For those in the retail industry, “service with a smile” is an age-old adage. Pleasing the customer is one of the basic tenants to running a good business, and smiling is one of the easiest ways to make the customer feel at home. But despite claims to the contrary, the customer is not always right. He or she isn’t entitled to service, although our consumerist culture may propagate that belief to no end. The store workers are people, too. They just may be doing their job when they come up to asking if you need help, so treating them well may be more beneficial than you think.
After volunteering at a bake sale the other day, I learned that being ignored is one of the more uncomfortable feelings to have when trying to entice customers. Human beings are social creatures, so acknowledgement goes a long way in building friendly relations. While you may not necessarily be planning to buy anything, just giving a small smile may help make their effort feel a bit more validated. It doesn’t take much effort, and in the off chance you do reconsider, it makes the transaction a lot less awkward.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Sure, you made one person’s day just a little bit brighter. So what? They’ll go bother someone else, and someone else, and someone else. Nothing in the world changes just because you managed to turn your lips slightly upward. And in a sense, that is true. Smiling at a Target employee won’t net you free stuff or deep discounts. At most, it will just give them reason to move on.
So why do it? Why bother spending the effort making eye contact with those in retail, when you can just as easily ignore them and live the exact same life? Well for one, as stated before, human beings are social creatures. We thrive off of interaction with others. And when you’re just shopping, sometimes its nice to just take a moment to pause, provided you aren’t in a rush to get numerous other errands done. Smiling in general comes with a wealth of benefits, from a sunnier disposition to a greater confidence.
On top of just emotional benefit, smiles can improve up your shopping experience. While it may not seem like it, smiles can express a lot of information. You can convey a variety of feelings, such as “I know what I’m looking for but thanks,” “just browsing but don’t need any help,” and “completely lost, please send help,” just by moving the corners of your mouth. In a matter of seconds and without saying a word, you can give the employee reason to walk away, or come up to you and help. It’s much faster than having them just stand there wondering if they need to approach you or not. Smiling as a customer promotes efficiency.
And last but not least, smiling provides for better service. Sure, there probably won’t be coupons and heavy discounts for being nice to employees, but in the off chance that you have a question, its always good to get off on the right foot. Maybe instead of just quickly telling you an aisle, they’ll walk you to it. If you’re eating at a restaurant, maybe they’ll spend a little more time getting your order just right. And I’ve always found that smiling makes the awkward salespeople confrontations go by a little quicker.
So smiling is a two way street. While store employees may be contractually obliged to give you your time of day, being considerate and giving them a little smile and a little acknowledgement in return can never hurt. Who knows? Maybe it’ll brighten up your own day.