Some people use Yelp. Some people are assholes.

I worked with a guy — we will call him Percy — who did not complain on Facebook or send negative tweets. No, Percy took it out on the business itself.

Poor service turned Percy into an asshole.

As social media keeps pushing your customer’s experience into a very public conversation, it is easy to assume that everyone expresses their frustration with poor service, a bad flight or a long line via their social channel of choice. Or, at the very least, they will send us a nasty note or poor performance survey.

But some people don’t tweet disappointment or report problems. Some people, like Percy, get angry.

Percy and I worked together for about 8 months. He was a nice guy, had kids, could hold a conversation and was pretty mild most of the time. Because we worked together, we also traveled together. When you travel with someone, you tend to see them without their work mask on.

We arrived in Chicago late on a Monday night, made it to the hotel and found a restaurant across the street. The service was slow and you could see the annoyance on his face. When dinner arrived, his was wrong. An exchange with our waitress occurred — who was right, who was wrong — which ended with a free meal and a small tip.

Or, I thought it had ended.

Some people might pull out the iPhone and start the Yelp review while finishing that final remnant of wine. Percy didn’t care about the social impact of a negative review, he wanted instant gratification.

As we walked out of the restaurant I heard the staff scrambling to fix something in the restroom.

The men’s bathroom is flooding was the call from the back.

So they can move fast when they want to was the quip from beside me.

What Percy did was wrong, childish, but in his mind it was justified. His reaction to poor service was a vendetta. Your reaction to poor service might be a video.

And while Percy is not the majority, he is not an isolated case.

Stealing from a hotel, damaging a museum, defacing a classroom.

Just last week I watched a woman pocket several small toys from a museum gift shop because — as she told her friend — they charged us enough on the way in.

When poor or frustrating service occurs, some people become assholes. But it is more than just acting like a jerk. They feel entitled, cheated, embarrassed — they suddenly need a sense of retribution that cannot be fulfilled by a comment card.

These emotions are often passed on to your staff and facility, but never show up on a satisfaction report.

Percy takes a toll on your staff. Percy runs up maintenance costs. Percy causes employees to leave and other customers to question their patronage.

It is easy to simply cast Percy aside as just an ass. People like him are difficult to empathize with, but while their actions are irrational, their motivation might be very rationale.

So how do we solve a problem like Percy?

Observe, talk, try to empathize. Ask your frontline staff who the most frustrating customers are and are not. Examine marketing materials for an over promise of services. Be clear about charges, fees, upsells, wait times and expectations. Perhaps stop promoting yourself to Percy.

It might be a problem you can solve. Or it might not. It might be caused by something before your moment in the customer’s journey. But you can uncover it, identify it, tell your staff to watch out for it.

It is important to realize some customers don’t want to have a social conversation about your service.

Some customers take out their frustrations with your service on those who provide the service.

Some people use Yelp.

And some people are assholes.


6,000+ of your peers get articles like this every week with our newsletter -- Obvious Patterns. Sign up.