Illustration of a blue person wearing a headset and a shirt, his face is on his laptop. There are three hands in the air: one tapping his back, one on his desk and one showing a watch
Illustration: كرم الكسيري

Customer Service Reps Reveal Their Worst Experiences at Work

“If it wasn’t for the sedatives, I wouldn’t have been able to keep this job.”

This piece originally appeared on VICE Arabia.

A lot of people write on their resume that they can work under pressure. But is this actually a good thing? And what kind of pressure do they mean?

At any job, you can be under financial pressure when you work for low pay, time pressure when you deal with tight deadlines, or moral pressure when you have toxic managers, colleagues, or clients, for instance.


Working in customer service is a combination of all three, with a high turnover rate that hovers between 35 to 45 percent globally. In short, people quit as soon as they can.

I asked some acquaintances and people on social media to share with me their worst experiences working in customer service.

“If it wasn’t for the sedatives, I wouldn’t have been able to keep this job.”

"When I started working at a bank in 2018, my boss’s first words were, ‘There is no resting here; you have to keep up the pace and be at your desk at all times.’ 

“Luckily, a colleague showed me how to take a few minutes break – by not pressing on the button for the next in line after you're done with a customer. When the head of security noticed I was completely exhausted, he advised me to take a type of sedative many of my colleagues were using. I passed on these tips to new colleagues without even thinking about it.

“The truth is, if it wasn't for the sedatives, I wouldn't have been able to keep this job. People underestimate the impact of our daily interactions with clients on our mental health; it can destroy us if we don’t deal with it properly.” – Majdi Ahmed, 33 

“He ended up spitting in my face and leaving.” 

“I was doing a paid internship at a state-owned social insurance company where I had to deal directly with clients, mostly old people. My main task was to get their paperwork so we could carry out the required services. But oftentimes, they left things out or made mistakes in the forms, so I had to let them know. Most of them would react by complaining and swearing at me or at God.

“In the beginning, everyone advised me to be patient, because new jobs are always hard. But one day, the computer system broke down, so I was unable to review the official documents of a 60-year-old man. After a few minutes, he started to get angry and name-called every representative of the government. He then accused me of pretending the system was down to avoid working. He ended up spitting in my face and leaving. 


“Surprisingly, I didn’t even react in the moment. I only reacted the day after, when I decided not to come back to work. I quit even though people around me kept saying that work comes with insults, and that I should endure them.” – Hadeer Subhi, 27

“I was exploited by clients, my manager, and even colleagues.”

"I worked in customer service for a major mobile company from 2017 to 2021. Every time customers faced an issue related to their balance, they would treat me as if I was responsible for it or if I was the one stealing from them.

“At one point, I even used my own money to top up a customer’s balance who said she had lost €5 of his balance. My manager noticed the issue, but I had no energy to explain or justify the situation, so he started to hold me responsible for things that were completely irrelevant to me. 

“I lost a lot during that period, and negative feelings haunted me. I was exploited by clients, my manager, and even colleagues until I finally decided to leave and started working in remote marketing.” – Ahmed Hassan, 26 

“If my period and pension payments happen at the same time, it’s nothing short of hell.”

"I’ve been working at a post office for about two years. Working there is like working in any banking office, except for the first days of each month, which are particularly stressful. As soon as I arrive at the office, there are already queues of retired people waiting at the door, some come at dawn. 

“Many people argue with each other in the queue in front of me and they get very offensive if a mistake ever happens. Because of the work pressures and the large number of people we have to help, my manager usually asks us to work extra hours, and we often can’t take a break to eat or drink. 


“Every month, I get the same feeling as if I was on my period. My psychological state is at its worst. If my period and pension payments happen at the same time, it’s nothing short of hell.” – Rabab Al-Sayed, 28 

“He started to physically assault me, so I hit him back.”

“I’ve been working at a real estate registry for years. Tense interactions with clients do happen, but they usually can be contained. Except for this one morning: A man came to me and told me he was sent by someone called Hassan. I told him I didn’t know him, and he replied with confusing sentences like, ‘I knew that you were going to rob me.’ Then he started to physically assault me, so I hit him back. I had no choice; security didn’t react, and I sensed danger. The strange thing is, I was laughing, probably because I was in shock.

“It turned out that someone had told this man I would take a bribe in exchange for facilitating some work in the real estate registry. He had taken some money from him, but then disappeared. So, the man came to me to ask for the service, and this is how it turned out.” – Subhi, 43, didn’t share his full name for privacy reasons 

“People are even worse over the phone.”

“I’ve worked in customer service both at the counter, and on the phone. And from my experience, people are even worse over the phone.

“I worked for a major Internet company in 2019, and there was a lot of verbal harassment involved. What people said sometimes made me sick. The phrase ‘the call may be recorded’ doesn’t seem to scare people off. Whenever a client wasn’t satisfied, I was scared they might insult me. 

“In the beginning, I thought it was because I was doing evening shifts and people were calling us to entertain themselves. But after trying morning shifts, I realised it was a broader issue. Working on the phone didn’t protect me from what customer service employees face at the counter.” - Hala Madani, 29