fired because of a false complaint, how to answer “Why are you the best person for this job?”

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. How to answer “Why are you the best person for this job?”

I was once asked in an interview, “Why are you the best person for this job?” I can prepare for some questions, but this was unexpected. Logical me says, how am I supposed to know whether I’m the best person if I don’t know who else is applying? What’s the best response to this?

This is a terribly phrased interview question, since of course you can’t know whether you’re the best candidate for the job or what the rest of their applicant pool looks like. But they’re not really asking that; they’re asking why you’d be great at the job. So mentally rephrase it to that in your head, and talk about why you think you’d excel at it.

2. We don’t get per diem when we travel on business to our home office, although we get it on other trips

I work remotely on a team that is made up of about 30% remote workers. Twice a year, our entire team gets together for a week long on-site meeting to regroup, plan, etc.

Normally, we travel about a week a month and have a per diem of $40 for food. However, when we travel to the home office, we are only allowed to use the per diem on the two travel days (Monday and Friday), and the other days we are supposed to pay for meals out of pocket.

One of my coworkers asked our department head why this was the case and was told that no one was paying for his meals (the department head’s) during the on-site, so why should we be different? The coworker replied that we should as we aren’t going home to a refrigerator full of food every night. The coworker was told to drop it. Does this seem unreasonable to you? If so, can you think of another way to approach this?

Yes, it’s unreasonable. If you’re traveling away from home, it doesn’t matter that you’re traveling to another office of your company. It’s travel. The fact that there are employees who live there doesn’t change the fact that you don’t, and that you’re on travel that whole week, with the accompanying expenses.

If you want to pursue it, I’d approach HR, not your department head, since he’s shown that he’s not open to thinking about it. In approaching HR, I’d say, “Given that we’re incurring the same expenses that we’d be occurring on any other business trip that kept us away from home, would you consider allowing us the same per diem that we’d receive if we were traveling to, say, a client’s site? We’re still without a refrigerator of food to go home to at night.”

3. I was fired because of a false customer complaint

I was terminated today from my position as a store manager at a storage facility. Here’s why: While off the clock and visiting my father in the hospital, I received a call from a rep at the company’s 24-hour customer service hotline. The rep asked me to resolve a customer issue. The customer wasn’t able to access the gate. His PIN code wasn’t working. In speaking with the customer, I realized he was routed to me in error. He should have been routed to the manager of a close-by sister site. He wasn’t my customer so there was little I could do to assist him. I hung up with the customer and informed the appropriate store manager of his need and asked her to follow up and assist him.

Today I learned the customer complained about my inability to help him and lied, saying I advised him to climb the fence to get in, something I would never ever do! I was fired for violating the company safety policy. I was told that my suggestion risked the safety of the customer and the facility. I was given no opportunity to give my side of the story. I was told specifics aren’t important and the decision had been made.

Can an employer terminate me for an incident that happened while I was off the clock and not being paid? And should I have been given the opportunity to explain and prove the customer’s accusations were false? My employer took the customer’s word and based my termination on it.

Yes, you can be fired for work-related incidents that happen while you’re off the clock. (However, if you’re non-exempt, they need to pay you for any work you do, even if it’s outside of your hours. As a manager, you’re probably exempt, but it’s worth mentioning.)

They absolutely should have given you an opportunity to explain what happened, and it’s ridiculous that they didn’t. Legally, they’re not obligated to, so you don’t have much recourse here, although you could certainly try reaching out to your manager and explaining the situation, even if only to negotiate the reference that you get in the future. Sorry this happened to you; it’s BS.

4. Can I put being the executor of a will on my resume?

My father passed away earlier this year, and he named me executor. He left behind a house, multiple accounts, cars, etc. and I (with the help of my wife) have been cleaning out the house, paying his bills, closing/transferring his accounts as necessary, and selling the contents of the house. This estate is still ongoing and I will need to pay taxes on it before the end of the year. I’ve already had to fire one lawyer and retain a second one to help out with this part at least. Is this something that’s worth putting on my resume?

Nope. It’s certainly a lot of work, and you could even argue there might be transferable skills involved, but it doesn’t belong on your resume. In general, attending to family personal matters is inappropriate to include on a resume, regardless of the work involved. (To use another example, if you’d coordinated a massive and complicated trip as part of your job, that might be a highlight worth mentioning, but if you did it for your family reunion, it’s not.)

Part of the reason for this is simply convention, part of it is that you’re not really accountable to anyone (clients, employer, etc.) in doing this type of thing and so theoretically could have done a mediocre job at it and prospective employers have no way to know, and part of it is that it’s the type of thing that so many people will do in the course of their family life that it’s not quite considered resume-worthy.

I’m sorry about your dad.

5. Letting a company I interviewed with know that I’ve accepted another position

You’ve had several posts regarding the reality of how rarely applicants hear back from an employer when they are not offered a position. My question concerns the flip side – the applicant’s responsibility or courteousness to let a potential employer know she is moving on and is no longer interested in the position she applied for. Obviously it doesn’t make sense to follow up like this for every application, but what about those for which you’ve interviewed?

My particular situation is that I received an offer for a position which was my first choice, but the paperwork/offer letter/contract was still in the works. During that interim, I interviewed for another position, which was my second choice. At the end of the interview, we discussed their timeline and when I might expect to hear from them. I followed up with a thank-you email and received a personal and typical response from them. It has now been more than seven weeks since they expected to make a decision and I haven’t heard anything more, yet through my network I have heard they are just “slow to fill the position.” I would potentially like to work with this employer in three to five years from now. The paperwork has gone through for my first choice and I will be taking that position. It seems courteous to close the hiring process with the other employer by taking myself out of consideration, but I would like to do that in a way which keeps the bridge open for the future and without sounding snooty. Any suggestions on appropriate wording?

“Thanks so much for talking with me about the ___ position in August. I wanted to let you know that I’ve accepted another position so need to withdraw from your process. I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with you and think the work you’re doing is (fascinating/exciting/something I’d love to be a part of down the road). Best of luck in filling the role, and I hope our paths might cross again in the future!”

That said, since they’ve let seven weeks go by without being in contact, you’re really not obligated to do this. That’s enough time that it would be reasonable to assume that they’d moved on without other candidates without bothering to tell you (and if you hadn’t heard otherwise through your network, it would be a decent bet, given how common it is for employers to do that), and in that case you wouldn’t owe them an update. But particularly since this is a company that you might be interested in working with in the future, a quick email like this could be a nice closing of the loop.

{ 213 comments… read them below }

  1. UKAnon

    #3 – Which country are you in? A number of countries do have unfair dismissal laws, so it might be worth looking into if you’re outside America.

      1. UKAnon

        Touche! There are other options available under UFD though – at least over here. Plus it helps with looking for a new job.

      2. Vicki

        True, but the OP should certainly be able to get unemployment benefits for being fired _without cause_.

        Also, in the US (at least in some counties) you can get a relatively inexpensive half hour or hour talk with a lawyer. You may not have a “case” but you can get information. Contact your local bar association to ask about this.

        It can be amazingly helpful to be able to send a letter to your former employer that includes the words “The employment lawyer I consulted recommends I request that you change my records to show that I was not fired with cause and that you will neither provide a bad reference for me nor block my attempts to apply for unemployment insurance.”

  2. Jeanne

    For #3, it’s sad that as workers we have so few rights. That kind of conduct is so egregious there should be recourse. It’s also sad that the customer has no conscience but unfortunately I am not surprised.

    1. Joey

      What right would fix this? The right to have a good manager? The right to ensure the govt agrees that you were fired for a good reason?

      I just don’t see how you can fix this with legislation without creating endless hoops that employers have to jump through to manage their workforce.

      1. Jamie

        I agree. It absolutely sucks that it happened and I’m sorry for the OP, but I don’t see how the government could solve this.

        And in practice I’ve seen far more sub-par employees never get fired than people let for frivolously or without even a conversation. Clearly it happens and that’s wrong – but it’s not in a businesses best interests to let good employees go and most companies understand the cost of turnover. You’ll always have lousy managers out there.

      2. Ani

        Maybe on the flip side there is some sort of legal protection or recourse against libel/slander/blacklisting from employment for something the OP did not do?

        1. Brett

          Potential there would be against the customer if the OP wanted to pursue that, but it would be difficult to prove that the OP did not do what the customer said.

          1. EvilQueenRegina

            OP said they had informed the other store of the call so the other store should be able to back it up.

            1. Melissa

              But the other store would have no way of verifying what the OP said to the customer in the prior phone call. It’s really a s/he-said-s/he said situation.

              1. April

                Surely the call was recorded? Most places when you call the customer service line have a message that says “Your call will be recorded for quality assurance or training purposes.”

      3. jhhj

        Yes, laws preventing firing for no reason/without warnings for minor misconduct etc. You SHOULD be able to fight back if you are fired for bullshit reasons. (I’m not in the US, so it more or less happens like this here.)

        1. JoJo

          Nope. The employment in the US is at-will. Y0u can get fired any time for any reason. The only exception is if you’re in a protected class.

          1. jhhj

            I know this is the case. The question I was answering was “What rights would fix this?”, and the answer is laws preventing at-will employment.

          2. Ezri

            I get the impression this was a *should be* comment instead of an *is* – we know that employment is at-will, but it would be nice if employees had more protection from those who use at-will irresponsibly.

            However, I also agree with commenters above that there is no magic legislation that will fix bad managers. The only problem I have with at-will is that utilizing it (in general) seems to cost the employee more than the employer. Especially in this job market – there are lots of people applying for jobs, but someone who wants to leave a place might not be able to easily find other work.

            *Sigh*. It’s one of those issues that doesn’t really have a solution other than ‘don’t be a jerk’. Unfortunately, there will always be jerks, laws or no laws.

          3. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)

            Nope. The employment in the US is at-will. Y0u can get fired any time for any reason. The only exception is if you’re in a protected class.

            I swear I’m not trying to be pedantic, but I see people confused on this issue so often irl as well as online I need to point out that being in a protected class only protects you from being fired for reasons related to your being in that protected class.

            Everyone is in a protected class as everyone has a race and a gender.

            IOW my boss can fire me right now because they hate my shoes, but not because I’m a woman. The scope is narrow.

      4. Erica

        Well, my understanding is that, in the US, the employee can file for unemployment benefits and there will be an investigation into what happened to establish whether he/she was fired without cause and thus eligible for benefits. This will at least will be an unpleasant experience for the manager, and increase the company’s UE premiums.

        1. Wren

          The cause that gets UI denied (at least when I last worked in general HR) was something serious. You had to hit the CEO or steal something to get UI denied.

          1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)

            I think this varies from region to region. Where I live it’s “gross misconduct” which is a pretty high bar to clear. People joke that you have to slug someone or actually set someone on fire to be denied, but it can be denied for cause if there is evidence of progressive discipline and major effort on the part of the employer to help the employee bring their performance up to standard.

            That’s why the at will thing really does have controls built in. My employer could fire me right now, but baring evidence that I did something heinous they just discovered there is 0 discipline in my file, 0 reprimands, 0 emails warning me about anything. So UI would be mine – slam dunk. To fire someone and not have to pay out you really need (at least in my area) to prove way beyond a shadow of a doubt there was cause; the labor board is really weighted on the side of the employee, not the employers.

            Employers want to keep UI at a minimum because every employee who is rewarded UI ups the premium rate for years. (Can’t recall if it’s 5 or 7 years.) So employers who fire willy nilly would cost themselves tremendously for years to come. Not to mention the cost of turnover and the new employees coming in for however long before they go positive in the value apex.

      5. Vicki

        The right to a mediator (as Unions provide).
        The right to never be fired “with cause” unless you are able to provide your side of the story.
        The elimination of “At-will employment”.

        Basically, employers hold all the cards unless an employee is lucky enough to be a member of a protected class, a member of a union, or (in some situations), exempt.

  3. CoffeeLover

    I have a question that’s related to 5. Can I send those kind of messages (“Sorry, I accepted another offer”) via email rather than calling? Also, when interviewing with several people (where no single person is the hiring manager/decision maker) is it appropriate to send this to the company recruiter that has been coordinating the whole process?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Always by email for this sort of thing!

      And fine to send to the recruiter, but if you had particular rapport with the hiring manager, I’d send it to her too. (Keep in mind that the hiring manager isn’t “the person in charge of hiring,” but rather the person the open position will report to. So there probably is a hiring manager in the process!)

      1. CoffeeLover

        This is for management consulting where there really is no manager. I suppose the partners are your boss, but each project has a different manager. Anyway! Thank you for your response. Once upon a time, a campus adviser told me I had to call to let a firm know I had accepted another role. It led to a really awkward conversation with the recruiter demanding to know why I chose to go somewhere else.

        1. Leah

          That is why it is so much better to email. Even with a person who is calm and professional in the conversation, the interaction would probably be awkward.

          1. Pennalynn Lott

            I turned down a job offer via email one time and the hiring manager called me back – several times! – demanding to know why I was making such a stupid decision and trying to convince me (by ever increasingly abusive language) to ditch the other company and go with his offer. Yowsa.

        2. the+gold+digger

          A woman who had interviewed at my old job (when I was still working there) found my name from our alumni association and called to ask if she should accept the offer my company had made her. She had another offer from another company as well.

          I told her that I would take the other offer: that company was growing, the stock price had gone up, and they were not laying people off. My company had been laying people off for a few years and the stock price had dropped 30% over a few years.

          She accepted the other job and told my company that I had told her not to take the offer and the recruiter from my company called me to complain to me! I told her the same thing I had told the candidate and the recruiter sighed and said, “Yeah, she probably made the right decision.”

          However – candidates – please do not rat out the inside people who give you honest feedback.

  4. CoffeeLover

    #3 I just want to join in the outrage. What kind of A-hole complains and lies like that? Does he have no consideration for his actions? What was he trying to accomplish? I bet he probably didn’t think it would get you fired but regardless! I hope karma comes back to him.

    Your company is also full of A-holes, but I have a similar story to share. When I was working a part-time job (fancy chocolate shop), a woman wrote a massive email to the company about an epic tale of her trying to get to the store before close, her husband dashing out of the car, and one of us slamming the door in his face. Her Mother’s Day was ruined! So the owner emails my boss demanding to know who had committed this atrocity and that there would be repercussions. Well, my boss had a little more sense and got the two of us that were working to write up what happened. The actual story: we closed a bit later than usual because there were customers in the store and there was a tug at the door about 10min after close (probably that guy). We never heard about it again. I think the owner realized the error of jumping to conclusions without knowing the facts. I think the shock of us doing what the lady said overruled any possibility that this person could be lying – it just didn’t occur to him to get the other side of the story.

    Conclusion: People suck and I hope you can find a place that treats its employees better, OP.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      A small segment of customers do lie in their complaints. I don’t know if they are delusional, attention seeking, mean spirited or trying to get massive courtesy discounts with their inventions.

      In my world it’s not hard to sort out. If lady claims to me that our CS manager (of 17 years!) was rude to her and hung up on her, that’s laughable. We know all of our people and their work patterns and our problem is that our folks are arguably too nice and care too much, meaning they try too hard to please lost cause folks.

      In factual he said/she said, we always give the customer the benefit of the doubt. (Example, I told the rep I had to have my order this Friday.) The rare people who tell mean lies get the door. I have a ready reference list of competitors to refer them to.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        * benefit of the doubt in resolving their issue, like paying for expedited shipping to meet the date ourselves. Not benefit of the doubt in actually believing what they said over our rep.

      2. Gina

        It’s not really a small segment. I had a seasonal job in QA once and all I basically did for five months was listen in on calls and follow up on complaints to listen to the recording. I can count on one hand the times the customer said “he promised me x” or “she refused to help me” and it actually happened that way. Even the promises weren’t hard and fast, more like “your order should be arriving between the 12th and 16th” and they turned that into “I was guaranteed delivery by the 12th.” So it’s not always malicious, but somehow it’s always in their favor and they’ll throw everyone they talked to under the bus in the meantime.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          I love statistical input, thanks!

          In our case we are dealing with business to business customers, and there are different patterns of behavior per brand, because the different brands attract different types of businesses.

          The more professional the customer, the less likely they are to go all whack job lie “she slammed the phone down on me!” but every segment is good for truth shading to their advantage in a CYA. Dates are the biggest ones. It’s so common we have procedures in place to deal with it and don’t get too excited. The first time they get a pass and we’ll spend money to solve the issue at hand. Then their account is noted that all communication about dates must be in writing and they are very politely informed of this in a “we’re doing this for your benefit” kind of way.

          One of the biggest whoppers we ever dealt with was from a police department. It was $10,000 in merch all printed with the wrong phone number. The phone number was given in writing, and the proofs were all signed off on. There was literally no way for the police captain who did all of this to wriggle out except claiming that he had called the rep after he signed off and told her to change the number. It would have been ridiculous anyway, but the rep he was trying to hang was one of our senior people who is accurate to a fault and compulsive about noting our system on any communication.

          He refused to approve our invoice whereupon we ratted him out to his purchasing department who did believe our trail and approved payment. Then we did a redo at cost, through purchasing, and hoped that dude never called us again.

          1. Beancounter+in+Texas

            When I worked in a members only club, our customer database had a “VIP” tag that we’d use to signal those customers who acted like they were important (but really were pains in the butt), so when they checked in, we’d be ready to handle them. Refreshingly, those who were important for political reasons graciously never acted like they were more important than others.

        2. MK

          Miscommunication is not the same thing as deliberately lying about the facts. Nor is giving your side of the story, which naturally slants in your favor. And employees are not immusne to this; it’s not exactly uncommon for salespeople to give the customer the impression that they are getting more than they are, while not making definite promises.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            I agree with this. And I don’t make any money off of being proven right, I only make money off of satisfied customers.

            If there’s a pattern of customers complaining about dates with a particular rep, we address the rep’s process because something is off to create a cluster.

      3. Eliza+Jane

        I think a lot of it is trying to shape themselves as the hero of their story. They add the details to make it all more dramatic, and either don’t think or don’t care about the human cost. They want the narrative to support their perspective (that they were wronged) so they reinvent reality. I suspect a lot of these people half-believe their own stories by the time they tell them, or at least feel that the false detail is only making what really happened more real and obvious. “He was totally out of line. His tone was dismissive and rude. He didn’t care if I had to climb the gate to get in!” Then the detail gets added as if they were told to do so, because it established “reality” for someone who couldn’t get the tone.

        1. fposte

          I agree, and I think that’s not just customers but broadly human. There’s some good evidence to suggest that our memories are being constantly rewritten, so reshaping our stories could indeed reshape our memories of what happened.

          1. fposte

            Ah, the problem comments showing somebody else’s email in the comment header is still happening. Sorry, Wakeen’s Teapots, I wasn’t deliberately ganking your avatar.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              It’s fixed now. I’d updated a plugin, which sent everything haywire. It’s fixed, and sorry about that, everyone!

              However, if the wrong information or the plus signs got stored in anyone’s browser, you’ll need to write your own commenter info in again to override it. You should only need to do it once in whatever browser you’re using (if they saw wrong info in multiple browsers, you’ll have to override it in each browser).

        2. manybellsdown

          Yeah, I think you’re right. People convince themselves that their version is the true one and they will stick to it against all evidence to the contrary.

          I was teaching drama in an afterschool program. It’s informal, so the students all called me by my first name. A parent lodged a complaint against me after his daughter wasn’t given a leading role in a production, claiming I’d said horrible racist things about Mexicans (in a school that was probably 2/3 students of Hispanic ancestry!) and that’s why his daughter didn’t get roles.

          He stuck to this even after he was made aware that my last name was Ortega. The real reason his daughter didn’t get roles was because she rarely ever came to class.

    2. James M

      A$$-hole customers are all too common. Not only do they have an overblown sense of entitlement, they also pursue and expect your loss of employment when they are not placated. A$$-hole execs add fuel to the fire, they are like caricatures from a textbook about logical fallacies: “Customer is complaining, so we must do something. Firing Jane R. is something, so we must fire Jane R.”

      @ OP3: you have my heartfelt sympathy. I wish you luck finding employment with rational people.

      1. Wakeen's+Teapots+Ltd.

        These things are the easy things to figure out. The asshole complaints are always out of left field and don’t follow patterns of performance that you know in that employee or department.

        It’s basic common sense to look at patterns and address patterns, not one offs.

        1. Tomato_Frog

          One time when I was working the desk at a library, my boss called me in to talk to me. Apparently two separate patrons had complained that I’d been rude to them. Up to that point, no one had complained about me, ever, and then suddenly two in one day. My boss said, “I know you weren’t rude to them. What do you think happened?” I’ve always appreciated that.

          1. Contessa

            I had a boss give me the benefit of the doubt like that once, and I definitely always appreciated it. I worked in an outlet mall, and we had a no-food-or-drinks policy. Someone came in with a drink, so I told her politely what the policy was and probably something else (it was a long time ago, so I can’t remember exactly). She wanted to leave her drink behind the counter with the registers, and being young, I told her the whole truth (“I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to let you do that, because we have our drinks back there, and there could be a mix-up”) instead of just telling her I couldn’t do that. She flipped out and left the store, and apparently called the corporate office to demand a coupon because I was rude to her–and corporate gave it to her. My boss was LIVID at the corporate office, because I was just enforcing their policies. That stuck with me. She was a great boss.

            1. Diet Coke Addict

              There is nothing–nothing at all–that will kill a retail manager’s reputation faster than giving in to customers who complain and throwing employees under the bus. There is also nothing that will cement goodwill like being on your employee’s side. An otherwise-good retail manager can kill years of accumulated positive-reputation by giving in to one crappy customer complaint in front of the employee.

              1. Meg

                I was a customer service manager at a mass retailer while in college. My register audits were always done, my front-end associates always got their breaks and lunches relatively on-time, and I would bend over backwards to help a customer when something went wrong. But I stuck by the book. Polite, but firm, and always tried to offer a solution if what the customer wanted was outside of company policy. That didn’t win me any favorites in the customer department when they didn’t get their way, and I often got complaints that were just “she didn’t give me my way, customer is always right” BS.

                Yet I received the highest evaluation on my annual review, my front-end numbers were up (staffing, IPH [items per hour], shrink was down, no missing money – except for one, but my regular audits caught the associate who was stealing money from the register). I was being groomed for assistant manager. And then I left. Three associates and an assistant manager left right behind me.

                Went to become a store manager for a major cell phone carrier, and my hands were tied to commission and store profit. I couldn’t be as firm as I was at the mass retailer, because my paychecks and my employee’s paychecks were based on sales, and we needed to well… let a few things slide. My solution was to throw in free accessories to appease a customer. Oh, my employee “didn’t tell you there was a $35 activation fee on your new line”, but you signed off and initialed the contract on that spot that says there’s a $35 activation fee? My apologies, have a free bumper case AND cell phone charger, a value of $50. Customer is happy, employee is happy I didn’t throw him under the bus, I kept their service and the commission on the contract… for a $1.95 car charger and $0.60 case. I don’t mind eating $2.55 to save $200+

                1. Ezri

                  I worked at a chain restaurant as a waitress for about three months in college (all I could stand, that place was awful), and my husband managed to last two years in the kitchen. Management’s line was ‘the customer is ALWAYS right, even when they are clearly not’.

                  We had people who would come in and order, eat everything, then come up to the register saying it was inedible / cold / had a hair and demanding a refund. Which we would give them, often along with a duplicate of their order for free. No joke – I don’t know how that place made money.

                  Now, I have no problem with someone getting compensated if something does go wrong, and I’m the soul of apology when I actually mess up. Even if you don’t like it, I’ll get you a new one. But don’t eat the whole thing and then tell me it had grody hairs in it and you want another. >_< I did have one lady who sent back a cup of soup that she said had a hair, and I felt absolutely awful until I got it back to the kitchen and saw it was a crack in the bowl. She still got new soup.

                  Oh, I had another guy who ordered a chili pasta dish with 'double everything' (as a way to get two chilis while only paying for one, which you could do), who then complained that there was too much sauce and sent it back. He also got annoyed that he couldn't order three sides of mac-n-cheese for a discount using a coupon that specified you had to order the sides with a kids meal. Since the mac-n-cheese came out before the sent-back chili, I also had to deal with the ragey 'why is my food not immediately here, how dare you charge me this when I have a coupon, does your manager know how angry I am'. Cherry on top he told me to walk away because I was upsetting his son (by apologizing and being as polite as possible), who was merrily coloring and nomming mac-n-cheese without any trace of distress. Management told me I needed to be more careful with customer orders. Ugh, that job sucked.

              2. Liane

                Yes. I was so proud of my new–transferred, not “noob”–manager. My colleague told me that she was dealing with a customer who didn’t have a receipt & wanted to return something too expensive for store credit, per our policy.
                Oftener than not, our managers will tell us to go ahead–in which case, I insist they enter their override code &/or I write their name all over the ticket.
                But “Ty” didn’t. And Customer pitched fit & yelled she was calling the home office. Ty’s replied, “Yes, ma’am. Don’t forget to tell them you didn’t have your receipt.”

            2. Anonyby

              Oh man, I had something similar happen when I was working as a rides operator at an amuesment park, but the area manager was much less understanding than your boss.

              I was following regulations by having a wheelchair-bound child rider wait for approximately the time of the line before letting him and his adult companion on the ride. Another adult in their party (who was accompanying a child who could go through the line) got extremely mad, and had me call the area manager so that they could complain. Afterwards I received a verbal warning in my file from the area manager, who gave me no chance to explain my side.

              I loved most of the families I interacted with at that job. It was my coworkers and the higher-ups that made the job satisfaction plummet.

          2. Kelly L.

            Yes! I had an experience years ago, in food service, where a customer complained to my manager that I was the rudest person they’d ever met. It was the kind of thing that could have gotten me fired, probably, if it hadn’t been for my boss giving me the benefit of the doubt since it wasn’t really in character for me. (What had really happened was that the customer suddenly went off on me in mid-transaction because she couldn’t decide what to order. Yes, it was very weird. She then finished her performance by asking for an application to work with us, which may have been the weirdest part. Who wants to work somewhere they’ve just raised a huge stink? I guess the logic was that she could do better than any of us?)

            1. Dan

              I had a job once where a “contractor” complained about me. (I worked the night shift doing ground handling for private jets. The “contractor” was a limo driver, I use the term to indicate that he isn’t a customer.) The guy asked me when his client was supposed to arrive. I didn’t know. Sometimes I know, sometimes I don’t, it’s the nature of the beast. He just wouldn’t leave me alone. I had to tell him to stay put, keep busy, and I’ll come get him when it’s time.

              The next day, I get an email from my boss saying the guy complained that I “cussed him out.” My boss said she was worried because that was uncharacteristic of me. I told her not to worry, that the guy was lying. I said he was looking for lots of attention, and I didn’t have the time to babysit him. I could tell the situation was going south, so there was no way I was going to cuss him out and give him reason to complain.

              I further told my boss that if the guy has an issue with the way I run my ramp, he’s more than welcome to wait outside the gate the next time his customer comes in. (Driving the vehicle plane side is a *huge* deal for private jet clients and their transportation provider.)

              That was the last I heard of that one.

        2. College+Career+Counselor

          I wish more administrators in higher ed followed the advice in your last sentence. There is often a tendency to believe the cust–er, student–outright without checking to see whether the complaint is an unwarranted outlier.

    3. A Dispatcher

      Not the same as a customer complaint, but I am continually amazed at the lies I hear from some people denying things they said *on a taped line*. Some people will really just say whatever they think is the most beneficial to them at the time, truth be darned.

      1. BRR

        I had this go the other way once with a cable company. The rep promised me something and lied. Like flat out lied about everything. I filed a complaint with the state. Got a call back and was placed on hold for 15 min while they “checked with the sales people to process my order.” (or listen to the first call).

        1. Taz

          Me too. It was a Monday, I wasn’t getting several channels, including the basic network stations that you supposedly don’t even need cable for (but do now, or need at least a digital box), the rep walked me through setting up an appointment for Saturday (the earliest time I could schedule, I work M-F during their repair times). He went through the entire spiel about how someone 18 or older needed to be there, confirmed the time, said if they were late I’d get three months free of a premium channel. Here was my mistake and where I was unprofessional: I said, That won’t help much if I’m not getting even the basic channels. The date scheduled, I said thanks and hung up.

          Come Saturday, no one arrived within the window. When I called, the woman on the other line said I had hung up on the employee before he had finished scheduling an appointment and that he had indicated in his notes that he had told me at the start of the call I had to wait until he had confirmed it was scheduled before I hung up. I mean, right from the get-go it was all on me. I immediately protested, said I hadn’t been with even basic network stations now for an entire week, I had set aside my Saturday for this appointment, and now it most likely would be another week before I could schedule an appointment. And on top of that, he had completely finished the entry into the system, confirmed it with me, and finished it off by telling me about the free 3 months of a premium channel if they were late. I have never heard of a call center where the customer is supposed to wait for the employee to hang up on them, it’s the other way around to end a call.

          A manager listened to the call and (shockingly) called me back and apologized and offered all sorts of things. In the interim I had already taken my cable box directly into a local office and disconnected all my cable services, save for the Internet. (And I don’t regret it one bit.)

          1. Dan

            I had Comcast flat out lie to me. I’ve been an internet customer for years, and they wanted to get me to subscribe to cable. They offered me higher speed internet service and a mid-tier cable package for $10/mo more than I was paying now. “You’re going to like it” he says. I subscribed.

            They came and did the hookup. When I left, all I got were the basic channels. I got a package so shitty that they didn’t even advertise it on the website. I called up and complained, they told me that I got what I signed up for. Haha I told them, I”ll happily take advantage of your $30 customer satisfaction policy. Come and get your box back!

            1. INTP

              When I told an AT&T rep that I wasn’t going to subscribe because they required me to buy a $100 box when I already have my own modem and wifi router, they told me that there is a special U-verse Box Special that gets you a $100 gift card. I asked for the fine print and was told that there was none, the gift card would automatically come 6 weeks after paying my first bill. This was an internet rep so I screenshotted the conversation.

              Yeah. That never came. I called to ask about it and was told that that promotion doesn’t exist, that I could get my gift card under a different promotion. That one never came. Was told that I didn’t qualify for that promotion because of X technicality. On and on and on. I finally got it – definitely not by being nice and understanding with my CSRs, though.

            2. Ezri

              Comcast. Don’t get me started on Comcast. I moved twice using them in my last town (they were the only option), and every time I’d call them two or three times to confirm my service shut down / start dates and addresses. Every single time they ‘accidentally’ left the old address on, and as soon as the bill popped up I’d have to call and tell them I wasn’t paying more money for a service I shut off. Once they shut off the new address instead of the old one, and any time there was an issue it meant two or three days of phone-circles with customer service.

              Best part about my relocation was getting to disconnect my Comcast service. Now I’ve got a local ISP that works like a dream.

        2. INTP

          My experience with the cable company is that you have to be that ahole customer to get what you are promised. Those $100-300 gift cards AT&T promises with all of their offers? You have to call a million times and fight through a million excuses to actually receive it. There’s always some sort of fine print that was not presented to you at first (not just hidden but literally not available to you). The only way to not get screwed over is to be that ahole customer who takes names, raises their voice, and makes people fear that you will make great difficulties for them if they don’t comply. I don’t like doing it, but I don’t feel guilty either since the fault lies within the system that is designed to withhold promised benefits from people who aren’t willing to play the game.

          I’ve had the same issue with a certain credit card company. The only way to reach someone whose level of English is sufficient to understand the intricacies of a not-standard problem is to sound angry enough to get escalated. If asking nicely to be escalated to the next call center worked, I’d do it, but with this company it doesn’t.

          With AAA, I was charged for a service I didn’t receive and kept making call after call to people who promised to resolve it while continuing to receive “Pay this or it will go to collections” letters. How did I actually get my issue up to the people who resolve things instead of flipping them around to different departments who all claim it isn’t their issue? By naming names of all the agents who had “helped” me and yelling at a couple of people.

          TL;DR many customers who seem OTT angry and dramatic and exaggerate their complaints are only doing what they have to do to get their problem attended to or not get screwed by your company. Squeaky wheel gets the grease. CSRs that I know always tell me that being nice gets you further, but that just hasn’t been my real-life experience.

      2. jag

        It doesn’t amaze me much that there is so much lying. We see it constantly, including among the highest leaders of the United States, where they straight up deny things that there is video tape of them saying. Donald Rumsfeld is an example but there are many, many others.

        It’s clearly works well for the most exalted leaders of our society, so why shouldn’t everyone do it?

        1. Dan

          I kind of agree with you. We’re in a society where we “deny, deny, deny” until they come back at us with undeniable proof. And then we deny some more.

          But we also live in a society where your words will be used against you. So being honest (and I consider myself honest to a fault) will get you in trouble too. Your mom might have gone easier on you for telling the truth when you were 3, but nobody cuts you slack for telling the truth when you could have lied about it instead.

    4. Not an IT Guy

      Assuming of course this doesn’t “blacklist” the OP from future employment. It sounds to me that any potential employer will hear nothing but “fired for violating the safety policy” and telling the truth would be badmouthing the previous employer. It sucks to be in this situation and I hope the OP does find a better job.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger

      I’ve been very lucky. While some government agencies will go even further than the private sector to accommodate mean, nasty, and unreasonable people, probably out of fear of them complaining to the press or an elected official, my client has given us express permission to (politely) hang up on people if we’re getting nowhere! Seriously, you would not believe the people who will call just to rant/talk/keep busy. We even have a script that goes something like “I’m sorry, but did you have a question about [agency’s mission]?” [Repeat 2-3x] “If you don’t have a question about [agency’s mission], I’m going to have to help other people who do.” “Thank you for calling [agency], I’m sorry I couldn’t help you today. Goodbye.”, and yes, we were told to talk over them, especially if we had other people in the queue.

      1. Dan

        Interesting. The worst customer service experience I had was with 1-800-FLOWERS. I wanted to surprise my ex with some flowers for her birthday. I get home, no flowers. I call, they say she wasn’t home and that they’ll come back tomorrow. “Tomorrow” (a Saturday) rolls around, and at about 2pm, I call to ask where my flowers were. “Oh, we attempted to deliver this morning, nobody was home.” I just about went ballistic, we were there all day. Ex says she was home all day the day before, too. They say they’ll deliver again tomorrow.

        I told them that wasn’t good enough. For two days, they said nobody was home when we clearly were. I asked if I could pick them up. No, they said. I literally told the guy that I knew he can’t hang up on me, so I’m going to send his call time through the roof. It was 2pm — I told him flat out that I had nothing to do until 4pm, and this was important enough to me on principle alone that if I have to waste two hours of my time, then dammit, that’s what I’m going to do.

        The guy kept placing me on hold and calling the florist, and kept saying “no, they won’t deliver today.” I asked if I could contact the florist directly. Nope.

        Astonishingly, those flowers showed up in 30 minutes while I was still on the phone. The guy who dropped them off didn’t want to get bitched out, so he left the flowers on my doorstep and ran. I was mad as hell, because when I saw the florist’s card, they had come from a shop about 10 miles or so from me. The driver had to have already been in the area — there’s no way he was already back at the shop and then did a special run just for me.

        I was mad 6 ways from Sunday and gave 800 FLOWERS an earful the next day.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          The problem is that you used a flower broker. They just farm out orders to whomever is cheapest so they get to keep as large of a percentage of the fee as possible. The local florist who gets the order is getting paid less than for the same order from a walk-in, and gets the request not from the customer, but from a corporate overlord who isn’t even their boss/owner.

          tl;dr version: ALWAYS always always find a local storefront florist or even a grocery store (most have floral departments) and give them your business directly.

      2. Cucumber

        Do people still have the call monitored periodically though, to make sure that callers aren’t being abused in turn?

        I had a very painful call with someone from my state tax agency last month. “Michelle” seemed to take every question as a personal affront, repeatedly interrupted me and talked over me with incredible derision. I wish I’d recorded it. She even started talking over me as I said I had no more questions, and tried to thank her.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          No, this is a small agency, there are only 2-4 people who might answer the phone, and anyone else in the office can clearly overhear the calls when walking by the cubicle of the phone staff, so there’s no need to record or monitor the line. Without giving away too much, we also have more of a social service type of mission, so even when callers are enraged or incredibly frustrated we’re sympathetic.

    6. MT

      I have seen the flip side of that as well. I was a drug store on a sunday morning to pick up newspapers and milk. The cashier was to busy chatting on the cell phone to her kids than to run the register. I was the only customer in the store, it was like 6am. After waiting 20 minutes I found the manager to complain about the service. The manager flat out told me that he was sorry, but he didnt really care. I-t was harder for him to find a new employee that would show up for the pay, than it was for him to find a new customer.

      1. Dan

        If you want better help, then you pay more. If you can’t afford to pay more, then you probably go out of business if customers won’t put up with crappy service.

      2. Melissa

        …but that doesn’t make any sense. What good is it to have an employee who “shows up” if she’s not actually working during the time she’s there?

    7. INTP

      Re: “What kind of ahole complains and lies about that?”

      My first thought was an ahole who got caught trying to climb the fence and gave an excuse to get himself out of trouble. That would be bizarre enough – if he didn’t even wind up climbing over the fence, it’s extra-bizarre that he would make something up about it.

    8. Melissa

      He might have actually been trying to get OP fired. A lot of people who work in customer service have told me that irate customers have tried to get them or other CSAs fired for either minor, petty things, OR for completely unreasonable things (i.e., one customer at a coffee shop tried to get TWO employees fired because he would get several free cups of water in a day and they politely asked him to save his cup so he could get refills in the same cup, rather than wasting 4-5 cups a day. It was their store policy to ask, too). Customers do sometimes make up outrageous stories to get associates fired or to get what they want, whether it’s a discount, free merchandise, special treatment, etc.

      As an aside…if the chocolate from the chocolate shop is really going to make or break your day, shouldn’t you get there before closing time?

    9. Liane

      As others have said before me, there are plenty of customers who would do this or other nasty things. It has gotten so bad that a few years back, Judith “Miss Manners” Martin actually wrote, “It is time to replace the cliche’ that ‘The customer is always right’…with a new one. Perhaps ‘We strive to behave better than our customers.'”
      And part of the problem is that some–lots of–managers will give in to whatever the customer demands, no matter how outrageous or how many company rules it goes against.

      1. Collarbone High

        IMO, “the customer is always right” has had a terrible effect on modern society. It’s created a mentality that spending $2 entitles you to abuse teenage employees, ignore signs and rules, throw public tantrums, tell lies that cause innocent people to lose their jobs, and demand free merchandise for issues that are often the customer’s fault.

        I wish more companies would discourage this kind of behavior by rewarding the customers who *don’t* act like jerks, rather than the ones who do. Years ago I was on a flight that needed to bump 15 people. I wasn’t in a rush, so I volunteered to give up my seat and got a voucher for a free flight, which turned out to be impossible to use thanks to blackout restrictions. There were no other volunteers, and the people who were bumped were just horrible to the gate agents — screaming, swearing, even spitting on them. One woman threw a drink at the agent’s computer. Those people got $400 cash for involuntary denied boarding compensation, while I ended up with nothing. I’m not going to start spitting on gate agents, but I’m not ever going to voluntarily give up my seat again on that airline, either.

        Flip side of that, last month I was flying with two cats (ugh, never again) and the guy at the ticket counter told me he was waiving the fee for one of them because I was the first person on his shift who hadn’t yelled at him. I really appreciated it!

        1. CA Admin

          One thing I learned from a former coworker: be very, very careful before abusing airline employees. You may think you’ve gotten the best of them, but your bags may magically end up in Alaska when you’re headed to Miami.

  5. MK

    #2, the only somewhat reasonable justification for not paying expenses on a bussiness related trip to the main office would be if by “remote workers” the OP means people who work from home. If the ability to work from home (and not have to live in the town where the home office is located) is an option offered to the remote workers as a perk, it’s not insane that the company might feel they don’t have to pay them on top of that when they have to come to the home office.

    1. SouthernBelle

      I don’t understand why that would be a reasonable justification. I would think that that if they work from home and they have to actually travel to the home office (which I’m guessing is not located anywhere near their homes) then it would be no different than traveling to client sites. What makes traveling to the home office for a week long onsite meeting different? Working from home often is often just as beneficial to the employer as it is for the employee, so why does that “perk” preclude the company from providing basic support when mandating travel to their location?

      1. Taz

        Yah, but why would the company pay for these employees’ groceries for a week at the home office but not everyone else at the home office? These employees would be paying for their groceries working at home that same week.

        1. Naomi

          Because it’s not just groceries if you’re traveling. You don’t have cooking supplies or staples, so you have to eat out or buy ready-made food, which is more expensive than groceries.

        2. Kyrielle

          Huh? My company pays my salary. I pay for my groceries.

          But when I spend a week in a hotel, at our home office, I don’t pay for groceries – I pay for ready-made meals. At _best_ that hotel room has a refrigerator and a microwave, and often not even those.

          My company recognizes this and pays per diem. (And I work out of a satellite office, but how is my situation in traveling to the home office any different than that of a worker who works out of their own house?)

        3. the+gold+digger

          It’s a lot cheaper to cook for yourself than to go out. It is not unreasonable for the company to cover meals for an employee who has to travel to the home office, even if that employee works from home.

          Working from home saves an employer money – the employer doesn’t pay for office space for that employee. The employer doesn’t provide a desk or a printer or printer paper or internet.

          I would be pretty ticked off to have to buy my own meals on a business trip. I don’t want to be traveling in the first place and I don’t want to eat out and I don’t want to sleep away from my own bed and I don’t want to be At Work after 5 or 6 p.m. Having to buy my own meals would just be adding insult to injury.

          1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)

            Working from home saves an employer money – the employer doesn’t pay for office space for that employee. The employer doesn’t provide a desk or a printer or printer paper or internet.

            Not to derail, but to toss it out there – a lot of companies do pay for internet, printer, computer equipment, office supplies like paper, etc. We do. For the IT stuff I buy and drop ship to them and the office supplies they charge to the company card. When we had someone who didn’t have a company card working from home they were reimbursed.

      2. MK

        Employees are forced to live within commuting distance of the home office, but those who work from home don’t necessarily have to. Not having your choise of residence restricted in any way by your employer’s location is a significant advantage most workers don’t have and I doubt any benefit to the employer is equal in importance for them than it is for the employee. But the employee who works from home does have some extra encumberenaces, like having to set up a home office, etc. So, no, I don’t think the company would be necessarily insane to put this in the same category.

    2. MT

      This is how my company does it as well. There are a lot of people who travel 3 weeks out of the month to client sites. The 4 week they are required to be in the office. Lots of time its one week every other month so 7 weeks traveling and 1 week at the home site. Several of the travelers choose not to live at the home site due to their significant others job. The one week they are required to be onsite, its up to them to make travel arrangements and pay for it out of their own pocket.

      1. The IT Manager

        It depends on how things are defined.

        If an employee chooses to live in a hotel when they have to spend time at the home office when it is their **home** office, then they should not get per diem. It’s their choice and its not the company’s business to worry about their choice of lodgings.

        OTOH given that the LW described that the remote workers are paid per diem on travel days (to the home office) and presumably travel cost as well, it seems that the company is acknowledging that it is a business trip for them and they should get per diem.

        Although given that this is described as occuring 3 days (Tues – Thurs) twice a year, its not something worth fighting over IMO.

        1. MT

          “I work remotely on a team that is made up of about 30% remote workers. Twice a year, our entire team gets together for a week long on-site meeting to regroup, plan, etc.

          Normally, we travel about a week a month and have a per diem of $40 for food. However, when we travel to the home office, we are only allowed to use the per diem on the two travel days (Monday and Friday), and the other days we are supposed to pay for meals out of pocket.”

          Im still confused. THe OP says that they normally travel 1 week a month, but they are remote works. This makes me fell like they work from home 3 weeks a month and travel 1 week a month.

          1. Melissa

            “Remote” could mean a satellite office location – like maybe the home office is in, say, New York but the company also has satellite offices in South Jersey, Pittsburgh, and Boston, where 30% of the employees work.

        2. MT

          As some of the other poster have said. If the company gives you the perk of working from home, on the weeks you are required to be in the home office is on the employee. If the expectation was laid out that the employee show up to the home office, its not the companies fault they chose not to live near the home office.

          1. fposte

            I think if you’re an employee hired by the home office who then gets the perk of working home rather than commuting in, that makes sense.

            I think if you’re an employee hired by an office that chooses as a norm to hire remote workers way beyond commute distance rather than limiting their pool to the local and finding office space, and you expect them to travel to the home office at scheduled times, that’s per diem worthy.

            1. MT

              100%. the problem is that we don’t have enough information from the OP to make that decision. So there can easily be a case made for both sides.

            2. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)

              This is what I was thinking. We hire people who live across the country because we need reps there – they work out of their house but we’d never dream of making them pay their own way to come to the office a couple of times a year.

          2. Judy

            A remote worker may not be working from home. I spent nearly 10 years working remotely, but I was working in an office owned by my company, I was just not located with my team. My team was at another location, several hundred miles away. There were other members of our team that worked remotely from other countries. It was not unusual for that corporation to have people on teams not geographically based, if the people had skills that were needed for the team.

        3. MK

          Also, since the OP only mentions the cost of food, I assume the accommodation is covered by the company (which, if it’s a hotel, probably includes breakfast). On the other hand, it would be gracious of the company to provide a buffet meal on these occasions.

  6. Cheryl

    #3 I have a similar story from many years ago. I work in a call center and an attorney who represented a client called in and demanded that I give him information about an account that he didn’t actually have power of attorney for. He yelled at me, called me names, stated I was stupid and I just kept repeating myself. This would amount to a security violation if I gave him what he wanted and I refused and eventually hung up on him when he continued to berate me for doing my job. It went to the department manager a few months later and he called me into his office to ask me about the call. I couldn’t give him specifics because again I work in a call center and do not remember one call to the next after they hang up. He ended up writing me up for being unprofessional for doing my job and it was placed in my file for the next 2 years. He took the word of a customer based on who knows what without ever listening to the phone call and they are ALL recorded. Thankfully it was pulled when I got the union involved. But I never spoke to the department manager again as I felt he was unethical and wanted nothing to do with him.

  7. Buu

    With #3 I wonder if someone else told them the thing about the fence and they’ve assumed it was you? It probably doesn’t feel like it but you’re better off without them. I hope you find a new and better job.

    1. Raine

      My first thought was that no employee on the planet told him the thing about the fence, he did it himself and got caught and potentially could face any number of charges without a scapegoat. The employee at the hospital off hours on his cell wouldn’t be a recorded call.

      1. Gina

        I think this too, he got caught doing it on his own and said well the manager told me to do that because he didn’t want to help me.

  8. Not So NewReader

    #3 My sympathies go out to you. There are places that are yanked around by their customers. Management doesn’t run the place. the customers do. It’s whatever the customer wants. These places will go under, because they will bring about their own ruin by trying to accommodate everyone.

    You might want to consider going to that other manager to find out what did happen with that customer. Or not.

    I hope you find a better quality employer. It sucks to be unemployed but working for that jerk was a quality of life issue. The quality of your life just went up because you no longer work with him.

  9. Alter_ego

    Oh man, I have the most ridiculous “lying customer” story. This woman came in and, though I didn’t realize it at the time, started fishing for names to use later. She told me she’d spoken to a manager, didn’t remember his name, but he had glasses and a beard. I told her it was probably M or T, since both have beards and glasses. She says she spoke to the person today, and I told her only M had been in today, it must have been him. She then said that a particular trainer had been helpful, and wanted to know her name. The only female trainer in that day was F, so I told her it was probably F. She thanks me, says she’s going to email M to compliment F’s training skills.

    A couple hours later, F and I are in back on our 15 minute break, chatting and whatnot. M comes in back and tells F that this lady is out here claiming that F broke her phone, and that T had told her that we would replace it for her. She said that F was putting a case on it for her, when she dropped it and the screen smashed. She only left to go home and back it up, because T had promised her that if she came it the next day, we’d give her a new one.

    Now here’s the thing she didn’t know. F is almost completely paralyzed from the chest down. She has minimal use of her arms, and her hands are curled under, so she can’t grip things. There is no circumstance on earth where F would be able to put a case on this lady’s phone, nor would she attempt to. M, of course, knows this, but now he’s pissed that this lady is trying to scam him, so he asks if F will come out to prove to this lady how wrong she was.

    So F comes out, and I follow, because I’ve realized that it must be the woman I spoke to earlier, since all the names are the same. M brings over F and says “this is F. You’re really telling me she was the one who put your phone case on?” F lifts her hands. The woman pales a little, but keeps insisting that it was F who helped her, and smashed her phone. When F asks how she thinks that could have happened, she, with a totally straight face, claims “there must have been a miracle”. We had to call security to get her out if the store.

    I can’t imagine, with such overwhelming evidence that you’re lying, why you would just double down on that story, going so far as to claim divine intervention to make it possible.

    1. Poohbear McGriddles

      So we are to believe that a supernatural force temporarily healed F’s affliction for the sole purpose of allowing her to put a case on this customer’s phone, but didn’t provide enough divine intervention to prevent F from dropping the phone?

      Reminds me of my days in the optical shop when people would come in with mangled eyeglasses that they “just set on the nightstand”. To this day I am afraid to set anything on my nightstand as I do not know when this demon-possessed piece of furniture will strike.

      1. Diet Coke Addict

        I have a bunch of cousins who are nurses, and they have all passed onto me the knowledge that the activities “just standing there” and “minding your own business” are bar none the most dangerous things you can possibly do. Because whenever someone comes into the ER with some kind of stupid or dangerous injury, the person was always “just standing there, minding my own business, when this guy comes at me with a knife!” or whatever.

        I mean, the knife-wielding assailant coming after the guy for sleeping with his wife, or cheating him out of drug money, or robbing him, that’s all immaterial. “Just standing there” can clearly put you in imminent danger.

        1. fposte

          SOCMOB–I’ve seen it as a code. And the universal perpetrator is “Some dude.” A cop blogger wrote a really funny post about the hunt for Sumdood.

          1. INTP

            I’ve also heard this used by ER doctors and nurses – Pt was SOCMOBing when Some Dude delivered 3 gunshots to the abdomen.

            Another dangerous activity known to ER employees is sitting down naked – you wouldn’t believe how many lightbulbs, phones, and other small items have to be fished out of colons because someone accidentally sat down on them naked. I don’t know the acronym for that one, though.

          2. Liane

            Many years ago, I read a memoir by a doctor about her years in med school & residency that had something similar. She did part of her training in a hospital ER that saw a lot of stabbings, gunshot wounds,etc., often in the wee hours. The typical patient’s story of how they got shot/stabbed/beaten up: “I was walking down the street at 3am, on my way to church, reading my Bible, and this happened.”

            I am now going to have to google “Sumdood + cop + blog” & find that post. Thanks

          1. TychaBrahe

            I had a chemistry teacher who pointed out that no objects ever really touch; it’s just that their electrical forces interact. He suggested that if we were ever accused of stabbing someone we should offer as a defense that we had never touched the guy, we had merely held out a knife and his skin had interacted with the knife’s electrical fields.

            He was seriously disturbed. And not just because of this.

        2. Ethyl

          We encounter this in the world of fixing bicycles too. We call it “I was just riding along!” Sure, you were just riding along and somehow your bike acquired all the injuries typical of forgetting it was on your roof rack when you drove into the garage? Interesting.

        3. Poohbear McGriddles

          This is true, I could never work in an ER. All those stories of how things “accidentally” ended up in someone’s rectum would have me watching me back constantly.

          1. Dan

            Have you seen the movie jackass? There was an episode where they stuck a matchbox car in a condom and inserted into the guy’s rectum. They filmed the doc reviewing the x-rays. It was funny.

        4. JoJo

          I guess they’re related to all those guns that “just went off by itself”. It wasn’t aimed and fired, no siree, it just spontaneously left the owner’s pocket and shot someone on it’s own volition.

      2. Nancie

        I know exactly how my nightstand mangles things — it has help from my (evil, adorable) cat.

        …I’m not sure that contradicts your idea that the nightstand is demon-possessed. :)

  10. Suzanne

    #3. Yes, you can be fired in most states for any reason. My state is an at-will work state which, as was explained to me by an attorney, means your place of employment can fire you for just about any reason. You wore purple shoes to work? Boss didn’t like it? You are gone. You can contest it, claim discrimination, etc. but that will be up to you and probably cost you (attorney fees, things like that).

    I feel for you. I worked at a small, for-profit college for a few years. There were firings every few weeks. One woman was fired just a few weeks after receiving an award for exemplary service. The campus director, when pressed, couldn’t even really tell her if she was being fired, laid off, or job eliminated. He just kept telling her that the college was “going in a different direction.” So, yes, it happens.

    1. fposte

      In fact, all states but Montana are at-will states (and even Montana is partially at-will). The corresponding point is that employees are also free to walk out because they don’t like the boss’s shoes. It’s not completely the power equalizer that it’s sometimes made out to be, but I think the conversation about policies other than at-will tends to focus on the “they couldn’t fire me” and not the “I couldn’t leave.”

      1. esra

        That teapot just won’t leave you alone.

        It’s hard for people from other countries to buy the “you can also leave!” line, because we have protections *and* can also leave.

      2. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

        I live in New Zealand where at-will employment is unequivocally Not A Thing, and I still have all the power in the world to leave. My notice period is in my contract, but it’s not like it’s illegal to give less notice — just likely to affect my reference.

        (I’m a technical professional and my notice period is a month. Two weeks is standard for lower-level roles.)

        I can be fired for serious misconduct misconduct, there can be a restructure that gets rid of my role, there can be redundancies, I can be fired for performance or misconduct after being given a reasonable opportunity to improve. I can’t be fired because my boss doesn’t like my shoes. But I still have the power to leave — I’m not trapped.

  11. The+IT+Manager

    Alison – I think this thread proves that there’s a need for a post/request for most outragious lie a customer told. These comments are already entertaining (although sometimes sad.)

  12. kas

    #3. I’m sorry this happened to you! I’ve been in a similar situation and was written up for it. I was in retail, cashier, and a male customer came in and made a large purchase but said he forgot his store credit card. He wanted to know if he could purchase it on another credit card and then come back with his receipt to basically return the items and repurchase them on the correct card. We often did this so I agreed. The next day, I get to work and hear a customer had caused a scene and demanded to speak to me. Turns out, it was the mans wife from the day before who was trying to use his credit card to repurchase the items plus some other things. We were very strict with credit card use and the card holder had to be there. She spoke to a manager and said I told her to bring in her marriage certificate as well as other I.D. to prove she was married to the card holder and that she went to city hall or wherever to get it. Thing is, I never spoke to her and obviously wouldn’t tell someone that. Well the manager believed her and wrote me up for it without even speaking to me about the situation. I fought it but I never liked that manager afterwards, she should’ve known I wouldn’t have done something like that.

    1. kas

      Oh I also almost got another associate in trouble once. This time was in a call centre and a customer called to complain that the store refused her return. She said she was disabled and had someone drive her all the way to the store to return the items and they were forced to leave. I spoke to my manager and she called the store to speak to the associate. Turns out, the store agreed to take it back but since the customer did not have her credit card, they had to put it on a store credit. The woman the customer was with became angry and basically left so the customer called in and lied for whatever reason. We always received calls about stores refusing returns and I always called the store to basically advise them of our policies but the one time I didn’t call the store this happens. I ended up calling the customer back to let her know we know what really happened and I felt bad for the associate.

  13. Livin' in a Box

    A guest at the resort where I work had a meltdown, screaming at the manager that I called her fat (?????) and she wanted me fired right that second. The manager said “there’s no way Livin’ in a Box said that so you’re a liar and you need to leave.”

    Your boss should have done the same with that crazy fence story.

    1. fposte

      A friend stayed at a truly awesome German hotel, and when I looked at the TripAdvisor reviews I saw one crazy negative review. The manager’s response was also truly awesome, noting that that had not been what happened, indicating they feel they cannot make this person happy, and requesting they stay elsewhere in the future.

      1. Elizabeth West

        There was one like that on the TripAdvisor thread about the B&B I’ve booked. JUST one, and the response was similar–“I’m sorry you had a problem, you didn’t indicate there was a problem while you were here, we would have been happy to accommodate you, etc.” It made me feel even better about staying there, seeing that they handled it politely instead of freaking out like some businesses do.

  14. Bananana

    Alison (and all commenters!) – other commenters’ user names and email addresses are appearing as pre-filled fields in the comments form on my computer.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s fixed now. I’d updated a plugin, which sent everything haywire. It’s fixed, and sorry about that, everyone!

      However, if the wrong information or the plus signs got stored in anyone’s browser, you’ll need to write your own commenter info in again to override it. You should only need to do it once in whatever browser you’re using (if they saw wrong info in multiple browsers, you’ll have to override it in each browser).

  15. MT

    #3 I would be curious on what follow-up they told the customer would be happening. If they gave them a new contact number of who would be able to help them or a name of the person who would be calling them back. This customer was stuck holding the ball. This doesn’t excuse lieing, but if the customer wasn’t being helped and the Op wasn’t making sure that someone was lined up to help him right away, there maybe a little blame on both sides of the call.

    1. Parfait

      I love that site, and unfortunately it’s made me all too willing to believe that customers will lie and attempt to get people fired on the slightest pretext. People are terrible.

  16. Joey

    #3

    Am I the only one who thinks the op should have followed up either with the customer or the manager to make sure the guy got taken care of.

    Sure management sucks, but there is a customer service lesson here for the op too. Im not saying this happened, but I know I’d be pissed if the manager I talked to passed me off to someone else either didn’t help or didn’t call back. Obviously I wouldn’t lie about it, but I sort of disagree with his assessment that this wasn’t his customer. It was, at least in the customers eyes.

    1. MT

      There are a lot of times customers who I have nothing to do with get transferred to me, or pluck my number out of thin air. I have been trained, that I never hang up on the customer unless I have the correct number for them to call, transferring to the correct person, or a promise of a call back by myself within 10 minutes with the information or the number that they need. I picture that customer sitting on site, twiddling their thumbs waiting on help.

        1. Natalie

          I don’t think the only measure of whether or not to fire someone is “how much did X incident, that the person was tangentially involved in, cost the company.” This customer *lied* about what the LW said to cover their own ass. There’s no reason to believe the customer wouldn’t have lied or otherwise done something inappropriate no matter what LW, or anyone else at the company does.

        2. alma

          And if “cost to the company” had been the reason given, that might be a reasonable discussion to have, but just taking the customer’s (false) word and firing somebody who answered a call while at the hospital with a relative is a crappy way to run a company. I’d bet the farm that a company that treats its people so inhumanely is eating much higher costs via nonexistent morale than whatever this one single incident cost.

          And I really, really dislike the tendency to engage in Monday morning quarterbacking of LWs even when the management does something blatantly horrible. I mean, it’s great that you give flawless customer service 100% of the time even when you’re called off the clock while attending to a parent’s illness. That’s awesome. Not everybody does, but it doesn’t justify firing them based on a customer’s lie.

          1. Joey

            Well, it’s not to point fingers at the op. Its to say yes, there are shitty managers and companies out there and here are some ways you can insulate yourself from them in the future.

            1. Natalie

              That may be true with a reasonable manager, but this is someone who fired a presumably trust employee (since they manage the facility) who attempted to help a customer during off-hours and during LW’s own family emergency, on the basis of one unsubstantiated and implausible complaint from a customer. The LW’s manager is not a rational actor, and there’s no reasoning with an irrational actor.

    2. JMW

      But the OP was visiting his father in the hospital at the time. Do we not grant our employees any time at all where they can NOT be responsible for our customers? This customer was mistakenly routed to him. What about the responsibility of the person who made the mistake that started this debacle?

        1. LQ

          I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals with family members. The only time I will always answer my phone is when I am in the hospital with family members. Between people who need information, questions that need to be answered RIGHT NOW, insurance, and other critical things I say we cut the OP who was in the hospital with a family member a little slack since clearly their former boss had zero compassion. I think we can have a little.

          1. Kelly L.

            Not to mention, if the call had gone to voice mail, the customer would have dead-ended at her voice mail and never found out they’d called the wrong store. The LW helped the customer more than the call going to VM would have helped them, because LW went above and beyond and followed up with the other store. It’s not the LW’s fault the customer went batpoo crazy, possibly tried to scale the fence illegally, lied, and did everything except either contact the right store or wait for the right store to call them back.

      1. Joey

        Sure the dispatcher made a mistake, but compounding it isn’t the answer.

        If your job is to handle after hour issues (which I’m assuming it was) you have to be ready unless you’re either in some sort of emergency accident or find someone to cover. If he planned to visit his father and wasn’t going to be prepared to answer calls he should have made arrangements beforehand.

        Obviously management handled it wrong, but the op can do things in the future to lessen the chance of things like this happening.

        1. Pontoon Pirate

          I think we’re speculating on how the OP handled the details of the call. Taking the letter at value, she explained to the customer why she couldn’t help and arranged for the closest site manager to take over the case. On a cell phone, in a hospital, there is a limit to how much customer service one can provide–especially if the call was misrouted in the first place! If a customer is going to go to the lengths of lying about a response, then I’m in the camp that no response the OP could have given, short of sending Hagrid on his motorbike to break down the gate, would have pleased the customer.

          1. MT

            Taking the letter at face value. They informed a second manager to take care of the issue. All good there, but did they let the customer know what was happening? Did they give the customer the contact information on the person who was supposed to help them? I don’t know?

            I’ve have been on this end as a customer before. I was told someone would be contacting me to help, to never receive a call back or a call back an unreasonable amount of time in future. If the customer was on site and stuck, anything more than 30 minutes I would find unreasonable.

            1. alma

              We have all had bad customer service before. Yes, it’s really frustrating. We don’t all brazenly make stuff up when we’re complaining about it, though. And frankly, if I learned that I had been routed to an employee who was off the clock attending to an ill parent in the hospital, I would be horrified at intruding on his/her personal time.

              Not that I think customers need to hear the gory details of the company representative’s personal life when things go wrong, but this is where a manager with anything resembling a spine would have recognized that there was a chain of errors and dealt with that internally while doing their best to make it up to the customer.

              1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)

                Absolutely this. If someone didn’t get back to me per the conversation with the OP, I’d have called back and explained to the dispatcher that I needed to speak with whomever she indicated.

                I can’t imagine being irritated enough to even call and make a complaint for something as minor as the other manager not calling me back immediately and my having to call again – much less lying about it.

                Fwiw I have called and emailed bosses of the customer service reps with whom I’ve dealt many times in the course of my job – always to let them know when they went above and beyond and were extra awesome. The level of suck you’d have to reach to get me to spend time and energy dealing with strangers to complain about you would be hard to reach.

                Only once have I mentioned to a manager that I was unhappy and that was when in the course of tech support I had to escalate to a supervisor since the rep was not only unable to fix the issue, but unable to keep from being a rude and condescending smart ass.

                When you know someone is the director of IT and has been patient with you on a complex problem for over an hour (who spends sometimes near 6 figures with your company each year) telling them to open a browser, “that’s the little blue icon that looks like an e. Double click it and it will take you to the internet*” When setting up an online remote session you shouldn’t be surprised when they want to go over your head.

                Once – and even then I wouldn’t have bothered if I didn’t need to speak to the supervisor to resolve the problem.

                *to head off any concerns that I don’t understand they deal with users of various skill level and so it’s not insulting to assume ignorance, it was over an hour of higher level troubleshooting and the tone dripped with FU all over it. He knew what he was doing.

            2. Natalie

              I don’t think these kinds of hypotheticals are relevant, since they customer’s complaint had nothing to do with the other manager not calling him back, or a lack of follow-up. We don’t even know that the other manager didn’t get in touch with the customer.

            3. Melissa

              “I’ve have been on this end as a customer before. I was told someone would be contacting me to help, to never receive a call back or a call back an unreasonable amount of time in future. If the customer was on site and stuck, anything more than 30 minutes I would find unreasonable.”

              Sure. So have I. But in those situations, are you sure that it was the original person you talked to’s fault? They could’ve given all of the necessary information to Person B and Person B is the one who dropped the ball. Or maybe they were stuck putting out fires the rest of the day at the office and didn’t get a chance to call me back.

              Either way – I can see being a bit irritated and perhaps complaining to their boss, but not making up an outrageous story with a high probability of getting them fired.

        2. fposte

          It sounds like she might not have been able to handle the call anyway, though, since it wasn’t for her site, and she did notify the manager of the correct site about the customer’s need. The hospital part may be a bit of a red herring, since I wasn’t clear if she would have had other options had she been anywhere else.

          1. Joey

            Eh, debatable. If a co workers client calls me needing something now I’m not just going to hang up and say someone will call you. I’m going to make sure someone follows up with him or do whatever I need to do to get him what he needs.

            1. Kelly L.

              And the OP did follow up with the person at the other site to ask them to assist the person. The only thing that’s unclear in the story is whether the OP specifically told the customer that the other store would contact them, or to contact other store–but it doesn’t really make sense for her not to have done so. I think we can give her some benefit of the doubt and not expect the whole conversation reproduced verbatim in the question.

              I doubt she could have transferred the call from her personal cell in any case. She was off work and did her best.

              1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)

                Right. She said she would have someone call the customer and she called and handed it off to the other manager. What else could she have done?

                Unless she had reason to believe the other manager needed micro-managing she acted 100% appropriately. She couldn’t help > alerted someone who could to the problem > got back to dealing with her ill father. I can’t find any fault in how she handled this with the details we have.

                1. Joey

                  I think its pretty obvious what she could have done- made sure the customer got helped, not just assumed it.

                  Again, not excusing the firing, just making sure no one falls through the cracks.

                2. Kelly L.

                  Joey, I think you’re being a little snarky here, and not all that concrete in your suggestions. Upthread, you said she should follow up with the other store. We pointed out that she did. I’m not really sure what else–what concrete action–you wanted her to do, especially in light of her circumstances at the time. “Make sure” doesn’t really explain what you mean. The first mistake in this situation was in the co-worker forwarding her the call in the first place, and the second and worse was in the customer lying. I just don’t see what the LW did wrong.

                3. Ask a Manager Post author

                  It’s not reading as snarky to me; I’m reading it as “the company didn’t handle this correctly, but it’s also useful to be aware that some employers will expect you to ensure the customer is being taken care of once they’ve landed with you.”

                4. Ezri

                  I do agree that the OP could have made extra-sure the customer was dealt with, and might have circumvented the situation.

                  However, I do really want to point out that she was visiting her Dad in the hospital. We don’t know the seriousness of the situation, but if my Dad was in the hospital and I got a work call I probably wouldn’t be at my best professional self to handle it. Not to mention we don’t know for sure that OP could have done anything to circumvent Crazy Lying Customer – maybe the next person down the line would have been unable to help and gotten fired instead.

                  These are valid points, that OP could have handled it better, but I really think of the parties involved she did the least wrong.

                5. Ezri

                  And if I’m being honest, I agree with Jamie – I don’t think OP did anything wrong in this situation. She took a moment out of a personal situation to handle a customer, then sent said customer to the person most able to help. If the customer hadn’t made up the fence-climbing part resulting in the firing, I doubt anyone would be saying that OP didn’t do enough to ensure the customer was helped.

                  Which means we’re getting distracted from the real issue – a customer’s outrageous lie and a manager believing it. Like I said above, valid points about surviving bad managers are being made, but I don’t want to nitpick OP’s actions when the situation is as dysfunctional as this.

    3. JoJo

      I think the OP should have told the rep he was off duty, then turned off his phone. Let the rep find someone who’s on duty to help the customer.

  17. JC

    Re #4, I am sorry about your dad, and I hope the headaches with settling his estate end soon.

    Alison, would you consider writing a post about non-work things that could never/could possibly work on a resume? You seem to be getting a lot of letters lately with people asking if out-of-the-ordinary things can go on their resumes. The person who asked if being a clinical trial volunteer could go on their resume comes to mind.

  18. JMW

    #1 Beyond what you think would make you a great fit for the job, think about what makes you unique. Perhaps there is a combination of experiences and skills that sets you apart from other people. Think Venn diagram with overlapping circles – beyond the basic requirements of X, Y, and Z, maybe you have lived in a foreign country (cultural experience, language), you have run your own company (financial experience, budgeting), you have managed volunteers (management experience, understanding volunteerism), you have Excel skills, and in your last job there was a lot of change going on (change management). Your experiences and skills in aggregate make you different than other candidates – what combination would make you not just meet their requirements, but make you an asset overall given what you know about their company?

    1. Joey

      I wouldn’t use unique. That brings of images of how you’re different and you have no idea. Its best to rattle off your most relevant ksa’s that align with the job, team, and company.

    2. Kelly O

      When I went on the interview for my upcoming new job, I was asked why they should choose me. (And I was very thankful for AAM and the interview tips we’ve discussed before!)

      I told her that I could not tell her I was the most qualified individual for the job, because I did not know any of the other people they were interviewing, and could only assume that everyone they were speaking with was well-qualified and more than capable of doing the job.

      With this company and this position, I was able to say I’d been applying for openings that fit my skill set for several years, and was not just looking for a job, but to build a career with this company in this capacity. I could tell a story about how I want to work there – so the commitment and level of hustle they will get from me is not just someone getting a job, but someone taking a determined step in the right direction as part of a longer term career path.

      Granted that’s easier when you really do want to work specifically for that company, and can tell a short story about why, and how it fits into your greater career path. But apparently it worked, because even though I didn’t get that job, they are creating a new position specifically for me, which will begin in January.

  19. Mephyle

    How should #3 answer questions about leaving that job, in interviews for future jobs?

    Is it too fantastical to recommend that #3 send the story to notalwaysright, and then in answer, just pull out their phone, open the website to the post and show it to the interviewer?

    1. Colette

      Yes.

      Anyone can make up a plausible-sounding story and send it in to the website. I doubt they do any verification, and trying to treat it as a source of truth would be odd, at the very least.

      1. fposte

        I would argue the stories don’t even have to be plausible. There’s some clear fantasy percolating in there.

        1. Loose Seal

          No kidding. Some of those people write themselves up to be absolute heroes or just oh so clever. I particularly disbelieve the ones that have the customer sheepishly asking if their interaction is going on notalwaysright. Who would really do that?

          1. Melissa

            Yes, I always disbelieve the ones that have the associate thinking up something witty and piercing to say in the moment in response to the customer’s actions – or, worse, have then being rude and snarky in a teen-movie sort of way to the customer.

    2. Mephyle

      Leaving aside NotAlwaysRight (and I assure you that the anecdote I sent to NotAlwaysWorking was 100% true), how should #3 answer questions about leaving the previous job, in interviews for the next job? We all know the advice about not trashing a bad job or a bad manager when you’re leaving a toxic job, but this has the added complication that there’s an unjustified firing on their record. I suppose that you don’t try to tell what really happened, because the interviewer won’t know whether to read that as a bad employee who got fired for making a mistake and invented a story around how it was all the customer’s fault. So how do you handle this situation?

  20. INTP

    #4: Wanted to throw in my agreement with what Alison said about personal things not being appropriate for a resume. Maybe this is unfair of me, but when I see things that are definitely part of someone’s personal life written on their resume, it comes across like they are the type that expect to be recognized and high-fived for every thing that they do. I wouldn’t rule out a candidate over it, because I think that sometimes it’s just naivete and maybe desperation – usually someone who is new to the workforce or has been out of it for awhile trying to dredge up whatever they’ve done over the past 5 years that might possibly have transferable skills – but it doesn’t give a great impression. Your resume is your work history, it’s just assumed that you also accomplish things in your personal life, that’s not something that needs to be spelled out on your resume. (Also, executing a will is pretty mild compared to other things I’ve seen, but ultimately it does go into the “not resume-relevant” category.)

  21. Kat A.

    About #5: I wouldn’t withdraw from consideration in case the new job doesn’t work out as planned. You just never know.

    1. SPF40

      OP, I’m grateful for Alison’s wording suggestion that she gave in her answer. Kat A. you make a good point too, but I feel like I’m far enough into it, well, I feel like I want the closure.

  22. FX-ensis

    # 1 – It’s meant metaphorically…..generally they mean how would you add value to the job, or why should they hire you.

    # 3 – I think it’s bad/crappy what they’ve done, but then I’d suggest you read up on the labour laws in your state/country, because there may be some recourse other than suing them in a traditional setting.

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