when you see a customer mistreating an employee



Anonymous said to :

Yesterday I saw a man being very angry with a cashier while I was standing in line. She was obviously upset and nothing she told him would calm him down, even though she wasn’t a manager or anything. I wasn’t sure if I should say…

thesarcasmofsamwise said:

When I had my first barista job (I worked in a coffee shop in a grocery store) was still in training and my manager and the other employee left to go check inventory and I was on the floor. A line formed and two women started yelling at me for taking too long and saying they wanted to get me fired because I was a lazy shit and I obviously didn’t have a work ethic, and I was fat and dumb. And the guy behind them, seeing I was almost in tears (first job I was a teenager) after they left in a huff after my manager came back and issued them a refund, immediately said he was so sorry and he thought I was doing a great job and those women were ridiculous. After he finished his shopping, he came back and told me that his coffee was one of the best drinks he’d ever had, and I shouldn’t be discouraged. He wasn’t creepy or hitting on me; he was just being genuinely nice and took the time to come back, and like ten years later I still remember that dude, because his small kindness made me feel like a human.

when you see a customer mistreating an employee



Anonymous said to :

Yesterday I saw a man being very angry with a cashier while I was standing in line. She was obviously upset and nothing she told him would calm him down, even though she wasn’t a manager or anything. I wasn’t sure if I should say anything to him to help her or if that would make the situation worse. What are you supposed to do when you see someone being rude to an employee?

realsocialskills said:

I’m not sure whether there are effective things you can do to directly intervene in order to defuse the situation. (Do any of you? If so, please comment.)

There are a couple of things you can do afterwards, though.

You can be nice to the cashier afterwards. Like, you can wait until he goes away and say “Wow, what an asshole.” or “That guy was really mean. I’m sorry you had to put up with that.” Being reassured that other people saw what happened, and that it wasn’t their fault someone was horrible to them, can help a lot. It’s hard for most people not to blame themselves when others berate them.

Another thing you can do is be a witness. Mean customers often decide to complain to managers and say that the employee mistreated them. Managers sometimes believe mean customers over employees. This can get people fired. If a mean customer is lying in a way that might hurt an employee, you can contradict them and tell the truth. That can protect them from being punished for a lie.

Anyone else want to weigh in? People who work as cashiers or other customer service roles - is there anything bystanders have done to protect you from mean customers that’s worked? What’s backfired? People who’ve intervened - what worked? What didn’t? 

pileofmonkeys said:

20+ years working retail here. 

As a customer, unless I feel that my safety or the safety of the employee is at stake, or unless the situation seems like it’ll resolve faster without interference, I intervene. A vast majority of the time, it’s by saying something to the other customer, like, “She has no control over that. You need to go talk to a manager,” and/or, “There’s no need for you to be talking to him like that.” If the other customer gets shitty with me, well, I’m not on the clock or employed by that store, and I can say what I want. 

I always try to say something nice to the employee when they’re helping me. A smile and, “Wow, what an asshole,” will give the employee a chance to relax and maybe laugh, and reassure them that not everyone is terrible. 

If it seems appropriate, I will talk to the manager and explain what actually happened, from an unbiased bystander’s perspective. If I can I try to do it in front of the other customer. I usually say, “I’d hate to see the employee get in trouble, so in case there’s a complaint later, this is what happened.” When at work, I’ve had customers explain to me (the manager) what they observed, and it’s very helpful. 

Honestly, I’m at the point of not giving a fuck what rude people say to or think about me. I’ve been that cashier being screamed at way too many times to watch someone else have to go through it. Yeah, one day someone may take exception and get violent, but that can happen anywhere, anytime for any or no reason, so I don’t worry too much about it. 


Black Friday is coming up, so here’s a reminder to everyone to be kind to retail workers. They do not control the stock, so don’t yell at them if that doorbuster you were after sold out before you got there. A lot of them had to come into work right after Thanksgiving dinner (especially now that stores are opening on Thanksgiving evening/midnight Black Friday). A lot of them also have anxiety issues, but can’t avoid the crowd and the stress that comes with working/attending Black Friday without risking the loss of their job. And a whole lot of them have to do this for minimum wage.

Every year there are injuries and even fatalities that result from the mob-mentality of Black Friday shoppers. Please do not make it any harder on the employees or your fellow shoppers. A person’s life and well-being is far more valuable than a widescreen tv.

Creating personal space by moving away

orima-kazooie asked realsocialskills:

…Perhaps it’s not the most subtle or polite but jerking or yanking your arm away or like just kind of jumping a little immediately as if it were reflexive can generally get the message across without upsetting people.

That’s interesting. I’m not sure how I’d do that, because I’m not sure what reads as a reflex to most people. But it sounds like a really good idea.



poeticignorance submitted: …Hi.  I was wondering if you or your followers could help me.  I work in a shop with lots of contact with the public.  Some customers stand closer than I’m comfortable with- either while talking to me or while shopping behind/beside me.  Several people have placed a hand on my arm while we were talking.  I feel like my personal space is being invaded every day. It’s very stressful but I don’t feel able to do anything about it without appearing rude (which could get me in trouble with  my managers, as well as potentially upsetting people).  Do you have any advice for discouraging this from customers, or for reducing the stress it causes?  Thanks.

I don’t have a good solution to this, unfortunately.

Sometimes people get the hint if you take a step backwards, but that doesn’t always work.

It can also work to have an object between you and them (eg: a counter, a washer they’re looking at, something like that), but it’s not always possible to do that.

Have any of y’all found something that works more consistently?

I tend to move away from the situation - to say “I’ll let you have a look at those, then,” or “Excuse me just a minute,” and walk off for a few seconds, maybe go to to check something or whatever.  You can even work it into the conversation - “Actually, I’m not sure about that! Let me ask a colleague/look it up on our system/see if I can find out for you.”  Usually creating that break resets the boundaries of social conduct.

(Note: this also works with customers who are getting verbally pushy or overwhelming in other ways, even when it’s not meant to be mean.)

All this obviously all depends on your particular culture/role/place of employment - it’s just what has worked for me.

Using a clipboard to create physical space

theodorepython replied to your post: poeticignorance submitted: …Hi.  I was wondering…Holding a clipboard between you and them creates a sort of boundary. Besides that there’s nothing I know of that you can do without being considered rude. You may want to try talking to your boss.

A submission from an anonymous salesperson

A submission from an anonymous salesperson
Hey - about your post on buying things/pushy sales people: I just got a new job, and during training, they taught us how to “ask questions that can’t be answered with yes/no”, and ways of saying things in different ways in order to keep people from walking away. This made me uncomfortable, as I’m someone who likes to shop without a sales person ever talking to me.
But at this store they want us to practically force us to become best friends and use detective work to find products to fit to find a product for every person that comes in. Everyone must be greeted, showered with praise and not allowed to go without suggestions. This terrifies me as a shopper. But also terrifies me as a sales person, because *anyone* could secretly be from corporate, trying to see if they didn’t get greeted or showered with questions. I just wanted to put the “heads up” out there for others, that stores are actively doing this now.

Realsocialskills said:

Yes. Some stores intentionally train people to manipulate and pressure potential customers.

Refusing to cooperate with it isn’t rude. (But treating the salesperson as though they are personally responsible for the policy is. If someone’s treating you this way in a large store, there’s a good chance that it’s not their fault.)