25 Retail Workers Share Their Most Nightmarish Customer Horror Stories

I haven’t even started writing this article and I’m already exhausted.

I worked retail for a bit in high school and college and let me tell you: people can be royal a**holes.

They can be condescending, rude, and just plain terrible people — and I’m not the only one who has faced this. People on Reddit’s TailsFromRetail and the BuzzFeed Community recently shared stories about their absolute worst customers and… hoo boy.

1. Black Friday

“Black. Friday. HELL. I worked at Target, where we opened at 4 a.m. and were expecting it to be nightmarish, of course, but this one year…my god. These people were animals. I was checking out a woman with three carts full of toys, appliances, and clothing. Suddenly, the woman behind her starts rummaging through her toy cart and holds up five identical Barbies and tells the woman that she can’t take all of them, that it’s not fair to everyone else. Well, a fight ensues, of course, and I’m trying to calm them down, but the women are fighting hard. The second woman starts using the Barbie boxes as weapons, and I got the corner of one right on my lip, causing it to bust open! The women STILL didn’t stop. My manager rushed over and saw my bloody lip, told me to sit down in the break room and that she would handle them. Thirty minutes later, still bleeding a bit, cops showed up and asked if I wanted to press charges. YES, I DID. Both of the women were kicked out and couldn’t shop at our store after that, so at least Target cared back then, LOL.”


2. 10k in damages over a 10-cent overcharge

3. Compliments

“I complimented a customer’s shirt because it was my favorite color. The customer proceeded to tell me about her latest hookup where the man wouldn’t reciprocate oral.”


4. CVS

“I worked at CVS in the pharmacy in college, and about a year into working there, a state law changed the way we were running insulin up to that point, and was now considered fraud. Customers were all upset because this really inconvenienced them, but they understood we were doing this because the law changed and nothing could be done. Well, one lady refused to accept ‘that’s illegal now’ for an answer. So every day for three months, she would call multiple times a day to scream at us. And when she came in to pick anything up, she would berate us. We were scared to ever pick up the phone, and the whole thing was such a nightmare that four people quit! One day, she called, and the pharmacist picked up. The pharmacist ended up having a breakdown on the floor, screaming and crying after the call. We had to call the district manager and explain what had been going on for the past three months. The DM decided to ban this lady from our store in general and all the other pharmacies in our district. The next time this lady came in, the store manager told her about the ban, and she flew off the handle. We had to threaten to call the police to get her to leave. And even after all that, she kept trying to call us, but at least now we could hang up on her.”


5. Supermarket

“I worked at a supermarket, and this one woman threw a bag at me and said, ‘Do your job.’ I had no problem bagging people’s groceries, but seriously…don’t treat me like I’m dirt.”


6. Walmart

“I worked in the electronics department at Walmart for 27 years, and the single worst customer I had was on the Saturday of a three-day Black Friday sale. We had sold out of a television that was one of the biggest items that year. We didn’t sell out until that Saturday morning, and this customer (we’ll call her Karen) came in around 2 p.m. demanding we get her one of those TVs. I calmly explained to her that we had gotten as many as the company allowed, and we were not giving rain checks, that it was all printed in the flyer. That’s when she went ballistic. She started yelling at me so loudly that my friends in the photo department called our manager. Other customers were stopping and staring at the scene. I stood my ground, but she just got louder, telling me she was going to have me fired, etc. But when she pulled her fist back and took a step toward me, I’d fucking had enough. This bitch was gonna punch me in the face! I stamped my foot and shouted, ‘Madam, contain yourself! Put your hands down and back off, or I’ll have you escorted off the premises!!’ I was just floor staff, but I knew I wouldn’t get in trouble for lipping off because she was threatening me, and as luck would have it, my manager arrived on scene the moment I let her have it! Everything went quiet for a long time, and he just stepped up to us both, looked at her and said, ‘You don’t threaten my staff. You need to leave before I call the police.’ Then he looked at me and said, ‘Did she hit you?’ She looked around and saw everyone staring, and then realized what a scene she’d made. She turned around and just walked away.”


7. Shoe store

“I worked at a shoe store at my local mall when I was in high school. I once had a grown man, probably in his late 50s, refuse any kind of service from me because I was not ‘attractive,’ according to his standards. I’ve never had that happen to me before (but then again, who does??), and I was completely shocked. I laughed it off because I thought he was joking, but he was dead serious. I got one of my coworkers to go help him, and I stayed in the back until he left. Although I know he was a jerk, it really hurt my feelings at the time. In hindsight, I’m just pissed.”


8. Seizure

“I worked at an upscale women’s clothing store when I was in school. One morning, as we were preparing the store for opening, my coworker had a literal seizure   like, fell on the floor, hit her head on something on the way down, and blood was everywhere. We were waiting for the ambulance, and as this chaos was happening, a woman was banging on the door. I opened it and politely explained what was going on and that we may have to open a few minutes late. She went full-on Karen and started yelling about how she drove X amount of miles to make a return and she was very busy. I was not prepared to deal with such selfishness on top of the stress of the morning, so I just closed the door, locked it, and walked away.”


9. Fired on Christmas Eve

“When I was 17 years old, a woman tried to get me fired on Christmas Eve. The store was extra busy, and she complained about having to wait. I apologized and pointed out that all registers were in use, but that the queue was moving quickly. Well, she lost her damn mind. She started throwing things and screaming for a manager, and when one finally came out, she proceeded to lie, saying I’d manhandled her and called her a bitch, and then demanded I be fired on the spot. This was very easily disproved after reviewing the cameras, and when the lack of evidence was shown to her, she had another meltdown and accused the security staff of tampering with the video! In the end, the police had to be called to have her removed. And even with the police there, she still screamed and threatened everyone on the way out. And that’s just one story from retail hell!”


10. Balloons!

“I worked at a party store that filled balloons when I was 18. I had a woman come in with her child 10 minutes before we closed, trying to return a dozen or so mini tin buckets. She didn’t have a receipt, so in my best customer service voice, I told her that unfortunately she couldn’t return them due to store policy. This middle-aged woman proceeded to hurl herself to the ground, kicking, screaming, and crying, throwing a tantrum of mass proportions. And while she was knocking over all the displays and merchandise around her, her child took this as her queue to run around the front of the store and pee all over the floor. I bent over the counter and asked the customer, ‘Ma’am, are you finished?’ She finally stopped her sobbing and thrashing, glared up at me, and snatched up her buckets. She stomped out of the building while calling me everything but my name. My coworker and I had to put all the damaged displays back together and clean up the child’s pee after we closed.”

 Lady Mothman

11. Repair Desk

“I’m a woman, which matters for the story. Back in the day, when I worked the repair desk at a tech store, I had a customer come in late in the evening to get a quote on a computer repair. I happened to be in the repair room when one of the sales staff brought the computer back, and it was an easy quote because it was water damaged, meaning it would just be a flat rate quote. I sent them back out to tell the customer to hang on and that I’d do the quote right then. I put my uniform shirt back on and headed out to the desk. Then, I introduced myself to the customer and gave him the quote for the repair. He looked me RIGHT in the eye and said, ‘I think I’ll just wait for the technician.’ I stared him down and in the COLDEST tone possible said, ‘Sir, I AM the technician. Would you like to leave your computer for repair?’ I watched him go pale as can be! I hope he learned something about making assumptions, but I doubt it.”


12. Receipts

“I worked at a retail store, and one night at closing, this person had about 20 things to ring up. They wanted each item rung up separately. And in individual bags. With two receipts for each one. I wouldn’t even mind doing this had we not been closing, and had they not had a habit of regularly doing this. I had to stay late because of this. Please, don’t be this person.”


13. Reminder calls

“I used to work as an intern doing appointment reminder calls at one of the best vet schools in the country. Common practice for first appointments is to have your animal fast just in case bloodwork or scans need to be done. So I made a phone call to a woman who had eight rabbits and informed her that she would have to fast them. She absolutely lost her shit. She began berating me about how abusive it was to starve animals (for eight hours). She was so upset, I put her on hold so I could ask to make an exception. I talked to my supervisor and then informed the woman that it was still recommended to have the rabbits fast. While I was trying to tell her that if she was unable to do it, that was fine, but that she may have to come back again if any of the bunnies needed diagnostics, she started screaming at me and called me a ‘useless cunt who will never amount to anything more than a stupid secretary.’ So that was fun. My supervisor witnessed this all go down, and when I hung up the phone, he said, ‘I’m so sorry that happened. You handled that incredibly well.’ He then proceeded to put a note in her file that said she would get a warning from the hospital that if she treated any of the staff that way again, she would not be welcome back. Fuck you, crazy ass rabbit hoarder.”


14. AT the hardware store

“I worked at a local hardware store. One day, this guy comes in and comes up to the register. As I’m ringing up his purchase, he says, ‘I’m sorry.’ I was like, ‘Lol what for?’ and he says, ‘I’ve had nothing but frozen burritos for a few days.’ Ruh-roh. As soon as he finishes his sentence, I get hit with a WALL of the worst smelling fart I have ever experienced. Not smelled, experienced. He left quickly after paying, and I had to open the doors and turn on fans to push it out of the store. Room spray wasn’t even cutting it. At least, I guess he was polite about it?”


15. “Smells of disabled people”

“I worked in hospitality for years. One time, a couple booked a room online via a booking service, and it was for an accessible room. They checked in, phoned down, and said they were put in an accessible room by mistake, but I explained that that’s what they had booked. They wanted a different room, but the hotel was full, and while they were arguing with me, they said, ‘But this room smells of disabled people.’ I was absolutely disgusted by them saying that. I explained I didn’t understand how a room can smell of a disability, and what they were smelling was the cleaning products we used to clean all the rooms. They complained to management and eventually got a new room (even though their bad behavior shouldn’t have been rewarded), so I had to go and give them the keys. They were so smug and said, ‘You know what I mean when I say about the smell, right?’ And I replied, ‘No, I don’t. I have a disabled sister, and she smells lovely.’ We made sure to give them the room that was infamous for having toilet issues.”


16. Retail pharmacy

“I worked as a pharmacy technician at a very busy retail pharmacy, and I quit because of this specific customer. I was working the drive-through lanes, and since it was always busy, I made a habit of asking customers whose meds weren’t ready to circle around or come back later. A common practice. One day, an older lady comes through, and she was already a bit crabby when trying to get her information. I dismissed it, thinking she was probably just a tad upset from waiting in line. Understandable. When I get her info pulled up, I see one of her meds needs to be counted by the pharmacist from the time delay safe. I explained that to her and asked her to come back in 30 minutes since it’s not something I could do myself. She not only said she wasn’t moving, but when I told her she was holding up the line, she said, ‘I’m not holding up the line. You are!’ And when I tried talking her into looping around, she rolled up the window!! I was kinda on one that day and walked all the way outside to knock on her window, and proceeded to explain I had no intention of starting her meds until she left. She said nothing and rolled her window back up. I WAS FUMING. I proceeded to help EVERYONE other than her and directed all cars to the other lane to assist them until she was the only car left. Yes, I’m petty. Later that week, she called and asked to have her meds transferred to another pharmacy. I HAPPILY called and GAVE them her prescriptions over the phone MYSELF just MOMENTS after the phone call. About a month later, she filed a complaint with corporate, saying that I SPECIFICALLY was holding her prescriptions hostage and wouldn’t transfer them. Turns out the new pharmacy had just misplaced them. I put in my notice shortly after all these events transpired.”


17. Dining Hall

“I work at a university dining hall. Recently, a kid emailed the university PRESIDENT directly because the dining hall was closed at 4 p.m. on a Monday, and tried to get me in trouble. If he’d BOTHERED to ask the 100 other people standing around, he would have learned that we’d been evacuated because of a fire alarm and had to close the hall. This was in 2022. Some of these kids are so ridiculously entitled.”


18. Sears Jewelry

“I worked for Sears Jewelry right out of college. Once, a customer came in and demanded that I fix her gold anklet. We didn’t actually fix the jewelry at the counter, but I asked if she had purchased one of the two protection plans (one that allowed us to ship it to a local jeweler, or the other that allowed either a replacement or a refund). I went to grab the receipt to see if she had, and before I could look at it, she ripped it from my hands and proceeded to take a swing at my face! I ducked out of the way before she could punch me, but then she started screaming at me and calling me every four-letter word in the book. I was shaking, but went to the register where another customer had witnessed the whole thing. He just looked at me and said, ‘They don’t pay you enough for this crap.'”

 emily edwards

19. Also in museums

“Don’t think it just happens in stores and restaurants. I work in a museum, and a woman wanted to buy an astronaut costume for her child to wear to school since he was to be Neil Armstrong for Halloween. She argued with the staff for hours trying to get a discount. ‘It should be reduced because it isn’t an authentic Apollo suit.’ Well ma’am, that’s because it’s a children’s costume.”


20. Impersonated a cop

“I used to work at a fast food restaurant a long time ago. We gave discounts to law enforcement and firemen, and this security guard used to always come in and demand it. If you denied it, he would start a long, difficult argument, so we usually just gave it to him. Then, he starts pushing things. One day, he says he can’t have his small fry in a bag, that it needs to be in a box. We put it in a burger box, but he demanded we fill it to the top. He would order a small shake, but demand we put it in a large soda cup and then tell us to fill it all the way up. Not only should he not be getting the discount, he was trying to scam free food out of us. After doing this too many times, the day finally came when he argued with us while a highway patrol officer was in line. I denied his discount and demands because I had had enough, and he threw a fit and screamed at us. The officer saw what was happening, and he let the man know that impersonating an officer is an arrestable offense! He ran, and we never saw him again! Ha!”


21. Old Navy

“During high school (2007), I worked at Old Navy. One school night, a soccer mom came in right before closing wanting to do a return. No big deal, except she wanted to return clothes she purchased in 1999. AT THE GAP. I was 16 and dumbfounded, so I told her that unfortunately I couldn’t complete the return. She immediately started yelling about how she paid good money for these and how dare I tell her no. Then she demanded to see my manager. Well, my manager had worked for Gap companies for almost 20 years, and he, too, was confused. This woman literally tried to tell him that because the tags were still on the clothes, she was entitled to a full refund. He finally told her that the only thing she could get was a gift card with $1 per item, which is what they do when you’ve passed the return period. She left in a blind rage, screaming about how she will never EVER shop at Gap again. It still makes me laugh to this day.”