On Hospitality: the Irony of Mandated Pleasantries

17 10 2009

Tweet Me from truthorcake

Wrapping up a chat with a friend, I heard the words that should have generated feelings of warmth and gratitude: “my pleasure.”  Instead, I was irked; irked, and craving a certain brand of over-brined chicken.

What struck me initially was with the way these words evoked such a distasteful reaction once vocalized in my head.  We accept the power of other sensory experiences to trigger memory. The smell of chlorine may take you back to teen summers of lifeguarding.  A favorite old song can bring up a swell of emotion from times long forgotten.  Do those of us with a particular attachment to words link these to memory in a similar, basal way?

But before I let my fascination with the human limbic system take us on a hopeless tangent, let me propose the question that the service professional in me couldn’t help but ask—why on earth would you mandate that every staff member repeat the same exact pleasantry the same exact way every time they interact with a customer?  Surely I’m not the only one who finds this painfully annoying.

Perhaps this sort of scripted speech would make more sense in contexts where interactions are limited.  (I don’t particularly care if my doctor uses the same spiel before every tonsillectomy—it’s a one-time affair.)  But success in the food industry is most certainly dependent on repeat business.

I understand that this isn’t just a random ploy one man thought up to annoy me.  On the surface, it makes sense.  Be nice and your customers will be happy with their visit.  And yet, in this girl’s case, it fails.  I enjoy the product at this particular establishment, and as far as I can tell, the people themselves are innocuous.  But I avoid eating there until my mild hankering explodes into an unrelenting ache for the fried goodness therein.

I would so much rather have a genuine interaction with the person before me.  And perhaps that’s the problem.  Faith in one’s employees to deliver a positive experience without scripting is not something much management possesses.  It takes rigorous hiring practices, patience, coaching and follow-up.  In short, a dedication that not all are willing to give.

So the burden falls on you, repeaters of “Welcome to X-establishment,” and I plead with you, do us consumers, and perfectly harmless phrases, a favor, and can the canned phrases.  Please and thank you.




One response

18 11 2009

I think the answer is that hospitality, unfortunately, does not come naturally to the western mind! And if you live in New England as I do, warmth is conserved for thyself on cold evenings, and not extended so easily.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: