America’s top gripes

Last reviewed: July 2011
Illustration of man on phone yelling at a robot
Illustration by Keith Negley

We surveyed almost 1,000 consumers nationwide to find the customer-service problems that infuriate people most. Respondents rated 12 practices on a scale of 0 (not annoying at all) to 10 (tremendously annoying). Differences in scores of 0.4 or less are not significant. The inability to speak with a real person on the phone was especially irritating to women and respondents 50 and older. Women were also more likely to be annoyed by unapologetic employees, the need to wade through automated phone-menu prompts to get help, and an inability to find a salesperson in a store. Men were more likely to be annoyed by customer-service sales pitches for unrelated goods and services. The youngest consumers in our survey, those 18 to 34, had the lowest tolerance for repair people who didn’t show up on time. Thirty-five percent were tremendously annoyed by that situation, at least 10 percent more than for any other age group.

July 2011 customer service gripes chart