Those houses are too small for anyone to live in

Not Always Right is a collection of brief stories told by people in customer service. One of my favorites is from somebody who lives on Catalina Island and had to answer the question, "What time does the island close?"

Runners-up: (I've left off the punch lines so as not to spoil the surprise.)

  • The person who called 9-1-1 because...
  • The person who didn't read the sign because...
  • The person who didn't read the sign because...
  • The person who couldn't get out of the building because...
  • The person who can't get into the bathroom because...
  • The person who can't enter the password because...

The stories have been collected into a book, The Customer Is Not Always Right: Hilarious and Horrific Tales of Customers Gone Wrong. It's almost certainly a funnier and more enjoyable read than my own book. What's more, they have a Facebook group and I don't. Maybe I should start one?

Comments (24)
  1. steven says:

    Why wouldn’t it surprise me if within the next hour or two a Raymond Chen/Old New Thing Facebook group appears?

  2. Tom says:

    Wow.  Just….wow.

  3. Marquess says:

    Are you even on facebook?

  4. John says:

    I always enjoy the people who dial 911 over wrong cheeseburgers.

  5. James Schend says:

    Man, and to think I felt guilty calling 911 when my car had a blowout on a dangerous stretch of freeway. I would have called the DOT directly, but it’s not the kind of thing I think of programming into my phone until I need it.

  6. dave says:

    "What time does the island close?"

    Well, sounds silly. But on the other hand, as a recent immigrant to the USA (many years ago), I was mightily confused by signs saying "beach closes at X o’clock".  

    How the hell can a geographical feature "close" ?

  7. Brian says:

    Some of those I think are pranks or just plain made up.

  8. Don Reba says:

    Raymond, consider starting a fan page. :)

  9. Aram Hăvărneanu says:

    Social networking sucks.

  10. Nish says:

    Agree with Brian. Most of them seem to be made up.

  11. Ian Johns says:

    For anyone who hasn’t worked in retail or government services, I understand your skepticism.  Unfortunately, there are many, MANY people who lack even basic reasoning, logic, &/or lanaguage skills.  And you too would eventually have similarly shocking stories to contribute if you encountered these people & their demands on a daily basis given enough time.

  12. Cooney says:

    Just read Fark and look for the florida tag – lots of inexplicably stupid behavior there.

  13. Deneb says:

    Very funny, though some are hard to believe.

    I love these too:

  14. Nick says:

    "Maybe I should start one?"

    Don’t give in Raymond.  Keep your high standards!

  15. CmraLvr2 says:

    There is nothing too stupid to be unbelievable if you’ve ever worked in any position similar to the examples.

    I do not think those are made up.  I’ve had similar myself before in previous employment.

  16. Ullallulloo says:

    I would totally join your Facebook fans. :0

  17. Morten says:

    These people sound like my users. Scary. There’s *more* of them?

  18. Yeah, but this other site has pictures. ( You know, for when you’re too lazy to read(

  19. Dejan Vesić says:

    Well, your book does not have Kindle version :-)

  20. Random832 says:

    @James Schend – for that, you dial _4_11.

    Captcha: 211.

  21. JohnFx says:

    Reminds me of the stories a friend of mine recounts from his brother that is a Park Ranger at a US National Park (I think Yosemite). Actual questions he has had to answer include:

    "What time do you let the animals out?" and

    "What time do you turn on the waterfalls?"

  22. Gabe says:

    JohnFx: If may seem ridiculous to turn a waterfall on and off, but I believe they do just that — at Niagara Falls of all places. The gates that redirect river water to the hydroelectric plant can be set to turn Niagara Falls down to just a trickle (if you can call 50,000 cu.ft/min a "trickle").

    So I think it actually is valid to ask "What time do you turn on Niagara Falls?"

  23. Scott says:

    "Its flow is turned on and off according to a published schedule, to satisfy the needs of tourists and the power company alike. Tourists try to be there the moment the gates are opened to see the powerful rush of water."

  24. Aneurin Price says:

    >I was mightily confused by signs saying "beach closes at X o’clock".

    So what *does* that mean? Lifeguard on duty until that time maybe?

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