There’s an increasing Americanisation of the UK, with us taking on many of their “holiday” traditions these days (that can stop, by the way – we don’t need Halloween or Black Friday, thanks), but I’m trying to bring something else into commonplace. My favourite American custom is that of encouraging people to have a nice day, rather than just saying goodbye.
As a long-serving (suffering?) service industry professional, I’ve seen retail and food outlets adopt what many super-reserved Brits regard as being an over-the-top friendliness. To greet customers or be the ones to initiate conversation is seen here as a combination of nosy and pushy salesperson-type behaviour. When Starbucks began asking customers for their name when ordering drinks, they were met with stern opposition (and not just from the mocking Twitterati, who take delight in exposing spelling mistakes) at this supposed over-familiarity (side note: take it from a former-barista, this policy is saving lives – nothing more frustrating than the umpteenth customer asking if the stone-cold latte on the end of the bar is theirs, and then proceeding to take the extra hot triple decaf wet soya latte which clearly isn’t theirs instead). No, the American custom I’m on a mission to expand within the UK is that of encouraging people to have a nice day.
Rather than leaving my customer sign off as, “thank you, goodbye”, I try my best to encourage people to have a good day. It often surprises them. They tend to say, “thank you” or at the very least smile in response. It visibly lifts them. And occasionally, I get the biggest win of all: they return the phrase. Sometimes, it’s an unconscious, “you too”, but on other occasions it’s clearly heartfelt. And that makes me smile, put my shoulders back, and glide back into the retail fray with a better attitude.
I don’t save lives, I sell merchandise. I’m not a member of the emergency services who works unsociable hours, I work in a shop and often work unsociable hours (we won’t discuss my rota for December here, in case some kind of miracle occurs and I escape it, but let’s just say it’s far from good). I’m no hero, and I can be on the receiving end of some abuse. So when people are nice, or grateful, and happy, it’s noticed.
I do it as a customer too – partly because I know what it’s like to be the poor person behind the counter who has rotting milk in their hair, or the one on the till whose feet hurt and has been wearing an enforced smile for several hours, and faces a stock take once the shutters come down – and I feel sad when it isn’t a part of that worker’s culture, when it’s me who delivers that line to them (always, always earnestly), who has to try and make them feel better.
But it’s worth it if I change one person’s outlook. And it’s definitely worth it when one of my customers smiles and tells me to have a great day. Because now, I just might.