In a previous life, I worked a various number of customer service jobs, hoping, as everyone else working in the field often does, that I would never cross paths with a truly angry customer. If you have never worked in the field or threw a fit in a retail store (bravo!), then you’ve probably at least witnessed the performance of a disgruntled customer. You know the type: irrational and loud, they stomp throughout the store—or remotely, on the other end of the phone—hoping to get what they want by any means possible.
However, more specifically, they utter certain phrases and words, whether as a means to outsmart or out-yell the sales associate, inevitably creating a hostile environment for everyone involved. Basically, if you find yourself uttering phrases like “I’m going to call my lawyer” or “You’re wrong” when dealing with customer service representatives, then it may be time to rethink your retail strategies. This is why we’ve rounded up all of the phrases that you should immediately remove from your retail vocabulary. All in all, it’s an object lesson for why staying zen is more important than you realize.
“I’m going to make sure you lose your job.”
No matter how you feel the customer service representative is handling your experience, there should be no reason to make threats such as this one. Unfortunately, though, this seems to be a common phrase uttered in tense situations—especially over the phone, as a few employees demonstrated on the Reddit thread entitled “People in customer-facing jobs, what’s your best story about an angry customer being put in their place?”
Bottom line: your one issue with the customer service agent, no matter how much they may have mishandled it, does not warrant this mostly empty threat—it will only escalate the situation and make them less open to hearing what you have to say.
“I’m never going to use your products again.”
As someone with previous experience in customer service, this is another threat that contains little to no substance. Unless the person you’re complaining to is the owner and creator of the product you’re threatening to stop using, there is nothing that they can do. If your issue with the product is that important, then it’s best to contact someone directly involved with making it.
“Is there an older manager that I can talk to?”
Again, as a previous manager (my official title was “customer experience supervisor”), my being 20 years old often led customers to the incorrect assumption that I did not have the authority or wisdom to help solve their various issues in the store. In fact, at that age, I likely had much more experience than those even five or ten years older than me, given my role. So, in short, the next time you assume that age brings forth an inherent wisdom, think again. The younger managers are still managers—and often for good reason.
“Why is this return taking so long?”
Dealing with a customer’s impatience during the return process is also a very common topic discussed on various Reddit threads concerning customer service experiences. First and foremost, it’s important to understand that returns take much longer than the typical transaction, especially if the returns are made without a receipt or they fail to show up in the system. So, basically, it does no good to complain about the length of time it takes to make your return. Instead, it pays off to be as patient as possible with the customer service agent, since making them flustered will only further delay the process.
“Can you see if you have more of this item in the back?”
I’ve worked at many clothing stores over the years, so let me just emphasize this: if what you’re looking for is not on the sales floor, then there’s about a 5 percent chance that it’s in the back. In fact, most retail stores make an effort to bring every item out on the sales floor, to ensure that the shopping experience will be as efficient as possible for the customers. Especially during peak store hours, the action of walking to the back to search for said item is incredibly inefficient.
“I’m going to call my lawyer.”
Yet another common utterance mentioned on nearly every Reddit customer service experience thread, this threat only puts the customer service agent you’re interacting with on the defensive. While you may have every right to say this, it’s important to remember that the person you’re speaking with is a human as well, and is likely only working on behalf of the company. So, in short, if something comes up that truly warrants a meeting with your lawyer, it might be time to speak to a supervisor.
“May I speak to your manager?”
Speaking of talking to the supervisor, this line is a classic (and favorite customer quote of the meme culture). This is, of course, an acceptable line to use when a further knowledge of the brand is required to assist you—but when you just feel like complaining about something trivial, it’s just best to hang up or walk away before saying other things that you may regret.
“I’m going to post about this experience on social media.”
In more recent years, Twitter has become the sounding board for bad customer experiences (even spurring an entire article by Travel + Leisure, documenting every time a celebrity has sounded off on Twitter about their airline experience), so it should come as no surprise that non-famous people have begun to feel the need to follow this trend. While what you say may have an impact on the credibility of the company, personally attacking the customer service agent on social media crosses the line. Again, they are real people with real feelings—you never know, they may have just had a bad day and didn’t handle your interaction with their normal amount of savvy.
“I’m going to make your company bankrupt.”
First of all, unless the company in question is small enough for one person to seemingly take it down, your threat most likely means nothing. If the company is truly that incompetent, then others will realize this as well and stop purchasing items from the company.
“Everyone you work with is stupid.”
This phrase is also common in the Reddit threads detailing customer service offenses, as this back-handed compliment (of sorts) isn’t winning you any brownie points with the current customer service employee that you’re interacting with. If you resort to calling people names in a place of business, it will only make that company wary to serve you now, and again in the future.
“Why can’t you make this small exception for me?”
Unless you’re speaking to the manager, no exception made in an established business is “small.” In this particular story on Reddit, a man recounts his experience with a customer who wanted him to change the price on an item for her—even though the item was full-price. Basically, the woman expected him to make this “small exception” since she figured that it wouldn’t be a big deal. Though, unfortunately, in most places, any change in a price or practice is a big deal—so don’t be angry at a customer service employee for simply enforcing the policies of the business.
“I’ve been waiting so long to speak with you.”
Especially in interactions with customer service representatives over the phone, this phrase is uttered more often than “please” or “thank you.” According to a report in the Washington Post, it isn’t the wait time that frustrates customers the most—it’s the boredom that comes along with the impatient waiting period. So, instead of lashing out against the helpless customer service representative, try to find positive ways to bide your time while on hold or standing in the line, like returning work emails and creating to-do lists for the day ahead.
“The other employee let me use this coupon.”
Even if this is true, using an expired or nonexistent coupon can get the sales associate in trouble. As I know from experience, sales associates are less likely to believe this excuse, as they are taught to not make exceptions for customers, as, through word of mouth, this could form a trend in which could lose the company money. So, even if the other employee did allow you to use your expired coupon, perhaps attempting to find other current sales would create less of a headache as you enter the checkout line.
“I really don’t have time for this.”
As it turns out, the customer service agent on the other end of your rant doesn’t really have time for this either, but they’re making the time to help you. To avoid escalating the interaction, simply take a deep breath and remember why you’re here in the first place—to solve whatever issue you’re facing, correct? Well, in order to that, it’s best to remain patient and understanding.
“Why is this so expensive?”
Again: unless you’re speaking with the maker of the item in question, they have no control over how much that item will cost you. The only thing that a customer service employee can control is the way that they treat you throughout your interaction, so if you’re busy complaining about how expensive the item is that you desire, they may be less likely to find you discounts or coupons that could lower the price.
“You should go back to school to learn how to do your job correctly.”
The only time this phrase may not qualify as bullying is if the salesperson did in fact go to school to better themselves for their current position. However, most likely, they received no schooling to better aid you in the process of returning your items at the grocery store.
“You’re being racist.”
This only applies if the phrase was thrown out of left field, as a way to rattle and intimidate the customer service agent into making unfair exceptions for you in a place of business. While it is your right to demand an beneficial experience no matter your race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion, it is unfair to accuse someone of exhibiting racist behavior just to guilt them into making exceptions for you that they wouldn’t make for anyone else.
“Why do you need to see my ID?”
For most interactions that require a full analysis of the issues you wish to discuss with a sales representative, they’ll need to check your ID. This is simply a way to verify that it’s you making the return, or any other matter that requires the handling of personal information. While there are no current laws that require you to display your ID along with a credit or debit card purchase, many retailers may require it if the back of your credit or debit card is not signed, according to NBC 12. In short, this flash of ID protects your identity, so be glad that the companies care about your wellbeing.
“Do you know who I am?”
Once upon a time, when I was working as a sales associate at an unnamed retail chain, a local newscaster used this line as a means of receiving star treatment (in this case, extra discounts) in the store. While yes, I knew who she was, I had no intention of treating her any differently than any other customer that day. The moral of this story: it doesn’t matter how famous you are (except, maybe, if you’re Oprah)—customer service employees are taught to treat everyone equally.
“Can I have a discount on this item?”
No matter how much you simply need that full-price item on the shelf, sales associates (and companies in general) want to be able to make a profit by giving a discount to anyone who asked for one.
When doing business with a stranger, this accusation can come across as a personal attack. If you feel as though the employee may have misled you, it’s better to ask to speak to a supervisor than to create personal friction with them.
“But why would you need that? I’m not trying to have my identity stolen.”
Again, certain companies (especially those doing business over the phone) may require you to divulge certain information to assist you. This can be anything from your social security number to your bank’s routing number. Unless the company you’re speaking with seems small and has little to no presence online, it’s highly unlikely that they are attempting to steal your identity. If you would rather be safe than sorry, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask the company why they require that information from you, and what the ramifications would be if you refused to share these personal details.
In most cases, when you’re pitted against a worker who knows the ins and the outs of their business better than you, the consumer, it’s more likely that you’re the one in the wrong. And, even if the employee does prove to be incorrect about something, taking a less accusatory tone will clear up the issue much more quickly than maintaining a negative attitude.
“How dare you guess the price! Get a calculator out and do it properly.”
As rehashed in a post on this Reddit thread, just because you may not like the price, doesn’t give you the authority to watch over the employee as they calculate the cost of your transaction. Take it from me: there are few things more annoying than having a customer standing behind your register, double checking the math of their transaction. On top of that, unless you’re purchasing items from a small mom and pop shop, most established businesses should come equipped with technology sophisticated enough to calculate the prices of particular items automatically—no fingers or toes required.
Make sexually suggestive comments.
Unless you want to be banned from the store for life or arrested on the spot, making inappropriate and sexually suggestive comments is completely out of line. For a full list of sexually explicit behaviors to be avoided in a place of business (though these should all be common sense), browse Workplace Fairness’ site.
Using racist/offensive language.
In the United States, everyone is entitled to the same shopping experience, no matter their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. So, when you decide to use language like this in a place of business, you are violating the U.S. Code Title 42, Chapter 21-Civil Rights, which “prohibits discrimination against persons based on age, disability, gender, race, national origin, and religion (among other things) in a number of settings—including education, employment, public accommodations, federal services, and more.” In other words: don’t make the manager throw you out of the store for using offensive language.
Using foul language.
While cursing at the sales associate may not necessarily result in a dismissal from the store, it does, in fact, make you look like a bully. Further, using foul language to get what you want will actually have the opposite affect—it will cause the employee to shut down completely, and rightfully so.