||[Dec. 18th, 2010|05:11 am]
I've noticed a new trend in customer service. I first noticed it at Starbucks, but it recently spread to my bank, and I'm pretty sure I've encountered it elsewhere. The clerk begins your transaction not with a simple greeting, but with detailed inquiries about your day. The inquiries are of a more personal nature than you'd expect from a stranger, and they're designed to preclude a simple "yes or no" answer: |
"So what are you up to today?"
"How did you spend your weekend?"
"What are your dinner plans?"
Apparently, these openers are designed to foster friendly chit-chat between the clerk and the customer, in hopes of inspiring customer loyalty to the new "friend" behind the counter. Nevermind letting such friendships emerge naturally: they must be manufactured with questions designed to pry into the customer's personal business.
When I worked at Starbucks ten years ago, this approach wasn't part of the training. It's a new tactic, which I assume made the rounds of the "grow your business" seminars a few years ago and has trickled down to the consumer level. I hate it.
How should we respond to such pretences at intimacy?
The icy stare has lost its power to shame in our shameless society. (The offender just thinks you're deaf or stupid, and repeats his question louder and slower.)
Inventing a bizarre answer in place of the truth would only give the clerk a juicy story to share with his friends.
And reporting your actual plans for the day to these automatons is an insult to authentic chit-chat between genuine friends.
For now, I'll stick with the uptight-sounding but appropriate "That's none of your business."