Vigilante Corrective Action


October 17, 2010

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I went out with my extended family last night and somehow we got on the topic of my mom getting some very rude service from a cashier at a local grocery store.  Apparently, as she began putting her items on the belt, the cashier told her, “Get back! Get back!”.  Now, my mom is very hard of hearing and this confused her.  By this time, the cashier was saying it in a very loud voice and other customers were looking.  My mom says she asked what she had done wrong and the cashier began to berrate her saying that the customer who had been before her was running to another part of the store to pick another item.  Keep in mind that when my mom got in line, there were no other customers in sight, no other items on the belt, and she had no idea that another customer would be coming back to get in front of her.

My mom picked up all her items and put them back in the cart, wheeled to another cashier, and finished her transaction.  I told her that if it had been me, I would have left it all there and walked out….no way on earth I’d spend a dime in a store that treated me that way.  There are many other ways that cashier could have communicated with compassion.  Now, interactions like this don’t happen to us every day.  But, when they do, what’s the best way to react?

As I thought about it, I decided that I’d like the ability to write someone up for poor behavior when this happens.  According to common law in many states, citizen’s arrest is still legal if undue force is not used.    In fact, if you see a felony being committed, you can make a citizen’s arrest and deliver the offender to the nearest law enforcement official.  While I’m not a lawyer and certainly am not authorizing arresting just anyone on the street, I love the concept that we, as citizens, can hold people accountable.  Why not in a store or workplace?  I want to be able to make a “citizen’s corrective action”.

I want the ability to write people up in their workplace when their work performance is out of line. I would write down specifics of the behavior, give the employee a copy, and turn a copy in to their manager.  Then, the manager could make a determination if the employee acted appropriately or not and take action if necessary.

What do you think?  Would you do this?  Why or why not?


  • Trish-As I read your post, All I could think about is the unfortunate tratment your mom recieved. I too would do the same thing. Document the incident, date, time, ppl involved and at the very least a written “corrective action” should be required. The employee needs to know that this behavior is not acceptable. I also would call and speak the the General Manager of the grocery store.
    Talk soon!

  • Hi Trish,

    I’m sorry to hear about the rude customer service your Mom received. In terms of corrective action most retailers have ways to let customers voice their complaints. The supervisor on duty at the time of the incident is the best resource. This is the most direct way to address the issue. If that’s not an option then take down the employee’s name and reach out to someone else in the organization. This could be the store manager, customer service center, or other point of contact.

    Only you can assess whether speaking to someone in the moment will satisfy the issue, as opposed to lodging a more formal complaint. Regardless, unless the store is known for poor customer service, this employee won’t last long if he/she doesn’t change.

  • Hi Trish-
    Good advice for your Mom. A lot of stores will give you the opportunity to comment on service, we just don’t make that choice. When I leave a below-average tip for service, there is no guarantee that the message came across. Perhaps I am just cheap! As we know, the more direct the feedback, the more likely it will be understood.
    In your scenario, could an observer who saw how your Mom was treated make a “citizen’s complaint”? We might all try harder at our work if that were the case!

  • It’s a good idea to stand your ground when confronted with rude service but would it work both ways? Can cashiers also write up extremely rude customers?

    • @Laura- Interesting that you mention this because the whole family discussion went this direction too. In theory, it would be great, wouldn’t it. To feel like if we are taking care of someone and they are rude, we can stand up to it. To some degree we can….just have to be professional about it. Sounds like a great topic for a future post to follow this up! So glad you took time to weigh in.

  • Hi Trish,

    I like this piece because it addresses the importance of accountability and taking action. So often, internal and external customers are uncomfortable confronting those that exhibit these rude behaviors. Worse yet, is that many leaders fail to confront as well. Raising the issue reminds us all that leaders must take action, not just feel frustrated that others are not behaving appropriately.

  • I used to be the guy who would call the manager, but I have found over the last few years that contacting the manager has been pretty fruitless. In many cases, I have found the manager of a store with rude workers to be almost as rude as the workers!!! The “manager” is paid a whole $.50 per hour more than the workers, and this is a reward for hanging on for more than six months!!! I have also found myself to be older than these managers…

    I think that letters to regional managers work better. Yes, a type-written paper letter, signed in ink, mailed through the postal service. For some reason, formal letters written on paper carry more weight than phone calls or e mails.

    I hate to say it, but we’re getting to be ruder as a society. With kids having their noses buried in their telephones on a 24/7 basis, I only see person-to-person contact skills suffering futher as a result.

  • One of the things I’ve noted is the inability to simply document behaviors in our own staff, let alone taking the time to document poor behavior from others. I guess when we can take the time to clean our own house, then we should feel free to do the same to/for others. I’m still cleaning up from the last department head’s boneheaded hires….

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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