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A Brush With A Customer

, , , , | Right | February 2, 2023

I work in a customer support call center for a retailer that sells, among many things, art supplies. For security purposes, when a customer contacts us regarding an order, we do need to be speaking to the person who placed the order and paid for it.

One day, I get this gem of a call.

Me: “Thank you for calling [Retailer]. This is [My Name]; how can I help you?”

Caller: “Hi. I’m calling about an order.”

Me: “Okay, do you have your order number on hand?”

Caller: “No, my father placed it, but it was a gift to me.”

Me: “All right. Unfortunately, unless this is a gift return situation, I will need to speak to the person who placed the order directly. You will also need the order confirmation number to go through with any gift returns.”

Caller: “Well, can’t you just look it up? I’ll tell you what it is: it’s a [Brand] brush. It just arrived broken and the wrong item!”

Me: “Ma’am, I apologize, but unfortunately, I cannot assist based on that limited information. However, if you would like to explain the situation to me, I can do my best to help.”

This is where she suddenly starts screaming and, I kid you not, snarling. She is so mad her voice is shaking with rage. Apparently, she asked her father for a specific “specialty art supply” that was this brush. She even told him to buy it from us. However, when she received this brush, it wasn’t the right brand, it was broken, and most upsetting to her was that we had clearly sent a “knock-off brand” when she had wanted the original “specialty” brand.

While she is ranting, I am doing some research. First, I discover that, yes, we do carry the original brush. It is an $8 item and not a very good name-brand brush at all. For reference, most higher-end brushes can get into the few-hundred-dollar range, and with the way she was screeching, I was sure that was the type of item we were dealing with. Not so much.

Second, we don’t even carry the brand of brush she did receive, so I’m not sure how that got into her order. However, despite all of this, I reassure her that if she can locate the order number from her father, we will be sure to send the correct brush at our own expense. (The company is a pushover for customer service.)

That is, right up until she drops this gem of a sentence.

Caller: “And you can tell whomever in your California warehouse packed this that they’re just s***!”

Me: “Ma’am, we do not have any warehouse locations in California.”

Caller: “Um, okay, suuure. Then how come my package came from California? It says it right here on the label, ‘[address in California]’!”

Me: *Slowly figuring out what’s going on* “Ma’am, is there a [Company] logo on the outside of your box?”

Caller: “No, it says [Other Company]?”

Me: “Okay, and was there a packing slip in the box?”

Caller: “Yes! But those idiots couldn’t even put in the right paper! This whole order is just wrong—”

Me: “Ma’am, I don’t mean to interrupt, but this item did not come from us. It really sounds like your father purchased a cheaper alternative online from a different retailer.”

Caller: “NO! NOOOOO, NO, HE DID NOT! Don’t try to put this on him. You all CLEARLY sent me the wrong, broken item!”

Me: “Ma’am, please. You received an item that we do not carry, in a box with a different company’s logo on it, shipped from a state where we have no warehouses, with a packing slip from another company. There is no way that this is from us. I apologize for any issues, but I cannot help you further. If you want this corrected, your best bet is to either call the company on the box or to call your father and see if he can.”


At this point, I have lost my customer service ability. This is already a ten-minute call, and most of it has been her frothing at the mouth and screaming at me.

Me: “No, ma’am. He did not. I need to keep this line open for customers. I apologize, but unless you have any further questions regarding an existing order THROUGH US, I will have to disconnect the call.”


This is where she goes off screaming again, this time calling me every name under the sun. I am about to disconnect when she starts screaming that she needs to talk to my manager for “how mean” I am insinuating her father is a “liar”.

While I want to disconnect, two things are now in motion. The first is that the company takes requests to speak to the supervisor very seriously, and despite her not being a customer, I could get written up if I do not attempt to transfer her. The second is that if I disconnect, she’s just going to call back and get some poor, newer agent who will have to deal with her. And darn it, I like my coworkers. They don’t deserve this.

Me: “Ma’am, I can transfer you, but as you are not a customer, they cannot assist you and will just tell you the same thing.”

Caller: “JUST DO IT, YOU STUPID B****!”

I put her on hold, called a supervisor, explained the situation, and passed her on through. Then, I got to hear the next glorious five minutes across the office of one of my favorite managers chewing her up and down and sideways after she explained the situation again and was told, again, that we could not help her. Then, she was hung up on.

The worst part? This was the third time in a year I had been yelled at because a customer called in a complaint about something they received in the mail that wasn’t even from us. It wasn’t even the worst call I’d had that week.

I quit shortly after.

Question of the Week

What is the absolute most stupid thing you’ve heard a customer say?

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