I don't want a pair of socks with that. I don't want to open a charge account. I don't want to save 10% today. I don't want a muffin or a scone to go with my coffee. I don't want a Borders Club card or a Barnes & Noble frequent reader's card. I don't want to spend $10 more so I can get a free travel alarm clock. I don't want 8 free issues of Entertainment Weekly. I don't want to join your mailing list and I don't want to give you my phone number. I don't want to sign up for your newsletter or email specials. I don't want to upgrade to a large popcorn for only 50 cents. Well, ok, yes I would like the large popcorn.
I'm not an angry man, but I do get impatient, especially when accomplishing something means I have to take my two little ones out in public. Recently I took them with me to a store in the mall so I could buy some pants. The sales clerk was cordial and helpful, and gave the appropriate amount of attention to my kids before moving on to find me some pants. She even made sure the large dressing room was available. Here was someone who was clearly on my side through this process. Until I tried to buy the clothes...
Kate is starting to fuss because we've spent too much time there and Clara is testing just how loud she can shout before I stop what I'm doing to address the problem (which is, of course, exactly what she wants.) The sales clerk is slowly and gently folding my pants as if they were cashmere - they were less than $25 each; they don't need much attention. Kate is starting to cry, either from the wait or the fact that Clara is biting her finger now. Great. I talk to Clara and sort out this whole biting thing for the moment and come back to find that the clerk is now wrapping my cheap pants in protective paper, using a sticker to keep them wrapped. She doesn't look up so she can't see my looks of disbelief, but surely she can hear what's going on with my little ones. She slowly puts everything in a bag.
"How would you like to pay for this?"
I slide over my credit card.
"Would you like to open..."
I know where this is headed so I say "No" to cut her off.
"...a charge account with us?"
I'm shaking my head no.
"You can save 10% on your entire purchase," she says in a sing song voice.
The girls are on the verge of completely losing it and I've given up caring about the scene they are making.
"Would you like your receipt with you or in the bag?"
"In the bag, please."
Before handing me my bag of purchased goods, the clerk unfolds a brochure in front of me. "Would you like to sign up for our Loyalty Program? It will only take a few minutes.."
What went through my head: "Are you #@$ kidding me? Can you not see what I'm dealing with? No, no, you're right - let me sign up for your loyalty program. Why don't you take these two normally sweet children for a little walk up and down the mall while I fill this out. No? Where's the loyalty to your customers? Can't a customer just buy what he wants to buy without being bled for anything more or hassled with special cards or programs? No, I don't want to join your damn club."
What I actually said, through clenched teeth: "No. Are we done?"
I was reminded of a time I bought a pair of socks from a department store and was asked by the friendly and chipper sales clerk if I wanted to save 10% today by opening a credit card. I responded with some smart aleck remark about how the 50 cents I'd save would sure make that worthwhile. Her bright smile disappeared and her heavy lidded eyes showed just how much asking inane questions over and over every day had gotten to her. She was reading a script - she had to ask me the question and take every stupid comment from customers like me. She was a defeated woman, and she's the reason I'm not a smart aleck with clerks anymore.
A pessimist would say that most of the interaction you have in a day is already scripted, from going to the store to small-talk with colleagues. Conversations and reactions are mostly predictable. But everyone has, and values, that friend who could say anything at any time. We miss you Stacy Vollert.
Ever try to get a telemarketer off his script? I'm pretty sure there's a reply on their computer screens for everything you can offer.
Telemarketer: Hello, Mr. Bittle. I'm calling on behalf of AT&T to offer...
Me: I'm on the no-call list
Telemarketer: I understand, sir. As a current AT&T customer, you are eligible for an upgrade...
Me: I'm really not interested.
Telemarketer: I understand why you might be skeptical but you can double your service with only a small monthly increase...
Me: Vanilla monkey bellybutton
Telemarketer: ... I'm sorry, sir. I couldn't understand what you just said. As I was saying about the upgrade...
Me: I'll tell you what, I'll buy the upgrade if you can say the alphabet backwards in 30 seconds.
Telemarketer: (laughs) It really is to your benefit to upgrade. If I can elaborate on...
Me: You're wasting time - 25 seconds.
Telemarketer: Uh, ZYX... WV
Me: 20 seconds
Telemarketer: UTSRQ...PONM, uh, LKJ
Me: 5 seconds
Telemarketer: GF, uh, E
Me: Time! Oh, man you were so close. That must be frustrating.