update: I want to complain about an annoying customer who works at the store next to ours

Remember the letter-writer who wanted to complain about an annoying customer who worked at a neighboring store? Here’s the update.

I did not complain. I understand I was being stupid and foolish. It was the Christmas season, so I was stressed out by the constant barrage of rude customers, and I guess I wanted revenge. I’ve learned that the workplace is not a place for revenge. I also have a very severe case of ADHD, so I struggle with impulse control. I understand that it is no excuse, and I’m glad it was you I emailed instead of the store.

But what happened to that customer? That took an interesting turn.

First of all, I discovered that the customer, who I’ll call Catelyn, was not seasonal help: she was the assistant manager. So her immaturity was not rooted in lack of experience. She continued to be a horrible customer, and very frustrating. Just when I thought she had finally become a nice and respectful customer, she would turn around and do something that would make me go to the back room and scream.

Eventually, she was so annoying and rude that, paired with her reminding me of my embarrassing AAM letter, I decided to put her on my “Do Not Serve Unless Directly Approaches You” list.

Before the comments blow up about my DNSUDAY list, I only have three people on this list. The second is a customer who literally treats me like a dog (whistles/snaps her fingers at me, tells me to “fetch,” pats me on the arm/head, etc.) and condescends about my education level (which she knows nothing about) while treating me like a personal shopper. The third is a guy who made me cry when he went into a screaming fit at me about how lazy I was and how I didn’t deserve my job because I had the gall to ask him if he knew the balance of his gift card. 

Anyway, all of the employees got fed up with her, and we started to avoid her. We’re the highest profiting location in the city, so we won’t lose sleep over losing one customer’s business. Our manager is ferociously protective of us and does not stand for customers abusing us, so she turned a blind eye to us ignoring Catelyn. Not to mention, she was still upset about Catelyn’s request to keep the store open.

Eventually, Catelyn stopped coming into our store. At first, I thought it was because our freeze-out worked, but then I noticed that she wasn’t working at the neighboring anymore. I’m rather familiar with their employees. (My cat’s life goal is apparently to chew through every electrical cord in my house, so I’m constantly at their store replacing them. Anyone have tips to stop the cat?) After a month with no sign of Catelyn, it was clear she had left. In her place was a new girl, Sansa.

Sansa also took to shopping at our store. The difference? Sansa is one of the best customers I’ve ever had. She’s very friendly, tidy, concise when describing what she needs, and understanding when doing returns or we don’t have an item she wants in stock. Heck, she folds the clothing she messes up (which is weird because she works at an electronics store, but hey, I’m not complaining).

Sansa and I have become close: eating lunch together when our breaks match up, I always make sure she gets the commission when I shop at her store, and sometimes we go to see movies together after work. I’m really glad I’ve lost a bad customer and gained a new friend.

But here’s the fun part: I asked Sansa what happened to Catelyn.

“She got fired for losing it on a rude customer.”

Maybe I didn’t get her in the end, but karma certainly did.

(P.S. I am so thankful that we don’t have a Worst Letter Writer of the Year counterpart to the Worst Boss of the Year. I’m pretty sure I would have won last year.)

{ 169 comments… read them below }

  1. NJ Anon*

    Don’t be so hard on yourself! Rude customers are the worst. She’s gone and you have a new friend. Happy ending! (The irony is just too much!)

    1. Matt*

      Yeah, don’t beat yourself up, OP. It sounds like to displaced your frustration from all rude customers on one rude customer you thought you might be able to do something about. Also, rather than acting on a revenge fantasy, you got and followed objective outside advice.

  2. sunny-dee*

    Two things:
    1. I really really really don’t think you were the worst OP last year! I completely understand where you’re coming from. It was a crappy situation, and you wanted to find a magic bullet that could fix it. There’s no shame in that! Asking for advice is the *professional* thing to do, so thumbs up.

    2. “…paired with her reminding me of my embarrassing AAM letter…” Um, what the what? Did she find out you wrote in? AND THEN SHE CONTINUED TO BE AWFUL?????

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      2. I understood the reminding being that the LW was embarassed after the commenter reaction to her letter, and the horrible customer became a reminder of the letter.

    2. Myrin*

      I think OP just meant that seeing Catelyn would remind her again and again of the letter she wrote to AAM.

      1. Jinx*

        Man, I have some embarrassing memories that I wish strangers on the internet had been the only witnesses to… OP, you did the right thing in this situation. You were mad, you wanted to do something rash, and instead you wrote in anonymously to ask if it was a good idea. When you were told no, you realized it really wasn’t and didn’t do it. That’s a level of impulse control some people never manage. :P

    3. OP*

      No, it was the whole seeing her reminded me of the letter I wrote. She thankfully never found out about the letter.

      1. Anonamoose*

        Although, I wonder if it would have helped. Huh, things to ponder.

        Glad everything ‘worked out’. :)

  3. Drewby*

    “She got fired for losing it on a rude customer.”

    Perfect example of what goes around, comes around.

    1. AMG*

      Yes, while OP has a new friend. Isn’t it nice when things work t the way they are supposed to?

      1. Jaguar*

        My level of care is so close to zero that it is, for all purposes, zero. But I’m always a little put off by cheering on someone getting fired. It’s easy to fall into a Disney narrative here, and I’m certainly glad OP no longer has to put up with the nightmare (and made a friend!), but the jerk is still a person. It’s not happy that they lost their job.

        1. pixelwhipped*

          I sincerely hope she can find a field that’s a better fit for her demeanor. I really do. I’m in no means giddily cackling over the prospect of her being deprived of a paycheck just because she was a jerk. But with how many people I’ve seen get unjustly laid off; how many capable, skilled workers I’ve seen toil in prolonged unemployment; and how many people can’t be bothered to do the duties of the jobs they’re lucky to have… I have a hard time not deriving a little schadenfreude from the occasional pink slip that was objectively earned.

          1. Jaguar*

            I just don’t see this as a wrong being righted. I’ve never worked in retail, so perhaps I’m out of my depth here (although, I used to referee beer-league hockey, so I think I can relate to dealing with angry customers to some extent). However, it’s hard for me to find an angle on this where it’s a happy thing that she got fired. Maybe she was a hopeless narcassist, but my experience with people like that is that they tend to be in a lot more pain than what they cause other people. Maybe she was a classic psychopath and lacked any sort of empathy, but in that case she’s probably going through a lot and, in a way, her behaviour isn’t her fault. And so forth.

            I’m not trying to pull a be-like-Jesus here, and I can totally understand the OP finding relief in her getting fired, and and and as I said I’m 1 divided by infinity on my care scale when it comes to her and her job, but stories like this pop up on AaM every now and then and a bunch of “yay someone got fired” comments pop up, which I always find a little unsettling. Not trying to single AMG out, of course. It was just my jumping-on point.

            1. Kathryn*

              Being fired, though painful initially, can have a very positive effect on one’s life. We all have lessons to learn, and sometimes we learn them the hard way. For all we know, getting fired caused the woman to evaluate her choices–work-related and otherwise–and will make better choices for herself going forward. Being fired isn’t the catastrophe people sometimes think it is–people get through it and are usually better for it. It can be a necessary course-correction.

              1. Jaguar*

                Sure, but, c’mon. Getting diabetes can be a necessary course correction for someone that eats too much sugar. I still wouldn’t hope it on anyone.

                1. INFJ*

                  Not even close to a proper analogy. There is no upside to diabetes. Losing a job at least has the possibility of leading to a better opportunity that you wouldn’t otherwise have had.

                2. Jaguar*

                  I don’t think that prevents you from understanding the point I’m making.

                  There’s this strangely Christian attitude some people seem to have towards negative experiences where, actually, it’s a good thing! It’s a good thing I failed out of med school because I never would have found my true calling in law. It’s a good thing I was disowned by my parents because it forced me to be more self-reliant. When God closes a door, he opens a window and all that.

                  No. A good thing (might have) happened and might not have happened without the preceding bad thing, but that doesn’t make the bad thing a good thing. Catelyn could have realized that she wasn’t a good fit for her job and found a better one and the whole messy firing business altogether with the same (speculative) happy outcome. Why is it necessary to contort things around so that obviously-bad-thing is actually-good-thing? Catelyn losing her job is not a happy ending.

                3. LavaLamp*

                  Diabetes has nothing to do with eating too much sugar. TD1 is an autoimmune disease.

                4. Blurgle*

                  And TD2 is partly genetic and partly caused by long-term lifestyle issues.

                  So sick of this “eating sugar = diabetes” meme. It so often goes hand-in-hand with bullying.

            2. Any mouse*

              She probably want fired for losing it on one rude customer but maybe. Depending on the store and the policies they deal with. If she acted like that as a customer she was probably a problem employee and may have even been put on a PIP. I can tell you this about retail…hang worked in it a lot of years…companies don’t like staff that alienated customers. It drives down profits. We don’t know what happened Catlyn could have been given a lot of chances before she got fired. And it doesn’t sound like she got fired without cause. So it’s bad that she lost her job but I’m going to go out on a limb and say her former coworkers and employees are relieved and customers feel more at ease in the store.

              1. Jaguar*

                Yeah, she probably shouldn’t be working there. I agree with that. I’m talking about the enjoyment (however small) people seem to take in her getting fired (or similar instances on AaM). I think people should step back and realize that the antagonist in these letters are people and not villains.

                1. Lady H*

                  I understand your point, but I really disagree that there’s something wrong with feeling glad that a stranger who treated a reader here badly is no longer working at a job where they were a poor fit. The thing is, that stranger has a very VERY slim chance of reading AAM and somehow recognizing themselves. It would be different if we were gloating in this person’s face that they got fired.

                  It’s also a win for the large percentage of letter writers asking for advice about working with someone who, for one reason or another, really should be fired but hasn’t been, which I think is why most of us feel happy that it happened in this case.

                  I think overall people who comment here are incredibly gracious. I didn’t read the comments on the original post, but look at the comments here: people are happy for the OP and reassuring them that it was a smart move to write in about something that was weighing on them, even if the advice they got was “no! don’t do this!”

                  So please, while you’re entitled to dislike the behavior, let us celebrate a win for the OP in a way that isn’t harming the person being fired!

                2. Court*

                  Okay but look at it from a different scenario: if someone was caught shoplifting, would it be okay to be glad they’re going to jail for it instead of being free to continue causing damage to the people and stores they were robbing?

                  People revel in justice being served because it lowers the amount of crappy things happening in the world, even for a little while. That’s what’s happening here. It’s not an outright celebration that someone deserving of a job was fired from one.

              2. MyFakeNameIsLaura*

                Also, if every single employee at OPs store was avoiding Catelyn you can bet Catelyn’s coworkers and management team found out about it somehow. When I worked in retail at a mall, I quickly learned that word between stores traveled real fast.

                1. OP*

                  Actually the corner of the mall I work in doesn’t really gossip. Sure the cookie place recognizes everyone, we shop at each other’s stores, and war over whose head office wants them to blast their music the loudest (spoiler alert: everyone loses,) and we ask each other to borrow things occasionally. Store dramas are kept private unless it involves more than one store.

            3. Drewby*

              My comment may have been taken out of context here. I’m not exhibiting schadenfreude with Catelyn getting fired. I’m speaking more to the fact that her attitude towards the OP carried over into her own job and it affected her negatively.

              I can come up with a million theories about Catelyn and her attitude; she could be just a nasty person overall, or maybe she’s dealing with a lot of personal situations and she’s finding it hard to compose herself, or maybe she was a shut-in who decided to enter the workforce without knowing social etiquette. Regardless, it affected her job and now she’s paying the price. Hopefully it’ll be a good life lesson for her that will stay with her into her next role.

              I’ve worked retail in the past and in that capacity, you have to consider yourself “on-stage” when dealing with consumers. I’ve had some testy situations but I at least had the finesse to be blunt but be nice about it and I’ve never been called on it by the customers or management. Now, I’ve had colleagues in retail who may have acted like Catelyn (although not quite spot-on) that resulted in pissing off customers and the situation escalated up to corporate management. Examples of what I’ve seen ranged from pure laziness to cultural ignorance (e.g., “Have a good Easter!, Oh wait, you don’t look like you celebrate Easter. Never mind!”)

            4. Temperance*

              My .02: personally being in a lot of pain absolutely doesn’t mean that you get to act out and harm others.

        2. AMG*

          I was actually thinking of OP not having to deal with Catelyn and getting Sansa as a friend, but I see what you are saying. I suppose it’s not nice to take pleasure in bad things happening in someone’s life, even if they brought it on themselves. Hopefully Catelyn will take the opportunity to better herself, and if the job was upsetting her and causing her to act out, I hope she’s in a happier role.

        3. OP*

          I’m not happy she lost her job. Losing your revenue stream is a terrible stream. I am happy she was disciplined for her inappropriate and hypocritical behavior.

          1. JefftheCuddler*

            Unless she was fired unjustly, which I doubt but I won’t deny it’s possible, she caused her own termination of employment. There’s only so sorry I can feel for people who treat others poorly simply because they can.

    2. Chaordic One*

      This makes me feel a little less cynical than usual. Every once in a while there is karmic justice.

      Still, all too often the Catelyns in this world end up getting promoted.

  4. Cambridge Comma*

    Don’t be so hard on yourself, LW. There’s a difference between stupid and foolish and driven to your wits’ end by a horrible customer.

    1. AnonInSC*

      Agreed. And you did write AAM and not the other store. And realized that AAM’s answer was a good one. We all say or do things we are later embarrassed about. I think an anonymous letter you never have to admit to in real life isn’t too bad on the scale ;)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, really. OP if this is the worst thing you have done in life, you’re doing great here.

    2. Courtney*

      Agreed! I’ll never forget a very professional, nice and excellent coworker with over 40 years experience who one day snapped on a demanding client who blamed her for everything 1 time too many. She said “you are a pain in the ass”. She immediately told our manager and was almost in tears because she never lost it.

      There really is a big difference between foolish behavior and being driven to your wits’ end when you have tried to be polite, accomodating and as nice as possible.

    3. Kyrielle*

      THIS. You wrote in, you asked for advice, and even though that advice was clearly really really uncomfortable, you followed it. You took the time to get outside perspective, and you had the self-awareness to heed it. That’s a hard thing to do for anyone, especially under provocation.

      I am incredibly impressed by you, and so glad that the ultimate outcome (of a situation in which, sadly, “you really can’t do anything” was the best possible stance!) was so good for you.

    4. pixelwhipped*

      +1 to urging LW to not be too hard on theirself. I *have* worked in places that take a “even if you’re punched out, you’re representing our company if you’re in public wearing our uniform” approach, and would probably be very interested in what I was doing to their brand perception with my off-the-clock behavior, even if only in the mall employee ecosystem. While I do agree that she didn’t *quite* cross the line, she definitely got close that I wouldn’t blame anyone who considered reporting her.

      And don’t be too down on your impulse control—it turned out to be leagues better than Catelyn’s. ;)

      1. Carpe Librarium*

        For a while there I was very concerned about the types of customer complaints you were expected to withstand.

        As someone who has only seen timecard machines in TVland, it took me a few seconds to recalibrate “punched out” from it’s Aussie definition of “knocked unconscious by a punch”.

    5. Nancie*

      Plus, I think AAM is a pretty safe space to vent. Writing to the horrible customer’s own manager, that would have been embarrassing. Writing to AAM, not so much.

      1. Ama*

        That’s really what advice columns should be for — getting an outside perspective on a situation you (and possibly everyone around you) is too close to to assess clearly. Knowing when to ask for advice/help is a good life skill, not a failing.

        1. OP*

          Thank you for everyone’s kind words. I’ve really been beating myself up about this over the past few months, and I’m glad to see such supportive responses.

          1. JefftheCuddler*

            Always take into account that people don’t know the full story, and the internet is full of people comfortably snuggled in anonymity. Only you (and the police, if it comes to that XD) can determine whether you’re a good person or not. A lot of the worse things we as people say and do and feel is instinctual, and it sounds like you resisted that and made the right choice.

  5. Petronella*

    I’m so glad it worked out for you! In retail I always found that horrible employees did eventually lose it on the wrong person, and suffer the consequences. It’s just a matter of outwaiting them. I see nothing wrong with a DNAUDAY list. People who’ve never worked retail have no idea about how abusive some customers really can be. I remember your original letter but don’t remember any barrage of criticism! What was people’s problem? Off to catch up now.

    1. OP*

      To be honest I don’t really know for sure if anyone was outright harsh. I was so embarrassed that I can’t bring myself to reread the post and comments.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t see anything wrong with the DNAUDAY list either. Most places have them, at least in my experience. You can’t allow one customer to consume all the help’s time and energy for no sale or a tiny-tiny sale. People who buy larger dollar amounts can be rude but they usually come in less often and they do not waste huge amounts of time- just generally speaking. So the rule of thumb about level of rudeness and time spent seems to be a fairly well used rule.

      1. Callie*

        You can’t allow one customer to consume all the help’s time and energy for no sale or a tiny-tiny sale.

        My husband works at a big box electronics store. So many times he has people come in and demand all his help and time and they ultimately don’t buy anything–many times they will say, “oh thanks for your help, but I’m gonna get it cheaper on Amazon.” Meanwhile he’s been stuck helping them while other people who want to come in and buy something don’t get helped because this person is monopolizing his time.

      2. Mental Mouse*

        Well, I suspect a lot of places and staff don’t have enough DNAUDAY customers to qualify as a “list”. I was just at a local taco place, and well behind the counter there was a poster tacked up with a picture, and a message to the effect of “don’t serve this person, they’re an asshat”. That is, in a restaurant smack on the Downtown Mall, they had one customer whose behavior was egregious enough to rate banning from the shop.

        As far as schadenfreude… it’s a human thing. Trying to tell someone it’s always wrong regardless of the context, is practically a textbook example of “holier-than-thou”. That said, schadenfreude is best enjoyed in moderation: too much of it tends to veer into vengefulness, which will mess with your own head. The OP and commenters here do seem to have a pretty good handle on that.

      3. Starwatcher*

        When I worked at a mall during the holiday seasons, we had a written back-of-the counter list of about half-a-dozen people who weren’t allowed in for physical belligerence, or shoplifting, or were cash-only for bad checks. We also had an informal “whisper list” of people who needed to be shut down and gotten out the door very quickly, because they would monopolize a whole register chattering about nothing with 30 people in line behind them, or be rude to other customers, or similar annoyances like demanding special orders without being willing to put the deposit down, or trying to exchange items that weren’t from our store, etc.

        The senior staff would whisper loudly “Oh god, it’s HIM/HER” and even if we didn’t know the backstory, we knew we had to brace ourselves for customer wrangling right away!

  6. Lizabeth*

    Karma is a WONDERFUL thing; it will happen no matter what and if you are very lucky you get to witness it or hear about it.
    Just knowing that helps me keep a straight face at times.

    1. Courtney*

      My friend always says “let karma take over. Karma does a better job than we could’ve and don’t waste further energy wrapping yourself up in this matter”. Plus disengaging just keeps you from further wasting precious energy on something like this. Sometimes easier said than done!

      1. mdv*

        This is so true! My example is on the positive end… I go out of my way to help people if it is within my power (and reasonable). So when my dad passed away last summer and I needed help on multiple occasions to work on cleaning up his living space / workshop building, I had crews of as many as 10 people show up on a given day, including a really really cold day in early January! (not sure if that is better or worse than a really hot day in August…)

    2. Suyuying*

      Personally, I believe that everything in life is just the luck of the draw. To me, it sounds like Catelyn got too comfortable and cocky with herself and ended up getting caught doing things she wasn’t supposed to. Not karma, not justice; just her unlucky day. But it still feels good to feel like bad people get “what they deserve”.

  7. KR*

    Don’t worry about your list. I think a lot of people have a list even if they don’t specifically call it that. It’s not necessarily a bad thing – through experience you’ve determined that these people don’t like you and don’t like to be waited on, so you allow them to approach you first if they have questions or need help. You’re adjusting your level of service based on the response you’ve gotten from your customer about what they want. If someone’s screaming at you or blowing up at you, I think you can safely assume they don’t want to be waited on by you.

    1. Friday Brain All Week Long*

      As long as it’s not like Arya’s list I think you’re fine!

    2. JMegan*

      I definitely had that list when I worked retail! It’s a bit harder when you’re waiting tables (which I have also done), but I would absolutely have had one if I could. :)

      OP, I think you did great, and your impulse control is better than you’re giving yourself credit for. Thanks for the happy update!

      1. many bells down*

        I had a list of “parents to avoid if possible” when I was teaching drama. It had the mom who screamed at me in front of my entire class “This is why nobody likes you!” upon hearing her daughter didn’t get the lead in the school play, and the dad who would always accuse me of being a racist because his daughter didn’t get parts. His daughter also never came to class, but I guess that wasn’t important.

    3. Mrs. Psmith*

      Seconding that you shouldn’t feel bad about having a list. I have a list of people I will not go out of my way to help based solely on their past behavior and I don’t work in retail. So I’m pretty sure others have them too. There’s a reason we have the phrase “you’re on my list.”

    4. OP*

      Actually, to be honest I’ve gotten in trouble for refusing to serve someone on my list. It was the guy who made me cry. Whenever he came into the store I hid in the back and my manager didn’t like that. I explained to my manager that the incident was so traumatic, literally just seeing him put me into a physically visible panic attack (can’t breath, can’t stop shaking, etc.)

      As previously mentioned, she is fiercely protective of us. My manager told me to wait in the back while she talked to him. I don’t know what she said, but I’ve never seen him again.

      I love my manager.

      1. JMegan*

        I don’t want to tell you how to feel, OP, but I would love if your takeaway there could be “my manager has my back and protects me from difficult customers,” rather than “I got in trouble for refusing to serve him.”

        Your manager had no information at first other than “OP ran and hid in the back when a customer came in.” But she got it right away when you explained it to her, right? Sounds like the guy was absolutely awful to you, and you set appropriate boundaries, and your manager helped enforce those boundaries. That’s brilliant! And trust me, not every manager would do that, or would support you doing it. All the info I have about you is in your two letters, but it sounds to me like you have a good thing going on there.

      2. Lady H*

        OP, this is unsolicited advice and I hope it’s not over the top. I want to encourage you to treat events like this as trauma that you may need time and work to heal from and not as a personal flaw because you don’t want to help people like this. Even though I haven’t worked retail for about five years, I’ve had things come up from the past that present stumbling blocks in my relationships (at work and personally) because of customers who screamed at me, insulted me, or otherwise went out of their way to belittle me during the 8 years I worked retail. It never occurred to me that maybe those things that happened were things I blamed myself for and needed to work through. I thought they happened to me because, I don’t know, I have the kind of personality that made people want to yell at me or call names?

        But once I brought up a few things that still haunted me from my years working retail, it was so validating to have my therapist encourage me to talk about it and be very persistent in convincing me that yes, things like this can do lasting harm and that I wasn’t weak for not being able to move on from them.

        In case you don’t already know this, I wanted to say that you are NOT unreasonable for having a panic attack and not wanting to see that customer; you are smart for avoiding someone who has done you harm! I’m not saying that everyone who works retail needs therapy or anything like that, but it has made a huge difference in my life to look back on all the horrible incidents that happened to me while working retail and to no longer think that I deserved them to happen. I hope this helps and isn’t too overbearing!

  8. Lizabeth*

    Cat chewing electrical cords – get the thingys that covers & bundle them together. This doesn’t work if you have a lot of singles spread out…

    The other thought (and I’ve never tried this) was to paint the cords with something that tastes icky to cats – like the stuff that is painted on kids thumbs to stop them from sucking them?

    1. Bowserkitty*

      My best friend has issues with her cat being attracted to her phone charging cord too so I’ll be interested to see what people have for ideas! Like you, Lizabeth, I thought something similar – such as maybe spraying a mint or pepper fragrance on the cord? My cat’s aversion to mint anything is hilarious but luckily I don’t have to deal with him chewing on cords so I’ve never tried it out.

      1. gingersnap*

        Cats are funny! I have one that eats mint leaves straight off the plant. Fortunately, he doesn’t chew anything else besides boxes….

        1. AnonEMoose*

          While we had our previous cat (sadly no longer with us), I had to stop using a rosemary-mint shampoo. Because if I used it, he would try to eat my hair. As in, I’d wake up at night, and there he would be, sitting on the pillow, munching on my hair.

          I still miss that cat. I also had to teach him to sleep at the foot of the bed, not on the pillow next to mine. Because when now-DH would spend the night with me (we were dating at the time), the cat would drape himself over DH’s head…and purr. To the point that DH swore his teeth were rattling. The cat was perfectly (purrfectly?) happy, but DH couldn’t sleep with that going on!

          1. Ama*

            Interesting — my cat frequently wants to rub himself all over my hair when it is freshly washed and now that I think about it my shampoo does have mint in it. He’s never actually chewed on my hair, though. He just likes to climb up behind me on the sofa and rub his head on mine like I’m made of catnip.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              If I recall correctly, catnip and mint are related….so maybe it’s close enough for some of the little fuzzballs?

          2. All Hail Queen Sally*

            Back in the 1970’s, when I was in high school, I used Clairol Herbal Essence shampoo. It was green and had a very particular scent. I loved it, and so did my cat. Every time after I washed my hair (it was very long–down to my waist), that cat would immediately come over and try to climb me so she could lick my hair/head. Every single time.

      2. Red Rose*

        It is a case of know your feline. My cats love mint so much that they will head dive into open purse pockets to get at the mint gum! However, they seem to really dislike my rosemary plant so if they were chewing cords I guess I’d try a rosemary spray.

      3. Bowserkitty*

        Naturally, now that I’ve said this, he has begun to do it with one of my long extension cords. (=_=) I shall be following some of the ideas here…

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Painting the cords with nasty-tasting stuff doesn’t work. At least it didn’t for my brother’s cat. He finally bought oxygen hose and put each cord in one.

    3. Not Karen*

      I’ve tried the Whisker City No Chew Cat Deterrent Spray and it *sort of* works. (Note: Don’t inhale, and wash your hands immediately after use or you will regret it.) Ultimately, thankfully, my cat finally grew out of it after a few years…

    4. Kyrielle*

      One note on that “something icky” – you will probably find recommendations for bitter apple spray.

      Do not, I repeat DO NOT do it. I’ve used it on our artificial Christmas tree. The cats became accustomed to it after a day or two. YEARS later, the spray still vaguely clings to it, and I can -taste- it whenever I pick the tree up to bring it out of storage or put it back in, it’s got one of those smells that is perceived as a horribly bitter taste just from smelling it.

      Do not use the bitter apple spray. *shudder*

        1. LN*

          LMAO. Ask me about the time I used hot chili oil to try and stop my dog from chewing her way through the fence…some dogs have a spicy palate, it turns out…

          1. Mental Mouse*

            I’ve heard of a case where someone was having trouble with squirrels raiding their bird feeder, so they put in seeds with chili powder on them. Next day, the squirrel was back: Grabs seed, chomps. Wipes at its mouth for a few seconds. Next seed…

            Indeed, chili oil is one of the suggested things for keeping cats off wires, along with bitter apple, mint and a few more. In all cases, you will need to experiment to find out what deters your particular cat.

            Me, I had a rabbit. Nothing I tried worked on him…. He chewed through protective covers. He chewed through my Euphorbia pseudocactus (despite spines and caustic sap). And the supports for my bookshelves (<CRASH>). I replaced those last with steel industrial shelves, so he chewed on the particleboard shelves, but couldn’t make much headway. Later I had a cat too, but she didn’t chew through anything.

        2. OpheliaInWaders*

          Hahaha, mine too. We had to create a concoction we called “Disgusto” – old school yellow Listerine, Chili powder, and vinegar – to keep him away from stuff as a puppy.

      1. Windchime*

        I tried the bitter apple spray on my artificial tree when I had a kitten who would climb the tree. It made absolutely no difference to him; he just happily climbed anyway.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Sounds about right. Mine don’t climb it, but they like to lay under it, and also to chew on it. *sighs* Which I think says all I need to say about how effective bitter apple is.

      2. Kitties!*

        Interesting that bitter Apple spray didn’t work for so many folks, it’s saved me $100s in cord repurchasing! I have four cats and a TON of professionally necessary and expensive cords, I knit fun yarn around them (very very simple, I don’t actually know how to knit) then take them outside once a month to spray (and wash my hands like crazy afterward, it really does taste bitter). After only a few months I stopped because the cats no longer associated the cords with fun playtime.

        I’m usually not a fan of negative training, but it was a lifesaver because I take in fosters, some of which don’t stay here long enough to get much training in at all. Good luck!

    5. AndersonDarling*

      I get clear rubber tubes from the hardware store, cut them up the middle, then wrap them around my tasty cords. Apparently, the clear plastic isn’t as appetizing, or is too wide for my rabbit to mess with. I lost many charger cords to that little rascal before I learned my lesson.

    6. Jinx*

      Oh boy, cats and cords. I have two cord gourmands, and honestly I haven’t figured out a fool-proof solution other than hiding the ones that aren’t in use. I’ve tried spraying the cords with vinegar, which is hit-or-miss. Sometimes they learn, sometimes they don’t. Both of mine are sneaky beggars who will wait til I leave the room to gnaw on things.

      Boy cat’s cord chewing is just a symptom of his larger oral fixation (that cat will put his mouth on anything), so I got him one of those ropes you get puppies for chewing. It seems to distract him from his cord impulses about 50% of the time.

      1. Cube Diva*

        My (also boy) cat has an oral fixation, too! Once, he grabbed the pen out of the vet’s hand and ran away with it so he could chew without interruption in the corner. *sighs*

        Got him some small salmon skin “rolls” that little dogs are supposed to chew on.

        1. Jinx*

          Hah, that’s great. Mine doesn’t do pens, but he’s a terror to blinds. We can’t use blinds unless they are high enough to be out of his reach, which is a problem because our apartment has fake french-door-looking-things in the bedroom. We had to unscrew the permanent blinds on them and tape big sheets of paper over the bottom parts of the windows for privacy. The kittehs still pull those down, but at least it doesn’t affect my deposit. ^_^

    7. blackcat*

      With my cat, we greatly reduced this behavior by….brushing his teeth.

      I know. No one wants to brush their cat’s teeth. But, in his case, itchy gums were causing him to chew on things. I also have a particularly docile cat, making this easier.

      We also give him dental treats, which supposedly help keep his teeth clean.

      I’d advise a vet visit to see if your cat has gum disease or not. If so, treating that can stop the chewing.

    8. Ann O'Nemity*

      Is anyone else thinking about the cat on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? Does electrocution not happen when real life cats chew through cords?

      1. Jinx*

        Not usually – in my experience, either the cord is small enough that they just nip through it, or it’s thick enough that they don’t hit cord right away and just leave imprints in the plastic.

        The closest I’ve seen is when one cat bit a hole in my Macbook cord while it was plugged in. I heard a loud pop then smelled burning, and sure enough there was a little burned tooth mark with wire showing through. The cat was fine, fortunately. I keep hoping he learned his lesson from that experience, but probably not.

      2. GigglyPuff*

        That happened to my mom’s rat terrier when she first got him. I was using my laptop and started getting an error message about the power cord. Checked it and the rat had totally chewed a hole in it while it was plugged in, and probably gave him a mild shock. Found him hiding underneath the table…next cord he chewed as unplugged and he chewed the entire plug off, we, uh, never found the plug and he never chewed anything after that.

      3. GH in SoCAl*

        Weeeeellll….. A friend of mine has a cat who was rescued as a kitten from a house fire. And he has a burn scar on his mouth in the shape of a cord. (!!) And he’s still a chewer. She actually took all the corded things out of her guest room so he can be left in there when she’s not home.

        She’s a saint.

      4. Arla*

        Yes, they definitely can hurt themselves with that behavior. I have a cat who chewed into a live cord when he was about a year old – he lost most of his whiskers and fur on one cheek (luckily, no lasting damage to him, but the whiskers took months to grow back). He likes the taste of bitter apple spray and pretty much anything else you can spray on things, so that’s not a deterrent for him – he just licks it clean. But being electrocuted finally convinced him that thick wall cords were a bad idea.

        However, he still chews on USB cables. Only USB cables. I have no idea why he fixates on those but they don’t carry enough of a charge to give him a zing, so I’ve just resigned myself to the fact that they will be destroyed and stock up on them when I see the cheap ones on sale.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Not any cat I’ve had! Most of them looooooove it. Balls of foil are A++ best toys in their world.

    9. FCJ*

      Painting with icky stuff really just gets the icky stuff onto your own tastebuds, both from handling the cords and because it gets in the air when you apply it. I have no idea about cats, but my experience with my pet rats was that they really didn’t care and chewed the cords anyway.

    10. DMented Kitty*

      My first cat had a cord-chewing problem but she grew out of it before I got too worried I might just come home with a fried cat. :/ My second cat would chew on ANYTHING, and it’s not just minor chewing like the first — he would rip things apart. Since the common denominator was he likes to chew on cardboard as well (and I figured he might be teething), I put a bunch of Amazon cardboard boxes around the house. That helped a bit, but he still was ripping a bunch of furniture apart. Tried everything — tape, those bitter apple sprays — nothing worked.

      I finally resorted to smearing hot sauce on the surfaces he liked to chew on. After the first hot sauce contact he quit cold turkey. Completely left those surfaces alone, and just stuck with chewing on the cardboard. I know it sounds mean, but standard hot sauce is safe for cats overall (do not use mace, for your sake and your cat’s).

      Try maybe putting some sticky tape or wrap some aluminum foil around the cords he likes to chew on? I don’t think leaving “decoy” cords would be beneficial (you don’t want your cat to assume cords are safe). Also observe if your cat eats odd stuff around the house too — pica is also possible.

    11. Sarah*

      The Cheapest easiest way I have found to keep my cat from chewing cords is to put soap on them. Put dish soap on a cloth & rub the cord with it then allow it to dry. She won’t touch them now. You will may need to re-apply occasionally for cords you touch all the time like your phone charger.

      You can also get a dog/puppy chew toy from the pet store that is like a cord for the cat to chew instead.

      Good Luck.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      When I plugged in the Pestacators for the critters in the walls, my dog also stopped chewing electrical cords. Matter of fact, he walked way out around any cord laying on the floor. He even avoids wires that are not plugged in.

      You can also get plastic conduit that snaps together, but that is an effort to install it.

    13. stevenz*

      Cats hate citrus so maybe rubbing them with an orange peel would work. I never had this problem so I can’t say from experience.

      1. Elfie*

        If you can get Vicks Vaporub, smear it over anything you don’t want the cats to touch – I had to replace so many phone chargers before Vicks! And, you’ll never have a blocked nose again!

      2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        My best luck has been from sprinkling, rubbing, or otherwise appl6ing bitter orange oil to items that I want my cats to avoid. I have to reapply every 3-6 mo ths depending on object, but it w9rks for those two.

        I also try to give them something similar that they can go to town on so I can redirect the chewing. For my kitten, it’s best if I offer her something to chew or we become stuck in a recursive loop when she’s ready for a gnawing bender.

  9. pixelwhipped*

    “The second is a customer who literally treats me like a dog (whistles/snaps her fingers at me, tells me to “fetch,” pats me on the arm/head, etc.)”

    I know this wasn’t the customer being discussed, but holy mother of god.

    1. Rebecca*

      This is awful. I am just beyond amazed/horrified/I cannot even express how I feel about this. What gives someone the right to do this? Talk about someone who needs to be banned from a store, and taken down a notch or two. Good grief.

      1. pixelwhipped*

        Right? I never ascended the ranks far enough in retail to have ever wielded any managerial responsibility, but I feel strongly that the customer stops being right the instant they start touching the workers. Particularly in such a bizarre (if not outright creepy) context.

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Where do people even learn behavior like this? I don’t even understand. Of course people yell at CSRs/salespeople/waitstaff/etc. because they’re angry/upset/stressed, but why THIS?

      1. Allison*

        Parents. I have to think that 90% of customers who are always rude had rude parents who modeled that behavior. I can’t imagine how else they’d learn it. And in most of those cases, the parents probably said really mean stuff about service workers to their kids after leaving the store to reinforce the idea that service workers are nothing but stupid, uneducated, lowly servants and it’s okay to be rude to them.

        1. OP*

          I know this is the mindset the dog woman had towards us. Forgot the fact that, yes, I am a university drop out (though it was by choice rather than an issue of money or intelligence) you do not get to treat me this way.

      2. Muriel Heslop*

        They learn it at home, usually. Almost all of my classroom behavior/attitude problems become crystal clear when mom and/or dad shows up for the inevitable meeting. I got yelled at twice this week and the children made total sense after dealing with the moms. I worked retail and waited tables for years while teaching, and I got treated (overall) much better by customers and patrons than I do by the parents in teaching.

    3. OlympiasEpiriot*

      I would be so tempted to direct someone like this to a Pro Sub at a dungeon for them to do dog play with.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Right?! That was my first thought. “Keep your kinks in the dungeon, yo.”

    4. Marissa*

      Once, I was serving a customer who was asking a question about a product. Before I could get a word out of my mouth, his mother turned around and loudly said, “Don’t ask her! She doesn’t know anything.” I’d never seen this lady before in my life, so clearly she had no idea what I did, or did not, know. Even her son looked at her and said, “Mom. That was extremely rude.” She didn’t care, however.

    5. Ihmmy*

      The Boss Person at my last job did this with me, minus the whistling and snapping. But called me a “good girl”, would call for me from her office and expect me to come running (I was not her assistant), patted arms, had me fetch things for her (thankfully not non work items but only because I would have refused). It was an office job, not retail, and she was our CEO.

    6. Jean*

      I am having fantasies that involve barks, growls, and bites on the customer’s ankle.

  10. Former Retail Manager*

    Soooo glad to hear that karma got her! And as a former retail employee, I totally understand your list. Mine was much longer than yours and I also dealt with similarly rude/straight up batsh*t crazy people. As so many others have said, don’t be so hard on yourself. You made a wise decision to ask for advice and handled it well.

  11. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under A.A., B.S.*

    I think most people have a similar list. At my job we are expected to respond to requests within 24 hours. Usually I respond within an hour unless I’m out of the office or you email me right after I’ve left or right before the end of the day. I have a very short list of people who I wait the full 24 hours. And that’s not even fixing their problem, that’s just acknowledging they sent the email. If they followed Wheaton’s Law I’d have no problem helping them out faster.

  12. The Other Dawn*

    I love karma So. Much. Awesome update!

    Tip for the cat: I don’t know a way of stopping her, but buy some oxygen hose (probably at a medical supply store?) and put the cord in it. This successfully stopped my brother’s cat from chewing through another XM radio plug (the cat chewed through at least 5 before he thought of the hose). You’ll have to cut the hose length-wise so you can get the cord into it, unless the cord is one with a tiny plug on the end.

  13. Becky*

    For the cord chewing, I used Chewsafe Pet Cord Protectors. I think there are a few similar products out there. Worked for us. The cat transferred her chewing rage to cardboard boxes.

  14. DMC*

    Have you tried bitter apple or other icky tasting deterrent sprays (for the cat, not the rude customers)? :)

    1. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under A.A., B.S.*

      I think a spray bottle would be good for rude customers too. “No! Bad! Down!” *spritz* *spritz* *spritz*

      1. Corrupted by Coffee*

        A worker at another branch of my workplace asked if staff could use bear mace on unruly customers.

    2. Jenny*

      I use this on my cell phone chargers and it works like a charm! One taste and he won’t go near my cords anymore.

    3. Marvel*

      Yep, this is what we did when we had a pair of kittens who were cord-chewers. They are now five years old and we haven’t had to use it since they were kittens because they associated cord-chewing so strongly with the taste that they stopped altogether.

  15. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    Awww, I never thought your initial letter was way out of line. Alison’s “No.” was the right answer, but I didn’t think your letter was unexpected or wild.

    All of us who customer face have been there!

  16. Minion*

    You would certainly not be the worst letter writer of the year! You were very understandably frustrated and I would wager that every single one of us have dealt with someone that we’d like to club over the head with the nearest heavy object and have actively fantasized about it! You’re not out of the ordinary nor are you stupid!
    I’m glad your problem was resolved and that you made a new friend. I hope you succeed wildly in your job and your life in general.

  17. Aurion*

    An alternative to oxygen hose: split loom! The general name is corrugated loom tubing or wire loom, but get the version that’s pre-split (hence “split” loom). You should be able to get them online or at auto supply stores, possibly also at Home Depot, Home Hardware, and the like. Stores often cut to length.

  18. Fuzzyfuzz*

    OP–congrats on karma making itself known!

    Advice from a fellow owner of a rabbit in a cat’s body: Critter Cord. It’s amazing stuff.

  19. Amber Rose*

    Look into Sour Apple maybe. It’s a spray that tastes nasty to cats, makes them not chew things.

  20. The Rat-Catcher*

    You were definitely not the worst LW. I wouldn’t want to call any out since that’s not at all the culture here (and I am grateful for it, having been an LW myself), but trust me, it was not you.

    1. Observer*

      I agree. By far not the worst we’ve seen.

      The worst ones are either about people who abuse their authority or the ones who write “I did something really bad / stupid / disruptive and now I’m getting blow back. How dare they! How do I make them stop? Preferably, how do I get them punished for their bad behavior?” and THEN get huffy when Alison and / or the commenters point out that they are the ones at fault.

  21. Rat Racer*

    Now I am waiting for Karma to strike the customer who treated you like a dog. Seriously, Eff that Guy! I hope he steps in dog poop every day for the rest of his life.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      “Dear AAM,
      My boss, family and neighbors treat me like a dog. I can’t understand why this is happening.”

    2. OP*

      Actually it’s a she, and karma didn’t get her, my manager did. Remember how I said she was protective of us? Well the woman made the mistake of whistling at a co-worker of mine in front of the manager. She told the woman, “You do *not* whistle at my girls. EVER. I catch you doing that again, I’ll call security and have you banned from the mall.”

      The woman complained to head office. HO sided with us. I’m actually very thankful for my company as they take care of us. Policy is that no sale is worth the mistreatment of employees.

      1. SophieChotek*

        I think your manager is great and kudos for HO siding with manager.
        I am afraid some companies would say “just put up with it, let it go, it’s not big deal, we need the sale”…

  22. Eohippus*

    About the cable chewing cat: try an avoidance/no chew spray for cats. You can find them in most pet stores, and Nature’s Miracle is probably the best widely available one. Like with the dog versions, the one downside is that a small percentage of animals actually like the bitter flavors so they end up chewing more. If it’s an anxiety issue then calming sprays like Sentry or Feliaway are helpful. If it’s boredom then you can try to provide toys, treats, scratchers, and/or cat furniture as a distraction for them. If you think they just like the texture then you can try things like duct taping the cords on top of the avoidance sprays. Good luck!

    1. Cat owner*

      I’ve tried that with my cats and they still chew through. One thing that DID work though super ugly is to wrap the entire cord with packing tape (semi loosely). For some reason, this has worked for me. I think my cat can’t chew through the packing tape OR maybe it masks whatever scent is in the cord plastic that makes it smell like something she wants to chew.

  23. TootsNYC*

    She got fired for losing it on a rude customer!

    and aren’t you glad you weren’t Catelyn (to Catelyn)?

    (and you know what? You get points for writing to AAM to vent about it, instead of just blowing your top or something; I believe that was a subconscious decision)

    I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad letter writer here at AAM! They are all (like you!) writing to find out more, to figure out how, or to release some of the pent-up pressure.

  24. My cat also chews on wires.*

    Tips for the Wire Chewing Cat.
    Go to a big-box hardware store and buy some clear tubing in the plumbing department. The kind you would use for an aquarium. Carefully, and I stress, carefully spilt it down the middle of one side. Wrap the tubing about the electrical wire and use electrical tape at the end. And, remember to unplug all your lamps and other electricals, so your cat does not hurt him/herself.
    Add some fiber to their diet as well

  25. HRish Dude*

    You asked for advice, you got advice, you actually followed the advice, the situation eventually worked itself out (with some help from karma).

    If anything, that makes you the perfect letter writer.

  26. ArtsNerd*

    The other comments have covered my “yay you!” and cat cord thoughts. I want to make sure you know about http://www.notalwaysright.com. It was my go-to read whenever I had an unreasonable customer service request, and knowing that I wasn’t alone in my frustration was very soothing to me.

    1. Mental Mouse*

      Also Customers Suck, which has a strong community of its own. (To give you an idea, when the last board owner wanted to retire, one of the members “bought him out”.)

  27. Denise C*

    Most cats hate the smell of oranges – or citrus, generally speaking. Try spraying some orange-smelling perfume where your cords are, and the cat will learn to avoid the area.

    1. Liz*

      Seconded! I put a few drops of orange oil in a spray bottle with some water and periodically spray it anywhere I don’t want my cat to go. (It has the advantages of being a scent I like, and the oil is also great for removing stickers from things.)

    2. OP*

      Actually, now that I think about it, Kitty (yes, I have a cat named Kitty) does hate orange. I might give that a try.

  28. Crazy cat lady*

    Pet stores sell spray you can put on stuff you don’t want animals to chew on bc they don’t like the taste.

  29. Kay*

    You’ve all made me more appreciative of my cat whose worst behavior is scratching the walls a little bit…

  30. leisuresuitlarry*

    Bitter Apple spray for the cords. It’s worked every time for me. You’ll have to get it at a pet store or amazon.

  31. Faith*

    It takes a special quality to be able to look at yourself objectively. Glad to hear it all turned out!

  32. BananaHannah*

    I don’t think there’s a problem with a “Do Not Serve” list. I once worked in retail and got berated and called fat and stupid and a horrible person for simply not understanding a question that the customer phrased in a weird way. I waited til I got to the back for employees only before I broke down and started crying, and I was happy that not only was this guy put on a “Do Not Serve” list; my manager called the place that referred him to us (for specialty goods we provide) and told them he wasn’t welcome here anymore and to tell him so.

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