A nightmare customer who belittles and mistreats service staff. Particularly notorious in restaurants, but can make an appearance in any kind of sales or service establishment. This customer takes the maxim of "the customer is always right" completely to heart, to the point where it reaches the extreme of "all workers must be wrong."
In a restaurant, they might make excessively long or complicated orders, demand the kitchen Hold the Unsolicited Ingredient, and they will send the food back repeatedly if it is not made to their overly-precise specifications. If they perceive any aspect of their experience to be inadequate (in their view), they will take it out on the poor employee who has the unenviable job of waiting on them.
Some take it as far as fraud, using Loophole Abuse to get away with returning clearly used items. In a restaurant, they will consume all or most of a meal, and then use some pretense to bully the restaurant into refunding their money or providing another portion. And you'd better believe that they'll chew out the waitstaff and/or management if they don't get their way.
Generally a Comedy Trope. To qualify, the complaints must be completely specious in the eyes of the audience. If the customer has a legitimate complaint and it's the staff who are being jerks, see Burger Fool or Soul-Sucking Retail Job.
Truth in Television, and there are entire sites devoted to examples of these unpleasant persons. Also, this Trope is not exclusive to food services—although as many examples on this page can showcase this specific environment can allow for some impressive (and impressively disgusting) payback.
Not to be confused with the Fire-Breathing Diner, who may have every reason to complain (after he gets a drink of water).
- Zigzagged in Heaven's Design Team. God frequently makes vague requests to the titular designers and then reject them with just as vague a reasoning. On the other hand, he might also approve random joke designs that he didn't request, or re-purpose failed designs as a different animal.
- A classic cartoon posted in countless places of business depicts an employee at the Complaints Desk confronting a sour-faced older female customer:
"All right, Ma'am, suppose I refund your money, send you another one without charge, close the store, and have the manager shot — would that be satisfactory?"
- The cast of Retail deals with these on a regular basis.
- Bloom County re-used a gag at least twice involving a character going into a Burger King and demanding a Whopper with no bun, and upon finally being given one, further demanding a milkshake with no cup.
- Ultimate Spider-Woman: Mary Jane Watson didn't start out in the best of moods, given that she was called into work on her day off. And then there was the fact that she was stressing about everything from her grades to her money problems to her career to her mother's therapy. And then there was the fact that she ended up being late for work, getting yelled at by her boss in the process, because she had to stop a bank robbery as Spider-Woman. And then there was the fact that two of the other waitresses had to go home sick, forcing Mary Jane to cover for them, to the point where she didn't get a break all night. When one particularly obnoxious customer kept demanding for one particular brand of coffee even after Mary Jane repeatedly tried to tell her they were all out, it's not hard to see why she finally exploded and yelled at the customer. Unfortunately, her boss didn't see it that way, and took the $200 gift certificate he gave the customer out of Mary Jane's salary.
- Belisarius Cawl in The Weaver Option. He walked into a shipyard with a Parliament of Mars writ - essentially a blank check for any orders he decided to place - and presented plans for a huge battleship. The shipyard produced a vast ship, astoundingly fast for its class, boasting the strongest Gellar Fields ever produced, immensely armored and armed, capable of record-shattering performance and finished in a record forty years. Cawl looked at the performance, declared it wasn't up to his specs, and sold it back to the shipyard.
- Scarlet Lady acknowledges Nadja as one in its take on "Timebreaker". Despite being fully aware that her friend Sabine will be closing the bakery for a few hours while she and her husband go out for their anniversary, she still shows up nearly a half-hour before she was meant to come by and pick up her cake, and is utterly furious over not being immediately catered to. Her incredible rudeness over the whole situation and refusal to see the part she's playing in creating the problem leaves Sabine much less inclined to do her any more favors in the future.
- In Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Brad works at two fast food restaurants. At the first one, he is fired after being forced into an argument by an overly demanding customer.
- In the movie Waiting..., the staff does some nasty things to the food of a woman who endlessly complains about small flaws. Never piss off the people that handle your food.
- Sally is like this in When Harry Met Sally....
- The remake of Fun with Dick and Jane has Jane (who, in this incarnation, works in a travel agency) repeatedly dealing with customers like this, one before she quits her job on the phone on a plane literally shrieking about how he has a kosher meal in front of him, even telling the flight attendant talking to him on the other end to grow up in response to her telling him to grow up.
- At the beginning of Victor/Victoria, Victoria attempts the fraudulent variation while dining with Carroll, slipping a cockroach into her salad. The restaurant owner tells her that two other customers have attempted the same ruse and it's not going to work, but then the cockroach climbs up the leg of another diner, and during the resulting melee they're able to escape.
- Super Troopers has Rod Farva as this at a burger joint, although it's a pretty mild example. However, then he starts ordering things that aren't on the menu, such as "liter of cola". The guy at the counter has no idea what a liter is, and Farva just gets more and more wound up. He does calm down, eventually, and sits down to eat... Then the guy at the counter makes a mistake of putting a hole in his cup. Cue Curb-Stomp Battle. He did take the idea of having his burger spat into surprisingly well, though.
Dimpus Burger Guy: Beverage?
Farva: Gimme a litre o' cola.
Dimpus Burger Guy: What?
Farva: [annoyed] A litre o' cola.
Dimpus Burger Guy: [into mic] Litrecola? Do we sell litrecola?
Ramathorn: Will you just order a large, Farva?
Farva: I don't want a large farva. I want a goddamn litre o' cola!
Dimpus Burger Guy: [to Farva] I don't know what that is!
Farva: [slowly starts shouting] Litre is French for... [grabs burger kid by shirt] give me my fuckin' cola before I break VOUS FUCKIN' LIP!
- In The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the characters are discussing what they'll do once they strike it rich, and Fred C. Dobbs alludes to this (helping to establish early on what a Jerkass the character is).
Dobbs: Then, I'm goin' to a swell cafe and order everything on the bill of fare, and if it ain't just right — or maybe even if it is — I'm gonna bawl the waiter out and make him take the whole thing back.
- Inverted Trope on Road Trip. What Kyle asks for (to have some sugar removed from his toast on a roadside diner) is not unreasonable, and he does so meekly. What the cook does to Kyle's toast in retaliation is pretty disgusting to behold.
- The Snowball Express: Among the hordes of happy hotel guests, there's a married couple who complain about every little thing.
- Any time in an Emma Lathen novel when John Putnam Thatcher goes to a restaurant with recurring minor character Tom Robichaux, you'll see this. Robichaux, a gourmet, is always criticizing the food.
- The Screwtape Letters has Wormwood's target's mother. She's a specific sort of glutton - she insists on very small portions and has a fit if she thinks there's too much on the plate. Screwtape notes that her son hates her for this, even though he never says anything.
- "Ace" Quiggle in Robert A. Heinlein's Have Space Suit Will Travel repeatedly harasses the main character, who works as a soda jerk at a pharmacy. Though in this case, he's obviously doing it to be a jerk, and the pharmacy owner specifically tells the protagonist that he can kick customers like that out if he wants to.
- In The Witches, one client is apparently this, complaining that her steak is too dry. So the waiter takes back to the kitchen has the entire staff spit in it, and returns it. Later he reports that she likes it just fine now.
- In Auction Kings, some people bring in a piece, and then keep it in the auction when it appraises for far less than what they want. When the item sells for less than they wanted, they get pissed.
- True Blood have these quite often, with so many of the characters working in a bar. However, the first two scenes of the first episode of the first season are both spectacular examples of other kinds. First a grocery store intermezzo with a Jerk Jock and a redneck Vampire, then over to one of the main characters who quits her job at a hardware store because of one overly annoying customer.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus:
- Inverted in a sketch which had unsatisfiable waitstaff, convinced that their service was inexcusably terrible while the customers tried to reassure them it wasn't a big deal. The issue? A slightly dirty fork. The result? Most of the staff end up dead.
- Played straight in the "Spam" Sketch. A woman and her husband enter a restaurant where every menu item contains Spam, the woman does not like spam. (Not everything on the menu has spam. In fact, the first two items listed are bacon and egg and egg, sausage and bacon.)
- Inverted in a different direction on That Mitchell and Webb Look. Mitchell portrayed a series of incredibly haughty service people treating Blair-era Britons with disgusted contempt for failing to meet his antiquated, impossibly high standards. It started with a waiter and continued on to a vicar and a tailor.
Webb: Sorry, what happened to the friendly Australian girl that used to work here?
Mitchell: She's gone, sir. They've all gone. And we're back.
Mitchell: The incredibly posh people who are still unaccountably waiters. And I'm afraid we've changed the rules ...
- The Bookshop Sketch from At Last the 1948 Show (and later reprised by Monty Python) features a customer who asks for several books with titles similar to ones by Charles Dickens, refuses to buy Olsen's Standard Book of British Birds unless the gannet is removed, and eventually reveals after he finds a book that he has no money and can't read.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy has to deal with a spell creating one of these in "Life Serial". The spell is cast to create an endless time loop until she can satisfy the customer. Hilarity Ensues. This may actually be a subversion. The customer is satisfied by a very reasonable action on Buffy's part. The frustration and anger seen in previous attempts usually results from Buffy's poor efforts at handling the problem in the first place (trying to sell her a damaged and useless item for example). That is: Any person with decent customer service skills could have satisfied this customer initially. Buffy, on the other hand...
- Lizzie McGuire once got a job as a busboy, which she quit after dealing with several of these at once, including a man who complained that his spoon wasn't clean, even though he was eating a bagel and didn't actually need a spoon. And the resident Alpha Bitch pouring half her milkshake on the floor in front of her, saying, "Oops, clumsy me. Guess you better start cleaning that up!" The owner noted that she actually goes through several busboys per week.
- Tended to turn up a lot in classic UK Sitcoms. This appeared in 'Allo 'Allo!, Are You Being Served?, Open All Hours, Dad's Army, and many others.
- Fawlty Towers has more than a few, though it could be argued that this is the type of customer Basil deserves. A few are so awful they actually manage to get the viewer on Basil's side.
- Married... with Children: The fat women Al Bundy regularly deals with usually fit this. A common complaint from them is their foot not fitting in a size six shoe. Al, of course, fights back with an endless stream of insults.
- Many people complaining to the Parks Department on Parks and Recreation, often about random and/or nonsensical issues:
Woman: I made this in one of your pottery classes. It's terrible! (angrily smashes ceramic object on floor)
- And then there was the guy who handcuffed himself to Leslie's desk and vowed to stay there until she agreed to put a copy of Twilight in the town's time capsule. He becomes a little more understandable when it's revealed to be a way of bonding with his daughter.
- Little Britain has a recurring sketch where Mr Mann enters a shop (it's always the same set, but what the shop sells varies in every sketch) and begins asking for more and more ridiculously specific items (things like "a picture of a disappointed-looking horse", or "a pirate-themed memory game for ages four to eight") from the shopkeeper, with varying degrees of success. One time the shop owner had exactly what Mr Mann was looking for. Mr Mann leaves clearly annoyed, Since he wanted to annoy the shop owner more than he wanted to buy anything.
- Pie in the Sky: In "An Innocent Man", which showcases some of the restaurant's regular customers, there's a man who puts on wine-snob airs and always finds a reason to reject the first bottle of wine recommended to him by the waiter. After he rejects the first bottle he's offered, the staff simply wait five minutes and present the exact same bottle under a different name. He praises the "new vintage". By the end of the episode, he's been banned from the restaurant entirely.
- The "Sweet Shop" sketch on The Two Ronnies. A customer at a candy shop (Ronnie Corbett) keeps making one crazy request after another of the proprietor (Ronnie Barker): wanting only the orange pieces from a jar of mixed candies, measuring licorice ropes to see if any are longer or shorter than others, counting out tiny candy sprinkles, and so on. The proprietor finally gets fed up, dumps two whole jars over the customer's head, and smashes up the shelves with a hammer before running him off.
- In most of the "Two A-Holes" skits on Saturday Night Live, the title characters play the role of unsatisfiable customers to a single Straight Man character, such as a salesman or a travel agent. Typically, the skit starts off with the Straight Man attempting to be polite and tolerate the A-Holes' inane behavior and bizarre demands, but ends with the Straight Man finally losing his/her temper and telling the A-Holes to Get Out!
- The French comedy show Palace has a recurring sketch starring a persnickety customer at a Grand Hotel always calling for the director ("Appelez-moi le directeur !") for the littlest things, which has since spawned lots of imitation — notably, a series of advertisement for an assurance company, originally using the same comedians. The director would always get the last word, often with a completely absurd explanation to whatever dysfunction in the Palace the client noted. For example, when confronted with a cockroach inside the hotel room, he argues that it's the reincarnated form of his poor, dead mother. The sketch invariably ends with the client facing the camera and saying, "Je l'aurais un jour... je l'aurais !" ("I'll get him one day... I'll get him!")
- Sesame Street has a recurring series of Muppet sketches featuring Grover as a waiter or similar service employee, attempting to serve a fussy customer (portrayed by the ubiquitous "Fat Blue" Muppet, here known as Mr. Johnson). The early skits played the trope straight, but as time went on the conflict began to center more around Grover's confusion or incompetence as opposed to the customer's unreasonableness.
- An episode of The Jack Benny Program (later re-done in the TV version) has Jack going Christmas shopping and becoming one of these for a harried sales clerk (played by Mel Blanc). He orders a gift to be delivered, then keeps sending the clerk back to retrieve it as he decides he wants to change the message on the card, then realizes he forgot to sign the card, etc. The clerk gets more and more aggravated, until Jack finally decides he doesn't want to buy the item at all... which leads to the clerk finally losing it and going off to shoot himself.
- Planet Dolan has had a few videos which have the crew telling stories of bad customers they had to deal with. Such as in "Annoying Customers 3" with story number 9. Dolan worked at Whole Foods and had to deal with an annoying customer. As he scooped her order of Greek orzo, he showed her what he already scooped and ask if the amount was okay, which the customer responds asking him to take a grain out. Knowing that taking a single grain out wouldn't matter, Dolan poured half. The customer complained to Dolan not listening, so he did another scoop and took a single grain out. She then complains that it is now to little and to put in half a grain, so Dolan takes a grain and cuts it in half only for her to tell him to take a scoop out. Flustered, Dolan did what she wanted, but she angrily shouted "Nevermind" and left. Dolan then had to apologized to the long line of customers who had been waiting behind the woman.
- Ennui GO!: One of the many ways Helen shows her obnoxiousness is by demanding a refund on a coffee she's already finished. Another is a bubblegum-popping bimbo wanting a hot iced coffee.
Tanya: So a regular coffee?
bimbo: No, a HOT iced coffee. Gawd.
- Grrl Power: Sydney sometimes has to deal with that kind of customers at her comic shop. Like Brad, who insists she orders a comic that was a limited run only available at the SDCC because it's mentioned in an article. Sydney knows to not let them get away with such crap, though, and she's not even above making death threats.
- Something*Positive: While working at a Burger Fool, Mike comes across one of these, who is moronic and racist to boot. He sticks his dick in the guy's soda.
- Acts of Gord is a collection of tales from a video game store owner in Canada, who has to deal with quite a few of these. Unusually for this type of blog, store owner "The Gord" is a Deadpan Snarker to all of his unpleasant or irate customers. The most common response The Gord gives tends to be calling the bluff of the customer who is threatening him with violence and/or legal action.
- Hyperbole and a Half: NO!!!!! LESS MILK THAN THAT!!!
- This is how the Internet meme of "Karen" began, as shorthand for a particular sort of middle-aged middle-class white woman with a sense of entitlement, unshakeable selfishness and a desire to complain in shops about the most trivial petty things.
- Not Always Right is all about this trope. A massive collection of retail horror stories, ranging from the humorous to the nightmarish, with almost all of the stories relating to a customer who simply won't be satisfied.
- The character Imutii from The Misadventures of Onipex and Pals is seen to be very unsatisfied when dealing with fast food or retail employees.
- The Simpsons: Homer gets on a bag boy's nerves before a Halfway Plot Switch sends the family on an African Safari.
Homer: Wait — I changed my mind. Stack it in the order I'll eat it driving home.
Bag Boy 1: Sir, please! I already bagged it by color, and in order of each item's discovery by man.
Homer: Customer's always right; that's what everybody likes about us. Now, mush!
Homer: [poking Bag Boy 1 with a french loaf] Hurry up! I can't stand here jabbing you all day.
Bag Boy 1: That's it. On behalf of Sack Stuffers Local 199, I'm calling a strike!
- And Agnes Skinner (the principal's mother) says to the bag boy, "I want the groceries all in one bag. And I don't want it to be heavy."
- SpongeBob SquarePants has suffered some particularly antagonistic examples:
- Bubble Bass is an extremely Picky Eater with overly complicated tastes, who cackles maniacally when he claimed SpongeBob forgot the pickles on his order, sending him into a Heroic BSoD. Bubble Bass in fact hid the pickles under his tongue the whole time (along with someone's car keys), to gain a refund (and thus a free Krabby Patty) and to undermine SpongeBob's confidence.
- "Pizza Delivery" is based on SpongeBob and Squidward's journey to the house of a guy who asks for a pizza delivery from a restaurant that doesn't deliver OR make pizzas. When they finally get there, after a ridiculous struggle through hell and back, the customer berates SpongeBob to the point of tears for forgetting a soda he didn't even order. Fortunately, Squidward forced the customer to take the pizza "on the house" by throwing pizza at him.
SpongeBob: Did he change his mind?
Squidward: He sure did, ate the whole thing in one bite.
- Family Guy: Peter tried to teach Chris how to defraud the restaurant by planting a dead guy in the soup bowl. Unfortunately, Chris' prop hadn't actually died yet...
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In "Suited for Success", Rarity's attempts to design new dresses for her friends turns them all into Unsatisfiable Customers with vague (20% cooler), tacky (galoshes), or impractical (constellations among other things) suggestions which nearly drive her to distraction. After seeing the reception their own designs get, they gratefully accept her original offerings, while for her part Rarity learns that she can't please everypony.
- In "Inspiration Manifestation", Rarity thinks Claude is this at first, until she is able to satisfy him.
- The Powerpuff Girls: In Not So Awesome Blossom, our carrot-topped little champion feels that she can't do anything right, runs away from home and eventually gets a job at a place called Hot Dog On A Skewer. The customers obviously see Blossom as inept in that job as she, being the only employee seen, cannot do three things at once (the capper having her throw a mustard bottle to the ground in disgust and having it squirt in her face).
- Invader Zim: One customer in "The Sad, Sad tale of Chicken Foot" keeps demanding his coleslaw from the cashier in the restaurant despite said coleslaw being on his tray in front of him.
YOU HAVE YOUR SLAW, SIR!
- While not technically a customer, in one episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog, Muriel gets changed into a toddler after being sucked up by a tornado. At one point she declares she's hungry, and Courage goes about making her some cheese and macaroni, with her constantly stating more/less cheese/macaroni. Finally, she cries out "Perfect!" and then throws it in Courage's face, stating she hates cheese and macaroni. The things he does for love, indeed.
- One episode of DuckTales (2017) has a Reality Show about two brothers making ottoman chairs. They make one for Flintheart Glomgold, who tells the hosts that they cannot expect him to use something that doesn't has his face on it. A few scenes later, we hear him again complaining that the hosts expect him to put his feet where his face is printed on.
- In OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes, our three main characters (especially Enid the cashier) work at a bodega, and of course run into no shortage of customers who seemingly can't be satisfied no matter what. For example, there's Pird, who's an escaped science experiment too clueless and incompetent to find what he wants or even perform basic tasks without assistance; Skateboard Nerd, who harasses Enid for not having an item he wants after she explains it's sold out; and Wally the White, who loiters in the store without intending to buy anything, instead content to waste the employees' time with boring and pointless stories, only to lash out when nobody pays attention to him. Even bodega owner Mr. Gar — who's otherwise a strict boss to work for — concedes that the customer is not always right and encourages his employees to stand up for themselves.