This I Believe

Larry - Portland, Oregon
Entered on April 9, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65

Let’s Not Fake It, Okay?

They say you always remember your first time. Well, my first time happened at Nordstroms. In the shoe department, in a corner, in the middle of the afternoon.

I was standing there eyeballing some penny loafers when a willowy clerk some 20 years my junior approached.

“Did you find everything okay?”

Ah, the ubiquitous question of 21st Century shopping. I believe America’s major corporate sellers think we, the consuming public, are basically morons.

At first I thought clerks were actually interested in whether I found what I was seeking. Now, after hearing this inane question repeated about a thousand times, I know better.

“Yeah,” I always reply meekly, but what I really want to say is, “Do I look like the village idiot? Do I seem so short on self-esteem that I can’t muster the gumption to ask if I can’t find something? And do you really give a rat’s rear whether I’ve found everything?”

So far, I haven’t been so bold.

I’ve shopped at the same grocery store for years; all the aisles are clearly marked and I know the basic layout. But suddenly, every time I stop for a loaf of bread or a six-pack of my favorite cold beverage, I’m assaulted at least twice with the same dull query.

“Did you find everything okay?”

I’d like to say, “Golly, this place is like a maze. Where’d you hide the cereal this week? And give me a hint, are doughnuts in the bakery or over in the soap section?”

But Mr. Milquetoast just shrugs and mumbles, “Yeah.”

Did you find everything okay?

You go shopping today, you can’t escape the question. Usually the sincerity level is roughly equivalent to the electronic phone voice droning how important you call is to us. At many stores, clerks are subject to discipline if they fail to ask every single customer.

Apparently some marketing geniuses—my reward for their apprehension remains outstanding—decided America’s shoppers would respond favorably to clerks who cared. Not the real thing, of course, something more akin to the illusion of caring. Caring Lite.

I’m old enough to remember when stores had clerks who either genuinely cared or, if they didn’t, make no attempt to pretend otherwise. Now we tolerate forced plastic caring, yet another sign of our general willingness to accept lukewarm imitations.

Corporate storekeeps, listen up. If your employees don’t give a rip, don’t force them to fake it, okay? It works about as well at the cash register as it does in the bedroom. Just give me a semi-friendly hello, a simple thank you and we’ll call it good.

But until things change, I’ve come up with a strategy. With apologies to the anti-drug forces, just say no.

“Did you find everything okay?”

“No.”

“Huh?”

“No.”

“Uh, what can’t you find?”

“Well, for one thing, a decent mechanic. Those socks in the dryer. And whatever happened to my car keys that disappeared back in ’98? One more thing: peace of mind.”

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