Sincerity expressed before your reach the toothpaste aisle ?

PS_0199_ALWAYS_SINCERE_tRutter: Company reprograms its ‘Welcome to Walgreens’ campaign

Life as a ventriloquist’s dummy must be disheartening. The jokes are never yours. The smile on your face is carved permanently with a chisel. You spend your life in a suitcase.

Plus, your name is “Dummy.”

Walgreens employees say their existence has been like that for three years.

But the million false and manipulative daily greetings ordered by Walgreens commanders are being ditched this week. The siege on human dignity has been lifted momentarily.

Of the company’s 251,000 employees, an estimated 250,483 or so will greet you with a smiling “Welcome to Walgreens” before you reach the toothpaste aisle.
On the first 50 times this happened to me in the same store, I thought nothing of it because I am dense.

Then on the 51st time, I said to myself, “Hey, self. Something is askew.” How could there possibly be this many happy people in one drug store, and why do they like me?

Then I asked one of the smiling welcomers.

“It’s a Walgreens rule,” she said checking around to see if anyone was listening. “We have to say that to every person, or else we get in trouble.“Her unshakable theory, which others in the store confirmed, was that Walgreens infiltrated stores with secret minions to test if workers adhered to the marketing bible. And woe those who failed to achieve a proper number of cheery, smiley-faced welcomes.

“You get moved to another store if you don’t meet the rule,” she whispered to me as if she were giving the fixed result in tomorrow’s sixth race at Arlington.

The object apparently was not necessarily to spy on every worker, just to make the workers think spies were lurking.

Of course, one worker insisted that assistant managers would disappear from the universe without warning or explanation. Or maybe sent to Deerfield’s police-state headquarters for reindoctrination.

In either case, the suggestion inspired many happy robotic faces and millions of “Welcome to Walgreens.”
Deviant employees who shunned the Big Happy World of Walgreens apparently might never be seen again, she insisted. Or maybe they just moved to Florida to live with their kids. Who knew for sure?

She never suspected that I could have been the spy. Good for her sake that I wasn’t.

As grating as the ersatz “Welcome to Walgreens” greetings were, they were never as jolting as the also-required cash register exit admonitions.

That was: “Be well.”

At first, I mumbled something nondenominational. “I’ll try.”

And then I began rehearsing mini-monologues on other topics they didn’t care about either.
“Be well,” they’d say, to which I’d reply: “I’m trying. That’s why I am here. That’s why I have these three prescriptions because I have lousy post-nasal drip and this awful rash.”

The pharmacist tech would end each meeting with, “Do you have any questions for the pharmacist?”

“Yes,” I would say. “Why does humanity have such a hard time achieving world peace? What’s up with that?”

The tech would always give me that “sorry about that dementia” look.

If employees insistently engaged me in salutations they didn’t mean, I could counter with useless philosophical soliloquies.

But it wasn’t their fault. They were merely low-paid pawns in a corporate mind-control experiment. Walgreens does not care if its employees care, only that they can pretend to care.

It was Michael Polzin’s fault.

At least, Walgreens sent him out to explain that happy faces were no longer mandated under the previous penalty of excommunication or worse.

“It’s accomplished its goal of reinforcing our branding,” he told reporters, not meaning the hot-poker version applied to steers. “We’ll continue to build our relationships with customers in other ways.”

Now there’s a replacement plan to feign interest in your life. A company memo says employees should learn customers’ names and thank customers for their purchase. Plus, offer a cheery “Good morning” or “Welcome back, Mr. Smith. What brings you in today?”

To that, I will reply with a cheery, “I’m here for the Plavix or I’ll die. And my name is not Mr. Smith.”

Walgreens might instead have spent millions teaching employees how to really value the humans they encounter every day. Maybe the employees could be rewarded for unprovoked but inspired generosity.

Maybe Walgreens stores actually could be happy places instead of glum gulags. East Germany never thought of that, either.

Really caring about people could be a good thing.

We already know robot cheerfulness cannot advance world peace.

One Response

  1. Well said! I went into a Walgreens Flagship in Phoenix and saw only 2 employees. Two very sad looking employees. It’s pathetic what has become of this once great company. There is nothing sincere about it. Be well, Pessina 🙂

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