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Does Being Rude Get You Further in Life?

Can you get your way by being crabby?

Can you get your way by being crabby?

A couple of weeks ago, we had a patient that really got under my skin. At first I racked my brain to try and understand how I must have failed her. In the end, I know that my staff and I did the absolute best that we could, but this patient still went on the war path. I didn’t realize what her motivation might have been at the time, but it really started my thought process toward wondering if rude people get more breaks. Does being mean and nasty get you further in life?

This particular lady has had some unfortunate eye health issues over the past year. As a result, she is not capable of clear, 20/20 vision. She is not blind. She still sees well enough to drive and does better than many people her age, visually and physically. However, I knew from her past history that she would not be happy with what we were able to do with her vision. This lady has been a holy terror for many years, so much so that our optical staff will not make glasses for her. Every pair she has ever gotten from our office caused much yelling and rudeness on her part until it was either remade in the very same way or a refund was given to make her happy. In 12 years, I can count maybe 2 or 3 people that we’ve had to fire, meaning we won’t sell them anything, so it’s a real sort of honor if you get on the list.

Because I am a glutton for punishment, I continued to see her as a patient. She used to be very rude to me, but I always tried to be nice. One day, I guess she was having a tough time and she let it slip that she was raising her great grandchildren. Her children lived out of state, and her grandchildren were in jail for drug possession. She was unable to control the great grandkids, and as middle schoolers, they were out roaming the streets at all hours of the night. At that point, I decided to cut her some slack. No almost 80 year old should have to be dealing with that, and she began to really like me. In fact, she came in every couple of months for some reason or another. I honestly think she just liked the company.

Well my favor must have worn off with her latest pair of glasses. Even though I told her repeatedly that she would not have 20/20 vision, she wanted to go ahead with a new pair. She gets them at WalMart because she has burned bridges with the other opticals in town. When she got the new pair, she was not happy, and called my office to curse at the receptionist, who was very dignified and eventually offered to send her records to anywhere else she wanted to go. We thought that was the end of it until she showed up at our office, caused a big scene,  and demanded to speak with our optician. He refused to see her and she wouldn’t leave. I had to go out and tell her we were unable to help her any further. I’m sure if she yells loud and long enough she will get her money back on these glasses as well.

What is the point of this story? I believe there are many people who feel like they have no control over their circumstances. Instead of looking for a positive like I’m alive, I’m healthy, I have food and shelter, all they see is how someone wronged them. They can’t change the people or events in their lives that are in turmoil. Instead, they yell and cause scenes in places where they can, usually toward the poor clerk or receptionist who is brave enough to ask “How may I help you?” I think they often get their way and it creates a rush, kind of like an addict when he or she first accesses their vice.

What happens with an unhappy customer? The employees try to calm them down. The manager might come out. Before you know it the person has a free meal or discount on something, mainly just to shut them up. It isn’t good for business to have a screaming, cursing customer in view for all to see, so we do whatever is necessary to control collateral damage.

Maybe in a sense, rude people tend to get more breaks and freebies. I have no problem with questioning something you don’t understand or even asking for a discount, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Yelling at entry level employees is just being mean. Maybe we shouldn’t cater to rudeness. Perhaps, we should just ask mean people to leave or escort them out. Are we reinforcing bad behavior by giving rude people what they want?

Ultimately, I choose to be positive and treat people as I would want to be treated. I feel for those with unfortunate circumstances, but that is never an  excuse to be mean. The amount of energy it takes to maintain that sort of personality must be toxic. While it might get you a refund or free item along the line, I don’t think the cost of being eternally rude is worth the effort.

Have you ever seen rude people get a break? Have you been the victim of rudeness and how did you handle it?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I HATE the negative energy like this that some people bring. They are like a dark cloud and make everyone miserable and feel worse. I simply remove them from my life – no matter what that takes!

    • I don’t enjoy the dark cloud people. I am not always able to cut them out completely. I can only hope my positive attitude can overpower them.

  2. I don’t know whether rude people are any happier, but they do get farther ahead in life. But only in the little things. They may get freebie here and there. But if you’re attitude is such that it drives people away, they could lose out on lots of other opportunities.

  3. I hate to say it, but the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I notice the same thing at my work. The customers who are a PITA get top notch treatment because no one wants to hear about it otherwise. Since I believe in Karma, I choose not to go that route. I try to catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

  4. If I have someone being rude to me II call them on it and tell them to calm down and act appropriately if they want to get things done. If they continue being a pain I go out of my way to be difficult. I know it’s childish, but there is just no excuse for it.

    • Dealing with rude people is lots like dealing with five year olds. They are not reasonable, but at least the five year old can take a nap and develop a whole new perspective.

  5. In my former job I saw this all the time. Someone would come in rude, for no apparent reason, and would usually get what they wanted. The squeaky wheel does get the grease, but it does not have to me that way. If I am in a situation where I am trying to help someone they’re going to get much more from me if they’re decent. I’ll do all I can for them, especially if I can put myself in their shoes. But, if they’re rude, then they’re not getting that benefit…life is just too short to go through life rude.

    • Life is too short. It takes way more energy to be rude. I’m tired enough at the end of the day without adding more energy to be unpleasant.

  6. I have seen many rude people get what they want. People used to do this with my ecommerce business. I would bend over backwards for them. I know that I will employee the rude attitude, but only when it is justified. I do get what I am after, but I have to be an ass to get it.

    • That does really suck when you go above and beyond and all you get is rude back. I’ve had people yell about something then call me on the weekend when they have an emergency. I certainly don’t go out of my way to help at that point.

  7. Honestly, rude people do seem to get what they want, especially when it comes to retailers. I think one thing is that businesses don’t want to cause a scene so they try to handle the person quickly and effectively.

    At Target one time I saw someone get escorted out by security for harassing the pharmacist (who is the sweetest girl…I felt bad for her). Something about price of drugs, as if the pharmacist has any say in that.

  8. Whether they get a break or not, I still think karma will come and bite them in the ass. They may have have won that battle, but not the war. I feel sorry for people like that because they are in such pain emotionally that they are just mean and awful, but that’s still no excuse for how they treat people. They usually have the victim mentality, and I just don’t have time for that.

  9. I try really hard not to be rude or upset with customer service agents, but when you have to say to the new person on the phone that you’ve been transferred to, “I’m sorry but you are now the fifth person I’m having to explain this to, and it’s becoming quite frustrating, so I’m hoping you can resolve this as soon as possible …” before even starting to talk about the problem, well something is broken in a lot of customer service systems, too. Didn’t mean yours – but the ones that seem to force people into upsetting situations by making you give up on getting the problem resolved.

    • Phone menus are the worst for causing upsets. I had to spend about an hour on the phone with our internet provider the other day. Each time I was transferred, I had to give my name, address, account number, and last four digits. That does get old really quickly.

  10. When I worked in retail, rude people always got their way. We just wanted them to leave ASAP to not make other customers uncomfortable so we would usually cave.

    • It’s kind of like a fight or flight instinct. Usually we choose flight to get them away so as not to disturb our normal customers. Usually the normal ones comment on how rude that person is, though. I don’t ever want someone’s rudeness to ruin the experience for a good customer. It think that’s why we cater to the rude ones to shut them up.

  11. I always try to be polite and treat people well but as long as they play fair. Last time they sold me a faulty freezer they heard me loud and I got my money back. I couldn’t be mean just for the sake of it though.

  12. There is a fine line between rude and demanding. Many people cross it too easily though. I have rude children in my classroom, but they do not know any better. Parents are not teaching or modeling good behavior any more. You will probably see more rude people out there in the future!

    • My husband would totally agree with you on that one. When I was a kid if your teacher had something to say, the parent listened. Now, you might get your head bitten off if you hint that the child might have done something wrong or isn’t living up to potential.

  13. I see rude people get breaks all the time. Sadly, I think this “carrot” spurs them to be rude more often, which is sad. They totally miss the fun in life and don’t realize the degree to which most people can’t stand to be around them.

    • That is completely true. If I know so and so is on the way in, I go hide in the back. I might be lots of things, but if I ever become someone who makes people hide, just go ahead and shoot me.

  14. I ran into this a LOT in retail. They always got their money back, some were even giving back fake returns. Had to call the cops on a couple of them, scary stuff being the only on in the store in a strip mall at night and people are throwing stuff at you.

    • That’s a new one. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything thrown at me. I’ll have to ask my staff if anyone has thrown glasses at them. I know we’ve had lots of door slamming.

  15. I am writing a post on this very topic actually. Personally, rude people get on my nerves and I won’t go out of the way to help them. I will do what I am required to do, but thats about it. But I have seen people who always make noise get ahead in my workplace (that is what made me look into it). Research backs it up. Nice men and women earn a lesser salary and get ahead slower than not-so-nice folks, mostly because they are seen as non-assertive types. Not sure if I can add a link, it might push it to spam but here it is http://www.cornellhrreview.org/do-nice-guys-and-gals-really-finish-last-the-joint-effects-of-sex-and-agreeableness-on-income/

  16. Further to this, I really hate how sometimes people and companies are so much more placating towards being rude. Occasionally, when I call a company and seem to get absolutely nowhere being nice, consciously turning into a B* gets me somewhere. I always feel really, really bad about doing it, but it seems to get results sometimes when niceness doesn’t. I wish that wasn’t the case. When I resort to that route, I virtually always mention at the end of the call how upset I am that being rude got me much further than when I was nice at the beginning. I really do not like tearing a strip off of the poor person on the other end of the phone who has to listen to customers complain all the time.

  17. I just think rude people in general get away with much more than people that are nice. I don’t know why but it happens and I’ve seen it happen. Sometimes the nicer you are the more you get walked on. It’s a shame our world has come to this.

  18. This reminds me of my days working in retail. People are just completely rude and it just makes no sense. People live their life like this, and I can’t think why…

  19. I like to tell people that my job as a flagger is to annoy you and make you late for work.

    Unfortunately rudeness does work, because people will acquiesce just to get rid of you. At least automated phone system designers seem to have realized that when people start cursing, you better get them to an actual person. With DirecTV, the words “opperator” or “customer service” do nothing but “give me a f***ing person!” gets me connected right away.

  20. Ugh I’m sorry to hear about that. I had to work in customer service for 5 years and had a number of customers be outright mean to me for no real reason. I always just kept composed, didn’t get mad back, and usually felt sorry for them that their only release was to yell at the girl from the video store.

    • I always think there is a bigger reason behind poor behavior. It’s hard to remember that when you are getting yelled at, though.

  21. Gah. People like that really irritate me. My first customer at the bank this morning literally said to me “I want to speak to whoever is in charge of this dump!” Sigh. I smiled and led him to a waiting area while I got my manager. I’ve learned that there are people who are always going ot be upset about something. Honestly, they would probably complain about the price of free water.

    • I’ve never understood why you just can’t keep your mouth shut if that’s all you have to say. I’ve asked patient how they are doing, and I get things like “Your frames are all crap” Really, did I ask that? Just say fine.

  22. I don’t necessarily think being rude gets you far in life. In the US all businesses are taught the mantra that the customer is always right. In other places in the world particularly in Europe the concept of customer service is not practiced.

    I think you handled the situation well considering the circumstances. Did you end up firing her?

    • I believe she is essentially fired, but honestly if she wanted to see me for services, I probably would. Ultimately, she is a lonely old woman who has burned most of her bridges. Not my fault, but I feel sorry for her.

  23. When I worked in retail, I would encounter rude people all of the time. At first, I didn’t know how to handle it. But after a while, I did my best to calm them down. In many cases, I would go out of my way to help fix issues of people that were understanding of the situation, as in there is a return period and you’ve exceeded that by 6 months. For rude people, I would not be as forgiving when lines were grayed.

    I’ve found that when I have a problem and call customer service or go to a store, I get my way many more times when I am nice, calm and understanding as opposed to rude.

  24. I worked for many years in customer service, so I totally understand how hard it is to deal with people like this old gal. Rude people may get more breaks at times, but they still have to live with themselves. That has got to be more punishment than we have to take by dealing with them. People who choose a life philosophy of “life sucks” have got to be pretty darn miserable.

  25. Personally I think it depends on what job you have. Some jobs, especially sales jobs require a certain sort of person to do them. I don’t tihnk it does anyones help any good though, and think that people who are old and grumpy are like they are because they’ve lived an unfulfilled life.

  26. I don’t know what gives people the right to think they can be rude to everyone and get away with it. Its just not on, no matter the reason. Its almost as if they get a kick from it. It never hurt anyone to be nice. bah humbug. 🙂

  27. I generally think that it’s easier to get what you want when you are nice. I work at a funeral home, and we have rude people sometimes. I generally attribute it to them being stressed our and grieving and just deal with it though.

  28. Ugh. Terrible situation. I agree you – sometimes people are rude because they LOVE it. The attention they get and people catering to them to get them to be quiet. It’s particularly hard when you’re dealing with a rude person in a business situation. You want it to stop, minimize any stress or damage to your employees and customers, so you almost have to cave – at least in the moment. I’ve had to “fire” clients too. It’s never easy, but you can almost feel a weight lift off everyone’s shoulder when they realize they no longer have to deal with that person.

  29. I don’t endorse this woman’s behavior. But I’ve engaged in it before. Sorry to say. I always start by being super nice, though. I’ve had trouble with medical billing in particular. I know the phone reps don’t care. And probably get paid crap. But when you tell me you’re going to send me to a credit collection agency because you haven’t done your job and billed my insurance 7 times…..I may just yell. And it gets you to do your job. So….

  30. Ugh…I seriously despise this kind of behavior, but I unfortunately see it far too often. I wish people wouldn’t lose the fine art of having some MANNERS!

    • What happened to manners. Older people generally are much better at manners, but the lady who was so rude obviously missed that day at school.

  31. It’s the whole squeeky wheel gets the oil thing…I am not sure rude people get “Farther” per se, but they sure get what they want in certain situations. You can imagine the types I have had to deal with as a school administrator!

    • My husband is finishing up his master’s in school administration right now. I’m not sure why anyone wants that job, but more power to you all.

  32. Being rude is no way to live your life. I think it intimidates people so they get what they want, but just imagine what kind of example it sets for others in that person’s family.

  33. Happened when I worked in retail as well. Shut them up and get them out of the store.

  34. My hubby and I have been in business for almost 10 years and there is less than a handful of customers we have “fired”, it took us a long time to get to that point, but when you do life is much easier. The horribleness that these people is overwhelming and derails your and your staff’s entire day. I do think we cater to these people because of the potential collateral damage that they could cause, especially in today’s internet world. The cost of a free meal or in your case glasses is a lot less expensive than major bad press…the fear of this keeps us catering to these people.

    • That is how we tend to deal with it. Giving them something certainly caters to their poor behavior, but you’re right, it’s better to just keep them quiet and moving along.

  35. All the time…but I,like you, will choose to be positive and get where I am going the right way. I could never treat people like I’ve seen some do. The sense of entitlement in our society has gone too far.

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