Strangest complaints at work

Complaints are an inevitable part of any customer-facing job, but some are more unusual than others…

Confused-looking woman with long brown hair, wearing a light blue shirt

We asked people to share with us the strangest complaints they’d ever received at work, and were amazed by the weird and wonderful submissions that came flooding in. We’ve compiled eight of our favourites into this blog post, so grab a cuppa and settle in.

A recurring theme among the complaints we received is about customers being shocked or appalled by things that might seem obvious to the rest of us. And the submissions from those working in the hospitality industry were spookily similar…

The first was from Rita, who worked at a local cafe and recalls a customer being furious about the temperature of his coffee. He angrily complained that it was “Far too hot to drink!”

Hot on this confession’s heels came one from Josh who worked in a pub in Leeds, and was lost for words when a tipsy patron lambasted him for serving “pints that were too small’. Maybe he’d already had one too many of those 'extra large' pints…

And at one of the world’s most famous fast food restaurants, newly-recruited Sally struggled to keep her poker face when an ice cream sundae was returned to the counter with a grumble of it being “too cold”. When she politely reminded the young food critic that ice cream was typically on the cooler side, she was met with a sneering “Well, I can’t eat it when I’ve got brain freeze!’.

But it’s not just those in hospitality who suffer odd and obvious complaints. We also had a report from a retail sales assistant in Glasgow who remembers a disgruntled customer demanding a discount on the shirt he’d just tried on. The reason? “The sleeves were too long”.

False advertising

Picture the scene: the auditorium lights start to fade, the excited chatter of the audience dies to a soft, rumbling murmur, the plush red velvet curtains start to slowly draw apart. There’s nothing quite like the experience of live theatre, it’s like magic.

But perhaps the illusion is never quite enough for some — like when Charlie was working in a theatre box office in east London.

The first half of the production of Angelina Ballerina had gone without a hitch and the atmosphere backstage was electric. As the crowd started to filter back into the theatre from the foyer, drinks in hand, there was a sudden, loud rap on the box office window. Charlie turned from his cashing up to see a woman standing right up against the perspex.

“Hello, can I help you?”said Charlie.

“I’d like to make a complaint,” came the vehement reply.

“Oh I’m so sorry to hear that. What’s wrong?”

“I’m very disappointed in this production. It’s false advertising and I’d like my money back. My granddaughter is also very upset.”

“Oh I’m really sorry to hear that. What’s wrong with the show?”

“It’s the leading actress. This is supposed to be Angelina Ballerina and the tickets were a birthday present. We’re so disappointed!”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand… What about the leading actress?”

“I should think it’s pretty obvious. We’ve all been lied to. The actress playing Angelina Ballerina. She’s not a real mouse!”
A wood mouse on the floor outside, with a fallen autumn leaf

The mysterious case of the protest in the library

All the complaints we received gave us a chuckle, but some were definitely more startling than others. Here’s one we’ll not forget in a hurry.

Aey worked in a public library to make ends meet while studying — it was a fairly predictable job with perfect hours for a student. One day she arrived at work and found her colleagues huddled together, whispering and giggling.

Rather than complain in the usual way, somebody had decided to make their feelings known in a rather more dramatic fashion. Someone had left a poo on the floor of the library.

“But who would do something like that?” exclaimed Aey.

“I don’t think we’ll ever know,” replied her colleague with a wink. “After all, we found it in the Mystery Section.”
A wall of bookshelves in a library corridor, with lightbulbs hanging down

Beef about bread

It’s not always “mind your Ps and Qs” when you have a job in a cafe, as Ste was horrified to learn a few years ago.

When working as a waiter in Bristol, Ste was given a very public dressing down for incorrectly describing something on the menu. His crime? Telling the customer that his soup would be accompanied by a “bread roll” rather than a “cob”.

This slip of the tongue annoyed the patron so much that he ranted at Ste for a full two minutes, in front of a growing queue of customers. According to Mr Etymology, “You have to say cob when you’re in this part of the county, otherwise it's offensive to our culture”.

Not so made up about makeup

Suzie used to work as a makeup technician for a popular cosmetics brand in a department store. One day, a customer returned to complain about an artist on the team who’d done her makeup just a few days before.

When Suzie asked what the problem was, she was rendered speechless by the response. The customer was upset because her makeup only lasted until the next day, when “it stays on for three or four days when I go to the other place.”

A woman with blue-green hair, and blue and red clown makeup

Sorrow of a lonely plant

Pav was working as a customer service assistant at a shopping centre in Manchester when she experienced a very unusual grumble.

A visibly upset woman approached the information point wanting to know why there were plants in the toilets. Pav used her best environmental and customer service knowledge to explain why and how the plants had been chosen, and waited for a reaction. After a pause, the reply was short and entirely confusing: “But aren’t the plants lonely?”

Despite Pav’s attempts to reassure her that, with over 20,000 visitors a year, the plants had plenty of company and were specifically chosen because they preferred shade over sunlight, the furious botanist would not be mollified. After a lengthy debate, she stalked off into the crowd, while Pav’s colleagues dissolved into fits of laughter.

You say tomato…

Sometimes a customer is so adamant that they’re right there’s nothing you can do but admit defeat.

When an irate diner complained that the plums in his starter were actually plum tomatoes, Kay was at a loss for what to do. You see, they were definitely plums, but no matter what she said, the patron only became more and more convinced of deceit.

In an effort to convince him once and for all, she fetched the stock order invoices from the kitchen — not a plum tomato in sight.

“That’s it!” he exclaimed. “Get me the person in charge.” He was less than impressed when Kay, the restaurant manager, told him he was already speaking to her.

An annoyed man with steam coming out of his ears, in black and white

Take me to the river

And last but by no means least, comes the most illogical complaint of all…

When a walker reported having lost his keys while out on a ramble near a famous Yorkshire reservoir, ranger Dale did his best to help him retrace his steps.

High and low they searched, finally coming to the sad conclusion that the keys must have fallen into the water. As it was getting dark, Dale said it was probably time to call the AA to arrange to have the car towed home, only for the hiker to ask:

“But surely you can just have the reservoir drained?”

So there you have it, the truth really is stranger than fiction. Our thanks to those who dared to share their crazy complaints — you’re all true customer service heroes.

If you’ve got a similar story then we’d love to hear from you: get in touch with us on Twitter, LinkedIn or via RotaCloud.com.

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