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Bad boss and coworker stories

Bad Interpretation, Worse Management

, , , , , , , | Working | January 27, 2023

I work in a large grocery store deli, which is right next to the produce department. While I’ve had experience stocking dry food and other general merchandise, right now, I’m almost completely new to the fresh food section of the store.

Customer: “I’m looking for a certain brand of white grape, and I can’t seem to find it here. Do you know if there are any in the back?”

I don’t know the first thing about how the produce department stores their product or even where specific items may be. I’ve only been told that they need to keep track of everything that goes in and out of it in a very specific way that’s different from how I’m used to tracking product in the system. The produce employees have already left for the day, and since the deli is extremely busy, I decide it would be best to direct this customer to someone who already has an idea of what they’re doing.

Me: “I apologize, ma’am, but the usual produce employees have already left for the day. However, if you go to the front desk, someone there would be happy to call someone on the walkie who would be able to properly assist you!”

Customer: “Okay, thank you.”

I think nothing of this until about three or four days later when I’m called into the office.

Manager: “[My Name], do you remember a customer who asked you for some help getting some grapes in the produce department?”

Me: “Hmm? Oh, yes, I do. Why? Was there something wrong?”

Manager: “Yes, she came to me and specifically pointed you out. She told me that when she asked you about the grapes, you said, ‘Well, the produce people went home, so we can’t help you today. Go home and try again tomorrow.’”

Me: *Momentarily stunned* “That’s… not what I said at all.”

Manager: “Well, that’s what the customer perceived.”

Me: “I’m not really sure why she said that, because what I’d actually told her is that, while the produce associates had gone home, she could go to the front desk, the nearest place I knew that had a walkie, so that they could quickly get a hold of someone in the building who knew about the produce backroom.”

Manager: “Why didn’t you just go in the backroom and get her some grapes?”

Me: “I thought of that, but not only do I not know where anything is stored in the produce backroom, but I also know that they’re really strict about how they keep track of what goes in and out of it, and I didn’t want to accidentally foul up their inventory. Maybe I could have figured it out with some time in their backroom, but since the deli was extremely busy and had a ton of cleaning left to do on top of that, I didn’t feel like that was the best time to try to figure out an area I knew nothing about, so I thought it would probably be better to direct her to someone who would already know what they were doing.”

Manager: “So, you chose to clean instead of help the customer?”

Me: “No, that’s… not quite what I meant. I thought the best way to help her at that moment was to tell her where to get a hold of people that would be able to help her far quicker than I could.”

Manager: “Well, she told me that you told her to go home and try again tomorrow.”

Me: “I’m really not sure what I can say about that, because that’s absolutely not what I said.”

Manager: “But that’s what she heard! When you’re talking to someone, what matters is what they perceive. What do you think I should do with one of my employees who told a customer, ‘Can’t help you today; go home!’?”

Me: “I… I honestly don’t know how to answer that, because that’s not what I said.”

Manager: *Throwing his hands up* “What did I just say about perception? I’m going to have to write you up for this. Next time, just go get the grapes!”

I didn’t have much else to say that wouldn’t have come off as argumentative or disrespectful, so I more or less stayed quiet and just let the situation move on. To this day, it still feels rather bizarre that a manager found it reasonable to hold an employee responsible for whatever a random customer decided they’d heard rather than what the employee actually said.


, , , , , , | Working | January 27, 2023

My uncle used to be a general manager at a fast food chain in a large metropolitan area, and he has many stories from decades of working with them.

This particular story takes place around 2006, shortly after [Uncle]’s assistant manager leaves the company to be with her son in England.

[Uncle] is ready to promote one of the shift managers from within when the district manager tells him that another manager is transferring to his store and that he does not need to promote anybody.

The new manager arrives a couple of days later and proves to be a headache for [Uncle] almost immediately. She is extremely toxic and almost never speaks without yelling. Constant complaints come in from the other workers about [New Manager]’s toxicity, and numerous write-ups appear on several employees’ files, the majority of which [Uncle] decides to throw out due to them having bogus or false reasons.

On [New Manager]’s fourth day, [Uncle] comes in and notices that the shift manager he originally intended to promote prior to her arrival is not there.

Uncle: “Where’s [Shift Manager]?”

New Manager: “Oh, her? I fired her.”

Uncle: *Taken aback* “You what?!

New Manager: “I fired her.”

Uncle: “What do you mean, you fired her?”

New Manager: “I. Fired. Her.”

Uncle: *Sigh* “We need to talk. Right now.”

[Uncle] drags [New Manager] to the office. She has a smug grin on her face the whole time, to [Uncle]’s irritation.

Uncle: “[New Manager], what the f*** is going on?”

New Manager: “I told you already, I fired [Shift Manager]!”

Uncle: “I understand that you fired her. Why did you fire her?”

New Manager: “Because I felt like firing her.”

Uncle: “Very funny. Tell me why you actually fired her.”

New Manager: *Smugly* “Because I felt like firing her — that’s why!”

Uncle: *Facepalming* “Jesus Christ, [New Manager]. You cannot just fire my employees at the—”

New Manager: “It’s called at-will employment. I can fire anyone here at any time I like for any reason or no reason. I could fire [Shift Manager #2] for being a [Local NFL Team] fan if I wanted to! I could even—”

Uncle: “Enough. I know what at-will employment is, but it only works if you follow—”

New Manager: “Nope. I can fire every employee in this store just for the h*** of it if I want to. The law says I can. And there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”

She crosses her arms and smirks triumphantly at [Uncle], who rolls his eyes.

Uncle: “You know what? There is actually one thing I can do. You’re fired.”

New Manager: “Wait, what? You can’t fire me!”

Uncle: “Actually, yes, I can. Like you said, [New Manager], at-will employment — I can fire you for any reason at any time. And I do have a very valid reason in this case. I have three, in fact: toxicity, insubordination, and willful violation of the company’s termination policy. Now, as I was going to tell you before you interrupted me twice, you cannot just fire people at the drop of a hat here at [Restaurant]. You have to follow the company’s established protocols. And no, at-will employment does not override a business’ termination protocols. You of all people should know this, [New Manager], because you were sent here in the first place for wrongfully firing someone at [Other Location], and now that you’ve done it again, it’s cost you your job.”

New Manager: “But—”

Uncle: “And before you argue that I’m wrongfully firing you, consider the fact that not only were you fired for three very valid reasons, but you were already on your last chance when you arrived not even half a week ago. That was a chance you were extremely lucky to have gotten at all considering that violating termination policy is normally fireable on its own. Go clean out your locker. You can drop off your uniform tomorrow when you pick up your final paycheck.”

[New Manager] stormed out in a huff. [Uncle] called [Shift Manager] and told her she was not fired and could come back the following day.

He got a call from the district manager later that day asking how [New Manager] was doing and told her what happened. The district manager laughed and said that she wasn’t at all surprised that [New Manager] wasted her last chance as quickly as she did and that she wouldn’t be trying that experiment again anytime soon.

[Uncle] formally promoted [Shift Manager] the day after that, and then he handed the reins to her when he retired twelve years later. [Shift Manager] is still there to this day, as friendly as ever, and always greets my uncle when he stops by for lunch.

Water You Doing In Customer Service With That Attitude?

, , , | Working | January 27, 2023

I rent an apartment through a housing association. One day, I discover no water coming from my taps anymore, so I call the housing association for some clarification. They tell me they’ve had other tenants from my building calling with the same problem, but they transfer me to the city’s water company.

Me: “Hi. I’m calling because there’s no water coming from my taps. I wondered if there was unannounced plumbing maintenance somewhere that might be the cause?”

Employee: “Have you just moved into this apartment by any chance?” 

Me: “No, I’ve been living here for four years.” 

Employee: “When is the last time you received your water bill from us?”

Me: “I have not, because I—”

He cuts me off rather rudely and puts on a really condescending tone.

Employee: “Ma’am, you do know you have to pay us in order to get water in your apartment. It’s how the world works. You can’t expect to get water for free. If you don’t pay, your water can get shut off, so there’s no surprise there.”

Me: “If you’d let me finish… The water services are included in my rent, so no, I don’t get direct bills from you, as those are handled by [Housing Association]. Plus, I have heard that other tenants have complained there is no water currently, so it’s not just me. Now, can you please confirm that there is a water outage at my address?”

Employee: “Oh… Erm… No… We have nothing in our system about an outage. Can you try your taps again for me, please?”

It’s been a few minutes since I last tried, so I humour him. Lo and behold, water comes out of my taps just fine again.

Me: “Well, look at that. Looks like it’s resolved itself in the meantime.”

Employee: “Yeah, well, next time, check our website to see if there is a confirmed water outage in your area because there was nothing I could do for you now. Bit of a time-waster.” 

Me: “Excuse me for wasting your time, then. Goodbye.” *Hangs up*

Not Very Closed-Minded: Opposite Day Edition

, , , , , , | Working | January 27, 2023

My dad and stepbrother went on a bike ride together. My stepbrother planned out a route with a restaurant at the midway point; the plan was for them to have dinner there and then cycle the rest of the route which would lead them back to our house.

They didn’t make a reservation at the restaurant beforehand, but they figured they wouldn’t need it for the time they planned to arrive.

When they arrived at the restaurant, according to schedule, they were initially disappointed. There was a large sign out front.

Sign: “Closed for private party.”

Stepbrother: “Oh, that’s unfortunate.”

He and Dad got off their bikes to stretch a bit and debate where they might go instead, but Dad wasn’t entirely convinced.

Dad: “Are you sure it’s closed? There are no diners inside.”

Not only was there no one inside except staff, but the hostess was also eyeing the two of them from the doorway like she was waiting for them to come in.

Stepbrother: “Well, maybe the party hasn’t started yet.”

Dad: “I’m just gonna go ask to make sure.”

At this point, I’m sure you’re all thinking my dad was about to become one of THOSE customers. I thought so, too, when I heard the story.

My stepbrother was equally apprehensive and tried to talk my dad out of it saying that if the sign said they were closed, they were obviously closed. My dad is a stubborn one, though, so in he went with my stepbrother trailing behind him.

Dad: *To the hostess* “Hello, are you open?”

To my stepbrother’s surprise:

Hostess: “Yes, we are! Table for two, then?”

Stepbrother: “Really? You’re not closed for a party?”

Hostess: *Slightly confused* “No, why would…” *Eyes going wide* “Oh, no. Is that sign still out there?”

My stepbrother confirmed the presence of a sign, and the hostess rushed outside to look. When she came back in, she was laughing.

Hostess: “Well, no wonder people keep driving by without coming in! And we were all wondering why it was such a slow day!”

One of the waiters hauled the sign inside, and the hostess explained where it had come from while showing my dad and stepbrother to a table. They HAD in fact been closed for a private party… the day before! Somehow, no one had thought to remove the sign after the party was over.

Everyone laughed about it afterward, but when I heard the story I couldn’t help thinking that this was the only instance I knew of where a customer’s refusal to heed a sign turned out to be a good thing!

Not Very Closed-Minded, Part 52
Not Very Closed-Minded, Part 51
Not Very Closed-Minded, Part 50
Not Very Closed-Minded, Part 49
Not Very Closed Minded, Part 48

Show Of Hands: Who’s Shocked By This Guy’s Results?

, , , , , | Working | January 26, 2023

I work in a call center for a background screening company. My coworkers often ask to transfer calls to me because I can usually calm down the worst customers. Then, there’s this guy. It is shortly after my shift starts, so there are only a handful of us here as the others don’t start until later.

I get a call from a guy swearing up a storm. Ignoring that, I ask for his name so I can look him up and see where we are in the process. He just keeps swearing and screaming.

Me: “Sir, I will not tolerate that language. Either you calm down and tell me your name so I can see what’s going on with your screen, or I’m terminating the call.”

He keeps it up, so I hang up.

The guy calls back and I get him again. My call settings are such that I get more calls than others because I am fast and good at my job, averaging around 200 calls a day.

Guy: “The last f****** idiot I spoke to f****** hung up on me!”

Me: “Yes, sir, you spoke to me, and I advised you that if you didn’t stop swearing at me, I was terminating the call. Now, are you going to calm down and tell me your name, or am I terminating the call again?”

He starts dropping more F-bombs, so I terminate the call.

He calls again, rinse and repeat. The fourth time:

Me: “Sir, I want to help you, I really do, but you have to stop swearing and yelling, and you have to tell me your name so I can look you up in the system.”

Guy: “All right, all right. My name is [Guy].”

Me: “Okay, one moment while I call up your account.” *Does so* “Okay, could you please confirm for me [security questions]?”

Apparently, that is the wrong thing to ask because that sets him off again, but now, I have his account and can report him to management.

I hang up on him again, set my phone to “off”, and go to speak to my manager about him.

Manager: “Yeah, two other coworkers got him before you did the first time, and he upset them so much that they didn’t want to answer the phone in case he called back. If he calls again, send him directly to me.”

Then, my manager put out an urgent chat in Teams with all the customer service representatives telling them the same thing. He also flagged the guy’s account and let the prospective employer know how this guy was acting and treating the staff.

Had I been able to actually speak to him (if he answered the security questions), all I would have been able to tell him is that his report was incomplete and we were waiting for a response from two of his former employers. I would have asked if he could contact them and ask them to respond to us. Standard practice if we aren’t hearing back from the employers is to ask the applicant to reach out, because maybe there was a different person we should be sending our query to than what they originally gave us.

I could NOT tell him that he had failed his drug test and that our criminal search had found that he had two undisclosed misdemeanors. We weren’t allowed to tell customers anything negative about their accounts; we could only tell them if we were missing information we needed or that the reporting was complete. They could request a copy of their background screens free of charge.

I looked at the account a few days later; the employer marked him as not hired.