I hate anything too corporate. Even when it doesn’t apply to me directly. Just watching the staff at a movie theater or a waiter at an Applebee’s having to repeat what is obviously an employee script when they’re greeting me or taking an order, gives me the creeps. I picture company meetings filled with uninterested new hires who are forced to do team building exercises and get excited about the latest Ultimate Trio appetizer options.
It’s not like I don’t get company protocols. Surely there has to be some modicum of professionalism on the job but do they have to be so artificial? And it’s not like I’m saying everyone has to be miserable at work but having people feign enthusiasm over a jalapeno popper makes us all look like idiots. Which is why recently, I’ve noticed that there are two little words that seem to be creeping further and further underneath my skin:
In case you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about, it’s a greeting which is fast becoming the standard language used to beckon shoppers to the counter at places like Old Navy and The Gap. Referring to customers as “guests” is more and more commonplace and I just want the ass-kissing, placating killjoys who come up with this kind of company rhetoric to knock if off already.
Now before you go accusing me of being all curmudgeonly (well, you’d be spot on but ANYWAY) it’s not like I have a problem with good customer service, it’s just that calling me a guest at a place like American Eagle seems so disingenuous. No one there actually thinks of me as a guest. I know this. You know this. So why are we pretending that anyone is that happy to see me? Obviously if I’m at the Waldorf, this type of vernacular seems appropriate but someone said it to me at Rite Aid the other day and I nearly laughed in his face. Dude, I’m just here to buy tampons, I’m not staying for dinner.
A while ago I used to work for a spa whose owner didn’t allow us to say “No problem” which is something I say constantly. She insisted that if ever there was something we could do for a client, we say “It’s my pleasure.” I hated it. In fact, I never said it. Why? Because nothing at work is my pleasure. My pleasure is a quiet Saturday night drinking Yellow Tail with my cat and ordering fourteen different fried items off the Grubhub diner menu. However things at my job are no problem. I don’t mind getting you a glass of water, however I’m not laying awake at night, tossing and turning with excitement over the prospect of delivering it to you. Naturally, I want you to have a pleasant experience when visiting my place of business, but employees behaving like over-programmed, plastic grinning, hospitality bots is just lame.
Cut to about six weeks ago when I was hired at a store that was part of a chain of waxing centers. You can read about how awesome it was here. On my first day, the trainer gave me the employee handbook. It came with an entire atlas of scripts to repeat to clients that dealt with everything from sales to product information and even greetings. As I sat in the supply room reading up on all of the new dialogue I was going to have to commit to memory, one thing stopped me dead my tracks.
They referred to their clients as guests.
And it wasn’t just at the front door. The whole staff had become so adjusted that even in the break room technicians were saying to one another “My next guest is here, I’d better finish my lunch.” Every time I heard it, my stomach turned a little. And I tell you, when it came time for me to invite my first appointment into the waxing room, I just could not get the words out of my mouth.
Subsequently I was fired four days later, which I’m proud to say, is a new personal record for me.
Going forward though, I’d just like to propose, that if I’m in a place where I’m only purchasing some toothpaste or a pack of batteries for ninety-nine cents and not staying the night, there’s nothing wrong with referring to me as a customer. That’s what I am. Calling me a guest doesn’t make me feel more special. It makes me feel like you think I’m a moron. However, if I’m wrong and you actually do think of your customers as guests, well then maybe you are.
P.S. Between this post and my waning tolerance for foul language, I think my transformation into Andy Rooney is nearly complete.
5/19/13 I’m doing an amendment. I just came back from buying some sandals at DSW. They called me to the counter by saying “Following shoe-lover” That one’s rough.