I was both surprised and saddened to learn that a longstanding retail tradition is in real danger of going the way of the dinosaur, apparently sacrificed to appease an ever-voracious bottom line.
In a recent Bloomberg News report, I learned that super-retailer, Wal-Mart, has decided that the position of “greeter,” a 30-year tradition, is deemed no longer necessary during the so-called “off-peak” hours of 10pm to 3am, and thus has been eliminated during those hours of operation.
While I seldom had occasion to throw a raincoat over my P.J.s and traipse out to whichever local Wal-Mart might actually be open during the witching hour and beyond, I still feel a sense of loss. “How long,” I ask myself, “before the position is eliminated altogether?”
Now, the less-sentimental among you may simply shrug it off with a nonchalant “whatever,” but I tend to take these things to heart.
I liked the fact that someone not only appreciated my showing up but were willing to overlook the raincoat-over-the-P.J.'s fashion blunder. Life, I learned, was simpler at 2am.
“Hello and welcome to Wal-Mart", the greeter would offer. Sure, the greeting may have been lacking in sincerity, as the drawn out yawn that followed attested to. But, still, at that ungodly hour you can’t expect perfection.
As the theme song from the popular television show “Cheers” indicated, it’s nice to frequent an establishment where “everybody knows your name”. Okay, so none of the greeters actually knew my name, but I could pretend that they did.
It made me feel like a V.I.P., knowing that my $1.29 purchase was appreciated.
And what’s to become of those employees who assumed that they were guaranteed a lifetime “gig”, whether they yawned or not? It’s not like there’s a lot of similar work out there. Can you imagine the difficulties that an ex-greeter might run into while interviewing for a new position?
Hiring Mgr: Okay, so according to your resume, your last job was “greeter”. Can you tell me a little about what that actually entailed?
Ex-Greeter: Sure. What I did, basically was sit around, at the front of the store and say hello to people - you know, as they came in?
Hiring Mgr: Okay and then what?
Ex-Greeter: What do you mean?
Hiring Mgr: And what else did you do?
Ex-Greeter: Well, uh... that was about it.
Hiring Mgr: I see. So, let me get this straight, your entire job was basically saying “hello” to people.
Ex-Greeter: Well, yeah, mostly. Although it was harder than it sounds.
Hiring Mgr: I would hope so.
Ex-Greeter: Oh, yeah, definitely. In fact, some days could be very stressful.
Hiring Mgr: In what way?
Ex-Greeter: Well, you’d be surprised at how many people wouldn’t even bother to answer — sometimes not even a nod, if you can believe that. And sometimes the little kids would kick. That was no fun. I mean, what the heck were kids even doing up at that hour? What were those parents thinking? I should have called Social Services, but you know — the customer is always right — or so they say.
Hiring Mgr: I see.
Ex-Greeter: And then there was the constant smiling. That was tough.
Hiring Mgr: You smiled a lot, did you?
Ex-Greeter: In the beginning, yes, but after a while I gave up on that. It didn’t seem to help my hello/response ratio whatsoever, so I cut it out. Smiling constantly can be very stressful. I hear that it’s number three in stress, right there behind buying a home and death.
Hiring Mgr: Hmmm. Look, I have to be honest with you — I’m not sure you’re right for this particular position. For one thing, it requires a lot of versatility.
Ex-Greeter: No problem. I can be versatile.
Hiring Mgr: In what way?
Ex-Greeter: Well... I’m also very good at “have a nice day.” You know, for when the customer was leaving the store. So, you see, I’m not just some one-trick pony.
Hiring Mrg: I’m sure you excelled at your last job, but, to be honest, I still have reservations.
Ex-Greeter: Is it the smiling? I can work on that.
Hiring Mgr: Look, thanks for coming in. We’ll let you know.
Ex-Greeter: Well, okay. It was a pleasure to meet you. Hello.
Hiring Mgr: What?
Ex-Greeter: Ooops. Force of habit. I mean, have a nice day. And look, I’m smiling.
Hiring Mgr: Yes you are.
Ex-Greeter: You see? Versatility.
Hiring Mgr: I’m impressed.
Ex-Greeter: I knew you would be.