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Manager who stood up to the ‘world’s worst customer’ was wrongly fired, tribunal rules 

Manager who stood up to the ‘world’s worst customer’ after volley of abuse was wrongly fired, tribunal rules

  • Garry Hardy, 60, lost his Topps Tiles job after interaction with ‘aggressive’ man
  • Mr Hardy ordered the customer to leave shop after he got abusive towards staff
  • He was holding a cup of tea and accidentally splashed the customer in the face
  • He was sacked by Topps Tiles but a tribunal ruled he was unfairly dismissed  


The saying goes that the customer is always right. But not every time – as a tribunal ruled a manager was wrongly sacked after standing up to the ‘world’s worst customer’.

Garry Hardy, 60, has won an unfair dismissal claim against Topps Tiles after he lost his job following an interaction with an ‘aggressive’ man who came into the shop to complain about an order.

The angry customer accused staff of being unable to ‘organise a p*** up in a brewery’ before Mr Hardy asked him to leave and gestured while holding a cup of tea – ‘accidentally’ splashing the customer in the face, the tribunal heard.

The man complained, accusing the manager of ‘abuse’ and hurling the drink at him. The Topps Tiles store in Sunderland fired Mr Hardy in 2019 as they believed the customer’s version of events.

But a tribunal in Newcastle ruled he was unfairly dismissed and that the firm paid no regard to the need for him to stand up to members of the public.

Garry Hardy, 60, has won an unfair dismissal claim against Topps Tiles after he lost his job following an interaction with an ‘aggressive’ man who came into the shop to complain about an order. Pictured, file photo

It heard the man ‘became increasingly aggressive’ and said ‘apparently I’m the world’s worst customer’. Employment judge Sharon Langridge said: ‘This appears to be a case where Topps Tiles took the view that the customer is always right.’

A further hearing will determine compensation. 

Mr Hardy – who had worked there since 2002 – then sued the firm as he felt he had been unfairly dismissed.

The tribunal was told that Mr Hardy also suffered from depression which meant he could have difficulty in managing his anger in response to a trigger such as a difficult customer.

The tribunal ruled he was unfairly dismissed as the customer’s version of events was not challenged or subjected to any scrutiny.

Employment Judge Sharon Langridge said: ‘No weight was attached to the possibility the customer was making a false or exaggerated pre-emptive complaint, nor to his own admissions of serious verbal abuse.

‘Overall, this appears to be a case where Topps Tiles took the view that the customer is always right, with little or no regard for the need for a store manager to stand up to a customer in order to protect himself or his colleagues from unwarranted abuse.’

Mr Hardy also won his claim that his dismissal was discriminatory because of his depression as Topps Tiles did not take it into account when they investigated the incident or when they decided to fire him. 

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