Customer service representatives recollect stories about having to maintain patience with the odd actions of customers
Tuesday, April 13, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:04 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Customer satisfaction in the retail industry is the highest it’s been in a decade.

The most recent results of the American Customer Satisfaction Index indicate that customers are more satisfied now than they have been at any time since the survey began in 1994.

The survey rates customer satisfaction in a variety of industries on a scale from 1 to 100. For the fourth quarter of 2003, retail earned a rating of 75, its highest mark in the 10-year history of the study. That’s up 4.5 percent from the industry’s low point in 1997. In short, customers have never been happier.

While these statistics support that those serving the customers are doing their jobs, one must ask: What does their satisfaction index read?

While most days the exchange between customers and employees goes smoothly, every once in a while, there is a botch in the rhythm of communication that sends the employee home with a story that starts: “You will not believe what this customer did at work tonight.”

After reading these tales from Columbia’s customer service front line, you’ll believe almost anything.

Cheryl Carpenter

Current Employer: Self-employed, owner of The Mud Room.

Time on the Job: Eight years

Previous Employer: Montgomery Ward


“I was working at Montgomery Ward in the men’s department, just out of college, and this customer called to see if we had something she saw in the catalog. She wanted a specific size, and I knew we didn’t have it on the floor, but I knew there were a bunch back in the stock room. So, I told her I was going back to check and make sure we had what she wanted. So, I went back there and when I got back out on the floor, I heard this weird screeching coming from somewhere. I was thinking I better check on it, but I knew I had to talk to this woman on the phone first. As I got closer to the phone, I realized that the screeching was coming from the phone. The woman was yelling, ‘Where are you?!?’ extremely loud. It was really weird.”

Jessica Dunn

Current Employer: Target

Time on the Job: Three years

Previous Employer: Albertson’s


“One time a lady threw an ice cream maker at a manager’s head. See, she really wanted to return this ice cream maker, and we couldn’t return it, and she got really mad. As she was walking out the door she yelled at that manger, ‘Here, I don’t want this thing,’ and threw the ice cream maker at the manager’s head. Luckily, he caught it.”

Mike Tempesta

Current Employer: Sunshine Daydream

Time on the Job: A few weeks

Previous Employers: Steak n Shake, Wal-Mart


“Once while I was working at Steak n Shake, there was this lady who freaked out about ketchup. She had said she wanted ketchup on her burger, but when I brought it out, there was no ketchup on it. See, there is already ketchup on the table, so you just put it on yourself. I was trying to explain this to her, but she just started freaking out saying she wanted ketchup on her burger immediately. I had to call my manager out, and she yelled at him for 15 minutes about getting some ketchup on her burger. It was ridiculous.”


“When I was working at Wal-Mart, this woman came in who’s mother had just died. She had this huge pile of clothes with her and she wanted to return them all. These were her dead mother’s clothes. I don’t even know if they were from Wal-Mart at all. She made the manager come in and enter in the bar code on every piece of clothing. We ended up giving her $2 for everything.”

Kerri Bernskoetter

Current Employer: Self-employed, part-owner of the Villager on Broadway

Time on Job: 2 1/2 years

Previous Employer: physician consulting company bank


“There was this woman who used to come in and go in the back in our fitting area and take naps. She’d just come in and lie down for 20 or 30 minutes to sleep.”


“There was this woman who came in looking for a dress saying her mother was sick, and she wanted to get her a dress. But she said she just wanted to try it on her and then return it. When she went toward the back, she told this other girl (she didn’t know she was an employee) that her mother had actually died, and she was trying to borrow a dress to use for her funeral.”


“These two older ladies came in and went up to the dressing room to try things on. When we went up there to check on them, we found that they had brought in a whole bottle of wine and Dixie cups. They sat there and drank the whole bottle.”

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