Article > Business Operations

When dealing with customers who are unruly or even just flat out rude — on purpose — how should you deal with them?


When dealing with customers who are unruly or even just flat out rude — on purpose — how should you deal with them? When a customer recently wouldn't accept the fact that I didn't speak Spanish, he went to someone who did. So even though he could speak English, he felt that I wasn't good enough to help him.

There are any number of problems that can be caused by a language barrier, up to and including lost sales.

But Spanish and English aside, based on what you said, it sounds like the customer may have had an attitude. He could have been having a bad day and was taking it out on you. Or it could have been frustration over his inability to get his point across to you. I wouldn't take it personally, because how could it be personal? If he had just walked into the store, he couldn't possibly know you.

Regardless, the ability to serve customers in their native tongue is good business and opens doors to more revenue. It sounds like your store is in a good position because it already employs someone who speaks Spanish. I would leverage that as much as possible. People feel more comfortable when they can conduct business in their own language.

 -Mark Phillips
Editor, Counterman

  Previous Comments
avatar   mathew vaughn   star   2/28/2010   9:04 PM


avatar   Jeff   star   2/20/2010   9:12 AM

yup, I was not trying to be rude, I was just agreeing with someones point of view. If my intent was to be rude I would have counted the number of spelling and grammatical errors and pointed the out. Fact is were I grew up, criticizing somebody about something they do and then doing it yourself is called being a hypocrite. I am not the most grammatically correct person in the world, but if I am gonna call somebody on a lack of communication skills I am gonna try to get it right.

avatar   yup   star   2/17/2010   3:57 PM

its people like bones and jeff this article is most directed at. in the fact they are now being rude to dan for some simple spelling errors and shouldn't have commented at all.

avatar   Jeff   star   2/17/2010   1:15 PM

Bones I so agree - if you cannot properly convey your message than please do not complain about others not being able to communicate to you.

avatar   Bones   star   2/5/2010   6:39 PM

Dan- Learn to write in english before you start complaining about people not speaking it.

avatar   CRYSTAL   star   2/3/2010   4:02 PM


avatar   Morgan Chester   star   1/12/2010   8:05 PM

here at oreilly's you can also call the parts lookup line and talk to a spanish speaking agent who can translate for you too!

avatar   Dan    star   1/7/2010   5:13 PM

I live in a town that has 43 known langagues. Spanish is the most hurd. I work in a parts store and have a spanish speeking person here but when he is busy and the spanish people that wont speek english al uf a sudden speek english and the guy in the store trying to sell gets mad because i'm selling to his customers. He gets mad when white people walk past him to talk to me and says I speek english. He does not get it some people are just that way.

avatar   Dave Elliott   star   1/5/2010   11:18 AM

Here at O'Reilly, we have available a small translator book, with pictures even that is kept at the front counter. It has english and spanish in it since most of the foreigners we get are hispanic. It's a very helpful tool at times. when I worked for chief Auto Parts (many moons ago) there was a phone number posted in each store that had a direct line to a store where almost everyone was bi-lingual. You could call them any time and they would help you out. There's always a way.

avatar   WILL   star   12/28/2009   11:43 AM

We have a lot of nationalities in this country. Hispanic, Korean, Chinese, German, Ukraine,etc... Most people we deal with know and speak english very well. They (most) don't expect us to know their language. It might help with lost sales if we all knew 10 different languages. I'm not going to buy every Rosetta Stone cd to learn them all. If we're patient with our customers, most of the time we can decipher what they need and send them away happy instead of mad and to our competitors.

avatar   Matthew Vaughn   star   12/12/2009   3:19 PM

Wow! Good comments folks! Now, my turn... Kill them with kindness! We all have bad days and sometimes we take it out on our local CS person, regardless of where they work. I know, cause I have caught my self doing it, and I kill beat my self for it! We just need to smile and let them know we are gonna help them regardless. Now, if they do get personal, it's a different game altogether. But, hopefully, that rarely, if ever, happens. Linda, I feel sorry for women in this business. Especially the ones that are smoking hot at what they do. They don't get the respect they deserve. I am proud to say that I call out the "man" that downs a woman cause she is working behind a counter. I have news for them... Stay out of my store. As far as the spanish, or any other language goes, learn english. This country was founded by english speaking people. English is our primary, if not only, language. I had a senior vp tell me once that he demand I learn spanish. I can't say here what I told him, but I should not have to learn

avatar   Ryan   star   12/11/2009   1:54 PM

If they get rude or unruly try to be calm and resolve the issue first. If after talking to them like a normal person does not work. Talk to them in a firm tone. Stand your ground and explain what is going on. Do not give in if they are going to act like that you do not want them as a customer anyway.

avatar   Linda   star   11/22/2009   9:53 AM

LOL....guys try being a woman at an auto parts place, talk about rude or ungreatful customers......some guys can get down right ugly when they feel they are dealing with a woman who may know slightly more than they do.

avatar   tim   star   11/19/2009   9:40 AM

i listen to my customers needs , therefore i chose to learn the language .

avatar   brien webber   star   11/18/2009   3:34 PM

if ya cant speak english.............get the **^%$* out!

avatar   Jay   star   11/14/2009   6:01 PM

Just pay attention to the details of the problem. And then take action. Good or Bad you as a part salesman have to take care of the problem or you will not have any repeat bussiness. We have problems in our own lives just the same as our customers. If you can't deal with the problem or if the customer gets out of hand ASK for help and either from the customer or another counterman.

avatar   Ed Correa   star   11/12/2009   1:13 PM

We really don't know whats happend to our customer before he came in, but most likly his car just broke down. So lets see, he may of had to call off work, missed a class or an appointment. Needless to say he now is spending money he didn't plan on spending so he might be in a bad mood. We really dont know what happened & why they're in our store. Guys lets do our job and HELP our customers and provide them with great customer service, I tell my guys to put them selves on the other side of the counter and think how they would like to be treated or treat them like you would your grand ma. Who knows you may just win a customer for life.

avatar   Gabe   star   10/17/2009   3:27 PM

I grew up in Minnesota. I moved out to Maryland for awhile, and what a culture shock that was. I only remember ever having one customer upset in Minnesota. But in Maryland it happened every week. Sometimes 3-4 times a week. What I had found out. It was all a scam. They would get upset and throw a fit, until a manager would come. The manager would then give them some kind of discount, or maybe something for free. Sometimes it got to the point where repeat customers that did this would come in. You got to the point where you knew they were going to go off. Because they did everytime. The other way this was a scam. Is sometimes someone would throw a huge fit distract everyone, while a friend somewhere else in the store was stealing something. Since I moved back to Minnesota I had one customer go off on me. I guess I supposedly looked at him funny. When I asked him if he was all ready to check out. I don't believe that is the real reason. But that is what he claims. I think I might have just caught him in the mid

avatar   Jessie   star   10/17/2009   1:03 PM

When your at work, respect is not something your customer has to earn. He is paying you to deal with him/her. Its your job, nothing personal, YOUR JOB. You are getting paid to assist that customer with his shopping experience. And quite honestly if your not capable of dealing with irritable, anal, and sometimes disrespectful customers, auto-parts sales is probably not a great career path for yourself.

avatar   JIMMY J   star   10/17/2009   10:29 AM


avatar   Blake   star   8/14/2009   4:35 PM

There is a lack of respect when it comes to customers sometimes and with that lack of respect DO NOT expect me to show the customer respect PERIOD!

avatar   Dan    star   8/9/2009   1:58 PM

Unfortunately we are in a business where the customer decides suitability for his purpose and then blames us when it doesn't suit him. When you buy the cheapest impact wrench and expect it to do the hardest job, you're just asking for trouble. While I know that every type of retail outlet is going to have some complaints, you don't see people get that far out of line at the customer service counter at your Walmart. Back to the subject at hand, it's a shame that we have let the "traditional" language of Americans become untradional. Try moving to Honduras or Korea or Iran and tell the natives they must learn your language and print it on everything they sell....You won't live there long.

avatar   mark g   star   7/14/2009   3:04 PM

i had a customer who bought a air compressor an a air tool kit. bout 5 days later he comes back, just drops the compressor on the floor an slams the tool kit on the counter throws his receipt at me an wants his money back cause apparently it would hold pressure an take off a balancer bolt. with that bein said he got more pissed off an threaten my life an with some friendly racial slurs. i guess with him being black an i white i was in the wrong for not returning a part being a deffect for say. so in point it can be mixed with color an in fact bein economy depressing everybody?

avatar   danny   star   7/3/2009   5:24 PM

maybe there is prejudice on both sides now

avatar   Steve Abrams   star   6/30/2009   4:34 PM

The fact that he spoke English does not mean he spoke it well. He may have been more comfortable explaining what he needed in his own language. If you have a customer that is unruly or rude you should do your best to help them resolve their issue. If they feel you are unqualified to help them take it as a challenge and prove to them that they are wrong, but what ever you do don't take it personally. Take it as an opportunity to change their mind.

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