Small Talk or Social Grease


Tonight I want to address a discussion I became involved in on a forum.  Someone asked if people felt that interactions with businesses, either face-to-face or in telephone conversations had become overly familiar and insincere.

2015-08-27 01I felt that this was the case and even quoted the following example which was fresh in my mind.

I had just been to pick up my new glasses and during the process of fitting and adjusting them I was asked

“How’s your day been?” – “fine, thank you” then
“Are you working?” – “yes” then
“Where do you work?” – “name of employer” then
“So, what have you got planned for the weekend?” – “just a quiet weekend at home”.

At this point the glasses were ready and I escaped. I am much closer to 60 than 50 and the interrogator was was a male who was probably in his 30s. I had to bite my tongue not to reply with something the lines of “none of your business” after the first question and answer which I accept as standard. Am I being too harsh? I am quite happy to sit quietly while the fitting process is completed.

I do not mind chatting and some people who know me in real life would attest to that.  However, I am essentially an introvert and prefer not to share all of my details with a random stranger who is not really interested in my answers.  One of the aspects of this particular example which I found particularly annoying was the interrogative style of questioning. I have thought about this and examined my interactions quite a bit since the experience I outlined above.  I have decided that it really all in the delivery.  Probing questions that leave you feeling as though you are being interrogated are not the way to go.  It is clearly an art to set the customer at ease and have a casual conversation.

Like the poster at the top, perhaps I should build up a collection of witty one-liners for times when I feel confronted by the line of questioning.

What are your thoughts?

8 thoughts on “Small Talk or Social Grease

  1. I have often answered the “How has your day been” with an honest one especially if sick, rushed after a very busy day at work and questioned at the checkout. It usually stops right there because they expect everyone to say fine. I have even put in a store complaint about one person in particular at WW who always asked “Have you seen any good movies lately” and if ignored asked a second time. If he had only put my groceries through more efficiently so I could get home after a busy day at work, that would have been customer service.

  2. I am so glad I am not the only one who feels this way. It annoys me when someone younger than my grandchildren quizzes me about my personal life. I have not complained to Store Management yet but by golly I have come very close to doing so. I used to be a ‘Checkout Chick’ back in the late 60’s and that was in the days of brown paper shopping bags…remember them:-) We were told to put the Customer’s items through our tills as quickly as possible. Not to put eggs or bread at the bottom of the bag and to smile at the Customer and give them correct change. We were not told to give them the ‘Third Degree’

  3. I thought it was just an expatriate problem, the super intrusive questions. I don’t think this is a case of over familiarity, it is simply a lack of decorum. People normally ask for directions ot my apartment, even though they don’t plan to visit and want to know if I cook my meals and where I buy groceries. I have learned to become very unapproachable and to know how to remove myself from a conversation when people stop recognising I’m a human being. I smile and remove physically remove myself. It really works. x

  4. Interesting – I’m probably the sort of person you don’t want to serve you – but then it’s not just a generational thing – my parents are the same. They’ll always tell you the life story of their most recent taxi driver! Sometimes, I’m not in the mood, like your commenters.

    Though, on the flip side, I recent was the customer with a gruff cobbler. I said ‘would you like to me pay now’ and he didn’t seem to mind, and I said ‘I hope it’ll make you smile’ which made him open up about his power outages, and then I had empathy, and the ability to give him some guidance. I suppose I support the ability to build bonds, to make small talk. I appreciate the cafes who come to know me, and me them.

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