The internet was quick to rally around one supermarket employee after her claim she was fired for misunderstanding a customer went viral on Friday.
In a Reddit post titled “I just got fired for not knowing what ‘chicky figs’ are,” Redditor u/StarryEyed729 described her confusing interaction with an angry customer and the severe consequences she faced as a result. Initially posted on the platform’s popular r/antiwork subreddit, the viral post has received over 22,000 upvotes.
Explaining that she had been working for a supermarket chain for the past three years to fund her college education, the Redditor said she was assisting a customer at the market’s customer service desk when she was approached by an impatient woman looking for “chicky figs”—a term she had never heard.
“The woman asked me where the ‘chicky figs’ are,” she wrote. “I asked her what that was as I was not familiar with it. That’s when she suddenly became violent.”
“Screaming at me that I was an idiot and worthless. I tried to defuse the situation but this woman just would not calm down. She was causing a huge scene that was drawing the attention of other customers. I felt it was necessary to call for the manager and security,” she added.
When her manager arrived, u/StarryEyed729 said the situation got even worse. The Redditor said that the supermarket manager deciphered that ‘chicky figs’ meant chicken fingers, and that he gave the customer a free box of them before berating her for not understanding their request.
“My manager said I was in the wrong. That I was being rude and condescending to the customer and I should have understood what she was asking for,” u/StarryEyed729 wrote. “He said there are many college students he can hire to do my job and that I was a dime a dozen girl. I was fired and told to get off the property.”
“He has always been the ‘customer is always right’ type,” she added.
The phrase “the customer is always right” was invented by early-1900s retail giant Harry Gordon Selfridge and over the last century, the saying has been treated as gospel by both managers and customers. Despite the phrase’s widespread popularity and its more-than-hundred-year long infiltration into the American business lexicon, questions have arisen about the mindset and who it actually benefits.
In an Inc. article titled “Why ‘The Customer Is Always Right’ is Bad Advice,” members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) wrote that, while there is a correct way to listen to and prioritize the needs of customers, a mindset catering exclusively to consumers is likely to alienate workers. Posing a hypothetical complaint against an employee, the YEC said it is important for employers to support their staff members, unless they’ve clearly done something wrong.
“If the customer is always right, then one of your employees is always wrong,” the YEC explained to employers. “You can hurt your business if [an] accused employee has to just stand there while you coddle a customer who doesn’t have a valid case.”
“That employee will probably feel unvalued, unimportant and like a sitting duck for future customers’ opinions and illegitimate gripes,” the council added.
During the recent mass-quitting phenomenon dubbed the “Great Resignation” employees dealing with a myriad of work-related issues are leaving their employers at higher rates than ever before. According to data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.5 million people quit their jobs last November. With 3 percent of the American workforce quitting in just one month, debates over alleged labor shortages and poor work conditions have dominated the conversation surrounding the “Great Resignation.”
However, employees like u/StarryEyed729, who said she was fired from the position on which she relied to fund her education, are at a loss for words.
In their original post, the Redditor said that they regret not understanding what the “chicky fig”-seeking customer was saying, but added that they can’t believe how the customer’s behavior was used against her in such an impactful way.
“I feel stupid now for not realizing she was asking for chicken fingers but I honestly did not understand her. I don’t understand why she couldn’t have just said it properly. I don’t understand how it is my fault that she caused a scene and scared other customers,” she wrote.
In the post’s top comment, that has received nearly 12,000 votes, Redditor u/Ok-Rock-6595 slammed the original poster’s manager and encouraged her to seek employment elsewhere.
“I can just about guarantee he is the type to complain about how nobody wants to work anymore,” they wrote. “File for unemployment and find something better, they set a very low bar on that one.”
Amid thousands of aggressive comments aimed at the Redditor’s manager, one commenter showed solidarity with u/StarryEyed729, and said they had no idea what a “chicky fig” was, either.
“What the absolute f**k is a chicky fig?,” they questioned.
“Getting fired sounds like the best thing that could have happened,” they added.