They’re out there. You know who they are. And they won’t stop until they’ve got the shirt off your back on top of a generous discount for their troubles.
The Professional Complainer, or “Serial Complainer” is that person who comes into your job and complains until they get a discount or something for free. When I worked at the movie theater it was a daily occurrence as theaters are notorious for giving out free tickets just to shut people up.
I have a list for my book of the ten most common customer types you’ll have to deal with and the Professional Complainer actually shares attributes with three worst offenders:
Customer #8: The Bargain Hunter
Customer #9: Danny Ocean (The Scam Artist)
Customer #10: Your Royal Majesty (The Entitled)
They are not fun to deal with and can ruin your day. They don’t have any qualms about getting you fired to get their way. We joke a lot about the idle threats of “I’m calling corporate” from people, but with this person it’s anything but idle. Sometimes they double-down and make a complaint to corporate even after you’ve given them the keys to the store because, most likely, they’re going to get another freebie out of it.
Ways to spot a Pro:
Chances are, you can spot these people a mile away. But just in case you’re new, here’s some tips.
Sorry if I offend anyone, but the most common of serial complainers are middle-aged to older white women, usually decently dressed with a short “can-I-see-the-manager” haircut. Not all the time, but most of the time. Hey, I didn’t invent racial profiling, I just know the type when I see it.
-Comes in with unverifiable complaints
Today’s pro came in complaining she had a delivery order that was missing an item. She had no receipt or record of the order. And when the manager offered to give her the item she insisted on an upgrade to what she already supposedly paid for. This is typical. It’s always something that happened on their last visit. If pressed for details, they don’t remember who waited on them or, sometimes, what day they were even there. If you’re working in a service industry the complaint will come directly after the service has been rendered (they complain about a meal after they’ve eaten it or had an issue in a theater after they’ve watched the entire movie). If you press them even a little they go on the offensive since you’re now accusing them of trying to scam you.
-Nasty with floor staff, nice to the manager
This is because the manager has the power of appeasement that you do not. Also, if they can turn you nasty then it all works out better for them in the end. They really just need to paint a picture that they were treated like garbage and recompense is needed.
They’ll threaten to hurt your business by ways up to and including; never shopping there again, telling all their friends not to come there, contacting corporate, blasting the business on social media, blogging or tweeting (always with an inflated number of followers), writing to the local papers, and contacting the Better Business Bureau. All of these threats are 100% NOT IDLE, except, of course, that they’ll never come back. If they get what they want, you bet your sweet bippy they’ll return. And sorry, you can’t avoid them acting on one or more of these threats. As I said, even if they’re appeased in the store, they can still get more.
So what can you do about it? Sorry to say, most of the time the answer is “not a damn thing”. You can either sit there and be abused or just give them what they want. One way or another, they’re going to get it. You know it and, more importantly, they know it.
If you’re a sales employee I’d recommend referring them to a manager before they get a chance to blow it out of proportion. Hopefully your manager is cool and won’t blame you for pissing them off. In my experience, you have a 50/50 chance of them taking your side after the incident. But you know your managers. Try to call one who knows the drill and won’t make it out to be your fault that you made their job harder. It helped at a former workplace to have an inconspicuous code you can call them with so they know what to expect. One thing managers hate is being blindsided with this crap.
If you’re the manager you have two choices; give them what they want or turn them away and deal with the complaint when it inevitably comes. The sad truth is most home offices don’t want to deal with complaints, legitimate or not, and will tell you that you should’ve dealt with the issue then and there.
So there you have it; my take on this ever annoying customer. You can’t avoid it, they’re coming and they’re coming today. Be on the guard and do what you can to survive. This one’s a motherfucker.