Unfortunately, we can never seem to escape Karens. Especially in the workplace!
Workers on Quora share the appalling interactions they've had with Karens while on the clock. Content has been edited for clarity.
"I used to work for DirecTV as an Advanced Resolution Team (ART) agent. ART dealt with all the chronic callers. Now, for those who don’t know DirecTV is owned by AT&T and it was common we would get internet issue calls that we couldn’t always handle, but we tried our best.
I was strictly trained in DirecTV troubleshooting. We knew how to do basic internet stuff due to our flows, but that was about it. On DirecTV, we have something called on demand. On-demand is a free service that has the ability to playback shows and movies using an internet connection. It’s at no extra cost, but does require internet to use. A customer called in with their on-demand not working.
So, I start my normal 'I can help you with that!' And begin asking my probing questions.
'When was the last time it worked? Are you having any other issues?' Things like that. Finally, I asked, 'Are you having any other internet issues in the home?' after getting halfway through my flow (where it tells us to ask that question) to which the customer responded they were. It turned out their AT&T Wi-Fi wasn’t working. I muted my microphone and let out a sigh into my headset as I knew I was about to get yelled at like usual.
'Sir,' I began, 'In order for your on-demand feature to work your internet needs to be working.'
The customer began to laugh and said, 'Just put the Wi-Fi on my TV, I don’t care about anything else.'
I muted my microphone again and let out another sigh and put my head against my computer.
'Sir, I can’t make your internet work on only your TV, your Wi-Fi itself needs to work,' I told him.
The customer laughed again, harsher. He began calling me all sorts of names and accusing me of just not wanting to help him.
I explained to him, although I do work for AT&T, they are our parent company and I was a DirecTV employee and really had nothing to do with the internet. If he wanted, I could transfer him over to our U-verse department so they could better assist him and get his Wi-Fi working, and I offered a call back to set up the internet back on his TV. At this point, I was sitting under my desk with my head on my knees.
The customer laughed again.
'Are you serious?' He began, 'You can’t just make the internet work on only my TV my whole Wi-Fi has to work?'
He didn’t believe me. Enter more cussing and berating, I’m at the point of I’m about to cry.
My customer thought I was trying to pawn him off on another agent because I didn’t want to help him. I just wasn’t trained on the internet so I was of no use until he was able to get that part of the issue resolved. After 20 more minutes of being a broken record and repeating I’m just for the tv and not the internet, my coach came over and asked what was going on. I was sitting on the floor when the call was bad and our calls were supposed to be under 15 minutes and I was at the 30+ mark, which was extremely unusual. I explained what was going on and my coach took my headset and introduced himself, something he only did if we really needed, usually coaches didn’t take calls and we had to use a call line to get a supervisor.
My coach was on the phone for five minutes. I sat in my seat watching him the whole time, shaking my head as he explained we aren’t on the internet side, and can’t magically get the internet working just on the TV without a Wi-Fi connection. He was finally able to transfer the customer over to U-verse.
The customer still thought because we say, 'Thank you for calling AT&T,' as our opening, we could help with everything, but we have separate departments and I’m just tv.
I will never forget the man who told me to make his internet work on only his TV while nothing else that needed internet was working."
"My experience with a Karen was before Karens became a thing, back in 2005. It was at my first job, a cashier position at a certain theme park centered around colorful plastic building bricks. That day in question, I was working at a shop that also makes 'driver's licenses' for kids. Now, keep in mind that these were not meant to be high-quality photos. They were taken with a rather trashy HP digital camera, then uploaded to our computer screens. The guests were then able to view what we were doing on the screens facing them, so they could tell us how to crop the photo into a headshot, choose their color scheme, etc. before we printed it on a plastic card for them for five dollars. My job that day was to line the kids up for the photos, up to five at a time (hence the cropping). Anyone who has ever tried photographing kids, mainly ones under eight years old, knows it is near-impossible to keep them still for a picture. Add to that the fact that this was a theme park, so these kids were full of energy.
Anyway, onto the Karen part. This lady apparently thought it was supposed to be a professional photoshoot or something because she yelled at me for 'taking the worst photos of her kids she has ever seen in her life,' and proceeded to make me take a few more pictures of just her kids.
Her kids were three and five at the time. I managed to get one decent shot in after trying for nearly 10 minutes to get them to stand still. I then had the displeasure of ringing her up, where she still grumbled at the quality and the service. Then as she was paying, someone else came up to ask me how it all worked. Before I even had the chance to address them, the Karen spoke up and told them, 'this man here takes trashy pictures of your kids and cuts/pastes the pictures onto a colored background and prints it out on a card for you.'
I just about lost it on this woman because it was so very obvious that I am not a man because I had a name badge that clearly stated my name, my hair was in braids at the time because I kept being mistaken for a guy, and that seemed to remedy that problem so far, and I have an obvious chest, slightly hidden by our horrible uniforms, but it's still obvious. It was clear she was trying to get whatever jabs in while she could because she knew I did nothing wrong and that I actually tried to fix whatever perceived mistake I made with her kids’ pictures.
I still have no idea how I stayed so calm."
"I was a store manager at Starbucks for four years, and I had the pleasure of meeting a Karen. She came in and ordered a venti cappuccino. My assistant manager was at the bar with an experienced barista, and they were cranking out the beverages until this one. One return, okay, no problem. Two returns, okay, but there is no way this one is wrong. Three returns; at this point, she was calling the assistant and the barista stupid and untrained, so I stepped in and called her over to the other end of the counter so they could catch up with the drinks piling up.
I told her she should not speak to my staff like that, they are both experienced and were making the drink to Starbucks standard. Here, what the woman wanted was us to put shots in a cup, then proceed to skim the foam off of all of our milk pitchers (in the past, we had large milk pitchers that we would steam as we went, so there was always milk ready, now they steam milk per drink) to fill the cup the rest of the way.
'Tiffany knows how to make my drink,' she told me (Tiffany had recently been fired for no-showing for work two times as a supervisor, delaying the store opening and costing us money and customer satisfaction).
Me: 'If you want two shots and a cup of foam, you have to order it that way. A cappuccino is part foam and part liquid milk, which is why they made it the way they did, there is a standard recipe for cappuccinos.'
She continued to berate us for our service and her drink being wrong, so when she finally got out all that she needed to get out, I asked her to go elsewhere for her coffee, as clearly we were not able to serve her as she wanted. She was not expecting that response, clearly, she was accustomed to having her butt kissed, and I was not going to let my staff be treated like that. I don’t remember if she left in a huff, I was headed to call my district manager to let her know I threw someone out and asked them not to return. I got major kudos from the staff there and the customers who were within earshot for standing up to a bully and defending my staff, who I knew were in the right, and at no point were combative with her.
My DM knew I had to be pushed to the edge to make a decision like that, and even had she not been ok with it, I had a lot of support to back me up."
"She brought her car into my shop, and asked what it would cost to replace the EGR valve.. Then she promptly spent the next ten minutes running down the shop that has been ripping her off for years, explaining how EVERY TIME she brought her car in to them, they said it was this, and when that didn't fix it, she had to pay more.
'So, would you like me to fix the car, or replace the EGR valve? They may not be the same thing,' I asked her.
'What do you mean?' she snarkily replied.
'We could inspect the vehicle, identify the faults, and make a recommendation based on our findings,' I explained to her.
'You would charge me for that?' she asked in shock.
'Yes, of course,' I answered.
'No, just change the EGR valve, they already told me what's wrong with it! You guys are all alike!' she said in an annoyed voice.
So, I wrote up the repair order, specifying 'Replace EGR valve per customer request.'
I called her a couple of hours later and told her the EGR valve had been replaced.
'It still runs terribly! You didn't even change it, did you?!' she screeched.
'Of course, we replaced it, I have your old EGR valve right here, along with the large chunk of carbon that had blocked it open. We took the liberty of inspecting the engine after the work was done so I would be able to explain to you why it's still running so badly. If you'll look right here, you can plainly see the ignition spark escaping the plug wire, arcing to the cylinder head. The chunk of carbon that blocked the EGR open resulted from unburned fuel entering your exhaust. You need a tune-up. I have that estimate for you right here, and as soon as you pay for the work we've already done, I'll get started on it.'
'Why should I have to pay for that? You didn't fix it!' she roared.
'Because you asked us to, as evidenced by this signed repair order, which expressly authorizes a mechanic's lien in lieu of payment for services rendered. If you choose not to pay this bill, I'll place your vehicle in storage at $19.00 per day until such time as I can apply for a permit to sell the vehicle,' I firmly told her.
She politely paid the bill and paid upfront for the tune-up. The next day, she drove away in her perfectly running Nissan Quest."
"I was working at the Dover-Calais cross-channel ferries. Returning to England at four pm during summer. We loaded 25 coaches and approximately 300 cars (lots of people).
I was working in the coffee shop. It seemed all 2,500 people all wanted to come through my coffee shop and they were allordering one thing at a time.
Karen stormed up to my till as I was serving one customer.
Karen: 'Are you on a go-slow or something?'
Me: 'No, ma’am. I’m on a 14-hour shift.'
Karen: 'Well, why is it taking so long.'
Me (I look along the queue): 'There’s lots of people in the queue.'
Karen: 'Well, can’t you go faster?'
Me (mopping the sweat from my brow with a tissue): 'I could, but you’re stopping me from serving this lady.'
Karen: 'I just want to buy this sandwich and a drink.'
Me: 'As do the people in the queue.'
Karen: 'Can’t I just pay for this now?'
Me: 'This lady’s drinks are in the till, so not right now.'
Karen huffed. She waited, tongue angrily in her cheek. I finished with that customer.
Karen: 'Well!? Can you serve me now?'
Me (To the lady who was next in the queue): 'Do you mind?'
(She didn’t, so I served Karen)
Lady in the queue who had heard all of this: 'Some people have no manners.'"
"I was a forklift driver at a Pace Warehouse ages ago. The duty manager (Jamie) was telling me what needed to be done next when a guy stormed up to him.
'You have way too many handicapped spaces in your parking lot! There are SIX spaces and there is a car in only one of them. I demand that this be changed,' the guy told him.
Then just to sound even more deranged his next words were, 'I mean if they are handicapped, how much can they carry?'
Jamie who was a very laid-back sort said very peacefully, 'I’m sorry you feel that way but there the number of spaces is determined by law. Before we opened, the fire Marshall measured the size of our sales floor and gave us a maximum occupancy number, and that is what determines how many spaces we, by law, must-have.'
The guy goes, 'Thank you. I did not know that. I am going to go home and write to someone who can get this taken care of.'
And then he turned and stomped out."
"In our drive-thru when I worked at an ice cream shop, we had someone order a 'Fruity Pebble shake,' which was not something we could do. She had misinterpreted a sign that announced a new shake flavor (coffee) and another note at the bottom of the sign which advertised a 'Fruity Pebble ice cream sandwich.' The number of Fruity Pebbles we had was extremely limited, as we only used them for the sandwiches.
After we told her we could not make said shake, she tried to argue by saying the sign advertised one. We seemingly managed to convince her as she ordered everything else before again attempting to get a Fruity Pebble shake. She finally conceded and proceeded through the drive-thru.
When she reached the window to pay and get her items, she again requested a Fruity Pebble shake. A girl calmly explained to her we literally could not make one, she requested to speak with a manager.
For a bit of context about the establishment, it wasn’t a franchise or anything (there are like two of them, both owned by the same family). Most of the employees were in high school, had recently graduated from high school, or were over the age of forty. The older adults, however, only worked in the mornings, and she came during the later shift, meaning the oldest person working was in her early 20s.
When we said we had a supervisor, not a manager as it was a very small business, she continued to argue until the supervisor gave her the boss/owner’s number. Of course, nothing came out of it except lines on the sign to separate the advertisements."
"Well, I remember when I was in my 20s and on the first day of a job in the registration office for a day camp, a woman came into the office. She claimed the 'first-day' package of materials the camp had mailed out before I started working there didn’t contain badges for her kids, and asked for badges. Apparently, something in the materials mentioned the kids should be wearing these badges on the first day of camp, so she was worried.
Now, I was a kid who had been working there all of one hour, but my boss had stepped out of the office, so I was on my own. I had never seen one of these packages or badges, so I had no idea how to assist the woman. I told her my boss should be back shortly. She agreed to wait.
My boss dialed my extension from another place in the building and asked how things were going, so I asked her what to do. She said the camp office was out of badges and suggested the woman just make them. We ended the call and I relayed the suggestion to the woman.
'The manual says they need badges. I am not going to make them,' she told me.
Ok, but I couldn’t make them either. I had no materials and no idea what they were even supposed to look like.
'Not my problem,' I told her.
My boss finally came back and she spoke to the woman. The woman made a tremendous fuss about there being no badges for her kids. Finally, she stormed off in a huff.
My boss and I looked at each other, shrugged, and went back to work.
I guess the kids didn’t need the stinking badges."
"When I was working as a service clerk at Walgreen’s back in 2008, it was really late one night and during the last hour when the store would be open. I had just rung up a woman’s merchandise, and then saw I did not have enough cash to give her as the change that was showing on my register.
So I took out enough quarters to make up the amount I had to give to her. She started fussing at me, saying she did not want a bunch of quarters, and ordered me to give her cash. I told her I did have the correct amount inside my register, and then she rudely demanded for me to call my manager out to bring some.
There were several people lined up behind her, and I thought it would be rude to make them have to wait. Since this was not long before we would be closing, the register I was working on was the only one open. Otherwise, I normally could have had another employee take over a different one and check out those other customers.
I paged the only assistant manager on duty, and let him know I needed that amount of cash brought up to the register. It took almost five minutes for him to come out, since he was working in the office and busy handling paperwork. So I saw those other customers not looking very pleased that they were being held up.
The guy finally came walking up, and gave that rude woman what she demanded. I was so glad when she walked out of the store, and felt like apologizing to those other customers for being made to wait just because she thought that she was ‘so special.’
It was people like her who made me hate having to work in retail."
"I'd been working at a massage establishment and was wanting to find work closer to home since I'd been having about a 45-minute commute to work five days a week. I got an interview for a closer place, and scheduled it for 10:00 a.m., an hour before my shift was to start, and left home at a time such I wouldn't be late for my interview.
On the way there, I ended up missing a turn, and after a little, realized my error and turned around. That caused me to be late for my interview (the person interviewing me wasn't upset about it, and they even helped me find their place). Once I was certain I'd be late for work, I texted my boss to let her know I was going to be late because of an interview (Had I just said I was going to be late, she most likely would have asked why, anyway).
Sometime after, I arrived at work. With the other massage therapists currently in sessions, I was alone in the reception area. A lady came in to ask if we had something of hers she was thinking she left behind after her massage some days prior. I began to look around, and the phone rang.
It was my boss.
She screamed, 'Rachel, you're fired! You can't pull that on me and expect to continue working for me! Get out of my shop!' Turns out, she had sent a text shortly before, firing me, but I didn't see it right away because I had been looking for that lady's lost item.
I hung up the phone, told the lady everything my boss just said to me, she apologized and wished me good luck, and she left. And of course, so did I.
I wasn't upset about being fired, but I was taken aback by her unprofessional attitude. I understand perfectly well what it's like when people show up late, which is why I sent her a courtesy text; for that, she ought to have handled the firing in a more mature, professional manner, especially since I had never been late before. Seeing how things went down, she probably would have fired me anyway upon learning that I'd no longer be working for her, had she been present and I hadn't been late. Her extreme unprofessionalism towards me just allowed her true colors to be exposed, and they certainly reflect in all the negative online reviews from clients, as well as her responses to them!"