How Come “Happy” Can Drive You Crazy?
“Welcome to our restaurant. I’m so happy that you have come here today, As your server, I am happy to tell you that our super deluxe reheated special is available for only half price during our fabulous happy hour – but only to customers who recite our restaurant’s super-duper happy slogan with a big smile on their face. Are you ready?”
For the vomit bag, yes. Anything that happy saccharin is repelling. So fake smiles and happy store patter leave me groaning. When it conceals contempt, this kind of happy-you-are-about-to-buy-our-limited-offer-and-boost-my-commission pitch is nauseating.
Unfortunately, come Christmas time, this kind of commercial schlock hits its zenith.
“Would you like this wrapped in special happy Christmas New Year wrapping? Or would you prefer our standard Christmas New Year wrapping?”
“What’s the difference?”
“Well, our special wrapping comes with our special happy season’s wishes from all of us here at Norciah Giftwares.”
“Okay, I guess I better go for the happy Christmas New Year wrapping then.”
“Certainly. It’s $9.95, but if you spend over a hundred dollars there’s no charge.”
The salesgirl offers a fake happy smile that, scarily, appears more like a sneer.
“Okay. So how much is your standard Christmas New Year wrapping?”
“Oh it’s free.”
“So let me get this straight. The wrapping service offers exactly the same wrapping but one is free and the other costs ten dollars unless I buy more. Is that right?”
“Sir, the difference is our special happy Christmas New Year wrapping is a limited offer that comes with Norciah Giftware’s warmest happy Christmas and New Year wishes. It’s worth the money.”
Tapping into our sentimentality and desire to do it right, some companies work hard to massage us into thinking that our happy feelings are their only reason for existence. But that’s silly. Their goal is to provide their products and services to make a profit. Sure, if they have happy customers that’s good. But as their backroom charts aren’t measuring smiles, profit is their priority.
Big scale operators have to crunch a lot of numbers so they’re more likely to be humming “Dashing For the Cash” because of the pressure they are under to get enough turnover. When they do show care, it’s because they have individual staff who connect with customers. They are the ones who make all the difference.
Like many small business owners, such staff are driven by more than a profit motive, and it shows. There’s no schmaltzy happy holidays con. No tacky “We’ll love you in the morning, but only if you buy the top of the line special.” Only genuinely warm wishes.
Being treated as a person with dignity demands understanding. At Christmas time genuine kindness, or the lack of it, comes into sharp focus. To care whether someone else is happy is a personal response that is neither selfish or obligatory. You can spot that kind of false care fakery a mile away, can’t you?
So what’s to be done? As you saddle up to struggle through the season crowds, just remember this: everyone trying to make you “happy” for an ulterior motive doesn’t really understand what being happy is. So, seeing as this is the season for giving, let’s show them how it’s done.
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