. Then, if the customer had a child, inflate and give a balloon to the kid. Repeat as needed.
Somewhere in this process, a man was waiting for his turn or maybe for his credit card approval. He got impatient. I don’t blame him, but that was state of the art at the time. Finally, in desperation, he called out rather loudly in a store full of cranky kids and tired moms to the cashier, ‘CAN’T YOU GO ANY FASTER?’
This whiny, complaining pain in the neck, turned from the telephone where she was trying to get his approval, and with a voice that wouldn’t melt butter replied, ‘No, I can’t,’ and turned back to the telephone.
I congratulated her later after things calmed down for handling it exactly right. Probably the only time she heard something nice from me.”
Ma’am, That’s Against The Rules
“The store I work at has a 40% off one regular priced item. Now it clearly states on the coupon, ‘One coupon per person, per day.’ Sadly, we still have many people take advantage of this by going through separate checkouts to get multiple items for 40% off, which can sometimes get the cashier in trouble if we don’t catch this and stop the customer from using the coupon multiple times. If we are able to catch them doing this, then we have to tell the customer we are unable to process the coupon a second time as they have already used it once today and they will have to return another day in order to use it. This is actually even backed up by store management as it is one of the things that is checked for during store audits.
Now, most of the time when we catch a customer trying to use a coupon more than once they will make a fuss, but either just decide to get the item without the coupon or leave the item behind. One day, however, I had a lady come through my line with a cart that already had multiple bagged items in it. At first, I thought she might have been about to do a return and maybe just got in the wrong line, so I asked her if she was returning. She informed me she wasn’t and she just forgot to get an item. She then handed me the item she wanted to purchase. I cannot for the life of me remember what exactly the item was, but I do remember that it was less than $3. I entered the item into the system and then she handed me a coupon, I looked at her basket full of already paid for items and decided to ask her if she had already used her coupon today. To my surprise, she actually admitted she had, and this is the small conversation that followed.
Me: ‘Ma’am, I’m sorry but I can’t use this coupon a second time today, I could get in trouble if I do.’
Her: ‘No, just run it through, the item isn’t that expensive.’
Me: ‘Again, I’m very sorry but I can’t put this through. It actually says on the coupon you’re only allowed to use it once per day, so maybe you could come back tomorrow and use it then.’
Her: ‘Well, if you aren’t going to use my coupon, then I’m just going to return everything I already bought.’
She then looked at me for a few seconds as if she was so proud of herself because I would just give in with the threat of her returning all her items. However, using one coupon multiple times is something checked on store audits, so I very politely pointed to our return line and told her if she wanted to return her items she would have to go to that register. She then proceeded to go to the return line, wait in line for almost 10 minutes (those return lines are always long, and we were unusually busy) and she actually returned her entire previous purchase, just because she couldn’t use a coupon on an item that was less than $3.”
It Was Just Two Cents?
“I have been working at Goodwill for about a year and a half. We cater to a whole slew of cheap people. Most of the time, middle-aged to older women. However, cheapness sometimes translates to men, too, and on this day it was an old redneck man.
I have to ask every customer if they would like to ’round up’ their subtotal to the next dollar to help fund Goodwill job training programs. This man’s subtotal was $3.98. I asked this man if he would like to round up. As soon as I asked, one of our regulars came in carrying her teacup chihuahua, ‘Sweetie.’ The lady came up to the register to say hello to me and let me pet Sweetie. The old man was taken aback. He was afraid of Sweetie.
The woman, a sensitive lady herself, noticed, apologized, and took Sweetie away from the old man. I felt a little bad for this dude. Irrational fears are obviously no fun to have, especially when you have to face them in public. I’m assuming the stress of this dog situation is what sent him into his pettiness, but I really don’t know for sure, it also could have been his cheapness.
After the dog was out of sight, I asked him again to round up. He just grunted. I took that grunt as a yes. I rounded up the two cents and told him his total, $4.00. He completely snapped. His grunts vocalized at me to take that two cents off immediately. I was apologetic, astonished, and agreed right away, afraid to see what this might turn into. I don’t have the power to take the money off myself, so I had to call my manager and wait for her to hustle up from the backroom.
When it was all said and done, the pennies were refunded, and the man took his bag of god-knows-what and went on his way. That was in the beginning of my job. I have yet to refund any more donations!”
There’s No Way It Was That Cheap, Lady
“When I worked at Staples, it was about 15 minutes before closing time. I had a lady who looked to be in her 60s walk in and walk up to our iPad case display.
She spent about 10 minutes looking through them and picked out one of our premium leather cases that cost $59.99. She came up to my register to check out, she seemed to have a slight irritating smirk on her face as she approached. When I rang her up, she looks at the PIN payment screen and nonchalantly shakes her head, and said, ‘No.’
I looked at her and said, ‘No? …No what?’
She said, ‘That’s not the price I’m paying; the price tag on the display said $4.99.’
I know well even if the case were on sale (which it wasn’t), it would cost quite a bit more than that.
I asked her to wait for a second while I went to check the case display and saw she was looking at the price tag for the iPad skins we sold. I walked back and explained the misunderstanding and asked if she’d like me to put the case back for her.
She said, ‘No I still want the case, but I’m only paying $4.99 for it.’
I looked at her slightly dumbfounded, and politely said, ‘I’m sorry but I won’t be able to sell you this case for that price.’
She said, ‘You don’t have a choice; for one, the customer is always right, and for two, your display was messed up, which is your fault.’
‘Happy Customer Service Me’ had left the building at that point, so I responded, ‘Well, the case may have been in the wrong spot, but there’s no way you’re leaving here with a $4.99 leather case.’
She arrogantly says, ‘Bring me your manager.’
I called her over (this is a manager who has zero-tolerance for people who come in at the last minute before closing, and it’s now 5 minutes past closing) and explained the situation.
She said, ‘Ma’am, that case was in the wrong spot, and I’m sure you saw that all the others just like it were in the $59.99 spot but you chose to try and take advantage of my cashier. You can purchase this case for $59.99, or you can leave right now.’
She made some comment about calling corporate and walks out, caseless.”
Why Didn’t She Just Say So?
“Our registers were quite old, and some of our procedures a little unnecessarily complicated. One such complication was voiding items on an order. Every item voided had to be written out on a piece of paper with the UPC and the price to be dropped with the till at the end of the shift. Also, there was no running total on the machine, so the only way to know the total would be to hit the “total” key. Any void over $10 triggered a manager’s key.
Well, this particular night it was the end of my shift. I had shut my register down with only two customers left to ring up. The first lady had a basket that was overfull of groceries. I started scanning as she finished loading up. About halfway through her order she walked up and asked me what the total is.
‘Right now you are at $140.22,’ I said.
‘Oh no! I need to put a couple of things back!’ she replied.
I liked to try to streamline these situations as much as I could, so I asked, ‘What’s your budget, so we can figure out what you need to take off?’ Only, she ignored me. She handed me several items, which I voided, then had to wait for the manager as I began to write them down.
When he came, I gave her the new total. ‘$125.72.’
‘I’m still over!’ she was exasperated.
‘If you tell me your limit, I can help you figure out how much you need to take off,’ I said.
At this point, I shot a look at the next customer that was a mixture of apology and helplessness. It was too late for him to get in another line, because all the other lines were incredibly long.
So the manager comes for the override, and I give her the total. ‘103.39.’ She’s pretty frustrated at this point because apparently she still doesn’t have enough. At this point, the manager decided to stick around, because I’m on overtime, and it’s obvious he will have to come back anyway.
So I decided to switch strategies, saying ‘How much more do you need to take off?’
‘I have to stay under $50.’
Finally, finally, we got the total under $50. She paid and left with a fraction of what she rolled up with. I put the other customer through, then spent another 15 minutes finishing up writing the rest of the voids down.
So when we got new registers that kept a running total, no one was more excited than me.”
Just Wait A Few Seconds, Lady
“I once worked in a grocery store as a cashier and one person came through with a lot of meat. I noticed after they left the belt was really gross, so I started spraying the belt. I then grabbed some paper towels and started wiping up. I had just started wiping when a woman came up to my register with a basket.
I asked her to give me just a minute to finish wiping up the belt. She started yelling at me to hurry up and it was her turn and she shouldn’t have to wait for me to wipe up. Okay, I said. All her stuff got meat juice and bleach cleaner on it. Stupid woman.”