Sometimes I like to fantasize that I’m a consultant, whom companies can hire to get ‘honest opinions’ about their customer service. Not my most exciting imaginary career, of course, but I did innovate the ‘no eye contact’ option for Apple Store customers, and a mandatory ‘hasty apology’ button for those automated-checkout machines. (Because, admit it: “unexpected item in bagging area” would be fightin’ words, if a human being said them.)
But the thing that brought this up most recently was a drive-through. Like most people, I eat fast food just a little more often than I’d like anyone else to know, which isn’t often. But, enough that I would form an opinion. And the opinion is this: I understand that drive-thru cashiers are trying to create a friendly, familiar atmosphere, to make customers feel at home. But do we really want to feel at home in a drive-through? (Pardon me: a drive-thru.) So, here’s my suggestion, at absolutely no cost: If you really want to flatter me, pretend you have never seen me before. Help me keep up the illusion that this is an aberration. A grim, shameful compromise, made in the heat of the moment, and never to be repeated.
For instance, instead of asking things like “can I interest you in one of our new steak dipper combos today?”, try a more basic introduction. Like “this is your cashier speaking.” (Airlines do this. Don’t you want to be like airlines?) If you must make chit-chat, avoid asking me how I’m doing today – there’s a clear implication that you’re plotting trends based on the other days I’ve stopped by. And instead of “hope to see you again real soon!”, try “farewell, brave traveler.” Or “long shall we remember this day.”
And finally: never, ever ask me “does your order look correct on the screen?” You’re implying that, not only am I about to eat the centrifugally-homogenized chicken lumplings, but I’ve ordered them so often, I can actually double-check the cashier’s work. This is not my job. My job is to pay you, eat the food, and destroy the evidence.
Now, if I can just get Barnes & Noble to let people reserve couches, I’ll be getting somewhere…