October 6, 2004

Love at first purchase

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at October 6, 2004 9:36 PM

Salon's hard-hitting journalists tackle one of the pressing problems of modern life: the "customer service crush". You have to watch an ad to read the article, but if you don't, here's a sample of the insights you're missing:

The customer service crush can spring into existence just about anywhere: restaurants, banks, video rental stores, even airplanes. My personal favorite is the over-the-phone computer-help-desk guy. As your hard drive melts down, you're so vulnerable and emotional, and he's so clinical and competent -- how can you not become smitten? The customer service crush is the girl at the dry cleaner's with the French accent, the guy at Kinko's whose dirty, shaggy hair is dirty and shaggy in a good way. These people are extra friendly to us (or maybe alluringly unfriendly), and their place of employment can provide an automatic common interest: You drink coffee? Oh my God, I drink coffee, too! Or, as 29-year-old Rich, a Web content manager living in Boston, puts it about the Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) store employee who struck his fancy, "I think a lot of it was that she could talk about tents with great ease. Had I met her under other circumstances, it might not have prompted me to go back three times and leave a note."

Ok, so it's cute filler. But who among us has not indulged in a service crush at one time or another? Certainly I have not been immune to the charms of the girl who works the counter at that northside cafe, despite the fact that she barely speaks to me or makes eye contact. On the other hand, it's the only way I ever meet women these days (if it can be considered "meeting" (which it can't)), so my options are limited.

Anyway, what surprised me about the article is that it failed to mention the basic statistical asymmetry that makes such crushes truly futile. The closest it comes is with the line, "The customer service crush often goes unrequited," which should be greeted with an earth-shattering "duh". The problem is this: in a typical day, I will interact with maybe five customer service workers. However, each of those workers in the same day interacts with dozens of customers, at least. The reality is that I won't be remembered five seconds after my order is filled. Sure, the staff will notice me if I become a regular customer, but only as far as recalling what I always order. Lunch special #5, on to the next table.

Another implication of these statistics is that any attractive female clerk/waitress gets hit on all the time by dumbass male patrons. Try to get her phone number and you become just one more annoyance she has to endure daily to get her paycheck. And if she is looking to date customers, odds are someone more attractive has already come along.

And so we come to Arcane Gazebo's official position on customer service crushes: They're unavoidable, but nevertheless one should keep one's mouth shut and just enjoy the damn coffee.

(Exception: if the employee is flirting with you, obviously there's no problem. There's a clerk at a Jamba Juice that I frequent who flirts shamelessly with every female customer who comes to the register. Most of the time these girls just want him to take their order, so I guess annoyances work both ways.)

*Yes, I'm one of those people who orders the same thing every time. Boring, I know.)


Hah, but _I_ have had Starbucks groupies who have given me free shots and occasionally even a free drink. Then again, I go there so often that I'm still single-handedly increasing their income pretty substantially. :)

Also, this girl doesn't work there any more.

I _did_, however, recently meet a couple females around my age as a result of the public lecture I organized at GT. (It was by a Cornell prof, and these two are officers in the Cornell Club of Atlanta, which is essentially a networking club for yuppied. Not that I want to meet yuppies, but they seemed nice. One even mentioned how she knew what g was, which is ironic given my penchant for getting rid of as many units as possible...)

Posted by: Mason | October 8, 2004 7:23 PM

you're beautiful. kiss me.

Posted by: susan | October 9, 2004 12:18 AM

Damn, Mason! You've got Starbucks groupies *and* blog groupies!

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | October 9, 2004 2:04 PM

And I haven't even met her... oh wait, people start to hate me when they meet me. Except for that person in the pool hall at Berkeley, whom I met because I accidently poked her twice with my pool cue. (No really, this actually happened. Then my mind froze and I didn't ask for her number. Did I mention that I'm brilliant?)

Blog groupies don't do me any good. They're only words on a page, and I have you for that. :)

Also, I know longer have Starbucks groupies. Alas, the good old days...

By the way, did I ever mention how helpful you are??? At least I introduced you to people at the March Meeting. :)

Posted by: Mason | October 12, 2004 5:31 PM
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