I’ve worked in retail for 4 years. I’ve seen firsthand how customer treatment of employees is getting worse.

Holiday shopping clothes
  • Lee Weinstein is a retired dentist who’s worked retail jobs for the past four years to keep busy.
  • Weinstein, who works in Arizona, has seen customers’ treatment of employees get worse over time.
  • This is Weinstein’s story, as told to freelance writer Jamie Killin.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Lee Weinstein is a retired dentist who’s worked retail jobs at an Arizona mall for the past four years to keep busy. This is Weinstein’s story, as told to freelance writer Jamie Killin.

I’m Lee Weinstein, and I’m a retired dentist. Since I like to stay busy, I’ve now worked at several different stores at my local mall in Arizona for about four years – including an electronics store, a department store, and now a café.

There are tons of rude people everywhere, and I’ve been dealing with that since I had my own dental practice. But I think it’s getting worse.

I think some of it’s the pandemic. I think some of it is entitlement, from both older and younger people. Everybody works on their own time schedule, and their time is the most important in the world.

Usually, 99% of the customers I work with are good, and 1% of the people are rude and obnoxious. The 1% cause 99% of your problems. The incidents range from general customer complaints to targeted harassment.

Recently, at the café I work at, a customer wanted to know where we get the plastic for our bags of nuts and if it’s ethically sourced. We sold the customer a bag of almonds anyway, and they said, “Well, where did these almonds come from? You should know.”

Halfway through the bag, they said, “I found a peanut!” I swear they took the peanut out of their pocketbook so they wouldn’t have to pay for the almonds.

“This is horrible,” they said. “You people shouldn’t be selling this stuff.”

I explained that we were sorry if there was a peanut in there; there shouldn’t be, and nobody else had ever found one.

“Well, I don’t care,” they said. “I’m never coming back here.”

That was fine with me.

I recently left a department store where we had a bunch of people complain about things they knew the floor workers couldn’t fix.

“Why don’t you have this?” they’d ask. Well, because we don’t have that. Someone higher than us has chosen these items. We have 1,500 items in the store, and we don’t have your foot-bunion slicer. Then they’re annoyed, and then they become rude about it.

People have even made nasty comments about ethnicity. Once, I mentioned I’m from New York and someone said, “You must understand bargaining,” or something like that. What he was getting at was that I’m Jewish and all Jewish people bargain.

When I worked at the electronics store, there was an employee who is deaf, but he could read lips – so long as he could see them.

“When you talk to me, just face me,” he told one customer.

They responded: “You’re handicapped. I don’t want somebody who’s handicapped. I want somebody who can hear me.”

He said: “That’s fine, I’ll find somebody that’ll be able to hear you.” So, he walks over to another employee and introduces her and explains the situation. That employee, who happens to be blind, goes, “Perfect. I’m blind, but I’ll be able to help you.”

The customer stormed out of the store. It was a common occurrence there – people would scream their way out of the store all the time.

Many would also say, “I own stock in your company. I own a lot of stock. You should be treating me better.”

“Well if you own more than 400,000 shares, which is what I own, maybe we can discuss it,” I responded once. “How many shares do you have?”

You get more with honey than you do with vinegar, and most people don’t understand that. People also often ignore the fact that they’re being rude and obnoxious to service workers, who bear the brunt of customers’ problems with a company or chain and get paid the least to do it.

Some people are nice, and those are the ones you’ll do anything to help. The others will leave disappointed, and they’ll leave a trail of insults and emotional harm behind them.