Ah, the infinite joy of working with customers - helping them make their product selections, giving them advice, pointing out the restroom, and scowling at little kids who slap the fish tanks. Such things I expected when I actually went out and got a job at PetsMart, but doing HTML stuff for a company had not prepared me for the multiple instances of stupidity I have so far encountered after a month in the fish department.

What follows is a phone conversation I had with a person about a week ago. Parts of it I remember verbatim, and the rest is approximated.
Me: "Speciality, how can I help you?"
Customer: (after a 2-second pause. There was always a 2-second pause before this guy said anything) "Yeah, do you all have fish for ponds?"
"Yeah, we've koi."
Customer: "Koi? How many of them do you have?"
"Probably about a dozen. We're running low right now."
Customer: "Do you have anything else?"
"We've got tropicals, but they won't survive in an outdoor pond."
Customer: "Oh. Well, could I come in and look at them before I buy them?"
"Yessss....." (some slight incredulity leaks into my voice at this point...OF COURSE you can look at livestock before you buy it! Duh!)
Customer: "And, these koi will survive in my pond?"
"Yeah, as long as it doesn't freeze solid. I've never known a pond to freeze solid here in Oklahoma."
Customer: "Is that so? How cold does it get here in Oklahoma?"
"I've seen it get down to 0 degrees Farenheit, but if your pond is deep enough, you will only get ice on the surface. How deep is your pond?"
Customer: "*long pause* um, *short pause*, well, um, I can walk across it with out going under... it's 40 feet long..."
"Well, is it one foot deep, three feet deep, what?"
Customer: "*short pause* um, I'd say about four feet."
"Nah, it won't freeze solid. They'll be fine."
And the next thing out of his mouth blew my mind:

Customer: "What happens when it freezes solid?"
"They die." The 'what the hell do you think they do when it freezes solid, asshole?' effect has definately altered my voice here.
Customer: "Oh. Well, what about bird cages, do you sell bird cages?"
"Yeah, we have all different kinds of bird cages."
Customer: "Okay. What about reptiles? If I was going to buy a reptile, what should I get?"
"Have you ever kept reptiles before?"
Customer: "No..."
"Well, then I'd get an anole. They are small, easy to care for, and only cost about $4 or $5."
Customer: "Do you have anoles?"
Customer: "What other kinds of reptiles do you have?"
"We have geckos and Chinese water dragons."
Customer: "Do you have anything that changes color?"
"Nope. If you want something that changes colors, I'd try for one of the local pet stores that sells reptiles. Just look in the phone book, there are several that sell fish and reptiles, and some of them have birds too."
Customer: "Do I have to go to one that sells fish and reptiles, or can it just be reptiles?"
"It doesn't matter. There are stores with birds and reptiles too, and some stores that sell all three."

Customer: "Well...won't birds and reptiles eat each other?"

I pause a moment to prevent myself from hanging up on this guy.
"Not if you don't keep them in the same cage." I am getting somewhat pissed off now.
Customer: "Oh. Well, so what kind of bedding would I need for an anole?"
"I don't know off the top of my head. You could just come in the store and ask one of the associates, and they'd help you."
Customer: "Why don't you know?"
"Look, I've got 10 years of fishkeeping experience, but I've never kept a lizard in my life."
Customer: "Then why am I talking to you?"
"Because I'm the one who answered the phone."
Customer: "Well, how would I know if you told me something wrong?"
"Look, sir, if I didn't know the answer to one of your questions, then I'd tell you I didn't know, like with the lizard bedding."
Customer: "Well, then, how would you know if I told you something wrong?"
"Like what?"
Customer: "Like the number of lizards." (I swear to god this is what he said)
Customer: "Like the number of lizards."
"Like the number of lizards where? Look, sir, I've got customers waiting, so unless you have any more questions..."
Customer: "Yeah, I've got more lizard questions."
"Well do you want me to connect you with someone who knows more about lizards?"
Customer: "No, I want to talk to you."
"Alright, what are your questions?"
He hung up.

I'm pretty satisfied with the way I balanced the line between not calling the guy an idiot to his face and still trying to answer his questions.

I used to work at a modem company, and one of the technicians told me about a guy who called up with a modem problem. This was a few years ago. The conversation went something like this:

Technician: "Hayes technical support, may I help you?"
Customer: "I got one of these Accura 14.4 modems and I can't get on the Internet."
Technician: "What kind of computer do you have, sir?"
Customer: "You mean you have to have a . . . {click}"

Now, I try to be understanding, but the notion of buying a modem and no computer and expecting to get on the Internet is way out there. It's not just tech support/customer service, though. Go around and ask your non-geek friends whether the sun revolves around the earth or vice versa and I think you will be surprised by the number of wrong answers. People learn what they have to know to get by from day to day, and astronomy, technology, and politics (along with a host of other subjects, for that matter) aren't part of the curriculum.

I used to work in a local video store called Pick-A-Video. We rented all kinds of films, however we did not rent pornography. I'm guessing people expected we rented porn because we were a local store and all. So every so often, a middle-age guy would come in, stroll around the whole store, then come up to the desk and ask where the adult films were located. Usually, I would just keep a straight face and say we didn't rent adult films, but there was one fellow who deserved a chuckle.

A younger fellow came in one night, looked around the new releases and then came up to the desk when there were no customers in line. He slapped his ID on the counter and said, "I'm eighteen, here's my ID, I saw the door labeled 'private', I'd like the key."

I reached for the key under the desk to the door labeled 'private' and said "Well, if you need to use the bathroom that bad, you can go ahead in there and use it."

He looked slightly confused and then grabbed his ID and left.

More types of people you run into in customer service:

More to come later....

I think your title is a little inaccurate, it should read, "if you work in customer service, you will deal with stupid people on an hourly basis"

I work as a technician in an auto dealership, a Lincoln/Mercury dealership none-the-less. This means that we deal mainly with stupid angry dolts who shouldn't even be behind the wheel of a two ton peice of steel.

The most common misconception is most customers think that they are the sole supporter of our service department. I suppose part of this has to do with the Lincoln thing. Then there's always the other end, the people who think we discriminate against them because they drive Fords instead of Lincolns.

For example: Our courtesy shuttle driver was taking four people home one morning after they dropped of their cars. Three of them had to go to one side of town, and the fourth to another part. Once the three had been dropped off, the fourth inquired as to why he was last. The driver calmly explained the reasoning, to which he replied, "I suppose if I drove a Lincoln, you would have taken me home first." My God! we don't care what kind of car it is, all work pays the same, the only difference is warranty or customer pay.

One of the funniest things to see is the reaction of people who have pissed us off enough to the point where we not only reccomend that they go to another Ford dealer, but ban them from returning to ours.

Now, I'm not trying to be biased against all customers, we actually have a few really good customers, they cooperate with us, do not lie, and respect us. Some even bring us donuts whenever they bring a car in for major work. (This will earn you major brownie points with technicians, a happy tech will do a better job because they want you to return).

Believe it or not, we have people who complain about the noise in the service drive (right next to the shop). Jesus fuck, what do you expect.

Another person called in complaining that their daughter was intimidated by all the people around and the service writer trying to scare her. I was rolling on the ground laughing for several minutes after hearing that. The work was all warranty and wouldn't cost anything, but it needed to be done, as soon as possible, and the service writer explained this. As for the people....what do you expect, in a place of business, people will be walking around to get things done.

One last thing, for God's sake people, talk to the technicians about what kind of car to buy before you spend that much money on a car, they know what they're talking about. Below are my recommendations for FMC products.

Good: F-Series Pickups/Bronco/Expedition/Navigator, Town car/Grand Marquis/Crown vic, Windstar, Taurus/Sable/Continental, Lincoln LS and Mark series, Ranger pick-ups, Explorer/Mountaineer, Excursion-if you like big, pre-'97 Thunderbird/Couger, Econoline Vans, Mustang

Junk: Escort/ZX2/Tracer, Contour/Mystic/post '99 couger, Villager, Escape, pre '95 Taurus/Sable/Continental

At the risk of bursting anyones' bubbles, the ones with the forward slashes are the same platform, deal with it

The one customer I will always cherish from my time in tech support is the one that screamed at and abused me the most.

She was a detective working on a big murder case, who couldn't get connected to the Internet through the ISP I was working for at the time.

As I went through all the normal troubleshooting procedures, I discovered this lady was the cell phone only type. When I told her she'd need just a plain old phone to connect to the 'net, she went ballistic, like I had mortally insulted her honor, and seven generations of her family's honor. She called me every name in the book, threatened lawsuits, I think she was spitting a lot. She didn't know you needed a phone to connect to the 'net!

I couldn't resist. I walked her step by step through our installation guide, taking time to point out every icon with a picture of a phone in it. My tongue caressed every word that had even the slightest relation to a telephone. She got calmer and calmer throughout the process. I'm good at talking people down.

However, I simply had to get the last word. I told her, as sweetly as I could, "If I were a detective, I'd call these things clues." I ended up losing the customer, but she had given me such a perfect set up I found myself unable to resist.

That was three years ago. The murder goes unsolved.

I had a bizarre experience answering a technical support call some years ago. I was working as a consultant for an ISP when the phone rang. We were not expecting any calls, since the ISP had only one week in operation and a handful of customers. Apparently, someone called in asking for information, but since the ISP still didn't have the tech support infrastructure in place, the operator decided to transfer the call to us. The conversation was like that:

Caller: Hello, I'd like some help!
Me: Sure sir, how can I help you?
Caller: Well, actually I don't have an account yet. I was wondering if I could talk or send messages to my daughter. She's in Australia and she has an internet account.
Me: Yes sir, that's possible!
Caller: What do I need to do that?
Me: You just need a computer and a modem
Caller: Hey, but just have a FAX machine and a TV! Isn't that enough?
Me: (controlling the urge to burst in laughter) I'm afraid not Sir. You'll need a computer for sure.
Caller: YOU KNOW WHAT? (yelling!) You guys don't wanna help me! I know your types! You just want the fat, rich customers that will buy anything you demand! You know what? You're not the only ISP in town! Goodbye! click...

So there I was, working at the local multiplex, in beautiful downtown, Hazlet, New Jersey.

Standard concession deal, popcorn that cost way too much, soda that cost way too much, and so forth. Customer comes up, orders food, is horrified at the cost. So far, nothing unusual. So she proceeds to grill me about the cost, ranting and raving. Well, hell, lady, I just work here. Still, me being me, I was much nicer and professional about it, but the upshot was still "I don't make the prices, I'm not the one responsible here, do you want the damn malt balls or not?"

So this woman, steps back, gets this "I see what the deal is" look, and says, completely without irony:

"Oh, I see. You're 'just following orders'. That's just what the Nazis said at Nuremburg. You're no better then the FUCKING NAZIS!"


Now look, I was famous there, literally, for handling of customers. But this was too much, and I don't think I have ever given a more disdainful laugh than that moment.

Yep. Murdering six million people. Charging $2.75 for a large Pepsi.... yeah. that's roughly the same.


Must throw in my $0.02. As you may or may not know from reading my work-related rants in the daylog, I work in the internet department of a telecommunications company. A few months ago, sales were down so we were calling people who had recently signed up for our telephony services, asking if they would also be interested in our internet services. Bearing in mind the sheer futility of selling internet by outbound calling (especially in Australia), the following was one memorable result.

Me: "Good morning/afternoon/evening, this is <name removed to protect the innocent> from <company removed blah blah blah>, how are you today?"

Customer: "Just fine and dandy".

Me: "We've noticed that you've recently transferred your telephone services to <you know the score> and we were wondering if you would be interested in any of our internet services?"

Customer: <drum roll please...>

"What's the internet?"

So there's me trying to explain, justify and sell the internet all in one phone call. Sometimes I wonder about people.

This will come as little condolence to the previous posters, but the rude, stupid people are just as annoying to those of us waiting for service. There's nothing like waiting for service while someone is vehemently arguing some point that they have no chance of winning. My personal favorites are the people who miss getting to their flight before the cabin door shuts.

A word to the clueless...that isn't an argument you're going to win--GUARANTEED.

I think Henry Rollins put it best (and I paraphrase)..

"It's like these people are killing your life a few seconds at a time..."

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