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Category: At The Checkout

The customer has seemed normal and maybe even intelligent throughout the shopping purchase. But then they get to the checkout and as soon as human interaction is required it all falls apart. The checkout operators really are our first line of defense against the stupid customer!

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It’s A Retail Thing

| New Britain, CT, USA | At The Checkout, Awesome Workers, Popular

(I work at a sandwich shop. One of the customers, who comes in every single day, is a cashier at a grocery store across the way, and I pretty much hate him. Nothing specific, but every time he comes in he is completely disengaged from the employee serving him and he snaps at you if you ask him to repeat part of his order, or groans out loud if you ask if he wants a value meal. Whenever he comes in I brace myself for the most awkward order ever, yet I must be as professional but plastic as humanly possible, and I am prepared, no matter what I do, to get it wrong somehow. I see him walking across the parking lot, and he already has THAT face on, like he is already in an impatient mood, but I do something different. I look up, and instead of bracing for the worst, I physically relax myself and put on a big, tired smile. The customer before him has just finished their order, packed up, and passed him going out the door. I greet the regular with my big tired smile and gesture at the gentleman who just left.)

Me: “That guy. He’s usually so great, but I don’t know what I did today. Everything was wrong. It wasn’t like, anything specific, but he kept snapping at me and I didn’t know what to do.”

(I am lying. The previous customer did no such thing.)

Me: “I’m glad you’re the next customer. I don’t know what I’d do if the next customer was worse.”

Regular: “Oh?”

Me: “Yeah, you’re pretty low key when someone messes up because you totally get that it’s not on purpose; it’s just a customer service thing.” *gesturing at his name badge* “I’m just glad I’ve got a pleasant friendly face to deal with right now. You’re one of my easy customers, and I appreciate it. So, yeah, bread. You usually get wheat, right?”

(The rest of the transaction went SO MUCH SMOOTHER. As I worked, we spent a minute chit chatting about customers in general and how our days were. When I asked him to clarify part of his order he just smiled and repeated himself gently instead of snapping this time. He didn’t get annoyed with my scripted up-sell asking if he’d like to “make it a meal,” he paid, and he left. And every other time after that he came in, he WAS, FOR REAL, the most low-key, pleasant customer I had, and he would look for me specifically to handle his order. Turns out I am the tamer of beasts!)

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Set Their Pulse Racing

| Indianapolis, IN, USA | At The Checkout, Popular, Transportation

(I am the customer here. It’s the weekend of the Indy 500, and I’m driving for Uber. On the night before the race, as I’m driving visitors around the city, I take a quick break to go into a convenience store to get a snack and a drink.)

Cashier: *as she’s bagging my items* “Are you going to see the race tomorrow?”

Me: “No, I’m driving.”

(Cashier stops and looks at me, stunned.)

Me: *realizing what I just said* “For Uber! I’m driving for Uber!”

Cashier: “I was about to grab a pen and paper and ask for an autograph!”

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Stubbornness Is Its Own Reward

| NY, USA | At The Checkout, Extra Stupid, Money, Popular

(Our customer rewards card guarantees guests a cheaper ticket price on select days, in addition to $10 in rewards points for every $100 they spend. As a result, despite the rewards card costing an up-front fee per year, larger groups of people would actually be saving money if they buy the card on those select days. We’re also doing a limited promotion where people who sign up for the card get a free $10 in rewards on their card. A man is buying tickets from me at the box office the morning of one of those select cheap-ticket days.)

Customer: “It’s my kid’s birthday and I was hoping to take everyone who’s coming to his party to [Movie] at 4 pm. He’s desperate to see it. Do you have 18 tickets available?”

Me: *checking computer* “Yup, it looks like that showtime is totally open.”

Customer: *beaming* “Great! That’ll be 14 kids tickets and 4 adult tickets, please.”

Me: *clicking the tickets in* “That would come out to about $150. However, because today is the day where our rewards-card guests get the cheaper ticket price, your total would only come out to $90 if you have our rewards card. Do you happen to have a rewards card?”

Customer: “No.”

Me: “Oh, then I’d highly recommend getting one. If you signed up for one, even with the up-front fee, you’d still only be paying about $100, so you’d be saving $50. In addition, for every $100 you spend, you get $10 credit back on your card that you can use like a gift-card. We’re also doing a promotion where if you sign up for a card this month, you get a free $10 credit. So if you sign up for one now, you’re not only saving $50, but you’re essentially getting the equivalent of a free $20 gift card in rewards points you’d be earning. Can I sign you up for one?”

Customer: *instantly annoyed* “Ugh. No. I don’t like being ripped off!”

Me: “I’m sorry, sir. I’m not trying to rip you off.”

Customer: “Yes! Yes, you are!”

Me: “I’m giving you an offer that would save you $50 up front and give you a guaranteed $20 credit.”

Customer: “Yeah…?”

Me: “And if you didn’t get the card, you’d be paying $50 more and wouldn’t get the $20 credit.”

Customer: “Uh, yeah. But I don’t like being ripped off. And your rewards card is a rip-off. It costs money upfront?”

Me: “Yes, sir. But it’s a one-time fee per year, so you’d have the card for the next year. And it won’t automatically be renewed after the year is up, so you won’t be surprised by renewal charge a year from now. We only renew it if you want us to.”

Customer: *holier-than-thou tone* “So you want me to pay upfront for a rewards card?”

Me: “Only if you’d like to sign up for one. And as I said, I’d highly recommend it. With the volume of tickets you’re buying, you’re saving a lot and getting $20 in rewards.”

Customer: *beaming* “Hence, you’re ripping me off. I won’t pay an upfront fee for a rewards card!”

Me: *thoroughly confused* “Okay, then that’ll be $150.”

Customer: *completely pleased with himself* “Thank you! You aren’t ripping me off with some bogus rewards program!”

(The real kicker? I later heard he came back after I had left, claimed I told him he would be getting “a free $20 gift card,” and had to be given a verbal warning about being kicked out after he pitched a fit when my manager — who I had told this story to when she arrived, before I left — refused this claim.)

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The Final One Word On The Matter

| Sydney, NSW, Australia | At The Checkout, Awesome Workers, Popular

(My boss is wonderful. As a result of far too many stories like the ones on this site, he directs his staff to use one word responses when a customer gets unreasonable, and to hit the ‘panic’ button — a monitor that pipes the conversation through to him. Conversations like this still happen, but at least it’s all handled.)

Customer: “This is ridiculous! I had to wait in line for 15 minutes! Why couldn’t you serve me earlier?”

Me: *hit the button* “Sorry, sir. There were other people in front of you. How can I help you?”

Customer: “Give me a [Product], and I want a 20% discount!”

Me: “Sorry, sir, I can’t do that, and there is no reason to; this is normal business. Waiting in line is an everyday matter.”

Customer: “Yes, you can. Give it to me or I’ll have your job!”

Me: *going into DefCon mode* “Can’t.”

(This is where my boss’s one-word strategy works so well. Irate customers can easily ignore a sentence, but it’s hard to mis-hear a single word.)

Customer: “Can’t? Of course you can! What do you mean, can’t?”

Me: “Can’t.”

Customer: “Why not?”

Me: “Orders.”

Customer: “Whose orders?”

Me: “Boss.”

Customer: “Well, get me your boss then!”

Me: “Okay.”

(My boss comes out.)

Customer: “This employee was being extremely rude to me! I demand my purchase for free, or at least with a big discount!”

Boss: “No.”

Customer: “No? What do you mean, no? She was being rude!”

Boss: “Not rude.” *okay, sometimes you have to use two words*

Customer: “Yes, she was!”

Boss: *points to monitor* “Monitor.”

Customer: “What?”

Boss: “Heard you.”

Customer: “So?”

Boss: “Not rude. No discount.”

Customer: “The customer is always right! Why not?”

(Once we get to this point, my boss has a standard spiel.)

Boss: “Five good reasons.”

Customer: “Huh?”

Boss: “Five good reasons why you’re not getting a discount.”

Customer: “What? What are they?”

Boss: “One: I don’t have to. Two: I don’t want to. Three: There’s no reason I should. Four: You can’t make me. Five: I’m not going to.”

Customer: “I’m never coming here again!”

Boss: “You should have said that before. If you’d have said that if I gave you a discount, you would promise to never come back, I might have given it to you.”

(The customer left. Case closed.)

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Make No Concessions For The Price

| NY, USA | At The Checkout, Money, Movies & TV, Popular

(I’m working concession. A woman in a very expensive designer sweat-suit, and what appears to be expensive jewelry, walks up to me.)

Customer: “Small popcorn and a water, please.”

Me: “Sure thing. That’ll be $10.50.”

(She pauses and begins laughing wildly without breaking eye contact. After seeing that I’m confused, she stops.)

Customer: *suddenly looking panicked* “Wait… you’re not joking?”

Me: “No, ma’am. It’s $10.50 for a small popcorn and a bottle of water.”

Customer: *going pale* “I… I can’t…”

(She literally darts away without saying anything else. She comes back five minutes later.)

Customer: “Just the water, then.”

Me: “It’ll be $4.”

Customer: “Are you kidding? You weren’t last time. Please tell me you’re kidding this time! PLEASE! I just… I can’t understand!”

Me: “I understand your confusion and I apologize. The thing is, movie theaters make no money on ticket sales, really. Those profits mostly go back to the studios and distributors who make and release the film. Hence, concessions have to be marked up since it’s where our actual profit comes from.”

Customer: *VERY over-dramatic* “But I paid $10 for my ticket! I PAID $10 FOR MY TICKET! SURELY THAT’S ENOUGH FOR YOU TO MAKE ENOUGH MONEY NOT TO CHARGE ME SO MUCH FOR WATER!”

(My coworker from the next register speaks up.)

Coworker: “We actually make just pennies on the dollar for tickets during the first few weeks a film is out. He’s telling the truth. We really don’t make any real money off of ticket sales.”

Customer: “I CAN’T!”

(She storms away. About five minutes later, a man in similarly expensive clothing walks in and waits by concession. A few minutes later, I hear the original customer, in a panicked voice speak up.)

Customer: *to man* “Honey! Come here now! I need you!”

(He darts away, shaking his head. I’m guessing this has happened before. I overhear their conversation as they disappear down the hall.)

Customer: “It was horrifying! Horrifying! I had to go splash water on my face and do a breathing exercise in the bathroom to calm myself down! Because my heart was pounding so hard! They actually charge $10 for popcorn and water! I can’t do this! I just can’t do this! If I have a heart attack, I’m going to file a lawsuit against this crooked theater!”

(I make sure they’re out of earshot.)

Me: “Did the woman whose sweatpants alone probably cost more than I make in a month REALLY just imply she was going to have a heart attack over $10 of concessions?”

Coworker: “Hey, just be glad you weren’t working here the one time we had to call the cops on a lady for assaulting a manager over a 75-cent price increase on popcorn a few years back.”

Me: “I don’t even want to know…”

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