your 7 biggest career sins

I recently asked readers to confess their biggest career sins – from arrogance to deception to (it turned out) fiery destruction.

Here are seven of the most notable — and as you read, remember to let she who has never sinned cast the first stone!  

Sin 1: Vengeance

“I worked as a ticket counter and gate agent for an airline. This really nasty person came up to the counter after their scheduled flight had already departed. I explained that they needed to be rebooked for later and they started yelling and complaining. After dealing with three other cancelled flights that day, I wasn’t in the mood. So I took it all out on this one passenger. I added the SSSS to their boarding pass so they would have to go through TSA secondary screening, misrouted their luggage, unlinked their return flight so they were no longer confirmed, and reseated them in the very back on the aircraft with a window that looked right out onto the loud engines. If I was ever caught, I would’ve been fired, and deservedly so. I really don’t feel all that guilty about it though. I hate when people are snotty after they are late for a flight.”

Sin 2: Arrogance

“All four years of my undergrad, I worked at the same university office, where I was really good at my job and made great relationships with the people who worked there. I knew I wanted to continue working there after I graduated, but there wasn’t a position open. I worked terrible odd-jobs, waiting for a position to open. After a year, they got a new director and two entry-level positions opened up. I applied, and waited for my coronation. It never came. When I found out they had completed first-round interviews without calling me, I was livid. I emailed him and cc’d his boss, telling him how awful he was and what a huge mistake he had made. He immediately responded with an email telling me that he was very sorry I had sent that email because they had decided to push me straight through to the final round of interviews and that I had, up until that point, been their top prospect. I didn’t get the interview and never set foot in that office again.”

Sin 3: Lying

“I accidentally caused the company’s server to get fried. I’m in the northeast and it was October 2013 when Hurricane Sandy hit. Weeks earlier, I had done rearranging of the server cabinet at one location. For some reason, I didn’t plug the server back into the surge protector. I plugged it into the wall. The server was already on its last leg. When Sandy hit, the power was out for a couple days. Well, when it went back on, there was a surge and it fried the server completely. Dead, dead, dead. So when we called an emergency meeting to discuss the need to replace the server, the cost, timing, etc., I just said it was the hurricane and it was on its last leg anyway. Never told anyone I had plugged it directly into the wall. Yes, it was going to be replaced the following year, but the company was tight on money at that point so it wasn’t a good thing.”

Sin 4: Fraud

“When I was right out of college, I used to be very good at BS’ing my way through interviews, claiming to have lots of technical knowledge that I had just read about in the time leading up to my interviews. I speak with a lot of confidence and come across as totally on top of everything, even when I’m definitely not. I absolutely thought that reading about something and absorbing the theoretical fundamentals was good enough to get through and that actual experience was secondary. Of course, I often ended up a floundering stressball when my supervisor didn’t think she needed to train me on these things. I was never let go, but I’m sure it eventually occurred to them that I wasn’t as skilled as I came across in my interviews and I was a bit of a disappointment.”

Sin 5: Reign of Fire

“When I was first starting out in nonprofit fundraising, I worked at a small and dysfunctional organization that had a decent sized silent auction. One of our donors gave us a bunch of time shares for the auction. The ED asked me to handle all the legal paperwork for transferring the deeds and titles and whatnot. The process was incredibly confusing, and no one at the various county governments was helpful, only advising that we hire a real estate attorney to do the paperwork. The agency refused to do so, saying, ‘You’re smart, just figure it out!’ When I asked for help, I was ignored.

I spent about two weeks trying to figure out what to do, but each county was different, the timeshare companies were unhelpful, and I had zero knowledge about quitclaim deeds and titles and all that stuff. After a bunch of reading and studying, I mailed off the documents only to have them rejected for legal reasons I didn’t understand. I tried again, only to be rejected a second time. After about a month of intense anxiety, insomnia, and occasional stress-vomiting, I told the director I was going to the post office to mail all of the various legal packets to the counties for what should be the final approval. Instead, I drove down a dirt road, pulled over, threw all the documents in a big pile and set them on fire.

About a week later, I contacted the original donor and purchasers and explained that there must have been a snafu with the counties, because the transactions weren’t being processed correctly. I told them I would try to get their donations back, but they all graciously declined and said we could keep the money. The original donor was pleased too, surprisingly, because her new husband liked to travel and she had regretted giving away the timeshares.”

Sin 6: Vengeance, again

“Years ago, I worked in an office with an IBM mainframe, complete with those giant dot matrix printers. It was common courtesy, and an IT requirement, to sign off the log-in screen when you were done. The system also had the ability to send a message from one user to the other. One woman never, ever did this. You’d go to the print room to change paper and release your forms, and you’d have to always take the extra steps to log her out first.

One day, I had enough. Still signed on as her, I quickly sent one of the vice presidents a message saying how sexy and hot he was. Then I signed on as me, released my stuff, and went on about my day. A few minutes later, I heard him bellow her name from down the hall. I heard her frantically trying to explain herself as well. Bottom line – she got a reprimand for not logging off, and she never left her computer logged on again. I never told her it was me. Problem solved.”

Sin 7: Theft

“At one job they had a giant box of free tampons in the ladies room. I didn’t buy tampons for the entire year I worked there. I would stuff handfuls in my purse every time I went in. Whenever I buy tampons now, I always think, ‘Man, remember when I got these for free!!’”

Sin 8: Deception

“At one of my old jobs, I was so buried with work that I couldn’t get everything done. It was also such a toxic environment that I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone that things weren’t getting done. I ended up telling them that this one important thing was finished when I really had never even worked on it. I kept up the lie for months. Then I went on maternity leave. My supervisor actually called me in the hospital after I had a C-section to ask where this piece of work was. I told her I couldn’t remember exactly where I had saved it. The day I came back from maternity leave, I was fired. I feel like I learned a great lesson from this. Mainly, if I can’t get my work done I need to speak up about it.”

{ 197 comments… read them below }

  1. GH*

    I’m so excited because I clicked though on the “Cringeworthy” link at Fast Track and found the Origin of Wakeen! :-D

    1. Lori*

      I still burst out in tears of laughter when I think back to the original Wakeen story. I don’t know why but that just gets me every time. :)

      1. KC*

        ME TOO! I came across a Joaquim at work last week and nearly burst out laughing. I’m glad I could contain myself, lest I elicit “she must be a lunatic” side-eye.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      Me too! It made me laugh so hard that my admin came around the corner to see what was so funny.

    3. KC*

      HA! ME TOO! I came across a Joaquim at work last week and nearly burst out laughing. I’m glad I could contain myself, lest I elicit “she must be a lunatic” side-eye.

    4. kas*

      LOL thanks for the heads up, I will now always remember this spelling/story whenever I hear or see a similar name.

  2. Katie the Fed*

    For so many of these I have to wonder about the work culture and if employees thought it was ok to make mistakes as long as you were up front. I feel like if you’re too draconian in general you’re less likely to be told when an employee screws up or is confused and could cost the company serious money. I try to tell my employees I don’t mind if they make mistakes, as long as they’re up front about it and don’t keep making the same ones.

    1. SoTrue*

      I have definitely been in environments like that. My last job was in a small family-owned business. Even the most minor error would often result in being severely chewed out. Sometimes even things that weren’t errors, but simply differences in opinions, or perceived errors (where the bosses didn’t know the whole story so just assumed the worst) would cause that to happen. So I very quickly got into a mode of flying under the radar as much as possible, hiding any mistakes or hiccups, and basically trying to avoid getting yelled at. I’m pretty ashamed of behaving like that, as a senior person in my field who has dealt with lots of heavy-hitters. I know I could have done much better work there if I wasn’t acting so timid. But there’s only so much abuse a person can take. I’m only human.

      1. SoTrue*

        Ok, I lied. I just described my current job. It’s got me so beaten down I felt like I had to lie on an anonymous blog comment…

        1. Jazzy Red*

          Don’t beat yourself up over this. (Your employer does enough of that!)

          My last job was with a family owned company. And everyone in the family was borderline something-or-other, and they were all a little different. So talking to Oldest Brother was different than talking to Youngest Brother or Middle Brother or Son or Wife or Best Friend #1 or Best Friend #2, etc. We never knew where we stood with anything around there, and as you said, we just tried to stay under their collective (and individual) radar. I’m retired now, and they called AND emailed me the other day to get my user id and password to unlock my phone, which was never locked. I wrote a reply to the email and edited out all the latent anger and frustration, but which essentially said “I don’t care”.

          You might need to find another job. Not every employer is crazy like that and sometimes changing employers is the only answer.

          Good luck!

      2. PJ*

        I’ve been in this type of work environment. It will change you in horrible ways. Get out as soon as you can. And don’t put yourself down for how you’re behaving there — you’re doing the best you can under awful circumstances. You are entitled to be self-protective.

    2. MaryMary*

      I tell my new hires that mistakes are always fixable. The fix may be difficult, expensive, or embarrassing, but mistakes are recoverable. Okay, it’s hard to come back from criminal activity or gross negligence, but everytng else can be fixed.

  3. JoJo*

    I really can’t blame the fried server because that was an honest mistake that anyone could have made. The airline clerk deserved to have been fired.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Probably, but I kind of like that story because we’ve all seen those people just flipping the eff out at a ticket agent who really isn’t the problem. Plus on the reverse, being nice and helpful means they might just bend over backwards to help you out :)

      1. Natalie*

        I once heard Dan Savage tell a story about being in line behind one of those crazy people screaming at the ticket agent. For some reason he had some fancy chocolates (it was around Christmas) so when it was his turn he gave the ticket agent the chocolate in a friendly way. Bonus pretzel – the ticket agent bumped him to first class for free.

        1. Rayner*

          It’s always the case. Be nice to the people in customer service positions, and they can make your life a little easier.

          People at airlines can bump you up, or put you in the seats with more leg room. They can get you early boarding, too. On the flight, be nice to the attendants. They can give you extra blankets, food, drink, or move you/upgrade you if they need to switch someone.

          It always pays to be nice. :D

          1. PEBCAK*

            It can also really help, when you are upset, to just be like “here’s what you can do that will fix this for me.” Don’t be demanding or entitled, but it’s not unreasonable to be like “I had to wait an hour for a table even though I had a reservation; it would be nice if you comped our first round of drinks.”

            1. Elysian*

              I don’t think I could pull off this phrasing without sounding entitled. I wish I could, though, because most of the time I’m like “I had this big problem with your establishment!” and I know what will fix it for me, but feel like I can’t ask.

            2. Cath in Canada*

              My husband is a genius at this kind of thing. He’s got us all kinds of comps and upgrades, in situations where I’d never have even thought to ask, just by being very polite and matter-of-fact about it. For instance, we were once in a hotel room where the alarm clock radio went off at 3 am, then every 20 minutes after that, and we just could *not* figure out how to turn the stupid thing off! We even yanked the cable out of the wall after mashing random buttons didn’t work, but it had a back-up battery that we couldn’t remove. He ended up putting it out in the hallway and calling reception to get them to pick it up. The next day, he went to reception and very nicely pointed out that they should check their alarm clocks after someone checks out, and we would like a free upgrade to a suite pleaseandthankyou. We got it, and it was super fancy.

          2. Del*

            I had this experience when I was working in the call center.

            Never did anything nearly as bad as the ticket agent, but people who called in yelling and screaming and insulting got me doing the bare minimum my job obligated me to do, while people who were nice got me bending over backward and pushing the rules as much as I could to advocate for them.

            1. Turanga Leela*

              This blog has helped me so much in learning what people go through in call centers. I was never a yeller, but now I try to be really nice–learn people’s names, tell their managers if they do a great job, and so on.

              1. Del*

                Oh man. I’ve occasionally considered writing up something along the lines of “what the call center peon wishes you knew” or whatever, but every time I’ve tried it just turns into a rant.

                Maybe now that I’ve got a couple years’ distance I should give it another go.

                1. Traveler*

                  I’ve tried writing that exact book. But yep, it devolves into a rant every time, even when I had distance from it!

                2. Anon*

                  I’d love to read that. I try to be nice to people on the phone but I’d like to know what would help beyond “not screaming.”

                3. Pennalynn Lott*

                  Replying to Anon: What would help is the following:

                  * Be as succinct as possible in describing your issue.
                  * Do not use “personal” language, i.e., do not say any version of, “You did this to me.” The person on the phone had nothing to do with whatever went wrong.
                  * Assume everything is a mistake, until told otherwise. (“I’m sure this must be a mistake, but. . .”)
                  * Have a concrete idea of what will satisfy you. A refund? A replacement? Credit towards a future purchase? An apology in writing? Seriously, whatever it is that will allow you to call it Case Closed should be offered up – by you. So many people call and just start whining and kvetching, which can eventually lead to screaming. But if you know what will make you whole, by all means say so! Then the rep has something concrete to work with instead of just listening to verbal diarrhea and abuse.
                  * And, lastly, my personal secret: Ask for their help. “I have a problem, could you help me with this?” I frame it in my head as me seeking the expertise and authority of someone who can help me out, which certainly keeps me from berating them.

                  (I’ve never worked customer service in a call center, but I did once in a home improvement store. And, yes, the folks who were nice to me and treated me like a human being got the maximum – and then some – of what I was allowed to do. The folks who were nasty got the bare minimum with a bit of runaround to boot. Plus, I’ve also noticed how well my phone conversations go with customer service reps vs how badly my boyfriend’s go. He’s a berater and a screamer.)

              2. A Non*

                Yes. People almost never get in touch with managers to say a call center employee did a good job – quite the opposite. One person going out of their way to say ‘Jane did a good job!’ is something that’s going to show up on Jane’s performance review – it’s that rare and that important. I try to do so frequently.

            2. Elsajeni*

              Yeah, I definitely had this experience in retail — even with the very limited power I had, whether a customer treated me nastily could be the difference between, say, finding them a copy of this weekend’s big coupon and having just run out of them a second ago, gosh, what a shame.

            3. Nina*

              Yep. I’ve worked in call centers and as a gate agent, and both jobs have left me in tears because of angry customers.

              Kindness really does go a long way when it comes to airports. Agents are screamed at all day long so if you’re that one person who behaves nicely, it can mean the world to a stressed-out agent, and often, they’ll go the extra mile to help you.

              I had a passenger approach me because she accidentally put her and husband on different reservations, so they weren’t sitting together. I think one of them was in first class and the other was in coach. She knew it was her fault and she asked me and my coworker if there was anything we could do. Very nice, friendly and appreciative. It took a little work and a little rearranging (you have to ask the passengers if they’re willing to switch seats and we found one that did) but we were able to get her and her husband in first class seats next to each other. The couple was incredibly grateful and happily went on their way.

              Kindness helps. Trust me.

            4. Vicki*

              When I talk to people in a call center, I try to say “I am very angry. It’s not you. t’s not your fault. I am not angry _at you_. But I am angry.”

          3. Turanga Leela*

            Related: if the customer service person is being impossible (which happens–people have bad days, and sometimes people are just difficult), it helps to repeat what you need clearly and calmly, without interrupting. “I know that my original flight was to Toronto, but now that it’s been delayed until tomorrow, I need to be rebooked into Minneapolis.” Repeat as needed, always pleasantly.

            If the person insists that this is not possible, when it clearly is, I’ve gotten good results from this phrase: “I’m sure there is someone here who can authorize this.” Either the person does it or I get transferred to a manager, in which case I’m no longer working with the impossible agent.

            All of this assumes that the agent is being unreasonable, rather than the customer, which we all know is not always the case.

            1. Vicki*

              Unfortunately, some of the unreasonable ones say “no there isn’t” and refuse to transfer to a manager. Then I have to hang up and start over.

          4. Traveler*

            It doesn’t always pay. I’ve had flight attendants even when I’m really nice be rude. Sometimes it just doesn’t matter if they’ve had other crappy customers that day. One time I paid extra on a cheap airline for all the upgrades – expedited lines, tv, luggage, free alcohol etc. and I was sitting in a section that really only those people could sit in because of their seating scheme. When the FA passed my tv without turning it on, I asked the next time she walked by if I could please have mine turned on when she had a free moment (exact words). She gave me death stare, huffed, and looked at her list and demanded to know my name. I gave it to her and she said “well its your fault for sitting in the wrong seat. you need to sit in the seat you are assigned on your boarding ticket!” in a really snide way. I was so embarrassed I pulled out my ticket, and I was in the right seat. I didn’t bother correcting her because she was clearly having a bad day…but ugh. Wow Fridays thread should include worst airline stories!

            1. Cath in Canada*

              A flight attendant once yelled at me for trying to lie across two seats, after she’d seen me faint during the flight. I needed to keep my head as low as possible so I didn’t faint again, but apparently it wasn’t OK even though that seat was empty and I wasn’t sticking out into the aisle or anything.

              On the same flight, a guy near us was sleeping with his seat reclined as we came in to land. Rather than nudge him and ask him to put it up, she pulled the lever and SLAMMED him upright. And it wasn’t like we were really close to landing – the pilot had only just made the announcement and plenty of other people were still on their feet sorting out their luggage.

              There are bad days, and then there’s just plain mean…

              1. Chuchundra*

                Taking a flight on an airplane is like it’s own special kind of prison. From the time you enter the airport until the time you leave on the other side, your life is rigidly controlled by a random collection of people, most of whom don’t care much about you or your life. You go where you’re told to go and do what you’re told to do.

                No matter how rich or powerful you are are in the world outside the airport, inside the airport, you’re just another body to be moved along. Make some stupid mistake, say the wrong thing to the wrong person or just have a chance encounter with someone having a bad day or drunk with the tiny bit of power their job gives them and it can screw up your trip or your life in a myriad of terrible and unexpected ways.

          5. Katie the Fed*

            I’ve actually found with wedding planning people are really happy to help me because I’m a REALLY chill bride. For some reason I’m way calmer about this than most things, because I just don’t care that much about details. So when things have gone wrong I’m really nice about it and they’re really nice and helpful. One saleswoman told me so many brides are absolute nightmares that they really go the extra mile for nice ones.

            For example – 5 minutes ago I got off the phone with the shop where I ordered my dress because they had forgotten to order some extra lace to have sleeves done, soI was checking up on it. They apologized profusely for forgetting to call me back about it and comped the order for me. I would have paid it too, and I wasn’t even upset. So that was nice :)

          6. Windchime*

            So true, but my policy is that I try to be nice to customer service people even if/when they don’t have the power to fix things or make things better for me. I’ve been in customer service before, and it can be a day-changing experience to have one person be kind and friendly to you in a sea of unhappy, bitchy people. So I try to be that kind and friendly customer, even if things aren’t going well. It’s usually not the fault of the poor person behind the counter.

            1. Contessa*

              Absolutely. I’ve worked in retail and at a call center, and one person being kind can set the tone for the whole day (but the opposite is also true–one jerk can ruin the whole day). I always try to be the nice person, especially if I witness someone else being awful. I feel the same way about waiters and waitresses. I’m horrified whenever I see someone being rude, so I go out of my way to be nice.

          7. kas*

            Completely agree – I go way out of the way for nice customers. Have a problem – here’s a $50 credit or let me make a call to see if I can fix this. I never offer rude customers a credit unless they demand it and don’t go the extra mile to fix it on the spot, I have the department that deals with the issue work it out making them wait for it to be solved.

      2. HappyLurker*

        yup – my spouse was so nice, they gave us extra meal tickets! I am sure it had nothing to do with the toddler, pregnant wife and mother in law behind him. :)
        BTW it was a mechanical problem not a late issue. But not everyone got the extra meal tickets!

      3. Bea W*

        Yes, I was very torn about that one. That was pretty awful and over the top, but I’m guessing the passenger was equally awful and over the top. It was so wrong, but for all I know it was also so very right.

      4. EngineerGirl*

        The problem is that you don’t know where that screamer is coming from. Now many times they are just jerks. But it could also be that their mom is in the ICU dying and they need to get home now. Their previous connecting flight was delayed because the airline hadn’t bothered to perform maintenance correctly (so missing the next leg would be the airlines fault). They only received 2 hours of sleep the night before and so are teetering emotionally. No, it’s not the FA’s fault, but the FA does represent the company.
        That’s the problem with vengeance. You can’t see a person’s heart and therefore you can’t give out the “correct” punishment for the situation.
        People that do vengeance are scary. And evil.

        1. BOMA*

          I completely agree with the first part of your comment, but your last sentence contradicts the entire thing. (And no, I don’t condone what the ticket agent did, but there’s a reason this article wasn’t titled “7 Totally Justifiable Things People Did in the Heat of the Moment”). Just as the customer might be going through something awful behind the scenes, the ticket agent might be dealing with significant stress as well. Labeling all acts of vengeance as “scary” or “evil” isn’t fair when you’re not applying the same standards to both people in the situation.

          Overall, I do believe that everyone (both the customer and the ticket agent) should have taken a deep breath and tried to behave rationally.

          1. EngineerGirl*

            What goes around comes around. There’s never a need to take vengeance. It merely propagates whatever is wrong to the next level. So instead of smothering the flames you are fanning them.

            1. Liz*

              I’m pretty sure that calling people evil doesn’t count as “smothering the flames.” Or is it only other people who should have to follow through on that particular concept?

              1. EngineerGirl*

                This is an unfair statement and illogical. Calling people evil for performing vengeance on another human being is not the same situation as actually being in a bad situation and choosing not to escalate the situation.
                Vengeance is willfully choosing to harm another individual. It is evil.

          2. MTG*

            Eh, I personally don’t think it’s comparable; if you’re having just the absolute worst day and you freak out at someone unfairly because you are heated, that’s different than having a terrible day and intentionally making a person lose their luggage and having their return flight unconfirmed, that’s really deliberate and has much bigger consequences. Giving a rude person the worst seat or making them do extra security is one thing, but I have absolutely had important trips completely thrown off the rails because of a lost bag or backend issues with their scheduling that messed up my return flights.

            I think being kind to people is incredibly, incredibly important, but I’ve definitely had days where I’ve snapped at people who didn’t deserve it. I feel terrible about it afterwards. Never to a screaming-at-the-ticket-agent point, but still, I think everyone has been in position where they weren’t as graceful as they should have been. Taking 4 deliberate steps at vengeance over it seems really excessive, especially when admitting that the OP “still isn’t sorry” after having all this time to cool down and be removed from that instance.

        2. Annie O*

          Reminds me of this quote:

          Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind, always.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            True. But there’s no reason you can’t also say to someone “I’m sorry, I know I’m being difficult and demanding right now, but my mom is in the ICU and I really need to make it there – is there anything you can do?”

            1. Annie O*

              Yes, indeed.

              And the quote works both ways. Even if you’re the upset customer dealing with unimaginable horrors, you have no idea what the gate attendant is going through.

              1. Katie the Fed*

                Wouldn’t it be incredible for a gate agent to say something like “I’m sorry I’m so short with you right now, but you’re the 10th person to yell at me in the last hour and I haven’t had time for lunch and I think someone switched my coffee with decaf”

                It would stop me dead in my tracks. We always assume the person on the other side of a customer-facing desk is some kind of superhuman or robot who is not allowed to have emotions or bad days too.

            2. NW Cat Lady*

              Several years ago, my uncle died. I was trying to get back east, and the person at the airline call center told me that not only could I not get a bereavement fare, those fares didn’t exist and never did (never mind the fact that I had gotten one on the same airline a few years prior for my grandmother’s funeral).

              When I got to the airport the next night, I wanted to ask the check-in person about the bereavement fare. He wanted me to check in at the self-check kiosk, and got very snarky with me. That was one more thing than I could handle, and I burst into tears.

              He not only got really nice, he got me the bereavement fare (the $1100 ticket went down to $500) AND bumped me to 1st class.

              1. De Minimis*

                I’m heartbroken that American is getting rid of the bereavement fare. [and although it’s called bereavement you could also use it to visit family who were in the hospital.] Guess they are eliminating it as part of the merger with US Airways.

                1. EngineerGirl*

                  Use Hipmunk, Kayak, and other search engines to get a lower fare. Bereavement is a discount on a full fare. It isn’t cheap and many times I’ve found that going on the search engine yields a cheaper fare.

        3. Pennalynn Lott*

          I once had a flight that took me from NYC to Chicago to San Francisco, with a slight layover in Chicago. While in Chicago, I called my mom and found out my brother had been in a horrific car accident and was in the ICU, with a 50/50 chance of surviving the next 24 hours. The middle of the US was being hit with major thunderstorms and tornados, and flights were backed up and cancelled all over the place.

          It never once occurred to me to scream at the ticket agent when I asked for help in re-routing my flights to get home to Dallas to see my brother. Instead, I calmly explained my urgent situation and he went out of his way to make accommodations for me. I don’t know if he bumped people or what, but I was on a flight to Dallas within 45 minutes. (Thank you, American Airlines!)

          Sure the agents and reps can’t always know if the person is screaming because of a life-or-death situation, or just because the person is an entitled asshat. But since they get screamed at by dozens (hundreds?) of people a day, and since only a miniscule fraction are dealing with life-and-death issues, I do not find it at all unreasonable that they would get fed up with screamers and treat them with the same amount of respect that the screamers had given them.

          You get what you give; an eye for an eye; treat others as you would have them treat you; what goes around comes around, etc.

          Bottom line: It is never appropriate to take out your personal frustrations on a customer service rep (or, well, any other human being) period.

        4. Bea W*

          True but it’s no free pass for treating an innocent univolved person horribly. I’ve been in all of those situations (well, not my mom, a grandparent) at various times. I’ve been trapped at the airport until the wee hours if the mirning due to mechanical issues hoping a part comes in before the click runs out for the crew. Security closes at 11 pm so if you leave the terminal you are SOL, but I was enroute to a worksite so taking the “please rebook me now” option that 1/2 the passengers took was not an option. PLUS we had 18 inches of blizzard that had just ended. There were no seats available for days. It was that flight or nothing. I’ve been delayed by maintenance long enough to miss a connection back when cell phones didn’t exist and my ride had already started a 3 hour road trip to go fetch me. You can see and hear just about everyone around you is frustrated and even seething, but only a small portion might pop off and actively lash out at the gate agent or customer service.

          I have empathy for the person having a bad day, but there’s no excusing abusive treatment of innocent bystanders.

      5. scmill*

        Yes, this. A friend and I were in a very long line of angry people whose flights had been cancelled, and when we got to the ticket agent and were laughing and teasing her about the guys who had been in front of us, she found us a place to stay when almost no rooms were available and put us in first class the next morning!

      6. cuppa*

        This happened to me once. I was behind some guy in line screaming at the ticket agent. I was sad, and tired, and crying, but polite and patient. He got to spend the night in Chicago, and I flew to DC first class. They didn’t even mention it to me — they just booked me and I didn’t realize until they said my row was in first class.

    2. A Teacher*

      Most likely, but I still understand why she felt that way. Ever watched the reality show on airports? There are some cray-cray passengers out there…

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Seriously. What is it about airline travel that turns average people into insane nutjobs. And I include myself in that list – I’ve had my own crazypants moments when traveling.

        1. Tomato Frog*

          It’s that you’re completely dependent on the competence of others, in a highly bureaucratic and regulated system. It’s a depressing and frightening place to be. And, if you’re traveling internationally, there’s the sleep deprivation.

          I’ve burst into tears at airline representatives on at least two occasions during miserable international trips. In both instances, I was surprised when they seemed taken aback. I can’t be the only person bursting into tears at them, right?

          1. Evan*

            Not to mention that it can be highly stressful: if something goes just a bit too far wrong, you won’t be getting there. Your whole vacation/interview/conference that you’ve been looking forward to for weeks can be thrown into disarray or even have to be cancelled.

          2. Katie the Fed*

            Yeah. My very mild mannered fiance once lost his sh*t at a security officer in Turkey who was just taking the longest time and being what seemed deliberately obnoxious in clearing us, to the point that we were getting close to missing the flight. I had to walk my fiance away and stand him elsewhere and told him to stop talking and I would deal with it, because I didn’t want to visit him in Turkish prison.

            1. Tomato Frog*

              Honestly, your fiance’s behavior might have helped. I had a very miserable experience at the Turkish airport trying to report lost baggage. People who were being rude and pushy and demanding kept getting helped before me (that was actually one of the times I cried — end of a 27-hour trip that was supposed to have been a 17-hour trip!). Later all my Turkish friends told me I should’ve known to get huffy if I wanted assistant from a Turkish bureaucrat.

          3. Noelle*

            Exactly. I’ve also burst into tears at the airport a time or two. Most of the time, I can handle the headaches that come with flying. But when it’s just completely bureaucratic or wrong, it is infuriating. My worst experience was when I was trying to get home for a funeral, I only had minutes to make my connecting flight because my first flight was delayed, and I bolted from one end of the airport to the other only to be told that the plane was overweight and they wouldn’t let me board. I stood right next to the on-ramp to try to calm down, only to watch the attendant let two other people board. I asked why and she said she would have let me on, but I stepped out of line (there was no line, and I was literally 2 feet away from her) and now the flight was overweight again so I couldn’t board.

            Most of the airline representatives I’ve encountered are great, but some of them are just extremely unhelpful or downright mean, and travelling is stressful at the best of times. It doesn’t excuse terrible passenger behavior by any means, but there is a legitimate reason for being upset sometimes.

            1. PEBCAK*

              I feel like, without fail, everything is just fine on long business trips with multiple segments, and then everything gets shot to hell on the day I’m supposed to get back home.

              I have indeed cried at the ticket counter, but I try very, very hard to remain calm, and say I’m frustrated, but I understand it isn’t the agent’s fault.

              1. Noelle*

                Things go downhill very quickly at the airport! I can stay calm and nice when it isn’t the agent’s fault, but sometimes it is the agent’s fault. I’ve had so much bad travel luck over the years though that I have reached a zen when I fly and I just accept that I have no power in this situation. Airport bars help.

              2. AnotherAlison*

                Or, everything goes fine for months on business trips, but as soon as you’re on vacation, well, hello 4-hour delay!

              1. Noelle*

                I actually ended up missing the funeral because of it. My family lives in a very small town and there are only two flights to the nearest airport per day. I always try to get the first flight, but if I miss it I have to wait for the second one, which is usually about 12 hours later.

          4. Monodon monoceros*

            That’s the part that I can’t handle- that I feel like I’m completely powerless to their whims, even when what they are doing is totally illogical, stupid, and actually more work for them and a hassle for me.

            The last time I lost my marbles at the airport was when I missed my connection because my first flight was delayed due to mechanical issues, then also waited for another plane to come in so 1 passenger would make it on our flight. Great for that one person, but it made me miss my connection, which was the last flight out that night. Then the ticket agent was giving me a hard time for booking my ticket with too short of a layover. Really? Just book my hotel for me and let me get away from you please.

          5. Evan*

            All these stories are making me nervous… I’m flying out this Saturday with two tight connections leading to my first-ever international flight. I’m hoping everything will go fine, but…

            1. Turanga Leela*

              Have a great time! And if things don’t go smoothly, just roll with it. You’ll get there eventually.

              1. Pennalynn Lott*

                Yep. Take a book or three (or a Kindle-type device). Settle in for some good people-watching and be open to Plan B or C or D. It’s how I’ve saved my sanity at the airport, the doctor’s office, the ER, the DMV, any government office, etc. I love to read, but always feel guilty because there are other things I *should* be doing (work, laundry, household projects). But when I’m stuck somewhere? Woo-hoo! Bonus guilt-free reading time!! :-)

            2. ThursdaysGeek*

              However, if your travel agent told you an hour and a half is enough time to get through customs and to your next flight at LAX, she was lying. :)

          6. KrisL*

            I’ve burst into tears at at least 2 airports, both when a flight was cancelled. The people who worked there were pretty nice about it. I think they’re used to it.

            One of my rules is – never be mean to someone you need help from. For that matter, an extension on the rule that I try to live by is to never be mean to someone unless they’ve been mean to you first, and even then, don’t.

        2. Bea W*

          Probably the same thing that turns drivers into nuts.

          I really don’t mind the airport. I resign myself to knowing that nothing there is under my control and so…whatever. It’s kind of liberating.

          1. Mimmy*

            Exactly. I’ve long accepted that air travel is going to have a little chaotic with the security rules, long lines, what have you. Courteous, and even friendly, customer service really goes a long way in otherwise crappy situations.

            That said, there are definitely times when I’ve come close to losing my marbles!!! The worst being when I was flying to California for a cousin’s wedding. I don’t remember what happened when exactly, but I think it was around when Continental merged with another airline (I forget which…United I think??) Anyway, that whole day was just a comedy of errors, which culminated in them misrouting our luggage and taking forever to get it to us, leaving my husband and I to scramble in the hopes of finding semi-decent clothes for the wedding. Ugggggh!!!!

            1. JAM*

              Oh, man. I am always so paranoid about that kind of thing happening! So that’s why I always 1) pack both a change of clothes (or at least clean underwear – my dad’s advice) and any “important” clothes in my carry-on if I’m checking a bag, and 2) try to avoid checking a bag if at all possible now. It’s amazing the stuff I used to pack that I never used, and it’s nice to avoid the extra bag fee and time spent at baggage claim.

          2. Sunflower*

            That is me exactly. I go into it expecting nothing to go right and while I’m not shocked that people flip out, I’m shocked that people are still flabbergasted when things go awry

          3. Lore*

            I’m usually in that resigned frame of mind–but I did have one instance where I had to get up at 4 am for an early flight, which a travel agent had mistakenly booked for me instead of a perfectly reasonable later flight. My flight was so delayed that the later flight came and went (but was full) and three hours later still I was still there. By the time we made it to Miami (where I was supposed to connect), we were close to the airport’s closing time, but they’d promised to have a gate agent standing by to get us through immigration etc in time to catch the last flight to NYC. Well, of course, that didn’t happen–and since Miami airport closes early, there were three huge international flights all stranded overnight, all needing to be booked into hotels, none of us with anything to eat or drink because the Miami airport was basically closed for the night (and at least the people on my flight hadn’t been fed for seven or eight hours because we sat on the tarmac for a long time). I waited in a line for half an hour (as instructed by an airline employee) only to be told it was the wrong line, and the correct line had at least a hundred and fifty people in it. At which point I burst into tears…and wound up being comforted by a missionary in a wheelchair, who despite her disability was on her way to staff an orphanage in South America and had her entire worldly possessions in a suitcase on that line.

            Ah, perspective. Gets you every time. (And, my reward for being at the very, very back of the line was that they’d run out of cheap hotels and I ended up getting my free night in the Sofitel, wishing they’d rebooked me on a connecting flight later in the day so I could stay in that heavenly room for longer!)

          4. Turanga Leela*

            I budget an extra $40 or so for my trip in case I’m stuck at the airport. As soon as that happens, I give myself permission to buy a book and a margarita. This has saved my sanity many times.

            1. Traveler*

              This is a great idea. I do something similar – it’s the one time I ever let myself buy magazines and whatever junk like candy and pop I want. It is a small comfort but it distracts from the hassle of it all.

      2. Bryan*

        My bag was once 52 pounds (I was moving back home for the summer following my freshman year, might have overpacked). The guy looked so fearful that he would have to bring it up. I told him go ahead and charge me, I know it’s over and there’s no room in my carry on to shift things around. I specifically said, “I watch airline, I know how people flip out about this.” Guess who has two thumbs and didn’t have to pay the overweight fee.

          1. Monodon monoceros*

            I’ve tried making that argument to them. In general, they do not like it. The scales apparently only work in their favor.

            1. EngineerGirl*

              But since they are charging for it the scales need to be regulated by some sort of federal or state inspection agency. So look at the inspection sticker and the date. If it’s old you can push it.

      3. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        Although I’m sure it felt good at the time, I’m sure all she ended up doing was making more trouble for the people down the line. The TSA agents who did the second screening, the ticket agents when the second flight wasn’t there, the flight attendants when the passenger was seated at the back. . . I bet they cursed the OP when the passenger had a new tantrum at each setback.

      4. AmyNYC*

        What I want to know – how do I ALWAYS ended up behind the lady who doesn’t know she has to take of her shoes at security?

        1. Jennifer*

          This! One of these days I’m going to lose it. This always happens to me when I have to get up at 4am to make a flight. Rant…We’ve been standing in line for an hour and EVERYONE in our line and the other two lines are taking their shoes off but you think you DON’T? End Rant.

        2. Bea W*

          I end up behind the people that want to carry on everything but the kitchen sink (which they presumably left at home) to avoid the checked bag fee. Those people need their own special line so those of us who have either prepped well or paid the fee to keep within the carry-on guidelines don’t have to suffer. They should also be made to board last so they can’t hog all the overhead space before the plane is half full.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      Thank you! I was the one that fried the server. Yes, it really was an honest mistake, but I felt so stupid I didn’t want to admit to it. Now that I look back on it, it would have been a worse mistake if it was the NEW server I fried.

      I’m kind of on the fence about the airport thing. I think it went a little too far. Pick one of those things, like giving them a crappy seat, not all of them.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I’m with you. At least she realizes it was a firing-worthy offense, but deliberately misrouting their luggage and risking their trip home by canceling their confirmation is considerable meanness. And it’s not like they thought “That will teach me”–they just thought that the airline employees really sucked at their jobs.

      2. Bea W*

        If it makes you feel any better a friend of mine accidently deleted everything off an entire server when she was fresh on the job as a new sysadmin. I’m sure you’re not the first person to accidentally fry a server either.

  4. Adam*

    A lot of these things I probably would have come up with in my imagination as a revenge fantasy. But there have been times when making it a reality have been oh so tempting…

    1. Traveler*

      I’ve never worked for an airline but I’ve seen enough people berating agents for things they had no control over that I can’t really judge them.

    2. PJ*

      I agree. Being an ass to the ticket agent because you showed up after the flight left… well, you’re just begging for it.

  5. Natalie*

    I have nothing but sympathy for the one who set all the timeshare stuff on fire. That sounds like a cluster of epic proportions.

    1. De Minimis*

      That was the best one….and as was mentioned in the original thread, the great part is that he ended up doing well really at that employer for the next 9 years. They never found out, but he was determined to be the best employee ever after that.

    2. Jennifer*

      That was the best one. And timeshares and their wrangling are so freaking evil anyway. My mom bought one because “everyone else in the family was doing it” and she’s never even USED the thing, she just keeps dumping money into it and periodically gets harassed to upgrade it. Those things are ridiculous and I’m annoyed that someday I’ll be stuck dealing with it.

      Setting them on fire is the only way to get rid of ’em, I guess!

      1. Del*

        Sometimes I’m very grateful for my job — I deal with a lot of timeshare resellers, vacation program membership clubs, stuff like that, so I’ve gotten to see all their paperwork and tricks without having to ever get into that myself. Well warned away!

  6. Anonalicious*

    I feel like a lot of the employers involved in these stories are probably quite dysfunctional, even if the OPs didn’t give details. So part of me doesn’t really feel that bad for them.

    1. some1*

      This. The woman who got fired after mat leave was wrong, but the manager didn’t impress me for not checking on the project for months.

  7. LBK*

    Instead, I drove down a dirt road, pulled over, threw all the documents in a big pile and set them on fire.

    This is horrible but I’ll admit, I immediately burst out laughing at the image of someone actually setting fire to a bunch of work documents on the side of the road. It’s so “Breaking Bad”. Not what I would associate with a nonprofit.

    1. not usually anonymous*

      Currently my job is a little frustrating and more than once on a Sunday evening I’ve said to my husband, “Maybe the place’ll just burn down before another week starts up.” or “It is tornado season–if one *has* to touch down somewhere, that would be a fine place.”

      1. Orange Bottle*

        Oh man. I can relate to this feeling! Thank you for describing it so perfectly.

    2. MaryMary*

      I love how final it was too. That person didn’t throw the documents in a dumpster, or drive out to the country and throw them in a ditch. She set them on fire. No changing your mind on that one.

      1. LBK*

        Exactly! Didn’t just throw them out or put them away or toss them out the window – actually burned them. I love the drama and intensity of the gesture.

    3. Mallory*

      I love this one, too. It calls to mind the scene in Office Space when the guys take the copy machine out to a vacant lot and beat the sh*t out of it to the beat of that gangsta rap song.

  8. Sunflower*

    I feel bad for #2. Obviously the email shouldn’t have been sent but someone should have told her upfront that they would be interviewing her! It’s just cruel to make her watch and suffer!

    1. some1*

      I had the same reaction. She proved herself as a good employee for four years, they could have kept her in the loop.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        This is one of those situations where I think the lessons I have learned the hard way really apply: ASK!

        With an established relationship with the department, I don’t think it would have been out of line to politely ask for feedback.(And to expect to actually get it!)

        I’ve had so many work situations where I either stewed about something unnecessarily or approached it all wrong, rather than just casually asking the questions.

    2. Kelly*

      In #2, both parties are at fault to some degree. The applicant sending the email was a bad idea, but it may have have been more to vent some frustration at the whole hiring process. The academic hiring process in both public and private institutions is frustrating from the applicant’s POV. They probably had to interview X number of candidates in the first round and then recommend a percentage to go onto a second or final round interview depending on the nature of the position. The individuals on the hiring committee must have remembered them fondly enough that they skipped the first round interview in their case.

      What the applicant should have done was what AnotherAlison suggested. Emailing their contact about the status of the search and indicating their continued interest in one of the roles in a positive tone should have been enough.

  9. Esra*

    They changed your ‘let she’ to ‘let he who has never sinned cast the first stone’.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That was actually me! I wrote it for them that way because the proverb (is it a proverb?) is in my head that way, but then spotted it when writing the intro for the post over here.

      1. louise*

        Not a proverb – it’s attributed to Jesus in a passage that’s included in the book of Mark in modern Bibles, but that passage didn’t actually appear in early copies of the Mark manuscript. I’d like to think he really said it. It sounds like what I think he was really like.

        I rarely get to throw around knowledge garnered from my Biblical Literature major. :)

        1. Evan*

          To perpetuate the tangent, it’s not the book of Mark, but John; John 8:7. The quote and the passage it’s in doesn’t appear in a few early manuscripts, but I agree that it has an authentic sound.

          (Just a guess, but Louise, you might’ve been confusing it with the “longer ending” of Mark 16, which’s the other passage not found in some early manuscripts?)

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            Plus, starting with the quote, I got a cool “7 deadly sins” vibe while reading the “7 biggest career sins”.

          2. louise*

            Ha! Yes, I did! Further proof that the degree itself is nearly useless if I know how to google. :) Should have double checked myself!

  10. Traveler*

    #1 – It’s well known in the customer service industry – especially when you are talking to phone reps, how kind you are vs. how rude you are is going to measure what service you get. Some other reps I knew took this more seriously than others – i.e. they would just straight up disconnect calls or give out vague info, on the other side if people were kind they would go above and beyond. Most of it though was well within the companies allowed limits . I even worked at one place where we had a set of “escalated” reps – which meant if you were rude, impatient, etc. we were to forward you to them and they were set to deal with you.

    1. LBK*

      An unspoken rule at Starbucks is rude customers always get decaf. So if you still feel tired after your 4-shot venti red eye…you were probably a jerk to your barista.

      1. fposte*

        And I think that’s crappy. Messing with people’s food and drink because you’re mad at them is unethical.

          1. fposte*

            And nobody said it wasn’t. But that response makes you just as bad as them and often worse, depending on what people’s threshold is for justifying screwing with customers’ food.

            1. Del*

              Yeah, I kind of agree with this. Granted, giving someone decaf instead of regular is better than the opposite, but still. Wasting someone’s time is one thing, giving them food/drink that is deliberately not what they believe they are getting is crappy and can be potentially dangerous.

              1. Harriet*

                I disagree. If I’m ordering that much caffeine it’s because I’m on the verge of a caffeine withdrawal migraine/anxiety attack (yes, I know, I’m an addict and that’s bad). It is jeopardising my short-term health to alter my drink like that. Both ways are just as bad.

          2. Anon*

            I totally agree, but don’t mess with people’s food, you never know a stranger’s health situation.

        1. Sunflower*

          I worked in a coffee shop and if someone was a jerk, I would never go out of my way to give them what they didn’t want but if we were running really low on regular or out of it, then you probably got (generously) topped off with decaf because we didn’t feel like waiting and dealing with you while the regular brewed. I never messed with anyone’s food as a barista or waitress but nice people definitely got extras(free extra syrup). And a lot of the time you being nice or mean determines whether we’re ‘out of something’ or ‘we have to run to the back to get more’

          1. fposte*

            It still sounds like you’re selling decaf to people as regular, though. That’s crummy (and also not really legal).

            We must have a pretty standard nice level at coffee shops around here–I’ve never seen anybody get mean, and I’ve never seen anybody get anything extra for free.

          2. Traveler*

            Yeah this is more of what I saw – the nope, can’t help you with that sorry vs. the here let me give you this upgraded substitution for free because you’re always so pleasant.

        2. Traveler*

          Not defending the behavior, as I agree with you. Messing with food is unethical – but people can be really nasty to people in food service. Physical violence or threats of it, screaming, belittling, etc. I can see how people are pushed to want a little revenge. Still wrong, but I can’t say I wouldn’t understand the motive.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, I totally understand it–I’m with Adam upthread on having many enjoyable revenge fantasies.

            But actually doing it just puts you in the same category as people who put spit and snot in the food. Is that where people really want to be?

            1. Traveler*

              Right. I just think it can be really dangerous period – you never know what people are allergic to anymore and if it comes back that someone went into anaphylactic shock thanks to your prank…ugh. On the other hand – I never understood the nasty customers who constantly complained, yet kept coming back.

              1. LBK*

                That gets me too. I had a guy who came into the store I worked at almost weekly, always with some new complaint. One time he said “It’s always such a hassle every time I come in here” and I responded “Then stop coming back!” And he did!

              2. Poe*

                My parents went to a local non-chain coffee shop (they like to support local business) and ordered a decaf for my dad. He has a pretty serious heart condition, and caffeine is 100% no-go. They were out, and instead of asking if regular was okay, they just gave it to him. He drank it and ended up in the hospital overnight. My mom asked why they would have done that and they just shrugged and said it was easier than asking. My parents go to Starbucks now…and the staff there know it HAS TO BE DECAF 100%. Don’t mess with people’s food.

          2. Grace*

            As a customer, I won’t tolerate somebody being nasty to a cashier, etc. I’ll say, “You need to STOP that right now!” Works like a charm every time. They aren’t expecting to be called out on it public.

        3. LBK*

          To be clear, I would never do something unsanitary/potentially health hazardous like spitting in food, and this wasn’t just to any random grumpy person that walked in. I only had one person I ever did it to, and she was a wretched woman that came in every day. She threw fits, left garbage all over the store, would constantly as for drinks to be remade because she claimed she could tell the difference if her drink was even 1 degree colder/warmer than she wanted it or because you poured an extra drop of milk more than she wanted in her cappuccino. She would also make us do weird stuff that we weren’t really supposed to do or had any way to charge for like blending 2 bananas with water and serving it over ice. She was a complete nightmare that we had to deal with almost every day. Decaf coffee was the least of her worries – by the time she finally moved out of my city I was ready to beat her with a chair.

          1. Jamie*

            It really doesn’t matter what kind of customer she was, though. She sounds horrible, but you were still ethically obligated to provide her what she ordered.

            Not the weird things you aren’t selling, and you’d have been fine telling her no on the banana thing – but I there is zero justification for giving something other than what they ordered because you don’t like her.

            If my mechanic doesn’t like me is it okay for him to let me pay for X when he only have me Y?

            It’s legally wrong from a business stand point and it’s ethically wrong from a moral standpoint. Often I need the caffeine to stave off a migraine so this would leave me kind of debilitated. Even if there were no physical reason, you just don’t do that.

          2. chewbecca*

            This reminds me of a story my fiance told me about when he was working at Starbucks.

            He had a customer come in and kept insisting that his soy whateveritwas wasn’t hot enough, so my fiance had to keep making him another. I think the guy sent it back 3 times. My fiance warned him the last time that they’re technically not allowed to go hotter than the one he just returned (liability reasons, I think? and it would burn the drink), but made another one, which of course scorched the milk. The guy walked away happily with his contraband, scorched soy whateveritwas.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        um, people messing with my caffeination level could result in serious bloodshed for innocent bystanders.

        1. Arbynka*

          Yeah. And, coffee is my first line of defense on a migrane front. So someone giving me a decaf when I need regular would not be cool.

      3. Amy B.*

        About 20 years ago I served on a volunteer rescue squad. If someone was faking (yes, we have many, many test to prove faking) we would give them a bigger needle. It wasn’t even an unspoken rule. I never had to start a line on a faker though so I am innocent (probably only by default).

        1. Ricky*

          How would that work excatly? You were called to a man with a hear attack and instead of rushing him to ER you would give him tests to see if he was faking ? I am sorry but giving someone a bigger needle because you think they are faking is way beyond wrong.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Yeah, and most people “faking” aren’t doing it for shits and giggles. They most likely have some psychological condition or something else going on that they don’t deserve to be punished for.

            1. Arbynka*

              Exactly. Btw, first reply is me, for some reason the nook auto correct thinks I suppose to be Ricky. Anyways, I was once in a hospital and it took a team of medical professionals four days to find out what was wrong, aka that I was not faking it. I find the idea that a rescue worker thinks it is ok to punish/teach a lesson to people they deem fakers by inflicting physical discomfort/pain really disturbing.

          2. Turanga Leela*

            This is not uncommon. I’ve known a lot of medics and EMTs, and they will punish patients they think are wasting their time. They will treat the patient, but they will make the experience unpleasant. It’s not okay, but it’s a real thing that happens.

            1. Arbynka*

              That’s beyond sad. As Katie said above, most people who do fake are doing it so because they have some psychological issue. Sometimes anxiety and panic attacks can be so strong that they physically resemble heart or asthma attacks. Sometimes psychological problems set up real physical reactions (for example I can get stomach ache when I am nervous) and in some people those reactions can be very strong. When I was a teenager, I was in the forrest with some friends.One of them started to yell he was bit by a viper, had the wound, started to breathe funny, his face and fingers started to turn purple and blue and he collapsed. No cell phones back then, we had to carry him to the nearest village and call ambulance. He went to the hospital, turned out he poked himself on stick. But he was so afraid of snakes, he thought he was bitten and almost scared himself to death.

              1. Bea W*

                “Fakets” make not even be conciously making it up. Aa someone mentioned panic and anxiety attacks can mimic heart attack and when you are in a full on panic attack you might feel like you will die. You might not be having a heart attack but you might truly believe you are.

                Decades ago I was messed up with addiction and untreated anxiety/panic/depression I had such bad experiences with healthcare providers blowing me off that even now I pretty much have to be bleeding out before I call a doctor. Last year when I had sudden abdominal pain that was so bad I was writhing on the floor and vomiting I spent at least an hour debating in my head if I should even go to the ER and then if should drive myself vs calling 911 vs waking up a neighbor and is this real? Am I making it up? But what if I’m wrong and it’s something serious like appendicitis? Or a hemorrhagic cyst (I have a history of those) that had burst or gotten big enough to twist up an ovary? I did call 911 to come get me but I immediately felt embarrassed, stupid, and like a fraud and that as soon as they find out I’m take medication for depression and anxiety they’ll assume I’m a fakey drama queen.

                Earlier in the year I’d been walking around for months with an increasingly worse irregular heart beat. I didn’t even make an appointment with my Dr. until I’d come close to passing out in public a few times. I ended up in the ER before I could even get to that appt. I knew it was not anxiety but I was so afraid it would get written off that I wouldn’t have it checked out and I sure as sheet wasn’t calling EMTs. For someone with a family history of sudden cardiac death and cardiac arrest occurring late 30s-early 40s this could have ended very badly.

                I don’t care how annoyed people are with patients whose issues may be caused by a mental condition or they think are “faking” for attention. Those people need help also and you have no idea how treating someone poorly affects a person long term. I totally suck at figuring out how sick i really am and getting to a Dr on account I am afraid of being perceived as a “problem child” and wasting someone’s time and spend a lot of time questioning myself am I really sick or is all this horrible looking mucous I keep coughing up all in my head and if it’s not will anyone even believe it?

                At least no one came at me with a big needle. I probably would have not gotten urgent treatment at all if I had known needles were involved and assumed they were all huge and painful. Getting the normal IV placed immediately after ECG freaked me out!

            2. Poe*

              I was in a hospital bed left alone with an empty IV, covered in my own…stuff by nurses who were convinced I was drunk and wasting their time. I had the Norwalk virus and because of it my prescription medication that controls a pretty serious chronic condition wasn’t being properly digested. When a doctor showed up with my lab tests he didn’t seem at all concerned that I had been completely abandoned for 12 hours, just asked the nurse to “take a peek in” in a bit. It was awful, I ended up with a skin infection and everything. Hearing that you do this to “fakers” disgusts me.

              1. Turanga Leela*

                Ugh, that’s awful. And malpractice.

                I want to clarify that I’m not a medic, and punishing patients is not something I’ve ever done or been okay with. I’m confirming that Amy B.’s story is not unusual, at least not among medics/EMTs I’ve known.

          3. A Non*

            The one I’ve heard of is people who are being arrested by the police and fall over “unconscious” to try to avoid a trip to jail. The test is to hold the person’s hand over their face and let go. Unconscious people will smack themselves in the face. Fakers’ hands will mysteriously drift to one side or the other.

            1. Arbynka*

              Interesting. When I went to my second anaphylaxis, the nurse getting me from the car to the ER (husband drove me after I jabbed myself with epipen) did this thing with her knuckles to keep me conscious. She said under normal circumstances that technique would make me scream.

            2. Ellie H.*

              I love doing this when I accidentally sleep with my arm over my head and it falls totally asleep. (This is possibly the kind of thing too weird to tell other people?)

        2. Serin*

          My co-worker is an EMT, so I asked her whether she’d ever seen this. She said, “Maybe if you thought they were faking you’d show them the big needle, just to scare them into telling the truth.”

    2. LQ*

      I believe this to be true because I so desperately want being nice and calm and polite to be rewarded. But I often see the opposite, the rude, pushy, angry, screamer gets what they want, they get a discount, they get something to shut them up, they get a lower rate, or a better seat to appease them.

      It makes me feel like if I were a jerk I’d get more in life. (I am compelled to go searching for studies when I get home to see which one of these is backed up by research…)

      1. Traveler*

        When I’ve had issues in the past and had to deal with a customer service rep I’ve usually just said something along the lines of “I know this isn’t your fault, but I am really frustrated because…” After having customers blame me for everything under the sun that I had nothing to do with including “you are whats wrong with America” – even just acknowledging a little human decency went a long way.

        I think a lot getting the upgrade/nicer thing has to do with asking – a lot of people won’t ask for fear of being pushy/overbearing, but if its framed in the right way you can get quite a bit just by asking.

        True though – there’s definitely times where I coddled someone just to get them to settle down.

        1. Heather*

          “I think a lot getting the upgrade/nicer thing has to do with asking – a lot of people won’t ask for fear of being pushy/overbearing, but if its framed in the right way you can get quite a bit just by asking. ”

          This must be true because I don’t think I’ve ever gotten anything free. I kind of agree with LQ above that ruder people seem to get more. But I guess I should learn to just ask…politely of course:)

          For example this morning I stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast, and it took them over ten minutes to get my order to me. They apparently didn’t have eggs or bacon warmed up. There was only one girl who actually seemed to care about the whole thing and apologized. The rest of the workers continued to take their sweet time in the back. First they didn’t have eggs. Once those were ready, oh THEN they realized they didn’t have bacon so they had to throw that in the warmer. It was ridiculous and I wanted so badly at that point to be the time of person who gets worked up and says something, but that wasn’t going to do anything to help the situation. Mostly I just wanted my food for free, but I never asked so why would they offer?

          In the past I’ve gotten food at restaurants that has been over- or undercooked but I always feel too bad to tell the waiter…

          1. Traveler*

            I’ve done the same thing with eating over/undercooked food (why is cooking steak at a steak restaurant always such a hit and miss experience?). But there have been a few times I’ve said something, like when I was served raw chicken and bit into it. Anytime I’ve been apologetic for complaining, or phrased things in a polite way I’ve always gotten a great response. If you ever feel uncomfortable mentioning something in a restaurant – find their online contact information and explain and they will usually grant your next meal free. But I highly encourage using the same venue when you have a good experience too.

        2. Serin*

          I’ve often gotten those free drink coupons at Starbucks when my wait was barely noticeable and I haven’t asked for anything. I have a theory about that, though, based on eavesdropping on baristas: I think when the employees and the manager disagree on what’s an appropriate staffing level, the employees start handing out the freebies and then tell the boss, “do you see how many people we had to comp because they waited so long?”

  11. Mimmy*

    I remember several of those! #6 made me laugh both last time and this time.

    #4 – I don’t know that that’s a sin in and of itself. It sounds like this OP genuinely thought she could make the job work. I say this because this is what happened to me at PostGradSchoolJob. I had a solid background in this organization’s area of focus thanks to one of my internships, and I was open and enthusiastic during the interview. The job itself required you to provide a wide range of resources to a wide range of callers/emailers; thus, it was very content-heavy. It was a LOT of information to absorb but I honestly thought I’d catch on quickly (I had 2+ weeks to read through materials, previous call logs, videos, etc before taking calls). However, I never felt like I really got the hang of it, and I was laid off after 10 months. It was such an interesting job too :(

  12. Lisa*

    I can’t help but picture Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire playing in the background…

    1. Jennifer*

      Or that song about how the roof is on fire.
      Or “Burning House of Love.”
      Or “I’m On Fire.”

      So many options.

  13. Annie O*

    The airline story sounds so familiar that I wonder if I was the nasty customer. If so, here’s my side:

    After my previous flight arrived late, I ran across the airport only to be told that I’d missed the next flight. I tried to explain what happened, but the gate attendant in Chicago said she didn’t care and it wasn’t her problem. At that point, I lost it and broke down. What I never got a chance to explain was that I was a college student traveling home from study abroad with no money whatsoever and a maxed out credit card. I’d already been rerouted due to mechanical delays, separated from my luggage, and very hungry. Well, the gate attendant could care less and I was the target for her pent up anger. She re-routed me again in the worst seat possible, screwed up my luggage routing so badly that I never got it back (!), and gave me unconfirmed tickets on the next flight, which was completely full. In the end, it took me four days to get home. I had no luggage and no money the entire time, and the airline never gave me any vouchers, although I found out later that it was in their policies to do so. I remember sleeping on the floor and eating saltine crackers from the food court. The best thing was when a very nice woman bought me Chinese in the Dallas airport out of the goodness of her heart.

    Long story long… when I got home, I complained to the airlines and FAA. I had my entire ticket refunded (including the flights to Europe, which had been fine), the max reimbursement for international lost luggage, and $1000 in American Airline vouchers. I’m not sure what happened to the gate attendant, but I mentioned her by name in my complaint.

    1. Jeanne*

      That sounds like a nightmare. I’m glad you got at least a semi-satisfactory result in the end.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      So the retaliatory GA cost her company bottom line thousands of dollars and they got an FAA complaint to boot.
      See, this is why vengeance is wrong. It ends up harming people that weren’t involved. The GA was only thinking of herself.

  14. Christine*

    I get that what the gate agent did was wrong, but the article WAS about career sins, guys. I don’t know why anyone would contribute, if they’re just going to get crucified in the comments.

    1. A Non*

      That one seems to be touching a lot of nerves. Everyone thinks OP #2 really messed up and are sorta cheering for OP #5. But with the gate agent story, some people are identifying with the agent and some are identifying with the passenger. Conflict ahoy.

      (Just two days ago, I watched a passenger march up to the TSA rent-a-cop at the exit from the secure zone and say “You are going to check my ID, and you are going to let me use that machine inside the secure zone. You are not going to follow me.” When the TSA person started to object, he said NO and repeated himself, telling her loudly and angrily exactly what she was going to do. When she picked up her radio to contact a supervisor, he said “Well hurry up!”. It was the most astonishing display of bullying I’ve ever seen in public. I regret not wandering over to make it clear to the bully that his behavior was being observed by a third party. I sometimes wonder if airports are giant psychological experiments in human stress responses.)

      1. Katie the Fed*

        People have very strong opinions about air travel. I guarantee there is no issue as divisive as seat reclining vs. non-seat reclining. That seems to be a more intractable conflict than Israel.

        1. Traveler*

          + 1

          I am one of the weird ones who would never recline my seat, but don’t care if the person in front of me does (as long as its not up/down/up/down sort of situation of course, and i am reclining on international red-eyes).

          I think this is because I’ve known people who will immediately and aggressively yell at anyone that tries to recline in front of them and I fear I will find that person myself someday.

      2. Chriama*

        Funny enough, I’ve never had a really traumatic incident at an airport and I’ve spent the last 3 years making frequent trips back and forth across the country for school. (These are all domestic flights and I’m in Canada, so that might have something to do with it.)

        However, there was one time when I experienced rude behaviour in public and I regret not speaking up:
        I was on the metro and a group of 3 or 4 high school boys were listening to some music. They had a speaker, so it was really blaring, and the music was quite obscene, with lots of swearing and objectification of women. It was really bothering me and I could see other passengers were upset too. But I didn’t speak up at all. I was just worried. Would the boys back down or would they get aggressive towards me? If they got aggressive, would the other passengers speak up for me, ignore it, or speak against me? As a young, ethnic female, I’m really aware of the potential disadvantage I have in a public situation among strangers (unconscious bias is strongest when you don’t know the person), and I didn’t feel safe — physically or emotionally — to speak up so I said nothing.

        I always wonder what would have happened if I did. I like to think I’d speak up against great injustices if I saw them, but I only do that when I feel “safe”. Do other people experience variations of this?

        1. Cath in Canada*

          I told a huge group of kids to turn their music off on a train once (going from Glasgow to London). I wouldn’t normally dare, but I was super hungover after a really great wedding the night before and just didn’t care any more. I got a round of applause from some of the other passengers :D

      3. Nina*

        I hated being a gate agent, and I did it for less than a year. It was all I could take.

        I can totally empathize with passengers, especially those who had been in the airport for days. Airport food is expensive, you’re tired, dirty, and you just want to leave. You’re also at the mercy of complete strangers to get home and there’s nothing you can do about it. That feeling of being powerless feeds into the frustration of a lot of passengers.

        Unfortunately, the gate agents have to deal with the brunt of every problem, despite them not causing it. The pilot’s late? Blame the agent. Hole in the tire? Blame the agent. Busted jetway? Blame the agent. People want to yell at somebody, and the agent is the one on the front lines.

        Everything the agent does is timed, from boarding the flight to getting passengers off the plane. Holding a flight for someone late without permission from Operations is a serious offense. An agent can get fired for that, especially if there are crewmembers on the flight who are heading to fly planes in other places. That’s one reason why agents are so brusque with passengers; it’s not to be cruel, but they have other flights to handle, and the longer they focus on individual passenger issues, the less time they have to devote to their incoming/outgoing flights. While you’re arguing with a passenger about why they can’t be first on standby, your inbound flight has arrived, and those passengers on that plane can’t leave until you go out there to greet them. And that in turn, delays the boarding process for the outgoing flight. It’s a domino effect that can fall apart easily.

        I’m fully aware that some agents are just jerks who have a poor grasp of customer service and don’t care about the passengers at all. But under-staffing is one of the biggest problems in the airline industry, because when you have one person doing the work of five people, there’s bound to be problems and hurt feelings.

        1. A Non*

          I wasn’t aware gate agents were on such a tight time schedule. Thanks for the perspective.

    2. Chriama*

      I think there’s a difference between career sins and general lapses in human decency (and yes, I’m aware of how loaded that statement was).

      I don’t see that OP getting crucified though. AAM is generally really civil, especially since Alison started reinforcing the kindness aspect of commenting. OP is definitely getting some sympathy, but there are people who don’t agree with that behaviour and have explained why.

      For what it’s worth, if someone close to me revealed they did something similar I would say exactly what I said below. If the relationship wasn’t especially close I might not say anything but it would fundamentally change how I view them as a person and how much I let them into my life (although that has more to do with the lack of remorse than the actual incident).

      1. EngineerGirl*

        I was truly bothered that the OP felt no twinges of regret, even long afterward.

  15. Chriama*

    Yeah, the revenge stories were really not my favourite. I understand the appeal, and I would totally love them played out on a sitcom. I’ve known the temptation to make someone experience what they put you through, or put them in their place, or try to give karma a helping hand. But every time I’ve done that in real life, I’ve regretted it.

    Yes, people have been rude to me. But I can’t control their behaviour. I can only control my behaviour, which means I can only pass moral judgement on my behaviour. And in a situation like the airline story, that judgement is “I went out of my way to make someone else’s life unnecessarily difficult and inconvenient.”

    You weren’t acting in self-defense or responding to an immediate threat. Therefore, whatever the other person did, and however much they “deserved” your behaviour, you were wrong. I guess I just hold humanity to a higher standard.

  16. Canadamber*

    The second one just made me wince, A LOT, but the fifth one sounds like something that I would do!!! The first one was very evil, but I sort of sympathize, in a way (even though I don’t usually like that kind of horribleness), and the sixth one was actually quite hilarious. The seventh one, though, agggh.

    1. Canadamber*

      Erm, not that I would actually set things on fire, of course. (Maybe.) But I would certainly be tempted to destroy SOMETHING, if I felt that much stress, because stress is not something that I handle too well.

  17. Allison (not AAM!)*

    I have to say that #6 made me giggle. Not an ideal solution, but if that’s what it took to make her remember to log out, hey…. No lingering consequences, and I bet her boss still laughs about it. :-)

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