The problem: The young cashier at my neighborhood grocery store is just too friendly. He wants to know how my day is going, and what I plan to cook with my bag of whatever. Sometimes, he’ll offer his own recipe ideas. I usually shop right after work or at night after my kids are asleep. I’m fried. I do not want to engage. But …
Low road: The easy answer is to change checkout lines, wear dark glasses or find a grocery store where you can check yourself out. But I’m a big believer in leaping into human interactions whenever we can, so I hope you won’t do any of those things.
High road: It sounds like this young man has been trained well. It’s likely that the staff at this small grocery store tries to make each shopper feel noticed and valued, even to the point of expressing gleeful enthusiasm for a spongy bag of tofu.
The problem is that his well-meaning manager likely forgot to teach an important aspect of the best customer service: the art of reading a shopper’s mood and reacting appropriately.
Some people go shopping simply to connect with perfect strangers. Others are OK with “Fine, thanks” or similar superficial niceties. And some people just want to get home and go to bed. You have every right to feel that way. But if you can engage with this young man for a few minutes weekly, I hope you will.
He’ll be one of us adults soon enough — stretched thin, stressed about his mortgage, worried about his kid who isn’t home by curfew. Time will teach him how to read people and back off. In the meantime, channeling his sunny worldview is worth the price for both of you.
Gail Rosenblum is a features columnist. Send questions about life’s little quandaries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @grosenblum.