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May I Help You (While I Get Nosy)?

I am generally pretty friendly with clients in email, but I don’t ask personal questions or engage clients in personal discussions unless they initiate it first. Even then, that usually only happens after I’ve worked with a client for some time.

I think that most of engage in our workspaces in similar fashion. You might become best friends with someone in the office, but it’s likely you don’t get in their business from the first day they show up at work. It’s also unlikely that you talk with customers or vendors on the phone and immediately launch into a personal discussion with them.

Why, then, do store clerks believe this is OK? It seems that this is something that’s becoming more common and I, for one, am completely annoyed.

The most recent and flagrant example was at the grocery store. The clerk not only asked me if I found what I was looking for (a completely acceptable question) but also asked me what I was doing that day. When I answered somewhat vaguely (in the hopes she would get a clue that it’s really none of her business if I’m cleaning the garage or heading to a concert), she poked more. Here’s about how it went:

She: So, what’s going on today?
Me: Oh, you know, the usual.
She: And what’s that?
Me: I’m working, running errands.
She: What else are you doing?
Me: That’s about it.
She: Really? Wow.
Me: What do you mean by wow?
She: Just seems like a dead day, working and running errands. What kind of work do you do? Do you work an odd shift since you’re out running errands in the middle of the day?

At that moment, I shut down. Why the hell is this any of her business? I should add that this is not a small neighborhood grocery store where clerks might be accustomed to having personal discussions with their regular customers. This is a large grocery store in a relatively metro area. I don’t know her, she doesn’t know me and that’s that.

I find that grocery store clerks are the worst, but I’ve had clerks at CVS also get into my business and sometimes, that’s just not comfortable. When you think about the various things you might need to pick up at the drug store, you can see how someone asking you why you need this or that might not be a welcome question.

There’s one particularly nosy clerk at my neighborhood CVS. When I had to get my son some Ben-Gay for an injury he suffered in a basketball game, the clerk asked who needed the Ben Gay, then launched into a long and drawn-out discussion about how my son was too young to need it, he was going to smell like an old man (likely insulting the old man behind us in line) and then asking for specific details about what happened.

Call me anti-social, but I don’t see how these discussions are appropriate. I am thinking of coming up with rude or inappropriate responses (“No, I didn’t find everything I need to make my crack” or “I need the ibuprofen and chocolate because I’m PMSing”) but I know I won’t follow through. Unless I get REALLY annoyed 

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