Sometimes Silence Is Not Golden

By BKV in Media Strategy on September 14th, 2010

A recent article in AdWeek really resonated with me. "Folks More Rude and Less Civilized? A majority of respondents say sales personnel are ruder to customers -- and vice versa -- than was the case 10 years ago." Most of the rude behavior in this article addresses noise we encounter on a daily basis. A woman blabbing on her cell phone behind you in line at the grocery store while a man in front of you haggles with the cashier over why she can't "do the math" and is she really "that stupid" that she can't figure out that he gave her a 10 dollar bill and she owes him 4 dollars and 37 cents back. This rude behavior is unfortunately more common than we'd like to admit. However, a recent visit to Wal-Mart made me realize how rude silence can be. After a quick "get in, get out, get on with my life" stroll, I walk up to the register, place my items on the conveyor belt, and naturally attempt eye contact with the cashier. She doesn't look up and doesn't acknowledge my existence. She doesn't say "Hello, how are you?" I keep waiting...NOTHING. I watch her silently shuffle my items past the scanner. "Beep" (Pause) "Beep" (Pause) "Beep" (Pause) She tosses my items in a bag, looks up at the screen, and mumbles, "$17.64". Awkwardly, I slide my credit card, sign the key pad, and watch as the cashier tosses my receipt in the bag. I wait for a "thank you", "goodbye", something...anything. Wait, here it comes...and she reaches for items behind me on the conveyer belt moving on to the next customer. Feeling shunned, I reach for my bag and walk to my car, all while processing the fact that the cashier didn't even look up once to acknowledge me within the two minutes I stood in front of her. On my drive home, I thought about it more. A woman willingly walks into a retail store, fills out an employment application, interviews, and drives to a job every day where her primary role is to interact with customers. She failed a primary (albeit simple) role all human beings learn in kindergarten - hello, thank you, and good-bye. CashierOut of curiosity, I visited that same retailer online. I received a "welcome" when I signed in, a "thank you" for my order, and "goodbye" when I signed out. Have we really reached a day where you receive better customer service from a retailer's website than you do from an actual person in the store? Perhaps. Coincidentally, as I write this, I hear a Target commercial on television in the background. I am listening to the catchy jingle (and Beatles song), "you say good-bye and I say hello". This experience (and commercial) makes me realize why I like shopping at Target more than Wal-Mart. I'd rather spend a few cents extra and get a "hello" with my "good buy".