So, today I was at the grocery store and noticed that the checkout woman had a little, handwritten sign next to her register that said she'd won the people's choice award for best cashier. I asked her about it and we got to talking (no prize, just a "pat on the back")....and she ended up telling me that, despite her obvious friendliness with customers, she gets called into the office for going too slowly. Turns out that the computer that scans our groceries is also doing a whole bunch of other calculations which "the experts" (her word, not mine) use to improve efficiency. When she scans the first item, the clock starts ticking until the transaction is complete. Every week a report is generated that stores use to evaluate the cashiers. For this particular metric, apparently "the experts" determined an average speed of checkout cashiers, which they then use to measure all cashiers.
What gets measured, gets managed. There's no way that the computer can account for slow customers who can't find the right change, or the pesky people who bring their own bags (*raises hand*). It also can't account for friendliness, which is why I guess they rely on "the people" to make that decision. And a "pat on the back" is kind of similar to "nothing," isn't it? The system encourages "efficiency" (I really am coming to hate that word. I love "practicality" but "efficiency" I can do without). The grocery store seems to think that all customers want is efficiency, and it strikes me that as they cater to that perceived desire, they create in us that expectation.
The next time you're at the store and the cashier seems impatient or curt with you, maybe he's not the jerk you think he is. He's not paid, after all, to be nice. Luckily, the cashier who served me today said that no matter what, she's not going to stop talking to customers, even if it does make her slower, as it's the main thing that makes her job enjoyable. Little acts of resistance. I love them.