The Cure for Rude Customers

Rude CustomerLike many people, I spent several years of my early adulthood working in the service industry before stumbling into a respectable career.

“Service industry” is of course a nice way of saying “the deepest pit of hell where even the Devil himself feels sorry for you”.

Whether it is waiting tables, flipping burgers, or navigating the next likely Darwin Awards winner through the use of their newly purchased cell phone; one is likely to get pretty disgusted with people in general.

It was the same thing with me. It seemed like the more of a jerk the person was the better service and the more free stuff they got. No matter what company policy or rule, the Manager would always break down and give the person what they wanted. If you could just get mad enough and persist long enough and come up with one inane excuse after another, eventually, you could get anything you want.

As an example: A long time ago, in a sandwich store far far away, during the closing shift, a man entered the store. He was enraged about something. That I could tell. He walked up and slammed his receipt on the counter, demanding a refund.

“I want a refund! My sandwich had pickles in it!”

I looked at the receipt. He had ordered 5 hours ago.

“I’m sorry about that sir. Do you have the sandwich with you? We can’t give you a refund unless you bring the sandwich back.”

“No, I ate it,” he replied as if I was an idiot.

“Well, if you ate the sandwich, then we can’t really give you a refund for it.”

“The sandwich was for my wife and she is allergic to pickles, so I had to eat it. Don’t you talk to me like I’m retarded. Give me my G__ D___ refund before I climb over this counter!”

If that happened to me now, I think I would probably just start laughing at him. But, alas, back then (God knows why) I actually cared about keeping that job.

Instead, I notified the shift manager of the man’s complaint and his refund was approved. However, I did refuse to refund him for the drink and chips. It seemed like a big victory at the time. He drove all the way back for $4.45. Although, back then that was almost 4 whole gallons of gas!

No matter the victory, though, this event still left a bitter taste in my mouth. “It just doesn’t seem right,” I said to myself. Then, 6 months later, I decided I’d had enough; when a similarly IQ-lacking “gentleman” in his 40s had a 17 year old girl, new to the job, in tears over some simple mistake in his order. I made a promise to myself that day that I would do something about it. I would put an end to this kind of behavior. That’s when I devised the plan I am about to describe to you.

It is now, a decade later, that I fulfill that promise and reveal my ultimate strategy for eliminated rude customers across the globe. (Insert maniacal laughter)

Why Are Some Customers Rude?

The most important factor involved in discovering the cure for why some some people seem to think this kind of behavior is acceptable is finding out why they behave this way.

The real reason for this is basically social training.

1. Children are trained into this kind of behavior by observing their parents or other adults and see that it “works”.

2. Rude customers are rewarded for their behavior because the employees or managers handling them give them what they want, and in some cases give the angry, rude person more than they would give someone being polite about it. The service industry REINFORCES this behavior by rewarding it.

The Cure

As unlikely as it seems, the real cure for rude customers is to simply stop rewarding the behavior and to punish it, instead, by refusing service.

If a man wants a sandwich and keeps getting kicked out of every place he goes, because he is rude, eventually he will learn that if he wants a sandwich he’s going to have to be polite. That or he’ll learn to live without sandwiches. Either way we win.

If someone buys a $500 electronic device and can’t figure out how to use it, he’s going to have to be polite to the person helping him if he doesn’t want a $500 paperweight.

Admittedly, this is a somewhat unrealistic solution on an immediate basis as it will most likely be resisted by your managers and owners, but what you can do right now is refuse to budge when someone is rude. You don’t have to be rude or discourteous, simply refuse to give the customer any special treatment because of getting angry. If you are persistent, and refuse to cater to those who intimidate and belittle in order to get what they want, we can weed out this kind of behavior eventually.

2 Responses to “The Cure for Rude Customers”

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  1. I always used peer pressure on rude customers when they demanded unreasonably by asking any other people not employed with me how they would handle this situation – and most often the public would tell the demanding person to grasp reality and that their demand was childish. It worked then and will now, if your timid supervisor / manager will not pull a corporate mandated punishment.


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