Karens are all around us. One can encounter one at the grocery store, out to eat, or basically anywhere. The managers of these establishments usually have to deal with the Karens of the world directly which can be annoying, but makes for great stories. Managers share times when they were forced to deal with ridiculous Karens and their antics. Content has been edited for clarity.
Put Them Back
“I was an assistant manager at a convenience store for about three years. One day, when we were super busy, during the summer, I was refilling the cups for the soda fountain. I was running back and forth to the register since I was alone. Enter in three women who had been partying all day. One of whose husband was a regular in the mornings. He always wrote a check when he was in the store.
So when this group of women got to the counter, I asked if they found everything alright. They were loud and bubbly and said yes. Then the wife handed me a check, pre-signed by the husband. I ran it, all good. Well then as they were leaving, one of the women grabbed a 30-pack of drinks that she had conveniently put on the floor in front of the counter when I was at the fountain. My back was turned.
I stopped them and said that I never scanned the drinks, to which she brought the case back, and when I rang it up and told her the total, she answered with, ‘I only have one check. Just run it again.’
I explained to her that would be a fraud and that they knew that I hadn’t seen the pack of drinks. I never checked their ID which the system requires. The person who placed it there, placed it when I was nowhere near the register, and it was up against a little beef jerky display so it wasn’t exactly noticeable. This woman proceeded to start yelling at me. Mind you, she did this while the store was filling with people. She called me stupid and threatened me.
I was pregnant at the time, but I never got very big, so basically, no one knew. Well, my hormones from being pregnant were telling me to jump over the counter and beat this woman, only after she proceeded to call me names.
My hands were balled up and everyone saw me trembling from holding back, and then she said with that arrogance that only someone who is clearly about to have it shoved right back into their face unknowingly, ‘Call Chuck, you need to call him right now, and tell him what you did!’
So, I smiled, agreed that I should, and dialed him up.
When he answered, I told him exactly what happened, how it happened, and how this woman was reacting, making sure to add in the colorful names she called me. I did this in front of her and the now seriously long line of people. All of which were aggravated at this woman’s lack of decency.
He then told me to put her on the phone, explained how there is nothing we can do about this pack of drinks, and she could either go get another check or cash otherwise she could not have it. She got mad but handed the phone back. I went on, and he proceeded to tell me to explain to her that if she doesn’t leave the drinks and exit the store, I am to call the police and have her removed.
I agreed and do just that. Well, if you guessed that she got even more annoyingly belligerent, you’re right. As soon as I picked the phone back up to call the police, another regular customer stepped out from the line, grabbed her by the arm, told her friend to put the drinks back, and walked this woman outside. I saw them exchange a few words, and the lady left.
This customer walked back in and came to the counter. They apologized for this person that they knew but weren’t extremely close to, and told me she was done listening to her talk to me that way. I never charged this woman for another fountain drink, or hot food in there again. It’s sad when someone else has to be the voice of reason for others.”
“I was the store’s photo department manager and as such was responsible for the Kodak self-serve print machine. This was a self-contained machine that allowed the customer to print or copy any photo. We managed copyright infringement by requiring the customer to come to our service counter to have the print(s) priced.
Note, copyright infringement was a big deal with those machines and potentially very expensive if we didn’t control it because case law had established that a violation would result in the award of damages for every single print being multiplied by the number of machines the company owned nationwide.
Anyway, a woman copied her daughter’s senior picture which was marked with the studio’s logo. I told her we couldn’t sell her those because they were copyrighted and they violated federal law. She was outraged. First, she insisted I sell her the prints because she bought, and owned, that picture. I explained that what she bought was that copy, not the right to print more.
After ranting a little more she angrily pointed out that the tree her daughter was leaning against in the photo was her tree in her backyard. She then proceeded to tell anyone within earshot how rude I was to her. I never raised my voice or treated her with anything less than respect.
She even convinced the next customer who was an older lady who also had a copyright issue and was denied the sale that I was rude to her and talked her into returning to the counter to tell me (and I quote verbatim), ‘That other lady said you were rude to me.’
She then left. Bizarre.
But the best part was the nice, older gentleman who then stepped up to the counter, paid for his item, looked me in the eye, and said with a faint smile, ‘You weren’t rude to me.'”
But I Fell Asleep
“I manage a movie theatre and oh boy, I field stupid complaints all dang day. Being in charge of our customer review responses is a headache and a half, and the discounted days bring in all sorts of crotchety old farts. I had a lady complain that there were children in an auditorium showing a, wait for it, a kid’s movie.
When I was nine months pregnant and waddling, an old man snapped at me for not moving fast enough to serve him a drink. One guy once demanded movie passes because he fell asleep in the middle of the movie and grew angry because he missed the ending. An elderly couple threw a fit that I wouldn’t accept coupons that were older than me. And, oh, the attempted scammers.
My most recent instant was just the other night. A man was practically counting the ice cubes that went into his soda cup, and when he said that was too much and my concessionist poured some out, he got angry. Then when my concessionist asked what soda he wanted, just to clarify, he snarled some variety of the contemptuous, ‘What are you, new?’
He canceled his whole order. Then he left. Then he came back five minutes later and complained that my concessionist wouldn’t give him the other items for free.
It didn’t actually escalate to calling the manager over, because the second he turned to flag me down he saw me staring at him and realized I had heard the entire interaction and just left. I gave my concessionist a pep talk and some pointers on how I would deal with a similar situation in the future, and he brushed it off, but why people are like that I’ll just never understand.”
Not Today, Santa
“I was a team leader for three field insurance adjusters a while ago. To be clear, an insurance adjuster is not the sort of job that ordinarily has escalations.
Occasionally I’d get a person who was angry about the check the adjuster was trying to cut for them. A lot of people don’t know how insurance works and many think that if they total their eight-year-old car we’re going to give them enough cash to go buy a brand new version of the same.
Beyond that, it’s not something I normally had to deal with which was good because I was out adjusting claims and cutting checks, and trying to hit my numbers right along with my team.
So imagine my surprise when I get a call from one of my adjusters asking me to speak to a customer in person. I am, fortunately, not terribly far away and I had a gap in appointments so I headed over. This was highly unusual and this employee was not known for being highly unusual.
This particular adjuster was around 25 and very attractive. She was also highly competent and professional. All of these things are relevant. This guy dinged up his beater that he inexplicably had full coverage on. The cost of parts only exceeded the actual cash value of the car. So, she totaled it and was preparing to cut him a check for a whopping 500 bucks, a minimum our company set for junk cars like this as giving someone a check for 32.50 is more likely to enrage them.
I should add that she did all of this fine, by the book, work while this 65-year-old man with a Santa beard, dirty overalls, and who smelled bad was harassing her.
He was mad about her rejection of him, for only getting 500 bucks, and he was insistent that his car was worth closer to 5,000 bucks. Nope.
She needed to close out the case. But the guy was belligerent and wanted to talk to her boss. She was feeling increasingly unsafe and called me over. They coached her following this incident that if she ever felt unsafe she should leave immediately and not stay to try to wrap things up.
The dude first tried to ‘negotiate’ with me over the annual contract value of his car. Nope. Then he just wanted me to give him more money out of his loyalty to our company. Not gonna happen. Finally, he told me that he’d drop the whole thing and accept the check if my adjuster agreed to go out on a date with him.
At that point, I was just done with this man. I went back to my car, printed the check and brought it to him, told him to sign. I told him he wasn’t getting a date with any of my staff and we were leaving immediately. If we left without giving him the check, there would be no check in the future.
He begrudgingly signed and we departed.
I went back to the office and noted that it looked like he was using his vehicle for hauling, UW followed up and nonrenewed his policy. He officially became some other company’s problem.”
I’m Calling The Cops!
“I had this insane woman flag me down at a Chinese Restaurant I used to manage.
She very loudly told me she found a hair in her Mongolian lamb and showed me a long sauce-covered blonde hair. For reference, I had short black hair at the time and the entire kitchen and wait staff on that night had relatively short black hair. The woman had long blonde hair.
Instead of letting her cause more of a scene, I apologized and got the kitchen to make her a new serving to replace the meal, even though she and her kids had essentially eaten the entire serving already.
The part where stuff started to really go down was when she came up with her family to pay. She refused to pay her entire bill due to the ‘huge thick hair’ she found in her food, which she loudly announced to the room. At that point, the restaurant owner came out and started having a screaming match with the woman for trying to rip us off. Her kids appeared to cry on cue.
I sent my boss back to the kitchen and said I would figure it out. I turned to the woman and explained calmly that I would be happy to take the Mongolian Lamb off of her bill, despite the replacement serving so long as she paid the other 90 bucks for the rest of the bill.
She refused and called the cops because my boss had yelled at her. No joke.
The best bit was the cops ended up telling the woman she needed to pay her full bill and that emergency services shouldn’t be called for such petty reasons.
Happy I’m not in that industry anymore.”
Not In The Tuxedo Shop
“In 1988, I worked for a tuxedo rental company in San Francisco. It was at the end of the slow day, and I was alone in the shop. A couple in their late twenties came in and wanted to shop for tuxedos for their wedding. While the groom was in the dressing room putting on a pair of tuxedo pants, the bride lit up a stick.
I said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry you can’t do that in here.’
She said, ‘I don’t see a sign.’
I responded, ‘Well, there’s no sign, but you can’t do that. The smell will get into the tuxedos.’
She then took a drag of the stick and handed it to me.
She said, ‘Then here, you throw it out.’
At that time, we were both standing near the front door. I am in awe that my simple request has provoked a debate as to why she can’t light a stick in my tuxedo shop.
I said to her, ‘I’m not touching it. The door is right here.’
She then said, ‘Well, you’re here to serve me, right?’
I said, ‘Yes, I’m here to serve you, but I don’t have to listen to everything you say. The door is right here.’
It was at this point the groom came out of the dressing room and asked her, ‘Are you being rude?’
She then threw the stick out on the sidewalk.
They didn’t end up renting from me on that day.”
But I Want Those Earbuds
“I was a supervisor at a retail store that’s like Wal-Mart but not trashy like Wal-Mart.
I got called up to electronics to talk to a customer while we were starting to close up for the night. So I went up there to a very irate customer complaining about earbud headphones. We had a model of generic 20-30 buck earbud headphones that were nothing special, but they came in three colors; black, grey, and pink.
Each color was considered its own item as far as the system was concerned. Pretty common for electronics. Now with those color choices, the pink ones weren’t selling much (or at all), but the black and grey ones were selling fine, so the pink ones were put on clearance for like five bucks off to try and get them sold so something else could be put on the shelf.
The angry customer wanted the black ones for the price of the pink ones. I tried to explain that the pink ones were on clearance, not the other colors, he argued back that it’s the same product, just a different color and that he didn’t want the pink ones. He wanted the black ones. I told him the color difference was why there was a price difference, but he couldn’t comprehend that just like him, no one else wanted pink ones, that’s why those were on clearance.
This went back and forth for about 15 minutes until our store manager could get away from their closing procedures to talk to him. I left to finish my work at that point, but I’m pretty sure the customer left angry.”
Gas Station Bathroom
“I was working for a convenience store. About a week before this bizarre event, our restroom pipe cracked, so there was some flooding. In the process of this, the seal on the toilet broke and so it leaked as well. So we had to shut off the water to it. We had a plumber come in and remove the toilet. The bathroom was now being remodeled.
Now the staff had their restroom but it was also a stock area. At first, we allowed people to use that but people would start stealing stocked goods, so that stopped quickly.
There was a business two doors down that agreed to allow people to use their bathroom. All they had to do was make a purchase and bring that receipt. For the most part, this went very well.
Now, this Karen came in with her preteen child, wanting the bathroom for both of them. The situation was explained so she purchased a corndog and got her receipt. So she was set.
Instead of taking herself and her child two doors down to use that bathroom, she decided to get into a heated discussion about using the one located here. I explained that could not happen but for whatever reason, she decided to push it. Her child at one point try to get her mom, to head over but she almost slapped this kid.
After 15 minutes and her child wetting itself and leaving a puddle, she decided it was time to leave, don’t know if she ever did make it over.”
Don’t Yell At My Kids
“I was a manager at a retail chain store and was stocking shelves when a couple of kids came running down the aisle I was working in and knocked over a floor stack of chips. I told the kids to stop running in the store and that they needed to clean up the mess they made.
They went crying to their mom. She went off on me for telling her kids to stop running and to pick up the mess they made. Cleaning up the mess was my job. She then got on the phone to have her husband come up to the store and set me straight. She also called my District Manager and wanted me fired for being mean and upsetting to her kids.
Her husband showed up about half an hour later and apologized to me for his wife’s behavior. He also shook my hand thanking me for trying to get his kids to do what was right.
Even though the lady said she would never shop in my store again, she came every week to buy what she needed. She would always give me the evil eye, and her husband would wave and say hello when he was with her.
My District Manager came and had a meeting with me to discuss what happened and agreed that he would’ve done the same thing.”
She Poured It Herself
“Restaurant manager here.
We provide complimentary bread baskets on our dinner tables. One lady clicked me over to tell me I was running the most unhygienic establishment she had ever eaten in. Also, with her food hygiene level three certificate, she could and should have me shut down.
Why the fuss?
There was some ‘jam’ on the bread. I had clearly taken used breakfast stock and tried to cost cut by serving contaminated bread at dinner. I’d cut the bread not 10 minutes before. I burned my hands on it as it was fresh out of the oven, definitely not leftovers.
I apologized profusely while removing the offending bread, amid increasingly patronizing comments about how I really ought to know how to run a restaurant and that being so thick as to do this blah, blah.
On inspection, the blobs of jam were drips of red adult juice from the bottle next to the bread basket. The lady poured herself.
Needless to say, I wasn’t shut down.”
Meeting Half Way
“The customer wanted to return a slow cooker as it was not working. The electronic warranty was 12 months with a receipt. In this case, they had no receipt and no packaging. The customer service desk refused the return.
I got called down, and my desk colleague gave me the rundown. Much as I’m not a fan of rewarding ‘fetch me the manager’ types, it’s normally easier to meet halfway in store if they want to escalate because they’ll only get home, write to head office, and get a goodwill gift card out of it anyway if we don’t. The customer was adamant that they bought it from us about six weeks ago. It’s absolutely not good enough that it’d break so soon.
I said, ‘Okay, if we still carry the same item, then that’s good enough for me that you’ve bought it relatively recently. I can’t refund but I can replace new for old on the condition that you won’t be able to return or get a refund at any point for the replacement product, how does that sound?’
The customer agreed, and I asked them to hand the slow cooker over. I flipped it over looking for a model number and see that it’s embossed with the logo of our competitor, where they presumably actually bought it.”
Wait Your Turn
“I was a manager in an extremely busy and popular restaurant that always went on a wait during every dinner shift, up to three plus hours during the holidays. We had a strict policy about parties needing to have all their members present to be seated. If we called your name and only three of the four guests were there to be led back, we told them to check back in when they had everyone present and moved on to the next party.
Obviously, this made plenty of guests angry and I was regularly called to the front to deal with the people who demanded to speak to a manager about it. As an ex-server, I adored this policy and never gave in. I also enjoyed backing up my hosts who have already refused to seat them and were just doing their trained job.
So one day, they called me on the headset to the front, mobbed full of people as usual. A middle-aged blonde woman told me that I must seat her party immediately. She had low blood sugar and must eat right then. They just arrived at the restaurant and didn’t want to wait the quoted time. I told her I was sorry. I couldn’t do that as it would be unfair to all the other guests who had been waiting.
She then got mad and said we need to have candies available for people who can’t wait that long to eat. I told her we trust our guests to manage their own health conditions. There were dozens of other restaurants nearby that had no wait, as well as coffee shops, etcetera.
We were literally in a mall with tons of restaurants and things around, none of which enjoyed our success so you could be immediately seated. She continued to yell at me, while I just smiled and held my ground. I thought it was so much fun when this type of thing happened, getting to see the antics of people trying to force their way ahead. Not surprisingly, the host staff always wanted me to come to deal with the guests since most of the other managers hated conflict and would just give in.”