Friday, June 15, 2012

A Pox on all Greeters !!

Sometime back in the 1980's, retail and service businesses in America got it into their heads that an effective way to cultivate good will and appreciation among their customers was to put a glad-handing public relations person near the front door of their entrance(s).

We've all been familiar with the bouncer, the valet, the maitre d' and the host. These people serve a visible function, and actually provide a service which customers can appreciate and take advantage of. A small- or medium-sized tip might grease the gears of commerce, but as a general rule, such "guardians" of the gate are not a barrier to the needs of customers.

But these new greeters are a different matter entirely. Today I had to make a deposit to my Wells-Fargo business account, and as usual, as I entered the bank and approached the teller window line, a tall African American boy of about 30 sidled over to me and asked "how are you today, Sir?" Having been nudged in this way before, I knew he meant no harm, but I knew he still expected a response, so I said "thank-you" and continued towards the line. When I got to the window, the woman (a young Asian--perhaps an Indonesian or Filipino) asked again "how's your day, Sir?" and stood waiting while I formed an answer. Having handed her my deposit slip and pile of checks, this struck me, as it always does, as an impertinence. How I'm feeling has nothing to do with my banking business, and it is really none of her business.

I suppose part of the training of bank tellers is to "engage the customer in some harmless light banter" to put them at ease. Or, it occurred to me today, it might be a way of testing the customer to see how "up-tight" he/she is. Perhaps potential bank robbers can be spotted by trying to engage them in trivial conversation? There probably is a stereotypical "normal" customer behavior, and a typical "abnormal" customer behavior, which it is the business of the bank to determine.

I've noticed that these "greeters" are almost always people "of color"--which is to say they're people identified as "minorities," and they're usually very young, often in their early twenties.

Do banking management think that placing these greeters at the entrance to their offices gives customers a feeling of welcome, or well-being, or privilege? If so, I believe they are deluded. Most people I've spoken with cringe in dismay when queried about these greeters. Nearly everyone I've discussed it with, or heard discuss it on the media, has a negative reaction to being "greeted" by someone who obviously is not interested in helping them or saving them time, but who is just there to present a phony happy face on the business.

I resent being "greeted" in this way by any establishment with which I have important business. If I were entering a circus, perhaps I'd accept the idea of a clown standing by the entrance, to put me into the proper mood to appreciate the playful and astounding sights I'm expecting to watch. But banking, and furniture marts, and chain bookstores, and home supply warehouses aren't places I go to be treated as if I were a child entering a circus tent.

The next time one of these clowns tries to importune me, I'm going to tell him or her to buzz off, or, at the least, ignore them completely. When I'm doing business, I don't need someone interrupting me with stupid, quasi-personal questions. If you want to improve your business, put that greeter to work doing something which actually makes my errand easier, or more trouble-free. I can do without the public relations crap.


Conrad DiDiodato said...


there's something almost mythically ominous about it, as if they were really saying, "Ave, Mercator, morituri te salutant".

In our world avowals of friendliness are always bound to turn deadly. I don't blame you for wishing them away.

Ed Baker said...

my usual reply to a cute girl greeter?

"that's a nice skirt. Wanna ball a poet?"

things usually go down
from there.