HR Worker Tells Retail Employees They Should Never 'Be Rude Back' To Terrible Customers—'Are We Just Supposed To Stand & Take It?'

She was just trying to protect people's jobs and safety, but some felt she was victim-blaming.

HR TikToker giving advice on dealing with rude customers TikTok

Customer service and retail jobs are extremely hard work. Not only are you usually on your feet all day, but you also have to endure one of the most difficult on-the-job scenarios there is—dealing with rude customers who are sometimes downright abusive.

No one should have to put up with others' vitriol, and it's a natural response to fight back. But one TikToker says that's a really bad idea, and not everyone agrees.


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An HR executive says customer service workers should never retaliate when dealing with rude customers.

TikToker @hr_molly is an HR consultant with a years-long career in the field, and uses her platform to educate workers on all sorts of issues related to on-the-job situations and pitfalls.

After yet another video of a customer service worker tangling with a so-called "Karen" customer went viral on TikTok, Molly posted a video giving her advice to service workers on how best to handle awful customers.




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The HR exec's advice was inspired by a video showing a Postal Service worker defending herself against a customer.

To illustrate her point, Molly used a recent viral TikTok of an elderly white woman verbally attacking a Black US Postal Service employee. Throughout the altercation, the customer berates the Postal Service employee with torrents of profanity and threatens to call the police. 



The Postal Service employee clarified in her video's caption that the customer had already been serviced by another employee and her transaction was finished. Still, her attacks escalated, and the Postal worker pushed back, defending herself and refusing to serve the woman while asking her to leave.


It was a perfectly natural reaction, and far more patient and professional than a lot of us would have managed given the way the elderly woman was screaming at the top of her voice and hurling profanity. But Molly felt that the Postal worker's response, while understandable, was the wrong move.

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The HR exec says fighting back when dealing with rude customers puts their jobs and safety at risk.

Molly was quick to point out that before her career in HR, she worked in retail for nearly a decade. "I was a retail manager for seven years," she said, "So I'm just gonna tell you, I understand abusive customers, and I absolutely don't support that."

Retaliating against abusive customers, however, is a bad idea according to Molly. "If someone is rude or abusive to you, being rude back puts you at risk," she said. She went on to say that she understood why the Postal worker was angry and that had she been in her shoes, she would have called the cops on the elderly woman. "I have called the police on customers, by the way," she said. "I've pressed charges."


But she says in the end pushing back is just not worth it—and can even endanger workers' safety. When customer service workers pushed back on her advice, saying rude customers deserved to get what they give, HR Molly warned that you just never know what an irate customer will do. "Escalating a situation actually puts you in danger," she wrote. "You don’t want rude customers turning violent."

Incidents like that do in fact happen—just recently a California woman lost an eye after a customer at the burger restaurant she worked in punched her multiple times in the face.

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Many people called the HR exec out for her advice on dealing with rude customers.

Molly's advice may seem sensible enough—we live in a volatile world, and as the video above shows, you just never know what people are going to do. No customer is worth endangering yourself over, right?

But people on TikTok did not see it that way. "Risk a job in retail," one man wrote. "You’ll have another job in retail tomorrow." Another wrote that, "no job is worth the verbal abuse... imma fight that person every time." But Molly stuck to her guns, telling the commenters, "It can only create danger for the staff to contribute to further escalating the situation."

Others questioned how they were expected to "stand there and take it" while someone is explicitly disrespecting them.


One commenter even accused Molly of racism because of her advice, claiming that if the Postal worker were "a white lady," Molly would have "applauded" her instead of saying she was "rude back" to the customer. Molly was quick to shut that down. "You think you’re here doing something and you’re not. I care about ppl keeping their jobs and staying alive."

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John Sundholm is a former retail, restaurant and customer service employee who writes about news, social justice and human interest topics.