We'd come home late Saturday night after a long weekend in Chicago and were tired and hungry as hell when we woke up Sunday morning. Other than a jar of mustard and some habanero peppers, we didn't have anything in the refrigerator, so I let my wife rest while I drove to Marsh for some groceries.
The cashier, a friendly enough lady, had just processed my transaction and handed me my receipt when I noticed the young man behind me in line. His cart was filled with two-liter bottles of soft drinks, all different brands and flavors.
"There are 27 bottles in there," he barked at the cashier. "Hurry up. 27 bottles. Let's go. 27 bottles of pop."
The woman behind the register timidly informed him that she would have to scan each bottle individually, that not only did the pop differ in brands and flavors but prices as well.
"I'm sorry," she said, "it's an inventory thing. I have to scan each one. But it won't take much time at all."
The guy, who couldn't have been older than 22, exploded at this news.
"Are you freaking kidding me?" he barked. "I don't have time for this shit. I'm in a hurry. Get me your manager. In fact, get me two managers."
The clerk dutifully got on her intercom and summoned two managers. Meanwhile, the customer's purchase ground to a halt while the managers told the man the exact thing the cashier did: they had to scan each item.
The end result was that three employees were inconvenienced, verbally abused and screamed at by some irate customer – and the purchase took three times as long as it should have.
This is the kind of thing that really gets on my nerves. I understand the idiot customer was in a hurry, just as I was in a hurry to get home with fresh fruit and orange juice for my wife, and just as the person behind him was in a hurry.
Why do people feel like they're entitled to special treatment wherever they go? It wasn't the clerk's fault that she had to scan 27 bottles of soda; she didn't deserve that kind of abuse. And the managers had to kiss this guy's ass despite the fact that they couldn't do anything for him, either.
One of the oldest axioms in business is that "the customer is always right." It's also one of the most untruthful statements ever made. Not only is the customer not always right, quite frequently customers are assholes who only want to abuse.
Who hasn't been stuck behind such people in a fast-food drive-through window? They haggle, negotiate, complain and bring the entire restaurant to a halt.
I'm on a campaign to restore civility in our places of business and rid the world of asshole customers. But I need everyone to participate. The next time you see someone at a restaurant screaming at his waitress over something stupid, call him out on that.
Ask him, "Do you understand how stupid you sound right now? Why don't I come to your office and scream at you?" Or just straight up tell him to shut up.
I know a guy who's a generous and funny person in everyday life; he'll do anything to help someone who needs it. But put him in a retail situation and he turns into Mr. Hyde.
His stories are legendary. He ordered a pizza baked "light," and when the pie was two degrees warmer than what he wanted, he went off on the poor server. He screams at his insurance agent if there's a two-cent difference in his premium. And he has an ongoing war with his bank, whose representatives he abuses on an almost daily basis because he doesn't feel like paying the fees everyone else pays.
To him, and to the moron with 27 bottles of soda, let me tell you this: All you're doing is exposing your idiocy to the rest of the world. When you send your food back over something minor, you deserve to have it come back with 50 cc of saliva on it.
And when you ask for a manager, realize that they have little to no power to grant your unreasonable requests. And they're going to do their best to make sure you get shoddy service in the future.
Me, I would have arrested the 27 bottles guy for disorderly conduct. We have to draw a line somewhere. We all work hard for a living, those of us who have jobs; show those people a little respect.
Or do not be surprised if the special sauce on your next fast-food hamburger has millions of little squiggly swimming things in it.