Fatal Fourway: Worst Experience in Work

Image Credit: Laoise Tarrant

Andy, Isabella, Doireann, and Keogh discuss their worst work experiences.

Andrew Nolan:

Anyone who has ever worked in retail will tell you how rough the whole ordeal can be. While I have heard plenty of “the customer is always right”s in my day, they tend not to stand out so much.

The last couple of months has been demanding in computer repairs, as people are worrying about their laptop’s functionality should they be made to work from home. With this, there has been an increase in older PCs being brought in. 

I’m not sure whether it was panic or forgetfulness that caused it, but one surprisingly common thread with such devices is how many people leave, uh, let’s say adult content, running.

Mind you, I’m not snooping. I’d love nothing more than to do my job and go home. But if I had a euro for every time I’ve opened a customer’s browser to see a wall of incognito tabs open, I could probably afford to quit and never have to touch their probably-not-sanitised laptops ever again. If you take one thing away from this one-sided-therapy-session let it be this; clear your history, and please clean your laptops. An IT guy somewhere in the distance will thank you, I promise.

Isabella Ambrosio

Training is a part of every new job - but I don’t think any amount of training could have ever prepared me for this horror story. Working at a makeup store in Tennessee last summer, I had been dealing with a range of customers, and I didn’t know what to expect when a woman in her 80s walked up to the counter with a very blank expression on her face. Before I knew it, she slapped her hand on the counter and said: “I want you to stop everyone in this store and tell them that is false advertising,” as she points to an ad in the window with a 20 year old model wearing a new foundation, “It made my skin look nothing like that.” 

I spit out the typical customer service response, “I’m so sorry. Would you like to return the product?” 

“I already have.”
“Is there anything I can help you with, ma’am?”
“Honestly, I wish I were dead so I don’t have to deal with this shit.”

I stopped in my tracks, mouth parted, batting my false eyelashes at this woman who told me in a serious tone she wished she were dead. I opened my mouth to respond, but goddamnit I don’t think I got a word out.

Doireann de Courcy Mac Donnell

I loved my job in my local supermarket. Living in a rural seaside village, the supermarket is the hub of local activity. You get to know the locals and their habits. This story concerns one particular character who will remain anonymous, but who is a distinct member of the community. For the purpose of the retelling, we’ll call them Desmond. 

Desmond survives on a diet of 99s and occasionally a Fanta. Anyone who worked the cash register knew Desmond’s ice-cream order before he even reached the till. He lives a hermit-esque life right in the centre of the village with no running water or electricity, and therefore is unquestionably smelly. 

So Desmond the smelly ice-cream man was coming to my till to get his ice-cream cone. Other staff members refused to serve him (partially for valid reasons and partially because of the smell), however I was a soft-touch. I wasn’t convinced that smelliness was a valid reason to refuse someone their daily ice-cream meals. Anyway, on this particular day after asking “A large cone?” and holding my hand out for the money, the €2 coin was taken out of Desmond's mouth and dropped into my open palm.

Smelliness isn’t a valid reason to refuse service, but saliva is. I loved my job in my local supermarket, most of the time.


My worst experience at work? It must be last week. In work, because of guidelines from the HSE both the server and the customers must wear masks, unless they’ve a breathing problem. At that point, because the shop is so small, we offer the customer outside service to protect both parties. I’ve been reported by plenty of people for asking them politely to wear a mask. If they’ve forgotten it, we offer them a disposable one. This woman burst in the door, and before I could ask, she said, “get me 20 British gold”. 

I asked as politely as possible if she would please wear a mask. At that point she started screaming words we can’t actually put into print. Among the things I can, were disgusting, sheep, stuck up, entitled young people. I said I could serve her outside if she couldn’t wear a mask due to underlying conditions, and she continued to curse at me about how disgraceful I was, and she was going to complain to the owner. She got closer and closer until I backed away from the till. She rang my manager in front of me. 

I could hear him telling her where to go.