Here’s a notion that should crawl under a rock and die a long, slow and above all agonising death: service with a smile. I’m sick of people, who are funnily enough miserable themselves, coming out of a shop or restaurant saying, “That was appalling service, they didn’t even smile.” It’s a comment that makes me want to beat them like a seal-clubber with a bloodlust.
Let’s be brutally honest: these are shit jobs. If I hit middle age and I’m working in at Scotmid checkout then I’ll definitely feel something went wrong somewhere in my life. If you think this is an arrogant thought or one that reeks of superiority then follow through with your convictions. Drop out of university and spend the rest of your life behind a checkout and we’ll see how long you maintain such noble sentiments. Sooner or later the monotony and tediousness of what you’re doing has to dawn, and after that it’s pretty hard to force a smile.
And yet it’s something that the customer demands; for these people to be ecstatic that they’re actually getting the once in a lifetime chance to serve you! But it’s not because customers care whether the checkout person is happy or not, it’s to allay their own sense of guilt and pity. If you see someone being miserable it makes you acutely aware of how crap their job is, and therefore any way to get rid of this feeling of self-consciousness is leapt upon. It’s like blindfolding a particularly ugly, scabby puppy that you’re about to put down.
Besides, how does someone looking miserable really affect their ability to pass items over a barcode machine or write down an order and carry plates? If it gets to the stage where workers are so depressed in their job that there are regular occurrences of people putting their mouths around gun barrels and pulling the trigger, showering my frozen goods in blood, then this presents a serious service problem that would have to be addressed by the management. Until we get to that stage it makes no difference to either the speed of service or my consumer satisfaction.
But it does to some people, my god it does. Some people’s days can be ruined just by one person being honest and slightly obnoxious. What do these people want? To have a genuine, enthralling, life affirming conversation with every person they bump into? That’s both deluded and completely fake. If they want to feel good about their social interactions they should get some fucking friends. These people are pretty much advocating the enforced lobotomies of those in the service industries so that they’ll sit there with a glazed happy look in their eyes and hide the lies and ultimate bleakness of their dead-end jobs. This would be bad for many reasons, not least the fact that my foodstuffs would be covered in drool.
I like being served by someone who’s miserable. It means that they’re still alive, still functioning with some kind of drive. Why should I care that to them I’m just another person to get through and serve before they can go home with a pack of Rothmans and a 4-pack and enjoy a night in front of the television watching some piss-poor reality show? I’ve got my food, they’ve got their paycheck, happiness doesn’t have to come into it. The majority of work is pretty miserable, if we were upfront and honest about it the world would still be a shitty place, but one without forced smiles which are ten times more soul destroying than honest indifference.
Still sceptical? Fine. Next time you’re writing a 2000 word essay the night before the deadline and all you want to do is attack your computer with a blunt instrument and collapse in a foetal position, crying yourself to sleep, force a big smile onto your face and tell your flat mates how much you hope that they have a lovely day. You’ll feel stressed, your brain will snap and you’ll have infinitely more respect for those who have to do the same everyday just so they don’t get shit from whiney customers and asshole managers.