The Customer is Always Wrong

Ok, ok, that's not fair. The customer isn't always wrong, but there do seem to be some constant misunderstandings between the general public and customer service workers. Having worked as a cashier, waitress and just about any other type of customer service rep you can think of, I've got a thing or two to tell the world about my job, and how you can make it a little easier (making me a little less homicidal).

I Have No Control Over....Anything

I do not set the prices of the products, I do not control when special orders go through or get delivered. I have no idea when Stephen King will be done his next book -- strangely, he doesn't contact me personally.The brand of coffee we serve was decided when I was 8, and if you'd like to know why your food is taking so long, look at that hockey team to your left. They got here 5 minutes before you. No, I don't think Wal*Mart would approve of me letting you haggle the price of that toilet paper. Yes, I know it was on sale last week, but it's not now, and no, I can't charge that price "just this once".

Cashiers and waitresses have no control over anything. They don't pay us minimum wage to make the big decisions.

Your Latte Is a First-World Problem

Few things amaze, or infuriate, me more than watching a grown man have a hissy fit over a cup of coffee. I've worked in a few cafes over the years, and at least once a month, this will happen:

Me: Can I take your order, sir?

Him: Yes, I'd like a grande vanilla latte -- but not the regular vanilla, I want vanilla bean -- with an extra shot of espresso, skim milk -- no, wait -- soy milk, extra hot, extra foam. But can you put it in an extra large cup?

Me: Sure. (repeat back order to make sure I got it right) Is that for here or to go?

Him: To go. I'm in a hurry.

"I'm in a hurry" should strike fear into the hearts of all baristas. A man who will order a coffee that takes 10 minutes just to spell out and then tell you he's in a rush is, without a doubt, there to ruin your day. When he pulls out his Gold Visa to pay for the $6 drink, you know you are officially screwed.

Let me stop here to explain something that perhaps people are unaware of. A latte or mocha is not the same as a coffee. We can't just mosey on over to the coffee pot and pour you the exact drink you asked for. They take time to make -- we have to make each individual shot of espresso, we have to steam the milk and create the foam you so love. We add the flavors, the whip cream or whatever else you ordered on it. At the same time, we're finishing the drinks before yours and starting the drinks after yours, because they're all in a hurry, too. There are 10 of them and one of me, and they all want something different, but equally time consuming. Sorry, Mr. Latte, you're just going to have to wait a minute.

But he's not okay with that, of course. It's my fault that he's now going to be late for work, miss that big business meeting and see the deal given to that colleague he hates. His wife will then divorce him, his kids will disown him and his dog will die of a broken heart. Or, at least, that's what I gather through all the jumping and shouting. All because his latte took two whole minutes to make.

I realize that it is my job to serve you as kindly as quickly as possible, but if your biggest concern in life is waiting in line for a coffee, there are about a million homeless children I'd like to introduce you to.

I'm Not Here to Shop For You

I love working in customer service. No really, I do. I know this article doesn't convince you of that, but it really can be a great job. You get to socialize all day, talk about things that interest you and see all of the new products before anyone else. I'm always happy to help people find what they're looking for or offer advice on products. What I am not happy to do, however, is shop for you. I have no idea what brand of lipstick your grandmother wears, and no, I can't tell from that picture. I don't know what your great niece wants for her birthday. And John Grisham has written about a thousand books, I'm not sure which one "about the lawyer" you want. We are here to help, but you have to have some idea of what you're looking for.

My Job Isn't Easy

I know from that side of the till, it seems that a monkey could do my job. All I do is stand there until you are ready, then I ring your order in and take your money. Easy, right? Wrong. What you don't see is everything else I do. Do me a favor -- next time you're at 7-11, take a look around. Not just a quick glance -- really take a look. Every pack of cigarettes and lottery ticket has to be counted (yes, counted. Each package and ticket, individually) and stocked while people are buying them, and we can't be approximate. We have to balance them at the end of the day. There are no less than 8 pots of coffee that have to always be fresh. There are hot foods that have to be cooked and timed, then disposed of if they don't sell. There are floors to be mopped, aisles to be stocked, pop and slurpee machines to refill, the phone is ringing, there are 12 people in line, that kid in the candy aisle is shoplifting, we have a new promotion going on -- so we have to hang posters, change the display at the door and take down the old sign outside. The nacho machine just ran out of cheese and there's a woman screaming at my co-worker because she thinks she should have won $10, not $5, on her scratch n' win. Now there are 17 people in line. And 2 of us. Our jobs are not easy -- we work our butts off to make sure that everything is there, fresh and ready when you come in. And we get paid minimum wage to do it. Please, for the love of all that is good, don't treat us like monkeys.

© 2011 Robyn J Williams

More by this Author


Comments 67 comments

sparkleyfinger profile image

sparkleyfinger 3 years ago from Glasgow

Great hub, I totally identify with it! :( u tell it in a hilariously sarcastic way! Loved it


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

I've survived nasty customers as CustRep at a utility company, roadside assistance (where customers expected a tow truck to be sitting right around the corner waiting for that particular car to need to be towed), online shoe sales ("How can you NOT have that shoe in MY size!"), and for a cell phone provider (where at least we had permission to cancel the service of an overly-rude customer on the spot, especially if they stated they would NEVER EVER pay the bill!).

But you listed ALL the reasons I will NEVER want to be a clerk in a convenience store (with or without lottery tickets to tally) or a barista in a coffee shop! ;D


Lynetta Baker profile image

Lynetta Baker 5 years ago

I can not help it.Every time I read this I laugh and laugh.I have been there so many times.


2cateyes profile image

2cateyes 5 years ago

Thanks for such a humorous, but truthful hub! I worked as a cashier at a truck stop and now I am a cashier at a convenience store and everything you wrote in this hub was absolutely true! Customer service can be so rewarding at times, yet so irritating. I'm glad someone has taken the time to stand up for us customer service reps.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 5 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

Brilliant hub, Robikan! Very nicely done. As a bit of a sotto voce grumbler your hub has given me a timely kick up the rear ... it should be required reading for all customers.

Well done ... and congratulations on your HubNugget nomination. Nice to see you hear on HP ... voted as many ups and positives as I could find.


femmeflashpoint 5 years ago

LOL!! I soooo totally 'feel' this hub. And, I so totally sympathize and empathize with you!

I like customer service too - when the customer's are polite. I understand why they're often NOT polite because it's true that many working in customer service aren't really delivering it. But, for those who do, you would think the customers would give them a break, or say a sincere thank you when service is delivered.

For those who do, if only they knew how much they're appreciated. :)


S M Bilal Shah profile image

S M Bilal Shah 5 years ago from Lahore

"a little less homicidal", haha hopefully.

A very nice hub with a much needed perspective, thank you on my & every1 else's behalf to you & your colleagues for your services and kind tolerance :)


asktheexperts profile image

asktheexperts 5 years ago from St George

I often talk about the need for good customer service, but of course there is also a need for customers to behave like normal human beings and treat the people serving them like people rather than slaves.

I think everyone should be made to work in some kind of customer service for 3 months, maybe in a shop or a bar. Once they realize how rude and crazy some people are maybe they would be nicer to everyone that serves them.

Good hub by the way.


Troppus1 profile image

Troppus1 5 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

Really puts things in perspective. A great reminder to treat people like people and realize we all have a job to do...and regardless of that type of job we should do it well and with pride. Been there, done it, and I treat even telemarketers with the utmost respect - they're just doing their job to the best they can, regardless if they're calling at a bad time or selling something I don't want.


travel_man1971 profile image

travel_man1971 5 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

Yes, most of the costumers don't observe proper ethics inside a food outlet or restaurant. I worked once at the fast food restaurant, assigned at the galley (kitchen) as cook trainee, then re-assigned at the dining area, due to lack of service crew. I've seen how customers reacted.

One time, a teacher who paid for a to-go order suddenly flared up when her order was delayed for a minute.

We still have to wear our pre-ordered smile in order to cool off the situation.

Our supervisor intervened suddenly and apologized for the scene the teacher created.

Well, this is just a scene inside a fast food restaurant.

If you're aware of call center agents, you can browse on the uploaded videos at YouTube and they're the ones receiving the most hateful remarks from irate clients in some parts of the world.

Patience is lost, and those 'customers' are always wrong.


James Halpin profile image

James Halpin 5 years ago from York, Pennsylvania

This was a great hub. Very funny and I can relate. When I was in high school I worked at Hoss's as a busser.

I cleaned a table off after the patrons left. They had left a doggie bag on the table and I eventried to catch up with them but they were gone. So I cleaned up the table and went on with my duties. Five minutes later they come back wanting the doggie bag. They got very irate that I threw their food away! What was I supposed to do?! Keep it in the fridge "just in case"? They don't realize how many boxes I would have in there if I did that.


cashmere profile image

cashmere 5 years ago from India

Very unique perspective! And well written. Now if only it was made compulsory reading for irate and irritating customers


ershruti304 profile image

ershruti304 5 years ago from Shimla

congratulate you for choosing such an eye catching topic for your hub. I always believed that customer is the king and is thus always right. I have never work4ed in a coffee shop but yes my experience were almost same in telecommunication center. Presently I am working in management institute as a assistant professor but still the scenario is same. Earlier I used to face problems with clients and now I am facing it with students. So not much of a difference. If students flunk its is teacher who has to be blamed, If they don't attend classes or misbehaves or even don't come up with their assignments it is teacher who is on the fault and not students. What a bullshit


northernwriter profile image

northernwriter 5 years ago

Great hub - I work in inside sales, which means customers come to me instead of me to them - and there sure are a lot of dumb, impatient, disorganized ones. They all, of course, expect me to come up with solutions for them, and bump all the other work I may be doing to solve their problem, which of course is often of their own making. I've come up the ladder from a lot of crappy jobs, and I sure can relate! Yet... I don't know if I could have written a hub this well, so grats on your writing skills, as well as your dedication to a career that not all of us could take for very long.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

My daughter had an SAT of 1500 (back when the scale was 1600) graduated from a private college, Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude, with a double major in French and Spanish. In college she worked as a waitress and always wanted to recite her academic resume to customers who insisted on treating her like a high school drop out. I'm forwarding her this hub -she'll applaud!


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 5 years ago from United States

I've never worked in food related public service, but I have spent the better part of the last seven years working with these same people. Mine is with public computers. So I get the people who want me to magically make netflix accept cash instead of a credit card or turn a tiny, low resolution picture into a beautiful, full size print. When you don't see what goes on behind that counter, it's easy to think, like you said, that it isn't all that hard. But you are absolutely right with everything you said; it IS hard and we deserve more credit for it.


daisyjae profile image

daisyjae 5 years ago from Canada

This article is hilarious! I am sending it to everyone i know!


Ka'Lu profile image

Ka'Lu 5 years ago

I've been in customer service over 25 years, and you hit the nail on the head! You can only survive that long with a sense of humor like yours. Great hub!!


Green Lotus profile image

Green Lotus 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Funny stuff...sad but true too! I don't care what side of the counter one is on..being a polite human being is what matters. Karma will get you in the end :) Welcome to HubPages!


Samantha Gold profile image

Samantha Gold 5 years ago

Love it, especially the coffee order! As a former retail manager, I know exactly what you are talking about.


cc de leo profile image

cc de leo 5 years ago from Chiang Mai, Thailand

Very funny article, I really enjoyed reading it (and I do empathize with any service workers, I have been in line behind some real stinkers before, and see what you have to put up with!)


wwriter profile image

wwriter 5 years ago from India

You do have a tough job! Most of us are customers in some transaction and most of us have some kind of job where we need to answer to someone - be it a customer or boss. We should treat others as we would like to be treated. Next time when we feel like yelling at the person behind the counter, pause to think if that is the way we would like our customer to talk to us.


Hummingbird5356 profile image

Hummingbird5356 5 years ago

This is all very true. But having said that there are more nice customers than bad ones, it is just that the bad ones stick out and when you see them coming you cringe and wish them away as fast as possible.

Good hub.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

I've never worked on your side of the till...but I do understand that corporate brain farts are not the fault of the cashier, and it is unfortunate that they are on the front lines taking the flak.

Frustration is the least of the words I'd apply. However, if I do have a problem with "whatever," I'll usually ask where to find the manager, and then tell THAT person to please pass the complaint up the line to TPTB. My next step, often in addition to that one, is to write a formal complaint to the corporate offices, informing them of their poor customer relations--usually caused by a failure to hire sufficient staff to properly service the client. No matter how you slice it, corporate HQ is to blame, not the front-line workers.

Great hub...voted up!


msannec profile image

msannec 5 years ago from Mississippi (The Delta)

I absolutely love it! Thanks for sharing the other side of the story.


Lynetta Baker profile image

Lynetta Baker 5 years ago

I whole heartedly agree 100%.I worked at a convenience store once.I know about the 6:30 am rush with the working mom with three screaming kids,the all important office worker gripping about how he is going to be late to work because his coffee was not done because I was waiting on 15 other customers who all got their coffee before he got there.


KitsJay profile image

KitsJay 5 years ago from Houston

I worked at McDonald's for one miserable semester, followed by another miserable semester where I was a glorified telemarketer.

I wish I could have said some of this stuff to the people I dealt with on a regular basis--like the woman who loudly called me a thief because she apparently didn't know was a sales tax was, or the guy who threw his fish sandwich at me because it was cold (despite the fact that I just take the money, I don't make the food), and so on.

Great article!


Alex Skog 5 years ago

Thank you for a great hub, it really made my day knowing that someone else has had the same kind of experiences.


joystickenvy profile image

joystickenvy 5 years ago from Illinois

Nice hub. While I am often frustrated by the general lack of customer service displayed by many businesses these days, I can definitely sympathize. I have worked both in jobs that were described as "customer service" and in jobs where customer service was a component and it's definitely tough. It's like people think because they paid money for something that they own you and have every right to use and abuse you however they see fit. The worst thing tho is when you know you aren't providing good service, but you can't do anything about it because of company policy, workload or whatever.


chablis345 profile image

chablis345 5 years ago from Berkshire

Very true - I work for a facilities management company and you would be surprised at the number of people who ring up expecting me to be able to fix their leaking tap/toilet/roof etc etc or tell me its snowing so what am I going to do about them slipping!!


success028 profile image

success028 5 years ago

this is a very good hub


bjornborgboxers profile image

bjornborgboxers 5 years ago from The Netherlands

I can imagine the cafe latte frustration. So true and recognizable if you worked in a bar!


TorremochaJ profile image

TorremochaJ 5 years ago

It's great, they thinks they are always superior.


thebeast02 profile image

thebeast02 5 years ago from Louisiana

So true. I work with a company that has products in many of the most popular large chain stores, and the customers in there can be so unappreciative and generally ignorant at times. I have to remind myself, "only a few months until graduation and I don't have to do this anymore," constantly.


briharn profile image

briharn 5 years ago from New Jersey

Being a waitress, I can totally relate to your hub!!! so funny and true :)


eztranslation profile image

eztranslation 5 years ago from NY, NY

"it seems that a monkey could do my job." -- exactly!! Why do people think that this is an easy job? If it were so easy, they'd make their own coffee/lunch/muffin at home. Respect!


rsquez profile image

rsquez 5 years ago from Long Beach, CA

This hub made me smile. I've been in customer service myself and felt like telling them exactly what you pin pointed in this article. Thanks for bringing a smile to my face!


Silver Poet profile image

Silver Poet 5 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

I love it! Great hub! You are so right about human behavior! I'm glad someone put it down in words. You hit it right on the head. :)


Robikan profile image

Robikan 5 years ago from Canada Author

Oh yes, I would never claim this is the hardest job out there, just that it isn't as easy as people think it is.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA

You have a great sense of humor, something that's obviously needed for customer service jobs. I loved your hub - it was funny, interesting and engaging! Congratulations on your HubNuggets nomination!


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination. I've taken orders in a restaurant before, and I must say that despite all you say being true, I think customer service is a lot easier than anything than being a cop or a firefighter. They have to put up with all sorts of things you described plus have their lives in danger. We don't.


Robikan profile image

Robikan 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks, everyone, for the comments and votes!


catsimmons profile image

catsimmons 5 years ago from Mission BC Canada

You made me cry laughing!! Awesome hub voted up, hilarious and awesome!

I used to work behind a deli counter and have customers accuse me of being "on commission" when I cut them a slightly larger piece of cheese than they asked for! Like you said, minimum wage..commission?! YEAH RIGHT


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

All customers need to read this!!! LOL

Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. Join the Hubnuggets team as they whisk you off to a fairy tale adventure while you read and vote too! http://ladyjane1.hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub/If-T... Best of luck!


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

I enjoyed your sense of humor. gREAT JOB.


Cathleena Beams profile image

Cathleena Beams 5 years ago from Lascassas, Tennessee

Really enjoyed your hub and will remember next time I order that Latte all the work that went into it! Too funny! Great hub! :o)


nassy24 profile image

nassy24 5 years ago from South Carolina -- USA

Wow, you just took the words out of my mouth, Robikan!!! I try to do my best to make sure there is a lot of variety in my department for customers to choose from. I work retail all my life and as cutters had said there is always that one customer that wants to mess everything up. Amazing Hub!


Zabbella profile image

Zabbella 5 years ago from NJ-USA

Great Hub!! I can relate. I worked for a store and have had a customer call me a "very bad" word because I refused to take back a ring that seemed 20 yrs old.


Cutters profile image

Cutters 5 years ago from South Carolina

I am at the point in life where at my job which is retail, if the customer is wrong and gets nasty, I will not grin and bear it. I give it back. I will no longer be made to look like a fool over something I have no control over. I do my best to make everyone happy. But there is always one!


Goldenberry 5 years ago

You're blamed because the apples are tasteless and the pie crust has the texture of a jiffy bag...

There's a word for that -- scapegoat.

All you can do is grin and bear it -- and entertain the rest of us.

Thanks.


delmer47 profile image

delmer47 5 years ago from Nebraska

Great hub. I admire those that take on the positions you described. Voted up and useful!


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain

I loved this hub, I think you hit every nail there is right on the head and done it with real witt and humour. A great read had me from the first word to the last, I have voted up and hit the funny and interesting button too!!


Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

This is a great hub! I know exactly what you mean about people that want you to shop for them. The worst are clothing stores and a husband shopping for his wife. Such a bad idea! He is either going to insult her by buying something horrifically ugly or something way too big. Either way, it is bad. Really bad.


stampinwithfab profile image

stampinwithfab 5 years ago from London, United Kingdom

Thank you I thoroughly enjoyed your hub. It reminded me of my time working in retail: food, clothing and lastly in a bookshop ( at least those customers could read - wink ). My own addition is what happened one day in this specialised foreign bookshop. Customers do you have Italian-English dictionaries 'sure' I said and she proceeded to grab two of them in each hand and was motioning like she was trying to weigh them, ... keeping a straight face I told her that it would be easier to see how many words were translated reading it from the cover ! So thank you again for being grateful I don't have to face these people and trying to be an ultra decent human being when dealing with baristas, waiters/waitresses and shop assistants.


kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 5 years ago from North Carolina, USA

I feel your pain! I worked in a bridal alterations shop. Many women are totally delusional about their dress size--unless they are a seamstress like me, and have to deal with reality.

Then there were the women who wanted to know why their hem cost over $100. They didn't know what a bargain it was to get all that fluff hemmed at that price. It was even my fault of they got pregnant and their dress became too small--I don't think so!


Sam Dolloff profile image

Sam Dolloff 5 years ago from Maine

Excellent Hub! I have also worked a variety of customer service jobs and boy can it be a challenge sometimes. It sure has taught me how to be a pleasent customer though. I always say that everyone should work customer service for at least 6 months to apreciate it more.

Thanks for sharing!


Cutters profile image

Cutters 5 years ago from South Carolina

I love it! Hit it home with me thanks!


Pintoman profile image

Pintoman 5 years ago

That was great. And that's why I don't work in customer service.


billdowis profile image

billdowis 5 years ago from South Jersey

I have worked in retail my whole life. Now I am in banking, but it is still a retail environment with direct customer interaction.. The customer thinks the world revolves around them and they are always right. If only I could tell them whats what.


brsmom68 profile image

brsmom68 5 years ago from Alberta, Canada

I can completely relate! I haven't worked in any food service establishments, but hardware stores and pharmacies are no different. Well done and voted up!


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 5 years ago from Midwest

I used to work as a hotel front desk clerk where I was regularly blamed for everything wrong that was travel related from bad airplane food to rude reservations agents, rental cars, the weather, you name it lol - different industry but I can SO relate ;) great hub!


sammyfiction profile image

sammyfiction 5 years ago from Australia

My God you said it all. Amen!


Alladream74 profile image

Alladream74 5 years ago from Oakland, California

Your sense of humour is great, no wonder you survive the stress!


Robikan profile image

Robikan 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks, all!


TexasBobby profile image

TexasBobby 5 years ago from Deep in the heart.

Very enjoyable read Robyn. Thanks.


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Touche, loved this hub and I really like your sense of humor that you added to it.


flagostomos profile image

flagostomos 5 years ago from Washington, United States

I love reading hubs about working in customer service because unless you have done it, nobody understands. Your last point is especially true. I work in a home improvement retail store and people expect me to be a master plumber, electrician, flooring installer, framer, carpenter, and power tool geek and then they treat me like I know nothing. And just today, I had a customer yell my face off because I was changing the price label. It's not me who says that those bolts cost 10 cents more!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working