The awkwardness of shouting in stores
Will shopkeepers stop yelling at me when I walk in? As soon as I’ve got through the door, I get a shouted “Hi!” Little is more predictably discomfiting.
You know what I’m talking about: you come in off the street, brush the snow off your jacket, blink under the lights, and immediately you’ve got to identify who is shouting at you and from where. It’s disorienting—like some kind of retail combat exam. I never can tell who’s just shouted at me, because there are a lot of people in this busy room, and I swear they don’t even make eye contact. It’s a mystery game.
Upon receiving the shouted “Welcome!” or “Hi!”, the rules of etiquette of course require a response, which from me is always an embarrassed Er, yes, hello… Usually, this has to be done at some distance, because I’m barely inside. The choices are to ignore the greeting entirely (rude); mutter out a response at normal volume, but potentially not being heard by whichever person has just taken all this trouble to notice and yell at me (also rude); or to indiscriminately shriek out “Hello to you, too!” at everyone in earshot (insane). In fact, what is sold as an act of friendliness is actually hostility: startling the hungry, needy customer with an etiquette dilemma within a second of entry. This isn’t how you put people in a spending mood, and no one who just wants Q-Tips or a burrito should have to face it. Urban life is grim enough.
It’s also transparently fake, saccharine joy. These people aren’t happy to see me, or at least, not that happy. Even if I were inclined to buy their friendliness, my spending any amount of time in the same place quickly reveals my not-uniqueness, as I soon hear the same greeting shouted at customer after customer. How many men did you fake it for before you gave it to me? I never thought I was special; but thank you, now you’ve proved it, every single minute as long as I stay.
Is there another place where shouting at strangers is so predictable and so jarring? Please, everyone stop yelling at me. Let’s save the niceties for if we’re actually being nice.