Friday, August 12, 2005

Small Chat With Service Personnel

Normally I abstain from trying to chat with store clerks and etc. I've read my Arlie Russell Hochschild and so know that it places an additional emotional burden on clerks to try to say more than the absolute minimum to me, and, well, it places an additional emotional burden on me to try to be polite and engage in small talk. Part of me feels good and moral about being efficient and silent -- but not rude -- with store clerks; I'm not making them also do this emotional work! Yet when I'm with people who are genuinely engaged in the small talk (my grandfather) all those small transactions seem so much more pleasant, and the clerks seem so grateful. So is the lesson here that only someone who can pull off that small chat with enthusiasm ought to engage in it, or that we all ought to try?

If I had ever worked in the service industry I'm sure I'd have a strong opinion. But to date I've only done warehouse or (back) office type work.


Anonymous Battlepanda said...

I think the emotional strain of conversation on the clerk's end come chiefly from the fact that they are not really allowed to break off from the conversation out of deference to the customer.

But if you are sensitive to that, you can always tell when people are not in a chatty mood.

So, go ahead and initiate conversations. But if you're getting monosyllabic replies, don't persist and just grab your goods and go.

9:47 AM  

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