Friday, September 16, 2011

A Letter to Those in Charge

Dear Management/Owners,

Your attempts at making retail classy are not working.

You seem to be under the extremely mistaken impression that changing the language we, the workers, use will change everything about the place in which we work. Carefully chosen words, to you, can make or break the business as a whole. While I agree that language is powerful, you're overlooking something very important: language cannot change facts, only disguise them. And sometimes, not even that.

For example. At the tux shop, I've not been allowed to say the common retail phrase, "Can I help you?" The supposed reasons for this are that it's a yes or no question, and that it's very "low-end" retail. Instead, employees are supposed to say, "What brings you in today?"

News flash: eliminating the phrase "can I help you" does not change the fact that even if it's expensive, it's still retail. We are still selling useless crap to people who could easily do without; we are still at risk of hearing the phrase, "No thanks, I'm just looking." (Which, by the way, is not as detrimental as you might think. How many times did I hear that phrase in the bookstore and still put a book in someone's hand before walking away?)

We are not allowed to say the words "plastic" or "polyester" at the tux shop. Everyone knows these "synthetic materials" exist. Everyone knows these canes or those buttons are fabricated by man and the material can't be found in a natural setting. Calling it "synthetic" to their faces is just insulting, and almost sounds cheaper than plastic. News flash: our modern society runs on plastic, and nothing we say in a freaking tux shop can change that fact.

Another point I take issue with, in other branches of retail: calling customers "guests." They are not in the store for an extended stay (unless it's a hotel, which is a different ball game in some ways). They did not pack their little overnight bag and set up camp in the housewares aisle. They are in the store to buy stuff. Therefore, they are customers. Calling them guests does not make a retail business classier; it does not make them feel more welcome. It makes them feel like you, the person making the decisions, are a pretentious, ignorant Scrooge, doing your best to get under the common man's skin and into their wallets.

In short, you can use your little words all you want to try and mold your business into a "classy establishment." It won't work. All it does is piss off the peons working under your tyranny.

With synthetic "love,"

Share your "favorite" unnecessary work-related phrase in the comments.


  1. There's a surprisingly heated debate in the library world about what we should call the people who use the library. Are they patrons? Customers? Guests? Users? The conversation we had on this subject during one of my graduate-level classes was pretty entertaining.

  2. Also the term "Team Members." I believe your sister is part of a team, not an employee. And Sandy, I vote for "Padowans."

  3. Follow up:

    Your bi about plastics made me think of the scene in The Graduate:


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