Someone representing a polling company phoned me about a business transaction at a financial institution the day immediately previous. She named the institution’s employee who conducted the transaction for me, and she asked whether on the basis of that “experience” I would recommend that institution to others. I think she wanted also to know with what degree of enthusiasm I would recommend it.
Now, I would not recommend that particular financial institution to anyone, although I have always found all its employees unfailingly courteous and even friendly. I regard such institutions as a necessary evil, possibly even more evil than they are (temporarily, I hope) necessary. The “researcher” wasn’t interested in fine shades of rationality; she just wanted to know whether on the basis of my “experience that day” I would recommend the institution on whose behalf she was phoning me. At that point I discontinued the conversation.
This may seem hopelessly archaic to the modern employer and his sycophants, but I deem it petty to complain to an employer about an employee’s manners, even when the employee’s manners are thoroughly deplorable: it would show only that one lacks the savoir faire to respond to rudeness as it deserves. As for an employer’s trying to find out, not only whether an employee had in fact been polite and friendly, but even whether her being polite and friendly had actually furthered the corporate employer’s strictly economic interests, that is the attitude and action of a thorough-going slave-driver.
In any case, businesses which compete chiefly in offering a “pleasant business experience” simply are not competing on what ought to be a businesslike level; they have things simply too much their own too-comfortable way for too long and are far too much alike in the essentials of doing “business.”
Now that I’m thinking along these lines, I recall that a similar institution used to, and still may, require all its tellers to say after every transaction, “Thank you for banking with (name of institution).” The institution’s name did not fall trippingly off the tongue to allow faking enthusiasm, and in any case it would be difficult to put the same feeling into the same utterance hundreds of times a day week after week, so the actual effect of mechanical repetition was simply annoying. Unfortunately, the only outcome of complaints like mine is likely to be some assistant manager’s insisting, “OK guys, let’s hear some feeling in it, OK?” But what can you expect in a “free-enterprise environment” where educating individuals to live properly isn’t a free enterprise?
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