This morning, as I was stretching and listening to KPLU, I heard a commentary that caught my interest. Nancy Leson and Dick Stein were kvetching about how supermarkets are forcing their cashiers to be a little too intimate with us shoppers in an effort to bond with us. Specifically, Nancy and Dick complained that complete strangers address them by their first names and ask personal questions like, “what are your plans for the weekend?”
I stopped stretching for a moment and had to give this some thought as I realized this is an etiquette matter.
I don’t recall being called “Arden” by supermarket staff. I do know some of the cashiers make a point of looking at my receipt and saying, “thank you Ms. Clise”, although they sometimes mispronounce my name and it comes out sounding like “Cleese”. While I don’t like my name being mispronounced, I’m fine with them thanking me and addressing me by my last name. I know they only know my name by looking at the receipt, but I think it’s respectful to acknowledge me. I will say, however, if the store wants their cashiers to follow this practice, they must teach them the rules for pronunciation so names are not mangled.
As far as asking me about my plans for the weekend, yes, that question is a little too personal coming from a complete stranger. Why would they care and why do I care to tell them that I’m cleaning the house, running errands, going to a Zumba class, taking the dog to get bathed and sleeping in on Sunday? And what if I was going to be out of town that weekend? Would I dare tell them, and everyone standing near me, that my house will be unoccupied that weekend after the clerk looked at my driver’s license with my address on it to make sure I am old enough to buy that non-alcoholic beer?
But, here’s the deal. We as a society have gotten further and further away from making real connections with others. We send emails to the coworker sitting next to us, we talk on our cell phones as we are helped by clerks, we don’t welcome the new neighbor who just moved in. I think we need more connection, not less. If a supermarket cashier strikes up a conversation with me, even if it seems a bit personal, I’m happy to converse. I may not go into details about my weekend, but I will answer in a way that encourages conversation.
I also make a point of asking cashiers how their day is going. It feels awkward and rude to just stand there watching them scan my groceries without acknowledging and trying to engage them.
So maybe asking me “what my weekend plans are” and addressing me only after seeing my name on the receipt is forced intimacy, but it’s an effort to connect and that’s really what it’s all about.
What do you think? Do you object to cashiers trying to connect with you by asking questions like “what are your plans for the weekend?” Have you been addressed by your first name by a stranger? Do you mind having them acknowledge you by seeing your name on your receipt?