My Room 101 – Shop Greeters

I’m going rather off my usual topics here and having a little rant about something in modern life I think should be consigned to Room 101*. Today’s subject will be: shop greeters.

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I’ve just come in for a banana, not a full tour of everything you sell.

In the UK this is a phenomenon that’s appeared in the last 5 years or so, and has spread quite widely across many shop chains around the country. If you go into a shop these days, you’ll be often confronted with a young (they are nearly always the younger members of staff, rarely the older ones) shop assistant standing right in front you and greeting you with a cheery ‘good morning’. If you don’t move quickly enough, they may follow up with a ‘can I help you find what you’re looking for?’. I soon got wise to that and now side-step like a top rugby winger before they can latch on to me.

So why do I dislike these greeters? I’ve got nothing against the individuals doing the job they have to do. However when I go into a shop I like to be left alone, unless I decide I need some assistance, and then I’ll ask someone. But I rarely need any assistance, as I either know what I’m going to buy, or am just having a look around has have no intention of buying anything. Also, my experience of asking for help is usually fruitless as the assistant often hasn’t a clue what I’m asking for or where it is in the shop.

One of my early experiences involved the greeter asking me what I was looking for as soon as I got through the door, not giving me any time to think or browse around. She whisked me off to the area selling what I was after and pretty much jammed it in my hand and escorted me – so very helpfully – to the checkout. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but I was going to buy several other items, but I didn’t want to turn around at the checkout and go back into the shop to find the other things. So thanks to the overly helpful greeter the shop actually sold less than they would have done if I was left in peace to select what I wanted.

Another thing I dislike about it is the false sincerity of it all. In Britain, while we respect politeness and good manners, we also like people to be natural and honest. I know these greeters couldn’t care less about the customers walking through the door, and certainly really don’t want to waste their time helping them. They are probably on the minimum wage just waiting from 5:30pm to come along so they can go home. To me it just feels very American, and something we should not adopt in this country. Surely it would be more satisfying for a member of staff to genuinely help a customer who asks for help, rather than just gormlessly grinning a cheerful hello to everyone that came through the door?

Thankfully, independent shops seem to steer clear of using greeters, mainly because they often don’t have the spare staff to do such thing and are probably aware of how irritating it is. It’s shame there are so few independent shops left these days with high streets all looking identical and anonymous now.

So this is a call to the major chain stores in the UK: please can you put a stop to these greeters, and let them go back to roaming around the shop floor, discretely keeping an eye out for customers who really do look like they want to ask for help?

*For those who aren’t familiar, Room 101 is a BBC TV programme where guests choose things they really dislike and would like to be consigned to Room 101. Room 101 originally came from the George Orwell’s novel 1984, where it was a torture chamber.