I’m standing in a checkout line at the local grocery store with a loaf of bread and a magazine, watching with equal measures of interest and confusion the scene unfolding before me. To either side cashiers smile and chat as they pass cans and boxes over the scanners in front of them. Even the beeps of lasers meeting barcodes sound chipper. Customers walking through the electric doors are greeted with a chorus of welcomes and hellos. A “Have a great day now” is offered with every receipt.
I feel like I’m drowning is syrupy goodness.
Strangest of all is the bell positioned on a small table near the exit, above which is a sign that reads Ring Bell If You’ve Received Excellent Customer Service.
From the sound of things, most of my fellow patrons have received just that. They carry their bags or roll their shopping carts toward the big double doors, pause, and
At which point any and all employees within earshot will clap and hooray themselves for a job… well, done.
We live in strange times, you and I.
I’ve noticed many businesses doing this sort of thing. The economy’s a wreck, people are being selective in where they shop and for how much, and the name of the game now is making customers happy. Being good brings in the public.
Another DING! More claps and hoorays. I feel like I’m at the county fair.
“Have a great day now,” the cashier says to the person in front of me.
I place my bread and magazine on the conveyor belt and follow them up. The cashier smiles and helloes. Karen, her nametag says. Bright red letters above her name spell out WELCOME!
“How are ya today?” she asks.
Before I can answer an older lady walks through the doors. Karen and everyone else must pause to turn and welcome her to Grocery Nirvana. The woman is literally shaken by the welcome, rocking back on her heels and then forward to catch her balance. She offers a smile that is half amused and half embarrassed and then runs for the produce section.
“So you have to stand here all day and say hello to everyone who walks in here?” I ask.
“Yep,” Karen says, which is followed by another DING! and more cheering.
“That’s gotta get old,” I say.
“Not really. I like it. Makes everyone feel good. Of course, people are mostly scared when we all holler hello to them when they come in here the first time. One guy almost swallowed his tongue yesterday. But they get used to it.”
I nodded and pulled out my cash.
“Do you have a Super Saver card?”
“Nope,” I said.
“You can use mine.”
Karen swiped her own card—saving me nearly a quarter in the process—bagged my purchase, handed me my change and receipt, and said, “Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day now and see ya soon.”
As I grab my bag and shove the change and receipt into my pocket, I’m thinking. My experience here really has been pleasant. I’ve been helloed and thank-you’d and smiled at repeatedly. I’d even saved a quarter, which will make my wife proud.
“Thank you, Karen,” I say. “I’m gonna go ring the bell for you.”
Then Karen does something that can only be described as peculiar. She reaches across the scanner and grabs my arm.
“Please don’t do that,” she says.
I stare down at her hand. Karen jerks it away and apologizes.
“Don’t do what?” I ask her.
“Ring the bell.”
“You don’t want me to ring the bell?”
And then she tells me. Tells me the truth. About the bell and the hellos and the goodness. About how it’s a new program designed by corporate with the intent not to actually be good to people, but to keep the money rolling in.
And about how goodness shouldn’t be rewarded because it was its own reward, and that bringing attention to it didn’t make it better, it only made it less.
“People should be nice not to get something for themselves, but to give themselves to something. Do you understand?” she asks.
Oh, yes. I do.
I only wish more did.
(This post is part of the Goodness blog carnival hosted by Bridget Chumbley. To read more posts, please visit her.)