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The Top Ten

Bad Customer Service Stories

of 2019

Last week we published the Top 10 Best Customer Service Stories of 2019. This week, we flip the coin over and take a look at the ugly side – the Top 10 bad customer service stories of 2019.

About our Top 10 Customer Service Stories lists

We’ve been collecting customer service stories for over fifteen years. My company specializes in customer service training, leadership training and improving workplace cultures. The good experiences are helpful to  illustrate what outstanding customer service looks like, and the bad customer service stories make awesome cautionary tales.

( See the “Bad customer service stories” –  2018 List and 2017 List )

Believe It Or Not, It Gets Worse

If you’ve been following this blog, or seen my article in Entrepreneur, then you know about the Nastiness Epidemic that has hit customer service. An increasing number of the stories we were collecting went beyond just bad customer service, and into the realm of something much more evil. So we placed them in a list all their own.

Here is the top ten bad customer service stories of 2019.  I personally found the #1 worst story to be absolutely heartbreaking on a number of levels.

Shaun Belding

FIFA Gets Flagged

Imagine convincing a bunch of your friends to fork over a bunch of money and take a bunch of vacation days to fly from Canada to the Netherlands to watch some matches at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Then imagine discovering two months later that FIFA hadn’t thought to put the seats together. Yikes.

Victoria Amira wasn’t the only one this happened to. But when fans started to complain, FIFA’s response appeared indifferent at best. It wasn’t until it became a social media storm that the organization began to take it seriously.

Red flag to FIFA for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Here’s the story

Dude, That’s My Truck

Penny Ivey Thompson took her truck  into a Houston dealership for repairs.  A while later, she spots her truck being driven down the road by one of the employees.

A test-drive? Not quite. The employee, after seriously tailgating other vehicles along the way, parked it at a Lowe’s for over 20 minutes – presumably to do some shopping.

In an inspiring move, Penny took a spare key, hopped into her truck and drove it back to confront the dealership. Their first response was a true head-scratcher, basically saying, Sorry about that.  But we’ll do the repairs for free if you don’t post this on social media.

Nice try.

Here’s the story

A Whole New Meaning to “Live Chat”

The people in the drive-thru line at the Bellflower, California Jack-in-the-Box were patient as the employee was leaning out of the window, holding hands and chatting with the person in the first car.

When one of the people in line called out and asked what the delay was, the employee responded with “I’m correcting an order,” the customer just said, “Oh, alright.” and they all waited some more… and more.

When the customer finally spoke up again, the employee turned to him and said, “If you’re going to be rude, I’m not going to take your order. You can go ahead and leave. I’m not going to take your order.”


Here’s the story

Sorry, Your Flight Left 4 Hours Ago…

Sunwing airlines has not been doing well in the customer experience department recently. This is just one of the bad customer service stories.

When Chu Lisong Chang got to the Vancouver airport for their flight to Toronto, she was told that the flight had left four hours earlier. Chu had never received a notification of the flight change, and had to book an expensive last-minute flight from another airline instead.

That was bad enough. But when she reached out to the online travel agency, FlightHub, and to Sunwing the answer was the same from both – not our fault. It took a CBC News investigation for Sunwing to actually own up to their actions and fix it.

Here’s the story

You Can Put The Money In, But You Can’t Take It Out

This is one of two bad customer service stories involving banks. (The other is our #1 bad customer service story – and eclipses this by a HUGE margin).

It seems that the internet-based bank, Monzo, has been freezing a large number of customer accounts without warning, and leaving customers in the lurch. Apparently, banks are required to do this when they see suspicious activity, and by law, are not allowed to inform the account-holders.

The process for vetting accounts is not supposed to take more than a week, but is often taking many weeks more than that. I’m not sure who the culprit is – an over-zealous Monzo, or a slow-vetting government agency, but it really doesn’t matter. One way or another, it results in horrible customer experiences.

Here’s the story

Postal Worker Delivers Bad Customer Service

The unofficial credo of the U.S. Postal Service used to be, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Apparently, at least one postal worker in Calgary has a different credo.

This video is just one example of postal workers avoiding making deliveries by just leaving a pre-filled-out slip under the door and returning to the truck.

Maybe they heard there was some sleet or snow on the way…

Here’s the story

That’s One Nasty Librarian

Four days late returning your book? That will be $3,800.60 please.

That was the fine received by University of Delaware student Amelia SanFilippo for being four days late returning a book from Amazon’s textbook rental service. The amount was automatically applied to her father’s account. (The price of the book new, in case you’re interested, is $100.00.)

It was, of course, a mistake, and mistakes happen. Even with companies like Amazon, which has a well-deserved reputation for delivering an excellent customer experience. Unfortunately, however, Amazon also has a bit of a reputation that, on the rare occasion that things go bad, they go really, really bad. (Anyone remember Amazon’s $7,455 delivery charge for toilet paper in 2018?)

It took a nine-hour call with Amazon for Amelia’s father to get it all sorted out. Amazon’s official statement was, “This was an isolated error that we quickly resolved directly with the customer…” 

After nine hours on the phone, I’m not sure that Amelia’s father would agree with the ‘quickly’ part.

Here’s the story

Burger King Employee is Tone-Deaf to Customer Service

There were a few stories last year about hearing-impaired people having challenges at drive-thrus. We chose this one, because the employee actually started mocking the customer – a sure sign of someone who shouldn’t be in a customer service job.

Revae Arnaud-Jensen couldn’t communicate via the speaker, so went to the window where she could read lips and use her hands. The employee wanted nothing to do with her, and just kept telling her to go to the speaker. Then he started mocking her.

Here’s the story & video

Air Canada Nap Turns Into A Nightmare

It’s a 90 minute flight from Quebec City to Toronto, and Tiffani O’Brien’s nap became a nightmare.

She woke up to a cold, dark, empty plane. The cabin crew, it seems, hadn’t actually checked to see if everyone had left the plane, and they had left and locked up for the night. Tiffany was understandably terrified.

After trying unsuccessfully to contact someone via phone and the cockpit walkie-talkie, she found a flashlight and, in a last-ditch effort, hung out of the door to find a luggage-cart driver.

I’m pretty sure I saw a movie about this once. It wasn’t any good either.

Here’s the story

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished at US Bank

This story had all of the potential to be in the top 10 best customer service stories of 2019, but, but a US Bank management decision sent it all the way up to the very top (bottom?) of this list instead.

It was Christmas Eve when a distraught customer called the US Bank call center. The bank had placed a hold on an important check.  He had been driving around between banks, trying to sort things out, when he found himself at a gas station and not enough money to by gas for getting home.  When he called the US Bank call center and said, “I wish I had just $20 bucks to get home,” the agent, Emily James, wanted to do something. 

Emily explained the situation to her supervisor, Abigail Gilbert, and asked if she could leave the building to go and help. After hearing the story, Abigail’s response was to hand her $20 from her own pocket, and let her go.

It’s a beautiful story, and resonated perfectly with US Bank’s bold statement on their website: “Our employees are empowered to do the right thing.” But that’s not where the story ended.

One week later, Emily was fired for the kind act. Three days after that US Bank fired her supervisor, Abigail.

In my craziest moment, I couldn’t make this stuff up. It’s obvious that at least one person in management didn’t get the memo about “empowered employees,” and skipped the workshop on kindness.


Here’s the story

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