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Customer Service Stories That Will Give You Nightmares

Did you know that poor customer service costs the US economy $83 billion?

And 80% of businesses believe they have delivered “superior” customer service whereas only 8% of customers believe they’ve received a super service.

In 2011, ClickFox surveyed more than 440 consumers and found that 52% of customers will tell their family and friends about a negative experience (or as high as 70% in the UK); while 35% said they would stop doing business with the company altogether.

In the spirit of Halloween, we’ve created a short-list of customer service horror stories in order to make sure your customer service teams don’t make the same mistakes.

Not my problem, lady

A customer who purchased a printer was having trouble connecting the printer with her Mac, even though the company promised that connecting it to a Mac would not be a problem. After calling through to customer service and being put on hold for hours, the customer service rep responded with “Yeah, really not my problem lady”.

The customer went to the nearest Apple store and connected the printer within minutes.

Lesson: Attitude is important to the customer. Even if an issue is not something you are familiar with, your customer service team can easily ask for help or direct the customer to the department that may be able to help.

It’s over there

A customer was on the lookout for a children's book for her grandchild. She approached the customer service desk and asked where she could find the book. The clerk pointed in the direction of the children’s book section and responded with "It's over there", and then as the customer walked away, the clerk turned to her co-worker, in an aggravated tone "She didn't even TRY to find it on her own".

The customer left the store and purchased the book at another bookshop.

Lesson: Be helpful. Customers are not as familiar with your store as your customer service teams are. Finding the book would have led to a sale and a loyal customer. Instead, the customer will shop elsewhere.

Hold, please

A customer went into a computer repair store and mid-way through being assisted, the clerk received a phone call, which he answered. Being polite and waiting, but with no sign of the call coming to an end the customer asked the clerk why she had to wait when she was there in person. The clerk's response was that customers who call in get priority of over customers in store.

The customer then went home and called the store from her cellphone.

Lesson: A policy is there as a guideline for the business but there should be room for employees to make decisions in order to provide a better experience.

Tell her to #@$! Off

A customer who complained about an issue when using a postal service app set off a string of internal email messages, which ended up with the CEO responding with "Someone also please tell her to #@$% off".

The customer was included in the email reply by accident, who then posted a picture of Twitter.

Lesson: Always think about the customer. All email communication is recorded and even if this was a "bad joke", the customer did not find it funny.


For every great customer service story we’ve heard, there are thousands of horror stories on the web of poor service as customers share their experience on social networks, which can influence as much as 60% of buying decisions.

Poor customer service will impact your revenue

Customers want great service each and every time they deal with you. And to stay in business, you need to deliver it. Use the tips in this post to make sure that you don’t make it on our next edition of customer service stories.  And in the mean time, check out five ways to deliver excellent service.

Have you experienced any horror stories recently? Let us know below.

P.S If you want to learn more about handling customer complaints, you can download our free guide below.

Free Download: 8 Ways to Manage Customer Complaints

P.P.S.We can help you started quickly, as we've created seven customer service email templates that you can get for free below.

Customer service email templates

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David Best

8 years ago

Great article,Surely happy customers is one of the most satisfying aspects of being in business???it amazes me in the modern world where everything is so competitive and the consumer has so much choice that businesses create these type of situations.I had a similar experience last month. I am a regular shopper at House of Frazer in Milton Keynes,I went there recently to buy a few shirts,now these are fairly expensive clothes...I would be regarded as an old school "mature!"business man,I was dressed in smart casual clothes at the time and I had similar service from (I hate to say) younger staff who insisted on calling me "mate" were very reluctant to look for sizes other than displayed and when I asked if I could try a shirt on one guy cocked his head towards the other side of the store and said "its over there mate"without even looking up! SHAMEFUL!

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Steven MacDonald

8 years ago

Thanks for the kind comment, David. I completely agree. I admire the stores in the US where they address you as 'sir', and not 'mate'. And in the US, the staff are willing to help you out (most times), whereas in the UK I sometimes feel I'm disturbing them. Your story also reminded me of an experience I had recently where I wanted to purchase a scarf, but the only one the store had available was the one in the shop window. When I asked about it, they said they were not allowed to sell it to me... I still can't understand why.

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Ian Zafra

8 years ago

Hey Steven, Thanks for letting us know about these customer service horror stories. I believe that improving customer satisfaction should be a top priority for companies, especially now that consumers have turned to social media to rant or rave.

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Steven MacDonald

8 years ago

Thanks for commenting, Ian. I completely agree, improving customer satisfaction should definitely be a priority for brands. One bad experience can be shared with thousands on social media networks. And companies will want to avoid that.

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6 years ago

I work in customer service for a US-based website, and I can tell you some horror stories. People who call a wrong number screaming about an order they never placed with us. People who escalate over the shipping of their order which is done by another company and over which we have no direct control, but they want to talk to my supervisor anyway after I've done everything possible, making me look bad. People who argue about the information we have on file, which is on the screen in front of me. People who, after I explain we will match competitor pricing by refunding any difference PLUS an additional percentage, state "Why should I get a refund when I can just get a lower price elsewhere?" Is there a job out there involving sane people?