Celia Rivenbark: Hanging up on chummy phone-store banter

So I went to the phone store the other day, and everybody was so friendly! I mean, seriously, freakishly, tail-waggin’ friendly.

The first thing they do is greet you at the door, and it’s all very “first names only.” In fact, they put your first name on a big video screen so you can see how much longer you’ll have to wait based on all the other first names up there.

We’re just one big, happy, phone-waiting-for family.

If you’re lucky, the wait is brief. If you’re not, you end up like I did, passing the time on a bench watching a TV show featuring celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain eating pig testicles in Vietnam.

A young customer service worker called out my name, and I raised my hand. I wasn’t in a great mood because of the long wait and the pig testicles and everything.

She was so upbeat and apologetic I quickly got over myself.

And then the script started. I could tell that she was trying to form a real relationship with me because that’s what the phone company wants to do. This friendly one-on-one will “inspire brand loyalty” and “create a better experience” and “make people hate us just a little bit less.”

But it’s clunky and fake. When she asked, “Do you have big plans for tonight?” I could practically hear her manager whispering: “Get her to like you!”

I was so confused by the personal nature of the question that I did something that I generally try to avoid and just told the truth.

“Uhhh, not really. I’m probably going to take this phone home and charge it and, uh, it’s Wednesday, so that’s tuna casserole night…”

This happened on three separate visits to the phone store with three customer service reps, so I’m absolutely certain there’s a script somewhere that encourages this oddly chummy behavior.

On the next visit, I didn’t have to wait long at all. The young woman who helped me, cheerfully, of course, made the usual forced scripted conversation.

“Do you have children?”

“Yes, I do.” What is it with these people? “How much is the insurance per month?”

“Oh, wow! You know, my husband and I are trying to get pregnant!” Well, no, I didn’t know that. Her mother hadn’t told me. You know why? BECAUSE SHE IS A TOTAL STRANGER.

I wasn’t sure how I should respond, so I just said, “Good luck with that. And my unused data rolls over every month?”

On another visit, we were halfway through a tedious sign-up when the customer service rep blurted out: “I just love kayaking; don’t you?”


When the whole kayak thing didn’t seem to work, he was undaunted.

“Why do you think the traffic is so terrible here?” he continued.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Probably because not nearly enough people kayak to work.”

And, yes, I know that wasn’t very nice of me. Clearly, I have no idea how to treat a faux friend.