Socially Awkward Guide to Greeting Customers

I thought I could use another series of posts to keep me busy, and hopefully to keep readers entertained, so here’s the first of my guides for the Socially Awkward (capitalized because it is a prestigious title).

For those in the retail game, customers are as inevitable as dropping bread butter side down or tripping over a cat in the dark. The first step to handling them is the greeting. It is a first step that itself involves many, many more steps, and god help you if you mess up even one. Okay, calm down, breathe. Just do what I say and everything will be all right. Relatively speaking. I mean, the world will keep spinning, birds will keep singing, that sort of thing. Whether you will be all right is another matter entirely.

Just…just keep reading. Trust me.

1. Spot customer approaching.

As one of the Socially Awkward, you have an uncanny sense of someone approaching you. Kind of like how a spider feels a vibration in its web to let it know a fly is trapped, except in this case, it’s you who are trapped.

2. Pray they don’t come any closer.

Some save prayer for a last resort, the Hail Mary pass. But why save the big guns for later? You never know, it could work. Best to mutter aloud so people can overhear you and look at you funny.

3. Prayer fails, offer soul pacts to any nearby demons

You may need to play some Ozzy Osbourne backwards to get their attention. Don’t bother with “Crazy Train.” That just recites a shopping list. Fun fact: Ozzy needed eggs.

4. Give up on divine/infernal intervention. Prepare for (shudder) human interaction.

Entertain thoughts about how you’d rather deal with the demon. Then again, remind yourself that the it might have wanted to make small talk. Nothing worse than a chatty demon.

5. Ten-foot rule.

When a customer is within ten feet of you, that’s usually a good distance to greet them. If they try to get closer, you could always step back or poke them with your ten-foot pole. You brought your ten-foot pole, didn’t you? Come on, this is standard equipment! You’d better have one next time I see you.

6. Debate the meaning of “ten foot”.

What are you, a tape measure? It’s hard to judge distance accurately. If they’re nine feet away, you have plausible deniability.

7. Okay, okay, they’re close enough, damn it. How else can you stall for time?

There’s a display between you? Um, that breaks the imaginary ten-foot line between you, rendering it void. Yeah, that’s a good one. They’re talking to a friend or on the phone? It’s rude to interrupt. Manners give you lots of good excuses. Oh look, those items are crooked. You’ll say hello after you fix them.

8. Stalling can only go so far. Time to do this. Say “hello.”

While a more complicated greeting gives you more opportunity for screwing up and looking like a doofus (stuttering is a classic), don’t underestimate what you can accomplish with something short and sweet. Try “hello.” Now, you have to say it right. Try this: draw out the second syllable much too long. Also, make the “o” sound more like “ew.” Helleeeewww. Nailed it. You’ll know you did it right if the customer pauses before returning your greeting, as if uncertain he heard you correctly.

9. Mission accomplished. Make just enough conversation to cover up your shame, then get the hell out of there.

Pretend you have an earpiece and you’re receiving instructions to go elsewhere. Run. Don’t look back. Don’t stop if anyone calls out for you, just run, you fool! Find one of the hiding places you’ve discovered around the store (if you haven’t found them yet, or made them if you’re an advanced student of the Awkward Art, you need to check your priorities, friend) and hunker down for awhile until your disgrace becomes bearable. If you see the customer again, pretend you don’t.

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