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Do you like being asked "how are you" in shops?

by Finy (follow)
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Courtesy of: Wikimedia Commons

Staff nowadays, particularly at the checkout in supermarkets, seem to be taught they must say "how are you" .

Are they really interested in the answer?

Do you ever tell them how you are or just say "fine thanks" as you know they do not really care?

Have you ever answered and told them about an illness?

I like this Question - 38
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Top Answers
I like people saying 'hi' or 'Hello'.
I have never liked 'how are you'.
They don't care...nor should they...and I hate having to say 'Fine thanks'.
I mean really.They just want to do their job.
I believe you shouldn't say anything to others, unless you really have the care factor.It may be a point of being 'polite', but then again so is being sincere.

A nice smile, and 'Hi' is good enough.
I agree, a simple 'good morning/afternoon/evening', and a smile would suffice.
I so agree. I would be so happy if they just said "hi" with a smile. "how are you" definitely brings out the worst in me!
by jillr
After reading all the responses to this question, I found it very interesting that people had responses like the majority seemed to.
I work currently in retail and on the whole, my days at work are bearable, with both customers and staff, being supportive, helpful and mostly, but not always, polite.
I have never been trained to ask customers'how they are?' The place I work, is in an older area, with alot of elderly regulars. Many, have cancer, health concerns or ailing partners. I often see the same people on my shifts, and across a few years, have seen people come and go, as well as their spouses. I know something about many of them and have a point of reference. I have no off pat greeting for people; I may choose to say 'hi' ir 'hello', with a smile, or I may decide at that particular mo.ent, at that particular time - to ask them 'how they are?'. There really is no script nor any demands on us at my place of employment, to do anything other than a knowledge the customer exists! I'm sure, most sales people would prefer to be recognised in return. I work hard, as do my colleagues, and yes, I too shudder when I hear the very young ones ask 'how's your day been?'. However, although being older, it is not my style, and comes across as insincere, I would often hear customers, young and old, proceed to tell a particular sales assistant, exactly how their day had been. In their place, I would be stumped. In my early months in the job, which was a complete 'seachange' of vocation for me, having newly arrived from another part of the country, I dared to ask the wrong woman 'how she was'! She almost accosted me, virtually jumping the counter and threatening me. I was not helped by a manager, and was quite shaken. I didn't feel that I had done anything to elicit such s response. I actually told her, that yes, I did requite a response and that yes, I was interested in her wellbeing, and that was why I had inquired after her. There are many stories to customers, where I work, but equally, we all as humans, have a multiplicity of discourses. It's a sorry thing when we don't feel like we can relate to others, on any level, anymore. That we can't share a 'moment, no matter how insignificant. I swap recipes with customers, ask them how the family is, give hints and advise on products. I do a good job and zI care when I ask. It gets me through my work day and I feel that most people feel a little brighter for that. With depression being such a looming illness for many today, and for some of the elderly, I may be their only conversation for the day - isn't it the least we can do - be civil? I'm sorry, but I think that many of these comments suggest a complete lack of empathy and is a sad outlook on society. If it's come to that, yes, that's why self check-outs were developed, I guess. Perhaps better that some people use them, in preference.
When we see how the rest feel we see a general feeling for how they would like to be spoken too.
Your doing a great job, but we are talking about the much bigger scale, and it's not really I feel that people don't care...it is just that one question ''How are you''.
They don't know me, and there have been times when my son went missing for months, that question was totally dreadful to hear from a stranger....I was in a very bad head space, so for many people they don't want those words spoken, that person saying it wants a ''I'm fine''....I could not even say that,
just know it's not personal ...just some people's lives are ''right then'' hurting, and to say ''Fine'' is just too much.

by jonaja
I hate being asked this. I find it annoying because I don't particularly want to answer to talk to them; I just want to do what I came to do and leave. I also think it is pointless, because it is false politeness. Like you said, the staff a trained/told to ask it. They don't care how you feel. They don't know you, nor do they know the other thousands of customers they have to ask that question to every day. If I had to ask that question at work, I'd feel awkward and false. When asked, I've only ever replied, 'I'm fine thanks', no matter how happy or miserable I'm feeling.
Yes they are TOLD to ask. It must be very difficult to force yourself to ask after some miserable ....ard every couple of minutes. Why is it that the vast majority of customers think that check-out chicks etc. take it upon themselves to ask customers how they are or whatever. Anyone with half a brain would know they are instructed to ask questions of people that they have no interest in whatsoever.
If people don't like being asked, they should take the minute or so required to ask for the manager and complain to him/her.
Don't be taking it out on some kid at the check-out, it shows a lack of ba--s.
Personally, I always make a point, every time I go to the supermarket, to beat the checkout-staff to the punch, I ask them how their day is going before they can even open their mouths.
Man up or Woman up. Speak to the manager !

by fran.
They don't care for your answer, but it's still polite to respond positively. I like it. Sometimes you meet someone quite kind.
I hate it. I know they don't want to know. They know they don't want to know. Why put them through a whole shift of having to ask people that?
by jonaja
Aren't we lucky we don't work in jobs that require or "insist" that we ask these stupid questions of the stakeholders. I personally couldn't do it. I also couldn't cope with the complaints, meant to be managed by the manager, coming via me. I would lose my job very quickly because I would haul the Manager out from hiding out the back, so fast he would think he was the check-out chick.
by fran.
Good Morning , Good Afternoon or Hello are sufficient. Asking a stranger a question is rude and of course they are not listening to the answer. I just want good service and will sincerely thank the assistant if they give same.
How are you is ok as I think its just being polite. And I think the young ones working in the shops are generally young, sometimes inexperienced and just trying to serve as they've been trained. What I dont like is questions like 'on your way home from work then'? or such things. This is more than being polite its kind of patronising or something. And I always wonder what someone who is not going home from work felt if they were asked. Also if I'm at the shop at that hour and dressed as if I've just come from the office I just want to be served swiftly and politely so I can get home. Also don't like the hairdresser chit chat that seems kind of mandatory for that profession. Appreciate a quite polite question of what's needed and would I like a cuppa. That's pretty much it....
I asked this question as I dislike it being asked so much that half the time I do not even answer, and I do not think they even notice.
I agree with most of the comments -it is so false and they couldnt care less so why don't they just teach them to say hello...
by Finy
I don't particularly like it BUT I never blame the sales people, I blame the idiot managers and team leaders that insist their sales staff follow the "rules of behaviour". It is like customers that get stuck into the checkout chicks over quality of produce or price tag errors etc. I am yet to see a customer ask to see The Manager, to make a complaint or to query a price, fault etc. Most customers don't even have the nerve to utter the words but instead, vent their anger at the checkout girls or boys. I don't, I always insist on seeing the Manager, and in cases where the checkout staff tell me they will pass a message on, or that the Manager is busy just at the moment, I pass through the checkout and tell them I will wait until the Manager is free and that they should not bother covering for or protecting their Manager with excuses. Mangers are paid to handle people like me, and they are paid to manage complaints about their products, service, whatever.
by fran.
I'm with jonaj. Don't ask if you don't mean it. I appreciate it when people take a genuine interest, I think it helps to build a sense of community and certainly breaks up the monotony of everyday life. I also appreciate when people are honest - 'having a crap day' or 'could be better' are genuine responses - it reminds me that we're all human and that the people serving and those being served are, at the end of the day, all in the same boat.
by Vee
I also think that having these questions become a part of store policy is ridiculous and utterly contrived. I understand that it's all about customer service, but customers notice insincerity and that's worse than not asking 'How are you?'.
by Vee
I come from a country where shop assistants don't even smile at you. I hated that. I moved to a country where the polite thing to do is to make some conversation with the shop assistant. I hate that too. In my opinion a smile and a "hello" is enough. It's always so difficult for me to find a topic of conversation with somebody I don't know at all.
May I ask where they did not smile, I find that interesting :)
by jonaja
I come from a country where shop assistants don't even smile at you. I hated that. I moved to a country where the polite thing to do is to make some conversation with the shop assistant. I hate that too. In my opinion a smile and a "hello" is enough. It's always so difficult for me to find a topic of conversation with somebody I don't know at all.
I think it's just a nice way for people in retail to acknowledge you. Whether they mean it or not, I don't mind being asked.
I agree with you! But I do notice now sales assistants will often say,hello how's your day been so far. If I go into a shop ,I like to be at least recognised an have them say. If there is anything I can help you with just let me know. I like to browse on my own. But if I'm ignored I just walk out!!!
by kayea
I once answered " Just dreadful" out of curiosity and the girl replied "That's nice." and kept scanning. The WORST comment is "So what have you been doing today?" It brings out the worst in me. I want to say "Slapping stupid salespeople" or "Robbing stores." or perhaps "Spreading disease."
Lynne, that is so funny -that is exactly how I feel hence I asked the question -and to think you answered negatively and she didnt even notice -that tells it all!
by Finy
The salesperson (not the STUPID salesperson) was probably being quite genuine in your case. She was probably thinking to herself "that's nice - couldn't think of a better way for an ----hole like you to have spent your day".
by fran.
Are you by any chance a salesperson Fran?
by lynne
Could we refrain from name-calling on Answer Angels please? Keep it civil.

'What have I been doing today?'......I've an answer that could floor 'em, but not printable here, if I was in the right mood!

Also giving a really stupid answer like 'I've just done a parachute jump', 'I just arrived on a non-stop flight from Los Angeles' or 'Rock Climbing'.........you get my drift!

Actual best answer I had at beginning of a week was to ' did you do anything exciting on the weekend?'........answer 'yep, went to Mexico City'!
True talk. Had to escort two little children there to meet up with their parents' who lived in St Croix, Virgin Islands.
by donjo
I like it, you don't have to tell them all your troubles and woes, it's not their job, you can tell your problems to people better qualified to answer.
I think it is probably just as tough on them as I am sure there are people who take the opportunity to vent their spleen when they are asked this question.
To be honest I would much prefer the scripted "how are you" to the shop attendant who takes flight when they see a customer who looks like they might be heading in their direction!
I prefer "hello" or "hi" (or similar.) In the past I have said "hello how are you?"to sales people and have received a detailed descriptions of their woes, family issues/cancer concerns. I did not think it was appropriate, but at same time felt sorry for them because they must have been feeling so alone to blurt out such things to a compete stranger. I have to admit I did feel uncomfortable and didn't know quite what to say.
I worked for a boss in a small camping store once that insisted we approach the person browsing and ask "can I help you?" I hated hated doing that because I hate it myself when I am approached and harassed. It was a store in a busy touristy strip and people used to pop in to have a look with no intention of buying camping goods. I am of the belief if someone wants help they will ask.

Well I rather that than a grumpy or rude person, a short polite hi or hello is good enough and all people really expect. No in depth conversation is required. I ask back, how's your day… it doesn't hurt me…
I'm not fussed one way or another. In most cases it is an insincere inane question. One day I am going to give it to them with both barrels and they will be sorry they asked. I must admit doing this to a telephone charity salesperson.
Spoken like someone who hasn't worked in telephone sales or a shop with annoying policies that they obliged to stick to or get fired. We're all just trying to make a crust.
I don't believe charities or politicians or survey folk should be exempt from the "do not call" register. They ring at the most inopportune times.
by grann
Some of the retail stores I have worked in required staff to ask that. It's just a pleasantry, and I don't get angry when strangers say it in any other context so I have no problem with it in sales. My favourite store to work in just required that we acknowlege every customer, which could be as simple as a smile and a hello, to let them know you know they're there in case they need you, or in case they're thinking of shoplifting.

When dealing with customer service people as a customer you should always remember that the person you're talking to probably has no control over the establishment's policies. They're just doing their job. If you want to complain you should take it to management, and even then be polite. Remember you are talking to a fellow human being, who also has good days and bad days and is probably doing the best they can.
Even though I don't think they care about your answers but I think it is nice that greeted the customer in some ways.

It wouldn't be nice if you face the cashiers and they just totally ignored you.
I think the cashier also expect a half-hearty response from customers who don't really care.

I tried to respond with 'Good. Thank you!' And a big smile. You will never know you might brighten their day too. A lot of cashiers I know work very hard, some start really early; some do 2-3 jobs. I think they would like some appreciative response too.

If you really don't feel like answering, the self-check outs are great way to avoid it all together.
I think it is polite. I always respond politely. If they wish to "help" me, then I politely say that when I need assistance, I will be sure to ask them. I like the customer service etiquettes here in Australia.
I don't think they are interested in the answer, it's just to make it friendly. My mother made a rule for us not to ask her how she was because she was never well and didn't want us to know it....
It really annoys me too. A friendly smile and cheerful hello would do me fine. Feel sorry for staff who are trained to go through this facade of caring. Management need to take a look at how most people respond. I deliberately avoid going to a particular check out because the operator just won't stop talking! all I want to do at the supermarket is get in, get my groceries and get out as fast as I can. I'll never be rude, but I don't want to have a conversation at the checkout, especially when it's exactly the same conversation that I've just heard the precious customer have!
WOW! People need to lighten up! What's wrong with someone simply saying hello at a checkout? I have worked in and out of retail for years and l mean hi when l say it. I have met the most funniest, charming, and grumpiest people over the years and thank god most of them have been more then happy to for a simple hi from a stranger. Sales people can't win. You can't say hi because you think we don't mean it and you hate it when your ignored? People complain that they are not being served and people complain when they are over served, which one will make everyone happy? If you don't like people interaction than buy online don't come out to the shops! Being over 40 myself l have found most younger people at checkouts need to lighten up more and interact with people. They are so used to talking online or on thier ipod, ipad and the like and not to real people! You can never make everyone happy, but when a shopkeeper says hi there is no need to be nasty that person is someones daughter, auntie, mother, sister etc who is only out to make a living like everyone else! and are not out to get you. It won't kill you to say Hi!! LIGHTEN UP PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!
I hate it , I do not answer , and just look blank, they of course think poor old thing she is deaf.
I have noticed that check out staff these days are friendlier than in times gone by. This may be part of their training. I LIKE it. When staff ask how you are I really see it as a variation on 'Good morning' or 'Good afternoon'. It's another form of greeting rather than a request to report on your physical or emotional state. I have actually found sometimes when I have been feeling a bit 'off' and I have automatically responded with 'Fine thanks' rather than having a grumble about not feeling the best, I actually start to feel better. Perhaps it is a case of 'fake it until you make it'. Sometimes the person at the check out will chat a bit and I like this.
I absolutely HATE it and go to the self service machines to avoid being asked "how are you" countless times as I shop. I have been in sales an only ever asked that question of people I knew where it meant something. I would much prefer it if sales assistants said Hi or Hello. The other day in the checkout line I was asked how are you, and I gave my usual answer of "hi". She said "that's good". I am so over it - I must admit that until I read the other responses, I didn't realise that the staff might be instructed to say it to every customer.
I think it's polite if they do, it's better than total silence
I do like some sort of friendly acknowledgement and 'how are you' is fine. I've never answered more than 'fine, thanks'.
No, they're not
'Fine, thanks'. They're only asking because their training tells them they have to! It's called 'trying to establish a rapport with the customer', so hopefully the customer will remember & (a) come back to that shop & (b) by doing so, will spend more money!

They REALLY don't want an involved story from the customer as that will stuff-up their KPI's!

Basically I find it grossly annoying, & so too, the stupid 'have a good day' being said at 8pm! Robotic non-thinkers! That should NOT be said after 12noon!
I only like being asked how are you if I've already formed a bit of a bond with the cashier and we have actual conversations about life and their children if they have them, if I've not met them I know they don't care and that makes me uncomfortable.
Yes. I believe it's good old fashioned customer service. Sometimes it can be the worst question to ask someone - especially a lonely or vulnerable person - but I think it's great customer service, and a real smile says a thousand words.
If they are giving good service I never mind answering to them.
I find that I am more commonly asked how my day has been so far. I am happy to give either a conversational or a polite answer to this question depending on how the assistant seems , or how I feel. I am genuinely interested in their response when I ask them in return and find that I learn some really interesting things about people that I encounter. I am someone who keeps to themselves but I am epathetic and caring. They are not robots. It must be hard to remain polite and friendly when you are met with angry and disgruntled people. If I am not in the mood to chat I keep my answers brief but polite- most people can read the signs.
I'd prefer they didn't but it's much better than asking what I've been up to that day or what I've got planned for the weekend!

I couldn't be bothered discussing this with a stranger in a shop.
If it's a small shop where I go regularly I *might* feel like chatting. Otherwise I simply prefer "hello" to "how are you?" which we know is often just code for "I want to butter you up to increase my sales."
"How are you" isn't as bad as asking what you've been doing or are going to do that day. I can't always be bothered telling them the true answer.
Would rather that then a grunt.
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