Customers Behaving Badly: How to Avoid Being One of Them

by TTMK on February 10, 2014 · 6 comments

How to handle bad customer serviceEvery now and then we come across some “interesting” people when going out and about.  Whether it’s at the grocery store, a ballgame, or maybe a restaurant – among other locales – it’s possible to find people who are less than polite.  On rare occasion, we might even see someone throw a tantrum like a little kid – despite being an adult.

I saw one of those people last week, and it was quite bizarre.  Of all places, it was at a nice, pleasant Mexican restaurant during lunch.  Not far from where I was sitting, a lady got angry when she looked over her check.  She pounded on the table, blurted out a few expletives, and then summoned the server.

The guy came by, and she proceeded to ask him why she got charged for extra cheese for her tacos.  Not something people get worked up over most of the time, but this lady was upset.  I couldn’t help but watch as she glared at him with eyes that could pierce steel.  She was angry, and this was before the poor guy had a chance to explain the charge.

Well, he did look at it, and told her that the bill was in fact right.  They charge for extra cheese.  I think it was $1, from what I heard.

The woman just exploded.  She burst out with several obscenities, and then flipped over her plate.  Yes, she flipped over the plate of half-finished food.  I guess she wasn’t in the mood for leftovers 🙂

At this point, I saw her leave cash on the table, and then get up to leave.  Again, swearing some more while doing it.  She mentioned something about keeping the change to the server as she made her way to the door.

It was quite a scene.

Everyone around was just quiet afterward, even after she left.  As in, seemingly in shock.  Then one customer stopped the server and told him how he did nothing wrong, and that he shouldn’t worry – it was the other customer’s fault.  It was that bad, that other customers were totally sympathizing with the server over the bad behavior of another customer.

Honestly, it was entertaining.  Can’t pretend that it wasn’t, since it made me smile and the server seemed to be in great spirits.  But I have to admit that the lady could have and should have handled that a lot differently.  She was a customer behaving badly.

Who goes bananas over extra cheese?

First of all, let’s assume that she really wasn’t told of the charge for extra cheese when she had originally asked for it.  If that happened, it’s not exactly the end of the world, right?  So you’re charged $1 for something you thought might be free.  Big deal.  You got something of value anyway.

But other times, there might be more legitimate complaints that customers have.  In those cases, here are a 5 things people might do:

1) Get control of emotions

When we’re wound up, it’s probably easier to say something fueled by emotion that isn’t socially appropriate.  In this case, acting like a toddler who badly needed a nap wasn’t exactly a respectable move by this lady.

So what if they charged her for something she thought was free.  It’s not an excuse to lash out, just because she was a paying customer.

Beyond that, there are a couple of other practical reasons to keep under control.  First, staying calm can help you with your efforts to effectively strategize how to get the situation rectified.  Now, this taco example might be a funny or odd one, but there are times where we could be talking about hundreds or even thousands of dollars.  It’s important to think clearly.

Second, by staying calm, you can be taken seriously.  Now, maybe some businesses might be afraid of a crazy customer and could just placate them at the moment in order to hope they just go away (and stop disturbing other customers).  But often times, a loony customer will not be respected or heard.

Third, nobody likes to be yelled at, or at least most people I know don’t.  Thus, being civil can actually give you a chance of getting what you want out of a situation.

Like the ubiquitous signs say, keep calm!

2) Have the facts straight

Assuming that you’re calm, as noted above, it helps to have the facts correct.  When the bad customer service is a much bigger deal that the silly taco example, it might have involved multiple steps in the consideration and purchase process.  In those cases, it can help to recount all the important aspects of the situation that make up your reasoning for why you were wronged.

Maybe it was something said? Perhaps it was a something in writing, either in an email or other visual format.  Whatever the case is, coming across as credible, informed, and prepared can put you in a position to get taken more seriously.

Also, on a separate but related note, be clear on what you want.  Whether it’s a charge removed, a discount, or simply a replacement, know what you want and want you could handle as a backup concession.

3) Talk to a manager

Sometimes we just get nowhere with a staff-level person.  In particular, if that person was responsible for the issue.  Many people have a tendency to get defensive and not be willing to admit mistakes.  It can be easy to forget customer service and how important the customer is if they’re mad at something you personally did.

In those situations, it could help to speak to a manager.  This person, perhaps the boss of the employee you dealt with, might be more receptive to your complaints.  Plus, that person might have more authority to actually do something to help resolve the situation.

4) Complain via social media

This might not work in all settings, obviously.  But sometimes, it can help to voice legitimate complains through social media.

For example, if your efforts to get a certain issue resolved through customer service have proven to be futile, contacting a company via social media might be another option.  Going on twitter makes the complaint more visible to all.

Now, this is something to do if you’re 100% sure you’re right – and not trying to defame or hurt any business.  Plus, whiny complaints by people using Twitter as a way to bully companies can help such individuals lose some of their own credibility.

However, if your issue is valid and real, and other attempts to resolve it have gone nowhere or haven’t been responded to, this could be a good option.  It’s more public, meaning it’s more visible.  Plus, wouldn’t a company want to extinguish bad sentiment on social media and demonstrate responsiveness?  Could be a win-win.

5) Just vote with your wallet or purse.

You know, sometimes it just isn’t worth the fight.  We all have a limited amount of time and energy to deal with nonsense, so we have to pick our battles.  After all, isn’t life more about enjoying ourselves and focusing on positive outcomes?

An expedient way to handle bad customer service is to simply vote with your wallet or purse.  Don’t go back.  Don’t spend any money there any more.

Bottom line:  don’t go flipping over your plate of tacos! 🙂  Be smart, no matter what the situation, and handle things strategically and efficiently.  You probably have a better chance to succeed, and can hold your head up high the whole time.

My Questions for You

How do you handle bad customer service?

Do you have any other tips to add to the 5 above?

Have you ever seen anyone throw a tantrum like the lady I described?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

The First Million is the Hardest February 10, 2014 at 8:23 pm

You see this kind of thing happening all the time at the airport, people can be crazy sometimes. I’ve found complaining on social media to be a really effective avenue. There have been a few problems I’ve had at places where I sent a tweet to their Twitter account and had the problem resolved faster than if I had done anything in person or by calling the traditional customer service line.


TTMK February 16, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Interesting, and I wonder if it’s easier direct access to them, the public relations factor, or both that contribute to Twitter being more effective.


Money Beagle February 11, 2014 at 11:03 am

The thing is, if you rant and rave, you’ll never get a satisfactory resolution because the business in question will have no interest in keeping you as a customer. If you approach a complaint using the three C’s (calm, cool, and collected), you’ll actually find that the business will work to make you happy.

I’m embarrassed for the woman just reading the story. She gave a lot of people something to talk about for many years to come. What a shame.


TTMK February 16, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Yes, some customers are not worth keeping. Sometimes people don’t see that side of it.


Tushar @ Everything Finance February 12, 2014 at 11:08 pm

That’s some pretty bad behaviour and very poor emotional intelligence. I could never imagine treating people like that. If bad customer service happens more than once at a place, I won’t go back, however a first time thing I will usually move past it.


TTMK February 16, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Yeah, that’s a great way to put it – poor emotional intelligence. Entertaining, but not good behavior


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