Retail worker says customer tried to return a dirty frying pan

@whatsinthekoolaid/TikTok Octavian Lazar/ShutterStock (Licensed)

‘It’s clearly used’: Retail worker says customer tried to return a dirty frying pan

'I'm sorry a warranty?'


Jack Alban


Posted on Dec 12, 2023   Updated on Dec 12, 2023, 10:46 pm CST

If you’ve ever worked in retail, then you’ve more than likely dealt with a customer attempting to return an item that’s been clearly used. If you’re staffed in the couture department of a clothing store, then every prom season you’re probably prepped like the men of the Night’s Watch in Game of Thrones for hordes of folks trying to bring back dresses that were clearly worn for one night of festivities. The same goes for a day or two after Halloween: Once the outfit/costume no longer serves its purpose for the evening and everyone has managed to snap their photos so they could share them to social media and flex their spooky attire, it’s time to get their money back and start the return process.

A TikToker named Kaelin (@whatsinthekoolaid) says that she encountered a different type of use-and-return situation in a viral TikTok that didn’t include clothing, but rather a frying pan that showed clear signs of use.

She posted about the bizarre situation from the customer who seemingly didn’t think there was anything wrong with not only cooking up a storm with the kitchenware, but that cleaning it prior to seeking a refund was optional. Kaelin shared her story in a viral TikTok that’s garnered over 1.5 million views.

The TikToker said that she can “tell there’s tension in the air” upon arriving at the register, and the employee immediately brings her up to speed on the situation: “Kaelin, this man would like to return a frying pan and I told him that we can’t because it is used and he wanted to talk to you.”

Kaelin said that upon her cursory inspection of the frying pan she could immediately ascertain that it was “completely encrusted…with food still on it.” The customer, according to the retail manager just sighed loudly because “the return fairy” refused to immediately grant his request for a return of the obviously cooked-in frying pan.

According to the consumer, however, the pan is “defective” and when Kaeilin asked the customer how that was the case, they told her that “it doesn’t cook.” The retail manager, upon looking at the frying pan tells the shopper that it certainly looked like it was capable of cooking whatever it is he put inside of it, as evidenced by the remnants of food that were still in the piece of kitchenware he brought into the store for a return.

The pan purchaser didn’t want to back down, however, and insisted that the item should be eligible for return. However, Kaelin doesn’t back down and persists in informing the man that the item isn’t going to be returned. When the customer demands to know why, he informs him that because he’s clearly cooked in the pan that she’s not going to be able to sell it to anyone else.

“But it’s defective!” the man insists. At this point in the video Kaelin looks into the camera and ponders to the audience how anyone in their right mind would be able to look a store employee in the eyes and tell them with a straight face that the frying pan is defective.

Seeing that he wasn’t able to get the frying pan returned, the man then tries to amend his approach and then proceeds to ask if he can instead just exchange the pan instead. After denying him this resolution, the customer, again, demands to know why, which Kaelin explains that the scenario is the same as she’s “still the one that ends up with the frying pan” she is unable to sell to someone else because it has clearly been used. “This will not end with me in possession of that frying pan,” she tells the demanding customer.

“Can I just get a new one then?” the man asks after grunting loudly. The manager informs him that he is more than welcome to buy a new frying pan, but it still doesn’t seem to register to the man that he will have to pay for another item. “I’m not exchanging that pan for this pan,” she tells him.

“This is ridiculous. You guys gave me a warranty on that frying pan,” the man exclaims loudly.

“I’m sorry a warranty?” Kaelin questions.

“Yes, and I expect you to honor it,” the man tells her, as Kaelin re-enacts both of their roles as part of her ongoing skit highlighting the absurdity of the situation she found herself in.

However, she points out a problem with his assertion: “Sir this store doesn’t offer warranties on anything.”

The customer then went on to claim that the product’s packaging indicated it came with a “lifetime warranty” which Kaelin went on to claim that the manufacturer’s warranty purportedly offered by whoever made the pan has nothing to do with the store nor its willingness to take back a frying pan a customer cooked in simply because they wanted to exchange it for what doesn’t seem like a valid reason whatsoever.

However, she then informed the man that if he would indeed like to try and get the manufacturer to replace his “defective” pan for him then he’s more than welcome to contact the company and/or refer to the packaging to glean information on how to exchange his pan for being “defective,” which, again, seems like a bogus claim to the TikToker as she couldn’t understand how this could possibly be the case as the man clearly was able to cook himself up some grub in it.

He then tells her that he will not be doing that because that is Kaelin’s job, not his, and she’s quick to inform him that this is most certainly not the case.

Unsurprisingly, he’s not happy with this answer: “If you are selling these items in your store and offering a warranty then you are responsible for that warranty and I will be getting a new one. You sell it, you warranty it.”

Kaelin tells her viewers that at this point in the conversation she’s “getting frustrated” before back to the skit and highlighting that her next move was to simply nip the conversation in the bud: “That’s not how it works, I’m so sorry. Is there anything else I can do for you today?”

The frying pan customer shouts, again, about how “ridiculous” he finds the situation, before she asks him if he wants a bag for his dirty frying pan before she sends him on his merry way.

But not before he threatened to tattle on her by informing her higher ups of her refusal to take back his dirty frying pan: “This man snatches the frying pan off the counter, looks at me and goes. I’m calling headquarters on you.”

She says that she just simply told him “OK” because she had no idea how to respond to his warning, before going on to theorize how the man’s call to “headquarters” would go down and what he would even tell her supervisors in the first place: That they wouldn’t take back his “crusty pan?”

Kaelin ended her video by stating that “no one ever called [her] from headquarters” and that he may’ve tried using the pan on a stove and that it ultimately worked to his satisfaction.

Retail returns

When it comes to returns, apparently, refunds are a “trillion-dollar problem” for retailers that are constantly looking for solutions as to how and minimize the costs associated with the slew of refunds they receive from consumers on a daily basis. Some have even gone so far as to let shoppers just keep the goods they want returned as finding a place for them back on their shelves and inventory is proving too costly to manage.

Commenters who viewed Kaelin’s video appeared to sympathize with the woman, like this one user who pointed out a strange inconsistency in login with the customer who seemingly didn’t have a problem with calling headquarters, but didn’t want to take the time to ring up the manufacturer about the warranty he said his item carried: “he’s not willing to call the manufacturer for the warranty but he’ll call headquarters…”

Someone else penned: “the pan probably did have a warranty. mine did. it only covers physical defects not psychological tho.”


found out afterwards that he was an employee from another store 😀👍🏼

♬ original sound – kaelin

While another person wondered just what defect the man could’ve been referring to was: “Is… is the defective part he doesn’t know how to get it clean?”

For others, Kaelin’s frying pan debacle was just one of many examples of the types of escapades retail workers are forced to deal with on a daily basis: “Honestly having to explain to grow people how the world works is so emotional draining”

The Daily Dot has reached out to Kaelin via TikTok comment for further information.

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*First Published: Dec 12, 2023, 11:00 pm CST