Stop Giving Away the Store: How to Handle Bully Customers

In a previous post, I talked about my experience with a bully boss, and the many people who have to deal with workplace bullying every day. Bullies don’t grow up, they just become bosses, and when we put them in positions of authority, we’re telling kids it’s okay to be a bully.

How to Prevent Bullying at Work

So what do we do? How do we stop bullying in schools? How to prevent bullying at work? What if we all led by example and showed kids that bullying isn’t an effective way to get what you want? There are some tips to prevent bullying at work, such as having a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, that can help. As I mentioned in my previous post, you can also short-circuit the bully’s fun by acting like you don’t care (even if you do).

But bullying still happens. Unfortunately, the best solution would be not letting bullies be supervisors, even if they’re good for the bottom line. (Especially since studies have found most bullies are bosses or supervisors.) Okay, that probably isn’t going to happen, but it’s a nice pipe dream, isn’t it?

How to Handle Bully Customers at Work V. R. Craft @vrcraftauthor Bullying
How to Handle Bully Customers at Work

In the long run though, bullies aren’t good for the bottom line. If you have to keep hiring new people because the bully’s employees keep quitting, is that good for your business? Or are you just spending a fortune on employee acquisition and training? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to fire the guy who bullies every employee in his department and replace him than to keep replacing multiple underlings? Not to mention that employees do better work when they’re treated fairly.

We also have to remember that a person doesn’t have to be in a position of authority to be a bully. Remember what I said in my last post about customers being bullies? We have, unfortunately, gone overboard with this whole idea of “The customer is always right.” I know, I’ve studied marketing, and I get it—it is so much cheaper to keep a customer than to acquire a new one. I get that, and I agree to an extent. But we have let this “customer is always right” attitude spiral out of control. We’ve gone from addressing and apologizing for legitimate complaints, to giving away half the store for free just because a customer throws a tantrum.

Don’t take this as advice on how to get free stuff, please, but I’ll tell you an unwritten, unspoken, unofficial secret of retail or any customer-service oriented business (which would be most businesses): Nine times out of ten, you can get free stuff if you complain, yell, scream, or write an angry letter to corporate. Even if you curse out the staff, then write an angry letter to the main office about how you were so badly mistreated, you will likely get an apology letter and a free gift card for your trouble. There are people who get tens of thousands of dollars in free merchandise every year just by writing complaint letters. The “customer relations” department doesn’t care what the facts are. They don’t care if their return policy is thirty days and the store’s employees politely declined to refund a customer for a purchase made ten years ago with no receipt. They’re going to yell at the store manager, then send the customer an apology letter and a gift card. To this day, I am still so pissed about this problem that I made it the subject of the science fiction book I’m currently writing, about a parallel universe where the customer is always…wrong.

How to Handle Bully Customers

So then how do we handle bully customers? Again, I get that addressing legitimate complaints is good for business, and I also get that the suits in corporate offices probably have no way of knowing which complaints are legitimate and which aren’t, but unfortunately, we’ve become a nation of people that rewards bullying. What if we just didn’t do that? I’m not saying people in customer service shouldn’t do their best to help their customers, but at some point, we need to stop bending over for the customers who throw the biggest tantrums over their wildly unreasonable requests being turned down.


I once had a customer who actually called 911 because we refused to give her a cash refund on a computer she’d purchased six months ago and apparently spilled wine on. It was a cheap model, and we’d advised every customer who came in to look at it to buy a better one, but she’d insisted she wanted the $200 desktop advertised in the flyer. No, she didn’t want an extended warranty. We explained the return policy to her when handing her the receipt.


Six months later, she yelled and screamed at the top of her lungs while her young son watched because we politely explained we could not return it at this time. We offered to call the manufacturer and help her file a claim on their warranty, although they likely would not have covered it due to the wine stains. The manager finally caved and offered her an even exchange for another desktop just to shut her up. (Keep in mind, the vendor would likely have refused to credit us due to the wine stains, so he was essentially offering to eat the $200 just to get rid of, er, handle the bully customer.) That wasn’t good enough, she wanted CASH. The manager knew the suits in corporate might care about “customer service” but would also shit a brick if they saw a $200+ cash return on a six-month-old computer—a huge red flag for employee theft, one of the few things they care about as much as customer service—so he very, very politely told her a cash refund would not be possible.

At that point, she started screaming that we were “cheating” and “ripping her off” at the top of her lungs. All attempts at apologizing and trying to calm her down or finding an alternative solution did no good. Finally she whipped out her cell phone, and announced she was going to call 911 and report us for “stealing from her,” if we didn’t give her an immediate cash refund. The manager told her she would have to do that, because he could not give her that much cash against the store’s return policy. So she proceeded to call the cops on us.

Naturally, the cops did not arrest anyone as she’d hoped. They did come out, took statements from everyone, and suggested she take the matter to small claims court. She reluctantly agreed to an exchange for a different computer, and the manager called the district manager and got permission to mark a better model down to the $200 price and throw in some free software just to get rid of her.

There are other ways to handle bully customers. Acting confident, making it clear the customer needs to behave in a civil manner to get their problem addressed, and ending the conversation if they refuse to be civil are among other good suggestions. (Sadly, some managers forget this when thinking about their district manager receiving a complaint letter. They shouldn’t. If your district manager doesn’t believe employees should be treated like human beings, he or she is part of the problem.)

How to Teach Your Child About Bullies

The best thing you can teach your child about bullies, is how not to be one. Take my screaming, wine-spilling customer, for example. What did that lady teach her young son? She taught him that you can get your way by yelling and threatening. She taught him that being a bully to people who need their lousy minimum wage jobs will get you freebies and better prices in a store. Honestly, I don’t think she even cared about the cash refund—she got so much more than $200 worth of stuff for a computer she purchased for $200, used for six months, and spilled wine on. Bullying for the win.

This lady was not an exception, either. I saw so many people do things like this in front of their kids so many times. I often wondered if the kids would become playground bullies, or if they would manage to do better than the crappy example their parents set.

So how do we stop bullying in schools? How do we stop cyber bullying? Here are some suggestions I have: What if parents set a good example for their kids, by not screaming at a retail worker because the store runs out of an item, can’t give a cash refund eight months later, or enforces a reasonable policy?  What if we didn’t let bullies be bosses and look the other way when they intimidate and humiliate their employees? What if we didn’t elect a president who got rich by bullying and cheating people? What if we just didn’t reward bullying in the adult world? Could we set a better example?

What do you think? What are your ideas to stop bullying?

V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”



Bullies Don’t Grow Up, They Just Become Bosses

Last week I read an article about a bullied teen who committed suicide. Sadly, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. The story was unusual though, in that the teen’s boss at his fast food job was charged with involuntary manslaughter as the result of his death. According to the Washington Post article linked above, a Dairy Queen manager named Harley Branham tormented her teenage employee, Kenneth Suttner, forcing him to clean the floor tiles by hand and even throwing a cheeseburger at him. He was also bullied by classmates at school, and an inquest found the school negligent in failing to prevent bullying—however, none of his classmates have been charged with a crime. (I’m assuming this has something to do with the classmates being minors, while Suttner’s boss was supposed to be a responsible adult.)

This story bothered me, not just because it’s sad when a life ends in suicide, and not just because bullying in school is a serious problem that’s led to other teen deaths. It also bothers me because I know what it’s like to have a bully for a boss. I know bullies don’t instantly grow up and become upstanding citizens the second they graduate from high school, they don’t learn their lesson and stop treating other people like shit—they just get a job, and often, they go on to become someone’s boss.

When Bosses Are Bullies: Retail Edition V. R. Craft @vrcraftauthor Bullying
When Bosses Are Bullies: Retail Edition

I spent years working in retail, or as I like to call it, hell. For most of that time it was hell because of the customers. Many of those people were also bullies, but that’s another post. Right now I want to talk about the bully boss I had to deal with. We’ll call him Bob—name has been changed to protect the guilty.

When Bosses Are Bullies

Bob was a bad boss in a number of ways. First of all, he never let anyone around him finish a sentence, ever. So basically you had someone who was supposed to be in charge with no clue what was going on. (Who does that remind me of? But that’s also a post for another day.)

Bob loved to taunt the cashiers, something no one warned me about when I took the job. However, our logistics supervisor told me months later that I was the first cashier who didn’t quit in tears after a few days of Bob’s bullshit. Apparently there had been many complaints to HR, but no one there gave a shit because they could always find someone else willing to work a crappy job for minimum wage.

Where do I start? There was the time he told me I should try to get good at being a cashier because I was too fat to be a stripper. (Did I mention he was so overweight he looked like his blood type was chocolate milkshake? Hello pot, meet kettle.) Then there was the Apron of Shame incident, when he got pissed because I didn’t take the trash out the night before. So he found this ugly-ass apron with our store logo on it—no one even knew why we had it, because we sure didn’t cook anything in that office supply store, but it had been lying around forever. So he told me I had to wear the “apron of shame” all day. I really wanted to strangle him with the fucking thing, but what can I say? I needed the money.


Apparently wearing the apron wasn’t punishment enough, so Bob walked around yelling “Apron of Shame” every time he passed in the vicinity of the register, even when there were customers around. Some of them gave him strange looks. I was embarrassed at first, but as it went on I realized it made Bob look a lot worse than me. So then I proudly told ever single customer that I was wearing the Apron of Shame because I was a bad cashier. Some of them probably thought I was joking until Bob yelled, “Apron of Shame!” I hoped he’d eventually get embarrassed and shut the fuck up.

Instead, our logistics manager walked in on him yelling “Apron of Shame” from the other side of the store and demanded I take off the apron before someone complained to corporate and she got another call from HR.

I’m thinking that’s probably the point where the other cashiers quit in tears. But me, I’m not much of a crier—there’s nothing wrong with it per se, but it’s a level one manipulation move that we all learn the day we’re born, and by the time you reach adulthood you should have leveled up to more sophisticated methods. I come from a family of liars, thieves, and manipulators, so I leveled up early and haven’t had to rely on opening up the waterworks since. As for quitting, well, my bank account wouldn’t allow me to do that.

How to Stop a Bully Boss V. R. Craft @vrcraftauthor Bullying
How to Stop a Bully Boss

So, I plotted revenge, and eventually, I got it. Like I said, HR didn’t give a rat’s ass if a bunch of cashiers quit. I don’t care what bullshit any HR department spews about “We’re all one big happy family,” or “We put our people first,” or whatever. The truth is, those departments exist to prevent lawsuits, and the people in them care only about the bottom line.

I knew a guy like Bob wasn’t following all the rules and would eventually do something that constituted a fire-able offense, and sure enough, he did. HR doesn’t care if you treat your employees like shit, but they sure care if you steal from the company! Bob apparently thought no one would rat him out because most of the people he hadn’t run off were too cowed to do anything about it. I remember telling the cashier supervisor—we’ll call her Sheri—about the unauthorized discounts he gave out to his friends. (That may sound innocent but it’s a huge money-suck in retail, and most stores consider it a form of employee theft. Remember, the one thing the suits in corporate care about is that precious bottom line.) Sheri tsk-tsked, shook her head, and said, “He shouldn’t be doing that, but I don’t want to get him in trouble. Just forget it.”

Well, the hell with her. I went over her head to our new store manager, who had just given everyone this bullshit speech about how he wanted to fix all the store’s problems and wanted us all to feel free to share our thoughts on how to do that. Not that I trusted him as far as I could throw him, but I figured if he blew me off I could call him on his bullshit. If I got fired, I’d get unemployment and not have to put up with Bob anymore.

As it turned out, the new store manager was dying to get rid of Bob, who he correctly saw as a massive liability. He never stopped thanking me for ratting the guy out, and he even got me a $300 bonus. (The store was big on rewarding people who told on their thieving coworkers. It was actually better for the bottom line to pay people to be stool pigeons than to let their coworkers continue to steal.)

Also, because I’m a writer, I knew that Bob would one day be a character in something, and last year, I wrote a story in which I quite literally turned him into a troll. I didn’t realize how much I still hated the guy until I wrote that story. But then I realized it wasn’t “Bob” I was really mad at. After all, I got even with him. But what about all the other Bobs who still have jobs, who still get to abuse their employees? This isn’t an uncommon story, and sadly, no one cares unless and until it ends in tragedy. I’m mad at all the people who employ Bobs and don’t care if they bully their employees.

What to Do About Bullying in the Workplace

But what are you supposed to do if your boss isn’t stupid enough to get caught doing something the company actually disapproves of? What should you do if you’re stuck dealing with a bully for a boss? How can we stop cyber bullying? How do we stop bullying in schools if we can’t stop it in workplaces as adults?

I have a few suggestions on how to stop a bully boss at work. First, we have to remember that bullies are not happy people, and they are trying to make everyone else as miserable as they are. How do bullies feel when they bully? I’m not a mind reader, but one day when Bob wasn’t around, I went snooping through his desk drawer, and I found a collection of pill bottles. I didn’t recognize the drug names so I Googled them. Every one was either an anti-depressant or an anti-anxiety medication. This guy was on so many happy pills, he should have been singing and dancing and farting rainbows, but he wasn’t. No amount of pharmaceuticals could stop him from being a miserable person who sought to make everyone else as miserable as he was. The thing is, if we let them make us miserable, we’re letting them win (and we’re not really making them any happier, either). The worst thing you can do to a bully is act like he/she doesn’t bother you, because it kills their buzz. Acting like you don’t care is probably the best way to stop a bully boss at work—or at least stop them from bothering you. Unfortunately, then they may move on to another target.

How Society Encourages Bullying

The problem is, we have become a society that rewards bullying in adults—we reward bullies with the corner office or a managerial position at Dairy Queen or a free meal for throwing fries at the restaurant staff. At the very least, we look the other way. We don’t think about punishing bullies until something awful happens. What if we set a good example and stopped rewarding workplace bullies?

In my next post, I’ll talk some more about how we reward bully bosses—and customers—and how we can stop bullying in schools by not doing that. For now, I’ll say that we should punish all the bully bosses in our world, not just the ones who come into the spotlight because of a tragedy. In the meantime, what do you think is an effective way to deal with bullying?

V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”


Annoying Alien Abductions: I Have a Plan

Note: This #scifi alien abduction short story was first published on Errin Krystal’s Saturday Showcase. It’s part of a series of science fiction short stories in which I imagine annoying people abducted by aliens.

It was just an ordinary day on the White House lawn until the spaceship arrived. V. R. Craft UFO
“There are all sorts of laws about kidnapping U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. But nothing about kidnapping aliens.”

“Yeah, I have a plan.”

“Is it a good one?”

“I have a plan.”

Great. Most of my friend Charlie’s plans go like that. This is probably the worst one I’ve ever heard though.

“Charlie, I don’t think I understand. Why do we need to kidnap an alien again?”

He rolls his eyes and pushes his glasses back up his nose. “Because we’ll be the first humans ever to abduct an alien instead of the other way around.”

“You don’t really think—”

“That we’ll get away with it?”

“That… what?”

Charlie squints at his phone, which is set to some app that displays the rear camera and a bunch of blinking things. “There are all sorts of laws about kidnapping U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. But nothing about kidnapping aliens. It says so right in this online guide on how to abduct an alien.”

“Um….I’m not sure that defense would hold up in court.” I follow him down the sidewalk toward the shopping center. Truthfully, we’re only friends because he’s the only person I know who’s a halfway challenging opponent at Intergalactic Dragon Wars, and the sooner I convince him to give up the alien hunt, the sooner we can start playing. “If we get caught, some alien rights’ group will probably pop up in five seconds, I promise.”

It makes more sense than convincing him there aren’t any real aliens. I mean, no one’s even spotted a shooting star or a weather balloon or strange lights in the sky or anything lately, why would there be aliens just chilling at the mall?

“What is that app, anyway?” I ask as we walk through the sliding glass doors.

“It’s called Alien Tracker. It’s free in the app store. You should download it.”


“Oh…so it’s a game?” Just when I thought Charlie had finally gone off the deep end. What the hell, I was sick of those yellow blobs, anyway.

Charlie finally tears his eyes away from the phone long enough to roll them at me. “Of course not. This is an app for serious alien hunters, Jamie.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake. Is it endorsed by Miss Cleo?”

“Miss Cleo is dead, and that’s a whole other fandom.”

“If her fans believe in psychics who talk to dead people, why would that matter?” My fandoms include any group that sponsors a never ending argument over whether Star Trek or Star Wars is better (I’m #teamTrek), and the reality show Who Wants To Write A FanFic? I have no interest in psychics.

“Like I said, not my fandom.” He stops in front of a clothing store pumping the latest hit by some boy band singing in bad falsettos.

“The alien is hanging out in there?” Imagine traveling light-years to listen to a bunch of cookie-cutter guys moan “Oohh, baby, baby” into a microphone. Maybe I shouldn’t be so critical of humanity.

“Yep.” He points at the screen. “See that red X near the back of the store? That’s our alien.”

“Right.” But I follow Charlie into the store, jerking him out of the way right before he can walk into a mannequin’s outstretched arm.

A salesperson pops out from behind a clothing rack. I can only describe her as bouncy—bouncy curls, bouncy boobs, bouncy personality.

“Hi-ih, welcome to The Zipper, what can we dress you in today?”

I fucking hate bouncy people.

“We’re just looking.” Charlie ducks around her and heads toward the back, and I start after him.

Bouncy hops in front of me, obviously deciding I’m more serious about buying clothes in this place than he is. “What are you looking for today? I can help you find something while your boyfriend plays his game.”

Yes, that’s right, just assume women are interested in clothes and guys are interested in games. Way to set feminists back twenty years, Bouncy.

“He’s not my boyfriend, and I’m really just browsing.” I duck around her. Maybe if Charlie discovers there’s no alien in here, we can go home and I can kick his ass at an actual game.

“This would look great on you,” she yells after me.

I walk faster, but it doesn’t do any good. Bouncy pops back into my path, several pairs of jeans that all look identical in her arms. “I’ll just start you a dressing room.”

I open my mouth to tell her I don’t want to try anything on and I’m not wearing that ugly crap and I really don’t want any help, but then I realize if she goes to start me a dressing room she’ll get the hell out of my way and I don’t have to explain to mall security that I punched her in self-defense because she was threatening my sanity. “Sure.”

She bounces off and I hurry to catch up with Charlie. I find him in a corner by the dressing rooms, staring perplexedly at a rack of overpriced purses with various designs in tassels, rhinestones, and, in one case, selfie sticks. “It’s supposed to be right here.”

“Well, clearly it isn’t.” I wave at the purses. “Now, why don’t we just go play Intergalactic Dragon Wars? Maybe I’ll let you win this time.”

I will do no such thing, but I want to get him out of this store.

“But the app says it’s here.” He points at the red X.

“Maybe there are too many people hunting aliens right now and the system overloaded, causing a malfunction.”

“Yeah, I guess…wait, let me just check the dressing rooms. Maybe the alien is in there.”

“Uh… I don’t think the girls in there would appreciate you peering under the doors and checking to see if they’re aliens.”

“You’re right, they wouldn’t appreciate me doing that.” He scrunches his face up, his usual begging look. “Pleeeeease, Jamie? Just make sure the alien’s not in there, and I promise I’ll play as many rounds of Intergalactic Dragon Wars as you want, even though I know you’re not really going to let me win.”

I sigh. “They’re not going to appreciate me looking under the doors to make sure they’re not aliens, either.”

He shrugs. “You don’t have to look under the doors. Just knock on them and ask if they can come out for a minute so you can look in the stall, because you think you left your phone in there or something.”

“As many rounds as I want?”

He nods enthusiastically.

“Okay.” I duck into the hallway, slip past a male mannequin wearing a straw hat and some sort of Hawaiian shirt, and reach for the first door.

“Oh, I have you a stall down he-ere,” a bouncy voice yells from the other end.

I turn and face Bouncy with a fake smile. “Thanks.”

She waves at an open door, and I can’t think of a reason why I would need to check a stall I haven’t used yet, so I go into the one with the hideous jeans and leave the door open a crack so I can watch Bouncy leave.

Once she’s gone, I slip out, squat down, and look to see which stalls have feet in them. Only one does, the one at the end. First I try the other doors, but they’re all locked—I guess this is one of those stores where the salesperson has to let you in.

I wander down to the last stall and knock.

“Hi, sorry to disturb you, but I think I left my phone in there and I really need to take a selfie of myself in these jeans.” I try to imitate Bouncy’s chipper voice.

“I don’t see it.”

“Well, can you step out for a minute just so I can look and make sure it didn’t, um, fall under the bench or something?” My stall had a bench along the wall, no doubt mean to hold all those extra pairs of identical-looking jeans some girls need to try on, so I assume they all have one. “The light’s better out here anyway, and they have one of those three-way mirrors.”

I hear a groan, and a minute later girl I’d describe as Bouncy Junior pops out. She saunters over to the three-way mirror and checks out her own rhinestone-studded ass as I duck into the stall and look under the bench. No alien hiding there, big surprise—but I had to keep up the pretense, didn’t I?

“Thanks anyway,” I say with a shrug.

She goes back into the stall, and I head to the end of the hallway. Just as I pass the mannequin and start to turn the corner, a cold, clammy hand wraps around my elbow.

I whip my head around, and stare into the dull, lifeless eyes of the mannequin. What the hell? Who’s holding my arm?

I look down. It’s the mannequin. The mannequin’s fingers are wrapped around my arm. But they don’t feel like mannequin fingers, they feel as malleable as human hands.

Oh great, this must be some new way The Zipper keeps customers from leaving without buying anything—some sort of animated mannequin stops you from leaving the dressing room empty-handed. Seriously? I’m writing a Yelp review about this.

The mannequin grips my left arm, so I reach out with my right hand and grabs its cold fingers, pulling them back one by one. I wonder what kind of technology—

“You’re not going anywhere,” the mannequin growls, and I’ll admit that makes me jump. It’s other arm swings forward and grabs my right shoulder, designer bag swinging aimlessly as its elbow straightens.

“Get your fucking hands off me.” I reach up and grab the mannequin by the throat. I bet the if I rip the head off, the controls are inside and I can shut this overzealous robot down in five seconds flat.

That’s when the formerly lifeless eyes blink, and I’m staring at two red lasers. Must be sensors of some sort. I manage to wrestle my right arm free and stab two fingers at the red dots, kicking the mannequin in the stomach at the same time. It flies backward, toward the wall—

Taking me with it, because the damn thing still doesn’t let go.

But the wall isn’t really a wall, it’s some sort of trap door, and I find myself lying on top of the dummy, pounding my fist into its face. “Let go of me or I’m telling all eight hundred of my Facebook friends never to shop in this hellhole again!”

“Stop that, you’re hurting me,” the mannequin says, its face loosening. It’s almost like the plastic or whatever it’s made of melts a little, becoming fluid. Meanwhile, the fingers feel like steel spikes squeezing my arms.

“Let. Go. Of. Me!” This thing has to have an off switch somewhere. I rip off the floppy hat and toss it aside, the fingers clawing at my arms, and take another stab at the eyes. Only this time, I just cover them with my hand, trying to blind the damn thing.

It lets go of one arm to flail at its face, and I push off its chest and jump up, but it still has my other arm in a death grip, so I can’t straighten up all the way.

How anatomically correct is this thing, anyway?

I pick up my foot and stomp down on the crotch of the mannequin’s swim trunks as hard as I can.

“Aaagghhh!” It screams, and I wonder why no one has heard the racket. Oh, of course, this room is soundproof. I can’t heard the stupid boy band anymore.


I keep stomping, and the mannequin finally lets go of my arm. I wrench away and whip around, but the door is gone. What the fuck?

But I’m not an idiot, and I know whenever some stupid woman in a horror movie turns her back on the apparently-disabled serial killer, he’s standing up and coming after her—

I whirl back around, and the mannequin is on his knees now, reaching under the Hawaiian shirt with one hand.

For a weapon?

I step to the side, looking for something to hit him with, but the room is as bare as my bank account—nothing but gray walls, gray ceiling, gray floor.

Great. I’m locked in an empty room with a demented robot intent on selling me ugly jeans.

“What do you want?” I stall for time.

He pulls his hand out from under the shirt, his hand gripping what looks like an unusually long stylus. That can’t be good. “I want you. You’re a rare human, and if I capture you, I’ll make it into the finals.”

“What?” I pat the wall behind me. Surely there’s a catch that makes the door open again, right?

“You don’t know how hard it is to find the rare humans, the smart ones.” It taps the long stylus, and a bright red light appears on the end pointed at me. “The game officials should be here to collect you soon. There’s no point trying to escape, that doorway will only open for me.”

“What game officials?” I slide my hand into my back pocket, fingers closing around my phone.

“The ones who will collect you and grant me the win. There’s no point trying to use your communication device, it won’t work,” he adds, nodding at my right hand. My left grips the key fob in my other pocket.

“What?” I pull my phone out and glance at the screen, keeping one eye on him. No bars. What the fuck?

“I know most humans have a communication device attached to their rear end. I assume you have charging ports installed there.” He gets to his feet and starts toward me.

I stay still until his hands grab my arms again, tugging my left hand out of my pocket, keys still in my fingers.

“You won’t be needing those.” He reaches for the keys.

I flick the blade out of the Swiss Army knife on my key ring and slash at his hand, cutting through the liquid-plastic whatever the hell it is. Surprisingly, he doesn’t bleed—the skin hardens as it peels away.

“Aaaaghhh!” He tries to grab the knife with his other hand, but I’m already stabbing at his face, slashing away at the fake skin there. He bats at my hands, and I find myself wrestling with him. If I keep stabbing at him, he might be able to grab me again, and he has a vise-like grip.

“Please, you’ll kill me!” He yells.

Well, that’s good to know.

“Aren’t you going to kill me?” I slash at the skin-suit on his arm then duck out of the way. “You think I feel badly for you? I don’t.”

The skin or whatever it is peels away easily. Beneath is a layer of pale gray skin, rapidly turning purple.

“That exo-skin is protecting me from the air here.” He doesn’t try to grab for the knife, but instead jerks the flap of skin away from me and tries to pull it back over himself, like a coat. It does stretch, sort of like Silly Putty.

“Why the fuck are you dressed like a mannequin and hiding out in a clothing store?” I point the knife at him as a warning not to come any closer.

He shakes his head. “Trying to capture the rare humans…the smart ones. There’s a very large bounty. The economy on my planet isn’t so great and I… I need the money.”

“How do you know who the rare smart ones are?”

He shakes his head. “The ones who find me, who hunt me down. That app—lots of people try it, but most give up. You touched me, so I knew you’d found me.

I brushed against a mannequin and he thinks I’m smart? Great. Just fucking great.

I step sideways, ducking as he tries to grab me again. Jabbing the knife at his midsection, I manage to tear a few inches of exo-skin there. “Tell me how to get out of this room.”

“I need the money.” He jumps away from the knife and presses a hand over the skin. “Please, you’ve already exposed me to too much of your air. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, please don’t rip off the rest of my environment suit, I could die in seconds.”

“Then tell me how to open that damn door.”

“I can open it.” He wheels around, circling me.

“Then do it.” I take a step back, facing the wall we fell through, and point at it with the knife.

“Let you out and let that horrible music in?”

So, he doesn’t like the boy bands, either.

Just then, the stylus thing makes a beeping noise. It must not be a weapon, or he would have done something other than point it at me by now. Communication device?

He looks at the end, which is now blinking blue. “They’re here. I just need to outlast you a few more minutes, and then the game officiators will come collect you and I get my prize. You and I both know if you get too close I’ll catch you. This suit also gives me the strength of ten humans.”

Damn. The odds of my tearing off enough of his suit to make him open the damn door without getting caught in his super-strong robot-hands don’t seem very good. What to do?

Distract him, just like in Intergalactic Space Dragons, right? With what? I don’t have any magic discs to throw—but maybe I do have a secret weapon.

I glance at my phone, still in my other hand, and thumb-tap the screen, turning it on. It appears to be functional, so I’m guessing he’s just blocking communications in and out of the room—except through the magic wand thing.

“That still won’t work.” He moves toward me and I dance away, jabbing in his direction with the knife, more to ward him off than because I think I’m going to hit him again.

Keeping my eyes on the alien, I tap a few more icons on the phone screen, only seeing it out of my peripheral vision. First, I turn the volume up all the way, then I navigate to my stored ringtones and hit one.

Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” blares from the phone. I may not be able to send or receive information, but I still have access to what’s stored on it, and I once downloaded that song not because I liked it, but so I could assign it as a ringtone to my loser ex-boyfriend. You can guess why.

The alien makes a screeching noise, worse than when I stabbed him, and covers his ears, letting the skin flap. “Noooooooo, make it stoooooop.”

I lunge at him, slashing from the top of his head down his face and into his chest from left to right as I jump out of the way. But it isn’t necessary, because he barely takes one hand off his head to grab at the flapping skin. As he pulls it back together, I see a large, top-heavy gray head with big black eyes—classic gray alien.

I consider trying to slash him again since the music is even more distracting than I thought, but then I realize it isn’t necessary. Clutching the skin flap with one hand and his head with the other, he crumples to the ground. “Please…make the music stop…it’s excruciatingly painful for my species.”

If I get out of here and sell my story to The Enquirer, I’ll be sure to list that as “Things We Have In Common With The Grays.”

“I can turn it off if you open the damn door.”

“Please…make it stop.” He covers both ears with his hands again, letting the skin flap.

“Only after I get out of here.” Since the volume is up all the way, I wave the phone closer to his head.

He pulls out the stylus thing, taps it three times rapidly, and a doorway appears in the wall behind him.

“Please don’t go,” he pleads as I step carefully around him, still clutching the knife and my phone in equal death grips.

“Try to kidnap anyone else, and I’ll tell everyone what your weakness is. Go hunt on some other planet.”  I back out and the door disappears almost immediately, as if it had never been there.

Blinking, I tap the wall. Nothing. Just a designer bag lying on the carpet where an ugly mannequin used to be.

And Justin Bieber singing “Sorry.”

I turn that off immediately, then bolt around the corner, back into the store. Charlie is still messing with the app.

“I give up,” he says, his eyes on the screen. “The red X just blinked out. It’s like the alien beamed back up or something. You were right, this is stupid. Are you ready to play Intergalactic Dragon Wars?”


 V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”


Guest Blogger Liza O’Connor Talks AI’s and the Futuristic World of Her New Book, Scavenger’s Mission


Note: This week I take a break from aliens abducting annoying people and cede the floor to guest blogger Liza O’Connor, who tells us about the world from her latest science fiction novel, Scavenger’s Mission.

How MAC reads your mind.

MAC is a scary AI. It can read your mind, but not directly. It does it by projecting images of what you are thinking about in a room that is wall to wall sensors. When the average person realizes that whatever they think will appear on the wall, they will try NOT to think of the items they don’t want MAC to know, but that just highlights those memories.

Thus, for most people, the ethics assessment is an exhausting and brutal experience. Some have almost died from the assessment. It leaves no stone unturned.

It begins, letting the viewer believe they can control the images on the wall based on what they eat. (Lunch is served at the first of the test). But this sense of control soon ceases and upon discovering they have no control over what MAC sees, every bad thing they’ve ever done tends to show up.

Alisha is either an exceptionally good person or she’s very forgiving of her sins, because she scores higher in ethics than any Ryder has ever done. And she falls asleep at the end of her test. (Most are retching in the bucket located by their chair.)


Scavenger’s Mission

By Liza O’Connor


Meet Alisha: A young woman who refuses to live the life her parents want.

In a single month, Alisha Kane has gone from a wealthy debutante to street girl to scavenger. While testing her new flying skills in the Cully Canyon, Alisha incurs a near-death crash landing. She’s “rescued” by a colonel of the SkyRyders and her life changes forever.

Meet Logan: A SkyRyder colonel in charge of a sleepy fort with little to do other than arrest the occasional scavenger.

For the first time in his life, Logan’s attracted to a young woman, only she’s probably a scavenger and he’ll have to arrest her. But first he offers her a shower and food while he checks on his crew. His videographer has captured her extraordinary flight through the Cully and her flying is astounding!

He forgoes arresting her and puts his career at risk by asking MAC to assess her skills and integrity as a potential SkyRyder. If he can get Alisha into the SkyRyders, it will be his greatest contribution to the Corps.

Meet MAC: The Artificial Intelligence that runs the SkyRyders Corps.

Upon seeing her arrival, MAC upgrades Alisha’s test. Her flying skills are not just excellent; they exceed what was previously thought possible. MAC classifies her as its top asset and soon she proves her value.

But…the SkyRyders remain a male dominated Corps where Alisha’s sense of right and wrong often clashes with her superiors. How long can a rebellious young woman survive in a regimented Corps?


When Alisha completed the regs test, she ate her lunch in a windowless room with no furniture other than a chair, a small table and a trash can. She had barely taken a bite when images appeared on the walls. Some were terrible, some sensual, and others were funny.

Over time, Alisha sensed a pattern. The really horrible images followed every time she ate a portion of the meat. The sensual items appeared when she ate the vegetables, and the Jell-O brought up funny pictures. Alisha avoided the meat and enjoyed the remainder of her meal.

When she finished her lunch, an image of Colonel Logan appeared on the wall, which surprised her, because she’d just been thinking about him. He looked so stern, and then suddenly he smiled at her. She couldn’t help but smile back. Images of him carrying her out of the wind farm, tending her knee in the tub, examining her for injuries, and then the two of them sleeping appeared on the wall. How did they get those pictures? she wondered.

Suddenly the images were replaced with DC’s. Her smile disappeared. She watched as he slammed her against the corner of the bed, as he grabbed her breast and twisted her nipple. The image changed to the ridge. He flew above her and stalled her out on the rocks. The image repeated with a similar result on the second run. The third was different only because she had gained more altitude, but that just made her fall more spectacular and deadly. She re-lived the pain when the tree gave way and her knee smashed into the rock ledge. Her knee throbbed now.

The images changed to the fourth run, her crash into the wind farm and her failure to notice her blood trail until it was almost too late. Seeing the laser bead on her shoulder, she weaved through the wind turbines, trying to confuse the laser’s tracking sensor.

Alisha felt the same emotions as she watched herself—the same fear, the same fatigue, and the same hopelessness.


The SkyRyder’s Series, Book 1

Scavenger’s Mission


About the Author

Liza O’Connor lives in Denville, NJ with her dog Jess. They hike in fabulous woods every day, rain or shine, sleet or snow. Having an adventurous nature, she learned to fly small Cessnas in NJ, hang-glide in New Zealand, kayak in Pennsylvania, ski in New York, scuba dive with great white sharks in Australia, dig up dinosaur bones in Montana, sky dive in Indiana, and raft a class four river in Tasmania. She’s an avid gardener, amateur photographer, and dabbler in watercolors and graphic arts. Yet through her entire life, her first love has and always will be writing novels.



The Multiverse Series

Sci-Fi Soap Opera with humor, romance, and science

The Gods of Probabilities

Surviving Outbound

Surviving Terranue

Surviving Sojourn

Artificial Intelligence Series


Public Secrets

Birth of Adam

The SkyRyders Series

Sci-Fi Romance

Scavenger’s Mission

Scavenger Falters-coming 2017

Scavenger Vanishes-coming 2017


The Monument Makers

Note: Today is our next installment of Aliens Abducting Annoying Assholes Anonymous, in which readers send me stories about annoying people they know, and I write a short story of flash fiction in which the annoying person gets abducted by aliens. Next up is an anonymously submitted tale about some construction workers who can’t be fired…by a human.

Instructions for submitting your own annoying asshole for consideration are at the end of this post.


The Monument Makers

“I don’t understand why this isn’t done already.” Chuck waved his arm around the construction site, past the half-poured foundation and the stacks of two-by-fours just waiting to be used.

“I don’t either.” Will sat down on the nearest pile of two-by-fours and took off his hard hat. “As I’ve mentioned before, Bubba Bob and Jimmy Bob and Billy Bob don’t have a good track record of getting things done. I’ve tried everything I can to motivate them, but I end up doing all the work myself. And this is as much as I could get done in the last eight hours.”

“Well, you’ve just got to work faster.” Chuck slapped his hand on the side of his pickup truck. “And get those three to help you.”

Will blinked. No matter how many times he explained the problem, Chuck never seemed to get it. “How? You won’t let me fire them, so I can’t threaten them with that. They sit around all day either on their phones or shooting the shit with each other. The only solution is to fire them. Building this site is not a one-person job, okay?”

Chuck shook his head. “I told you, we can’t fire them. Bubba Bob and Jimmy Bob are my wife’s brothers, and Billy Bob is her cousin. If I fire them, I won’t be able to go home.”

“Then why don’t you help me build this place?” Will waved at the single wall of frames that had been put up—by him alone. “Once it’s done you’ll have somewhere to sleep.”

Chuck did not look amused. “Why don’t you do your job and act like a real project manager? Manage the people, manage the project, Will. That’s your job, not mine. Now I want this thing done on the original schedule. Remember, I can fire you.”

Lucky me, Will thought as Chuck got back in his pickup and drove off in a cloud of dust.

“Guys, come on,” he yelled in the general direction of the middle-name-Bobs, as he thought of them. “Lunch break is over. We need to get back to work.”

“Yeah, in a minute.” Bubba Bob waved dismissively at him, then turned back to the other two and said something Will couldn’t hear. They all dissolved into laughter, Bubba Bob’s beer belly jiggling as he guffawed at whatever brilliant joke he’d just told.

Will trudged back over to the nearest pile of two-by-fours and picked one up. Might as well go back to working on the frame himself.

As he turned back toward the foundation, he blinked in surprise. There was another cloud of dust, which was odd, because he hadn’t heard another vehicle pull up.

This time, when the dust settled, he realized why—it wasn’t a vehicle, at least not one he’d ever seen on the road before. Instead, a saucer-shaped object floated about six feet above the ground.

Will dropped the two-by-four and rubbed his eyes, hoping the whole thing was some sort of stress-induced mirage. He turned and looked over his shoulder at the middle-name-Bobs, but they were still laughing and looking in the other direction, toward the highway. None of them looked over at Will or the apparent visitor to the site.

He turned back around and stared at the saucer. What looked like a trap door popped open, and a plank about three feet wide extended and lowered to the ground. Out walked a little gray alien, just like he’d seen in all those movies and TV shows. It had big, black eyes, a pinched-looking ridge that might have been a nose, and a small, round mouth.

“Hello,” it said. “I am Grog, and my translator allows me to speak your language.”

“Hello, uh, Grog.” Will rubbed his head. Maybe he was unconscious and dreaming this. Could a two-by-four have fallen on his head or something? It wasn’t like the middle-name-Bobs would have noticed or cared.

“We mean you no harm,” Grog said. “My people have decided this is the best place to build our new capital on your world.”

“Uh…right on top of our new apartment complex?”

Grog looked at the single wall frame. “That can be corrected. We need lots of space to spread out.”

“Um, have you, like, consulted our government? I think they may have some rules about illegal immigration.” Maybe he should have voted for that moron who wanted to build the wall after all. Then again, what good would a wall do when these people had spaceships? They could fly right over it.

“Our studies of your planet show none of your governments can outmatch us in weapons and technology,” Grog said. “Your leaders are consulting with the U.N. now, but their attempts to shoot down our ships have all failed. Our shields protect us.

“Now, we’re going to need your best construction team to build our new capital. We will provide the virtually indestructible materials, but your team must build it. We don’t have time.”

A light bulb went off in Will’s head. “Of course. Well, those three guys—” he pointed at the middle-name-Bobs. “—are the best people on my team. I hate to lose them, but I realize the important of building your capital. Also, there’s my boss, Chuck. I’ll give him a call. He really needs to be here to supervise your project.”

“Thank you.” Grog twisted its lips into what might have been a smile. “I think we’re going to like this planet.”

“I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.” Will pulled out his cell phone and found Chuck’s number. “Just as soon as you get your capital built. Say, could I have a look around your spaceship while my team over there gets started?”


All you have to do is share this post (here on my blog or on social media when I share it) and I will write you a piece of flash fiction about aliens abducting the annoying asshole of your choice. You do not have to publicly explain who you want as an abductee in a story or why they’re an asshole and need to be abducted by aliens. You can PM me or use the contact form here:

V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”


Aliens Abducting Annoying Assholes Anonymous, Story #1: Brandy goes Bye-Bye

Note: Today begins our first installment of Aliens Abducting Annoying Assholes Anonymous, in which readers send me stories about annoying people they know, and I write a story in which the annoying person gets abducted by aliens. First up is an anonymously submitted tale about an office worker who stinks…and gives her coworker the stink-eye.


Darryl hunched down over his computer, trying to breathe through his mouth. It was bad enough his cubicle-mate, Brandy, smelled like she hadn’t showered since the last time he used his phone to make a phone call. But now she was giving him the stink-eye, which was ironic considering she was the one who stank.

What did I ever do to her? Darryl had no idea. Well, he’d thought about leaving a stick of deodorant on her desk, but he never actually did it, so what was her problem?

His computer dinged to let him know a new message had arrived, and he clicked it on, leaning over and pulling his shirt over his nose as he did so. What did Brandy do, spray on Eau de Garbage every morning?

Signature needed urgently for shipment downstairs, read the message.

Finally! He could leave the cubicle! He almost breathed a sigh of relief, but decided to wait on taking a deep breath until he was clear of the cubicle.

He took the stairs, savoring the clean air, and walked slowly to the loading dock in the warehouse’s first floor, ambling past stacks of boxes and pallets of merchandise. At the door, he was greeted by a short man in a UPS uniform, brown cap pulled low over his face.

“Sign here.” The short man shoved the usual tablet at Darryl. His hands had a strangely grayish pallor. Was he sick? Maybe Darryl could catch whatever he had and spend a few sick days at home…away from Brandy. Better yet, maybe his nose would get stopped up and he couldn’t smell her!

“Sure, sure.” He signed and handed back the tablet. The delivery driver handed him a box and hurried back to his truck.

“OPEN IMMEDIATELY,” read a neon orange sticker on the box.

Darryl was in no rush to get back to his desk, so he sat down on the nearest pallet and tore into the box. Inside was a small, round, black device that he guessed to be some sort of Bluetooth speaker. Oddly, there was no packing slip or instructions of any kind. Was this for a customer shipment? Without proper documentation, he had no idea. Hopefully he’d get a phone call or email to explain it later.

After killing some time in the break room, drinking bad coffee and chatting with coworkers about the Lakers’ latest loss, he begrudgingly dragged himself back upstairs and returned to his cubicle, strange black device in tow.

The smell assaulted his nostrils and he sat down, dumping the device on the desk. Brandy turned, gave him a filthy look, and another wave of body odor hit him. She smelled somewhat like how he imagined roadkill smelled after baking on the highway in the July heat for four or five days. He nodded and turned back to his desk, slapping his tie over his nose. How many minutes until he could leave for lunch?

Just then, a noise from above caught his attention and he looked up, tie still draped over his nostrils.

His first thought was that the smell had driven him insane. He couldn’t actually be staring at a bright light pouring through a hole in the ceiling, or an Escalade-sized spaceship swooping through and hovering over Brandy’s desk.

She looked up with alarm. “What the hell?”

The spaceship was round and suspiciously saucer-shaped, with tiny lights studding the edges. It looked an awful lot like a prop from some old black-and-white science fiction movie. Darryl blinked several times, but it was still there, and then a hatch popped open on the side and an alien leaned out.

It was a little gray guy with a top-heavy head, large black eyes and a tiny, pinched nose which was probably an advantage so close to Brandy.

It pointed at her. “You must come with me.”

“I will not!”

“Our sensors picked up your scent. Your human suit is failing.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Brandy backed away, but the spaceship followed her, and the alien extended a hand with what looked like a small, oddly smooth handgun.

“I’m afraid you do. You escaped from us months ago, and you’d still be getting away with it, but I guess you didn’t know you have to shower regularly to keep your human suit from leaking your scent.” The gray alien pointed at her. “You will return to the garbage barge and resume serving your sentence.”

“This whole thing is crazy.” Brandy backed away. “I’m no alien.”

“Yes, you are, and the scent signature leaking from you suit confirms it.” The alien fired the weapon and Brandy slumped to the ground. It—Darryl had no idea how to tell the sex of an alien—hopped out of the spaceship, slung her over its shoulder like she weighed nothing, and climbed back up into the ship.

“What was she serving time for?” Darryl asked.

The alien paused, four-fingered hand on the doorframe. “She served on our governing council, and was caught misusing public funds. Unlike you humans, we don’t respond to that sort of offense by voting the politician in to another term—we remove them from office and sentence them to twenty years of servitude on a garbage barge. We do apologize for any inconvenience. Say, could you toss me that GPS device? Now that we’ve found her, we’d like it back.”

It pointed at the black “speaker.”

“Sure thing.” Darryl tossed it to the alien and gave him a friendly wave as the hatch closed and the ship flew away. Then he sat down, took a deep breath, and exhaled a sigh of relief.

The alien’s planet sounded nice. Maybe one day he’d take a vacation there.

V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”


Aliens Abducting Annoying Assholes

I have this thing I do to relieve stress when I have to put up with annoying people—and I had to put up with a lot of annoying people, on a daily basis, when I worked in retail. So I do this thing where I write a story about the annoying asshole getting abducted by aliens, typically in a really embarrassing fashion. (Names are changed to protect the guilty.)


I’ve written about two former bosses, and countless customers. (Some of the crazy customers also inspired other types of stories, including the world for my first novel, Stupid Humans.) I’ve had a few people tell me they hope they never piss me off because they don’t want to wind up in one of my alien abduction stories.

So today I was thinking about how I could use my talents to get more Facebook likes grow my blog following to the double digits help make the world a better place. I’m not the warm and fuzzy type who’s going to start making inspirational memes with rainbows and waterfalls and happy crappy quotes about having a positive attitude and other bullshit. In fact, you’re more likely to find me making fun of that shit. Also, unfortunately, I have not yet been able to tweak my tinfoil hat to the right frequency to contact any real aliens and enlist their help with the asshole exile process, so that’s a no-go.

But I can make the world a better place by helping others relieve stress the same way I do—by putting the people who annoy them most into an alien abduction story. After all, relieving the stress of dealing with assholes by writing about them has helped me avoid the worse stress of assault charges and being fired for telling off a customer, so I’m assuming it can do the same for other people.

So here’s the quadruple-A plan (the alcoholics get the double-A and the car service gets the triple-A, but no one has the quadruple A, right?): Aliens Abducting Annoying Assholes. All you have to do is share this post (here on my blog or on social media when I share it) and I will write you a piece of flash fiction about aliens abducting the annoying asshole of your choice. You do not have to publicly explain who you want as an abductee in a story or why they’re an asshole and need to be abducted by aliens. You can PM me or use the contact form here:

Simple explain, as briefly as possible, who the abductee is and why you want them to be abducted by aliens. I will change the annoying asshole’s name, and you will not be mentioned when I post my piece of flash fiction, but you will recognize the character when you read about him/her. Each piece of flash fiction will go up on my blog, and your annoying asshole will be none the wiser.

I am not anticipating a large response, but in the unlikely event that I have one, I may not be able to get to every request. If that is the case, I will go in order of requests received.

V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”