12 Days of Retail Christmas: Top 10 Dumb Customers

Between working at a BP gas station for a year, as a Jerry's Home Improvement lumberyard loader for another year, and Sears for 7 years, I encountered a number of negative interactions with customers. They are rare. I felt like I did a good job of diffusing whatever situation arose before a customer would get upset, but sometimes, no matter my customer service skills, people would take out their bad day aggression on good employees like me.  These are my strangest, meanest, and craziest encounters:

Sears Craftsman Handi-Cut Handicut cut all razor blade cutting knife pruner
Other Employees watching said I slowed down time, like
Neo in the Matrix.  I just think he had bad aim.  
10.  "It has a Lifetime Warranty Customer:"  I dealt with this a lot at Sears.  Craftsman hand tools had an almost unquestionable warranty that for whatever reason, Sears would exchange a non-working tool for another.  One customer came in with a Craftsman Handi-Cut tool, which uses a large razor blade that compresses onto a flat anvil on the other side.  It was a simple design that would cut through anything from Romex wire to copper piping.  My old roommates often cut up our phone books with this tool, making a huge mess.  Anyways, the blades, like a box cutter, eventually wear out or break, especially when people used it for cutting small limbs off trees or whatever.  This guy's blades were massively worn out.  I suggested a pack of 5 new blades: $2.99.  "What!  These have a lifetime warranty!"  I explained that the tool was still functioning fine, just the blades were worn out, like a box cutter.  "I don't want new blades, I want my money back!"  I explained that the warranty is only for exchanges, unless you have a receipt (obviously the tool was at least five years old).  I offered to give him the blades for free (against store policy), which was met with angry words.  I then offered to let him exchange it for any tool under $25.00 (the original price of the tool which nobody paid since it went 50% off all the time).  This angered him further.  "Well if your not going to do anything about it, you prick, I'm never shopping here again," he said as he threw the tool, blades exposed at my face.  I dodged it easily, and it smacked a display behind me.  He stormed off.  I got a new free tool for the $2.99 I paid in new blades.  Negatives into positives.

9.  The "Rent-a-Sears" customer:  Again, something we dealt with repeatedly, until the store enacted a "usage fee."  Most stores can resell open box merchandise, but it is usually discounted between 15-50% off the original price.  Most times, customers have legit reasons to do the return, and those that abused the system were conscientious enough to return the item in good shape.

Sears Craftsman Garden Tractor grey 22 HP Briggs Engine GT 2000 50" deck
Now image this tractor mixed in a container of
HCl acid for seven days.  
One guy though, spent a number of hours with multiple employees, exhausting us of our knowledge.  He then settled on the entry level Garden Tractor at $2000.00 (which we all told him wasn't built for the type use he wanted it for) from a new employee who got all the commission even though he just took the five minutes to ring up the customer.  Well, this customer went out and mowed over 50 acres of property with the machine, and much of the land had never been manicured, so he ran it over rocks, large branches, nutria, stumps, etc.  Then he called us and said, "I don't like it.  Can your delivery team come pick it up."  Of course I tried to save the sale.  No use.  Later that week the delivery team dropped off the tractor.  It looked like it had hit a roadside IED.  It had less than ten hours of use, and yet the deck was pierced with rocks, the blades were mangled and bent, a belt was already broken, the engine was sputtering, and it was as dirty as Pigpen's bed.  Our in-store tech said it was the worst tractor abuse he'd ever seen in twenty years: the air filter was black as coal.   Bob, another employee, lived near the address of the customer, and drove by and noticed that these 50 acres had just gone up for "sale."  The cut grass made it look ready for a subdivision, rather than the wild acreage it looked like before.  Our manager told him never to shop at Sears again.

Green 1997 Mazda Miata convertible with a pressure treated post 8"x8" 16' on top.
Yes, I did photoshop that beam on top of the Miata...You
 come here for the words, not my image editing abilities. 
8.  The Mazda Miata moron:   Customers often try to load much too large items into the back of their mini-vans or sedans, but every once in a while you meet the customers who must have fatally failed their geometry and physics classes.  This guy comes into the lumberyard at Jerry's (local version of Home Depot) and wants a 16' 8"x8" pressure treated exterior beam loaded onto the top of his convertible Miata.  I have no idea today how heavy one of these beams must be, but it took two of employees using every ounce of strength to load one onto a roof rack, so I told the guy, "I don't think your windshield will hold this, and there's nowhere to secure this..."  "I'll make it work," he said.  We set it down gently on his windshield, and it extended at least four feet in front and back of vehicle like some ancient battering ram.  Then the windshield cracked.  We quickly took it off, and he pulls a chainsaw out of the back of his trunk and he cut the beam in half right there in our yard isle.  Embarrassed, he lifted each one himself and threw them into the passenger seat, without my help.  Pride is a strange thing.  I thought about telling him that the now exposed cut ends were not treated for the elements and not worth the 2 dollars he saved by not buying two separate 8' beams, but like I said, pride is a strange thing.  He could've turned the chainsaw on me. 

Chinese Semi Truck crushed inward by own payload of quartz rock destroyed smashed stupid accident
Old Datsun guy went on to a very successful Chinese truck driving career.
7.  Old Datsun Pickup guy:  The only thing worse than loading products for people with too small vehicles are the non-professional contractors who consistently overuse their trucks to "get the job done."  We often bypassed tonnage by a thousand pounds and watched the tires swell and wheel wheels be cleared by centimeters.  The worst was when this old guy comes in and wants an entire unit of waferboard loaded onto his little old Datsun truck.  88 sheets of 1/2 thick plywood?  Again, I don't know the weight of something like this, but it was both longer and wider than his payload.  He "knew" this, and wanted us to forklift load it across his truck bed, so that it stuck out both sides almost two feet--which was illegal.  We repeatedly advised him against this plan, but he insisted that we forklift load it his way, until finally the owner of the company came down and made him sign a waver clearing Jerry's of any damage or legality.  Finally, I lowered the unit onto his truck with my forklift--we heard it before it happened.  The metal side walls fatigued and groaned before succumbing to the massive weight and both side rails crushed all the way to the wheel well.  It was beautiful; watching the customer pretend like he was okay with the damage and humiliation.  All of us employees smirked, and when he tried to peel out, his truck, obviously overwhelmed with its new addition, sputtered forward.  He left hastily, and we all exchanged a high five for being "right" all along. 

6.  The drunk bicyclist:  The little BP station in my redneck high school town had its own share of regularly rude customers.  Perhaps it's because the same people frequented the store, and were paying 300% more for regular items like canned food and toilet paper than if they drove another mile down the road to the real grocery store, whatever the reason, I felt I dealt with more animosity and nasty language at this job than at any other location.  Most likely the reason was that the majority of people coming in were buying unhealthy hang-ups like fried greasy food, 64 ounces of soda, cigerettes, chew, and beer. Lots and lots of beer.  The Pacific Northwest is known for great varieties of microbrews, and we sold these, but the most popular beers at our store were those that were cheap.  Drunk people beer.  One such beer was/is Steel Reserve 211, which not only is cheap, but contains 8.1% alcohol by volume.

Drunk bicyclist on side of street on ground waving okay leather jacket countryside
I'm fine.  No biggie.  Just a bone sticking out of my leg, but I'll shake it off.
It was this beer that Ricky, the customer weaving his way down the road on his bike at 11:00am, preferred.  The store was located along a  busy street that looked down a long residential lane where  Ricky was trying to stay on top of the yellow line, but was serpentining toward white lines on either side, before he finally biffed it.  He weaved off the paved road, hit the gravel, his bike slid into the ditch and he flew over the handlebars and landed on his back in the ditch.  It would've been a Youtube sensation had it existed back then.  But Ricky, determined, and like all drunk people--uninjured,  picked up his bike like nothing had happened.   I could tell, even from two hundred feet away, that the handlebar fork was broke.  It seemed to confuse Ricky, who tried, unsuccessfully, to mount his bike with a steering column that wasn't attached.  After three failed attempts, he finally walked his bike the rest of the way.  He crossed the busy street without looking and when he got to the door said, heavily slurred, to my co-worker Zach, "there'ssss somefing wrong with me bike."  "Yeah," Zach said, "the operator is drunk."  Ricky laid the $3.35 in small change on the table, the exact amount needed for two 22 ounce tall bottles of Steel Reserve.  Yet we wouldn't sell it to him.  Our 18-year-old selves knew that it was against the law, as he was so drunk and we wouldn't be argued into selling him anything but water.  He didn't get defiant, just argumentative.  This continued for a few minutes, as he even tried to argue his case to a customer, saying, "would a drunk guy know how much money to bring?"  "Buddy," the customer said, "the price of your beer might be the only thing you've memorized in your entire life."

Ricky childishly sat down at the little table for deli food customers and promptly passed out.  He slept for three hours, even as middle school kids flicked his ears or pulled out stray hairs.

When he finally woke up, he said, "Oh, hey, can I get my beer now?"

Numbers 1-5, To be continued...


  1. If these AREN'T the top 5, I can't wait to see what else you got!

  2. So strange! What is it about you that these weird things happen??

    1. Believe me, I've slaved over this question this question many times. I've always thought I had some sort of normal magnetism that draws abnormal material toward it. I haven't even shared my old roommate stories or ex-girlfriend stories...most of which were inspiration for my book...Then I have a certain type of student who hovers around my classroom after the bell rings, which could fill volumes of Psychology books.

      I also think, if I have a talent, it is noticing the story in people's lives. I notice characters (and probably draw out the worst in them). I guess that's not really a talent.

      Or maybe everyone else is normal and I'm the crazy one misreading every situation.

  3. Oh, Chris. Again, you make me laugh my arse off. And the best part, BP! Chad used to sell me beer there. I think there's now a sign on it that says "Make Peace", or something of that nature. I miss Zach! Where is he?

    1. Yeah, the BP station has diesel gas under the soil, and they tried to make Kim, the owner, clean up thousands of yards of soil at almost half a million dollars (and they hadn't sold Diesel there for almost twenty years before she bought the place).
      I was sad when they closed it down, and sadder for Kim.

      Zach's fine. In CG, 3 kids, we talk a lot. I'll tell him you said "hi." (He won't join facebook or anything, he's really private).

  4. This continued for a few minutes, as he even tried to argue his case to a customer, saying, "would a drunk guy know how much money to bring?" "Buddy," the customer said, "the price of your beer might be the only thing you've memorized in your life."

    1. Thanks, I fixed it. It's been sitting there, mistyped, for almost two years. Thanks.