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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Robo-greeting

Whether I'm entering a bookstore, grocery store, buffet pizza place or Chinese food restaurant, I keep hearing these stock greetings with some variation of "Hi" and "Welcome to [insert name of business]." While it may be nice to be recognized, I've become annoyed with these kinds of faux, stylized greetings.

I don't mind when the cashier at Taco Bell says a spontaneous "hello" and takes my order. The "hello" is genuine, even if it's for the sake of ordering some Mexican fast food. I do mind when I enter a place that makes excellent, inexpensive Chinese food and the attendant taking the orders says, "Hi, welcome to [insert name of business]," the same way to every customer. They say this in a way that sounds like they have been brainwashed into saying this.

Now these kinds of robotic greetings have sprouted up in my favorite bookstore. I don't know if this is at all of the bookstores in town, but one in particular I frequent has a stand set-up in the front for a greeter. I've seen the same guy the few times I've been in there since this new set-up has been installed. He has this very dry tone and says "Welcome to [insert name of business]" in the same way that the Robot from Lost in Space would say it.

I know these businesses are trying to make their atmosphere a little more customer-friendly, but I'm finding this to be a deterrent from going into these places. As someone who's worked in retail before, I hated doing those stock greetings to anyone and everyone. I never minded whenever people would look for me and ask a question. I took (and still take) the attitude that people like to shop on their own time with the least amount of hassle or interruption. When part of my greeting extended into becoming more of a salesman trying to sell stuff that people didn't really want, I had to get out of that place.

I think about how many times this greeting has to be said at these places. Not only would saying one long-ass sentence over and over wear me out, but after the first hundred times of saying it, it would probably turn into one long-ass word. Sounding more like gibberish than English, I wonder what the advantage is. An attendant at a sandwich shop once said to me, "wouldyouliketomakeitabananamalttoday?" Um, what?

Can anyone show me statistics that prove that people actually like to hear robotic, formulaic greetings over and over again? Probably, but we're humans and humans aren't machines, even if we place more of our lives into them, be it cell phones or computers. I'd like to think we interact with other humans when we don't want to interact with cold machinery. So, turning humans into sounding more like machines makes me wonder about where our culture is going. If this is meant to service every customer, then sincerity is getting thrown out the window.

3 comments:

jen said...

i know that when i worked retail/service industry jobs i hated saying stuff like that too because it made me feel like a robot. when i see them now i just smile and nod and go along my merry way. but the way i figure it, there are people who walk into a place and may have a question, and rather than them having to wander around aimlessly trying to find someone to help (which bothers me more than anything else), there's help immediately there. i know a couple of people who are so shy/nervous they would rather leave empty-handed than apprach someone for help, so maybe this "service" exists for them. it is pretty soulless, but at least it give a bit of accessability.

jonofdeath said...

I used to work at Target and about 6 months before I quit they started a new customer service campaign called, "Can I Help You Find Something?" They made t-shirts, little approval cards that they would hand out if we were ever caught in the act of asking a customer, and they also made little red bracelets like the Lance Armstrong bracelets that became a part of our uniform. All the employees had to ask every customer we came across the exact phrase. We were not allowed any variation of the question. I voiced my concern over the matter, not only because it is robotic, and I don't like being treated like a robot, but it is also grammatically incorrect. I was not only a robot now, but apparently an ill-programmed one. Every-once-and-a-while our store manager would walk around trying to hear us say, "Can I Help You Find Something?" And she would give us a prize and write us a little card. I remember so many times making fun of the situation and I would see her walk by and I would scream, "CAN I HELP YOU FIND SOMETHING?!" Needless to say, I never got the prize, which was usually a water bottle with a Target symbol.

captain groovy said...

I hate the big hello.I am a Micky D's supervisor & i always get crap because the stores i oversee don't all yell hello as soon as they see a customer.I think it's phony as well as irritating particularly for people who come in everyday.Not to mention pissing off the employees who you have to count on to be motivated to do what is already a soul sucking task.
As for the bookstore that guy up front is monitoring a screen that has cameras in the entire store to prevent theft.I guess the idea is that if people see him looking at a camera screen they will go somewhere else & steal.And since it is probably a mind numbingly boring & stupid waste of money they added saying hello to everybody to get their moneys worth out of the tasks he performs.It is utterly stupid & an insult to anyone of reasonable intelligence