Customer Hall of Shame

I’ve seen countless books, articles and feature stories about bad customer service, and not enough emphasis on bad customers. When I read about a ‘Customer Service Hall of Shame’ on MSN, I immediately thought it was time for a ‘Customer Hall of Shame’ to expose the impossible customers from hell. In fact, I purchased the domain name, ‘Customer Hall of Shame,’ as well as, ‘Customer Hall of Fame.’ Here is a small sample of the responses I received after requesting ‘war stories’ from real people with real experience dealing with the public.

GR (28 years experience as restaurant server)

In a Harvard Square restaurant on the night of Harvard’s graduation, the kitchen was completely overwhelmed. One irate customer exclaimed loudly, “Who here thinks the service sucks?” The entire room broke into applause. Even though the kitchen’s meltdown was not the fault of the waiters, I and my waiter peers had to continue to work that room in that unruly, mob-like atmosphere.

Reading Greg’s story validated my obsession with completing this project. No one should be subject to that kind of treatment.

JK (Server, Hostess, Mgr, Maitre’D 14+ years)

Guests who talk on their cellphone while interacting with you, as if you aren’t important enough for them to get off the phone. So, they continue to stay on the phone, but use hand gestures to communicate with you.

JW (Caddie 7 years, Sales Manager)

I had one guy who told me that I wouldn’t have to caddie if I had a college degree and a real job. (I was in college at the time earning money to pay for school.)

Dorothy (1year Bank Teller, 2 years Sears Bill Collector, 15+ years Boston Beauty Supply Manager)

A woman’s husband/boyfriend threatened to “chop me up in little pieces” after I refused to accept a product that had explicit instructions to return it to the manufacturer.

Annie Mac (ER Nurse 10 years)

During a cardiac arrest a young woman waiting to be seen by the doctor complained that she was waiting a long time. We explained that a patient came in ‘dead’ and we were trying to revive him. She said, “Well if he’s already dead, then to hell with him, I’m still alive!”

JW (10+ years restaurant-related experience)

I don’t have a whole lot of specific war stories, just a long, long memory of people who have ignored me, derided me, claimed they didn’t order items that they did, sent food back that was cooked perfectly, pried into my personal life to my extreme discomfort, expected the waiter to put on a show for them and be their new best friend, got cut off (of alcohol) and threatened to sue, puked everywhere, and generally required bend-over backward service, followed by an inadequate, if existent, gratuity.

Mickey Maguire, my cousin.(7 years on a hot dog stand, 2 years delivering food, 4 years on a commercial fishing vessel , 23 years Director-St. Francis house NYC)

I still remember delivering a box of groceries to a customer on the beach block in Ventnor, NJ. The customer owned a jewelry store on the boardwalk in Atlantic City and was fairly well off. I was 17 years old and had just gotten my driver’s license. I was driving around in a red 1965 Ford Econoline van delivering for Perfetti’s Meat Market, a local butchery and grocery store. I rang the doorbell with a large heavy box of groceries in my hands. The maid let me in. I was in the vestibule of this nicely-appointed house. Suddenly, the customer came swooping down the stairs like a Japanese Zero out of the sun with her hair piled high and stiff on her head(looked like you could bounce a quarter off of it). ‘Don’t you EVER use the front door. Delivery boys use the servant’s entrance in the back.’ She accented ‘delivery boys’ and ‘servants’ as if she were saying, lepers, tramps and other filth of the earth. She made me take the heavy box of groceries down to the van and drive around to the street behind the house and come in the scum bag entrance. It had crossed my mind to just drop that heavy box, let it crash to the floor and walk out. But, I had just gotten the job and I didn’t want to lose it. I made up my mind I would never treat anyone as if they were lesser than me.

Susan Herbert (20+ years airline customer service)

The worst customer I ever had was a business woman who was running late for a flight. I had already shut the door of the airplane and pulled the loading bridge off. When I very politely told her she had missed the flight, she went completely nuts. She called me a c*** and told me she would be my worst nightmare. She just continued to scream and scream until a supervisor came and physically pulled her away from the podium.

Doreen Doyle (34 years in service-related industries. Self-Employed Professional Organizer since 1993.)

One organizing client would continuously drop papers to be filed on the floor in front of me, making me bend over each time to pick them up off the floor, despite the fact that I had my hand outstretched to accept each piece of paper.

One of the questions on my questionnaire is: What are some of the worst comments that they had ever heard a customer make to you or a co-worker? Here are a few of the responses;

There were always the comments that implied that I must not be educated and this was the best job I could find.

So, are you in school?

Is this your real job?

What’s your real job?

Why don’t you get a real job? (These people need to get a real life.)

I heard a customer ask our hostess if she was retarded.

One passenger who missed a flight became very indignant and sarcastic and told me how proud I must be to wear a uniform, and then told me his sunglasses cost more than I make in a week.

One of my co-workers, Ruben, from Guatemala was helping a couple with their luggage one day at the hotel and when he introduced himself the woman said, ‘Don’t talk to me, I don’t understand Spanish people and I don’t like them.’

What percentage of customers fall into the category of “Hall of Shame” eligible? I was very curious to learn what the people who completed my questionnaire thought, and to test my theory about the ‘5% factor’.

Survey question #1;

In your experiences, what percentage of customers are;

A. Very polite, respectful and courteous? 46%
B. Indifferent, but decent? 35%
C. Impolite/disrespectful? 12.5%
D. Downright rude? 6.5%

Imagine working at a job where 19% of the customers you interact with are impolite, disrespectful or downright rude?

Note: I am still collecting questionnaire responses. If you would like to receive a copy, please send me an e-mail. Thank you.