GREETER

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke.

Some people might consider me a bit snobby but I just like high quality stuff. Therefore, I have never been a huge fan of those “big box” stores. Apart from driving the local hardware stores and clothing boutiques out of business, a lot of their stuff is kind of cheap crap. The clothes, for example, are not just inexpensive but cheap; they are of low quality and often just look stupid. The baseball hats and t-shirts and shorts have these gaudy designs and atrocious labels that are part of the clothing like Ecko or whatever that is. There is a certain redneck, white trash homeboy look that is cultivated at places like Target and Wal-Mart that can be seen throughout suburban America. Not a great thing for The U. S. of A. Those stores also sell a lot of country music.
However, sometimes those places are good for cheap DVDs and they sell groceries. If you don’t mind standing in a checkout line with a fair number of methamphetamine addicts then you can get some decent bargains. School supplies, envelops, filler paper, note books; these are pretty good to get at the local Wal-Mart. So, if I can go at a time when it’s not so crowded I don’t mind mixing with the local yokels.
I’m not sure what this was in response to, but Wal-Mart has greeters at the entrances to the stores. Obviously, it is to create a friendly atmosphere and having a welcoming presence at the door is a way to foster this environment. Usually, it is a person who appears to be of retirement age, in his/her golden years so to speak. I’ve seen some that are jollier than others but overall the effect is a good one.
But we all know it only takes one bad apple to ruin the batch. Unfortunately, this one turned up at my local Wal-Mart. First of all, his name tag says, “Duster”. I mean, come on. That is not any kind of professional name. The guy’s not a lawyer or doctor or anything but still, he is being paid. He is an older guy, probably around 75, so some allowances can be made. But all of that is not really the problem.
The problem is this fucking guy’s attitude.
On a Monday, I walked in and he’s sitting on these boxes of air conditioners. He gave me a kind of half smile and a bit of a wave. Now, there are all kinds of greetings, and I guess that might technically qualify, but it really wasn’t enthusiastic to any great degree. Pretty half-hearted actually. But, I figured it was late in the afternoon so he might have been tired. I understand; I’m not a monster.
On Wednesday, I had to go back and buy some undies and there is the same guy, Duster. Same position, sitting on the boxes, same bullshit attitude. He just looks like he doesn’t want to be there and if he doesn’t fine, then go the fuck home and let’s get someone in there who can muster the energy to say “Good Morning! Welcome to Wal-Mart!” Is that so hard? I remind everyone, the guy is getting paid.
I walked by and tried to make direct eye contact. He kind of looked my way and gives me the old chin up thing, the up nod. Now I am pissed. He’s not even going to say anything? Not even going to raise a hand in a wave? What is this guy doing there? Nothing. That’s what he is doing, nothing.
I don’t like to complain. I don’t like to be that guy. But sometimes, when an injustice is being perpetrated, you gotta be that guy. I didn’t want to approach the guy on my own; that would have been unprofessional and may have turned this situation into a personal matter. This was not about me; it was about someone doing his job and making Wal-Mart shoppers feel welcome. And that wasn’t happening. So, as usual, righting a wrong becomes Matty Kerr’s job.
I found a manager. Typical: Short sleeve white button up with a name tag, front bum and moobs. But he seemed half way competent. I told him, look, you got a guy out front who is supposed to be a greeter and he is doing no greeting. And this is the second time I have come in here and this has happened. He sits there like a bump on a log and doesn’t even begin to acknowledge my presence.
Kevin, the manager, says, “Oh, Dustin, up at the front.”
“Yes”, I say. “But his name tag says Duster, whatever that is supposed to mean.”
“That is his nickname. They called him that in the military, his Marine Corps unit. So, he likes it.” Kevin tells me. What all this has to do with the situation at hand is utterly beyond me.
“Well, that’s great.” I tell him. “But, he is getting paid to be a greeter and he is just sitting there, doing nothing.”
“See, he has a lot of health problems and it’s hard for him to stand for periods of time. The job just gives him a sense of purpose and a little money for him.”
Kevin was telling me all of this in a very sympathetic tone. Again, I am not a monster. I understand the situation. I support our troops. I have one of those little yellow stickers on the Le Sabre. But, I had a point to make.
“Okay, you say the job is to give him a sense of purpose.”
“Sure.” Kevin nods.
“Well, if the purpose of his job is to be a greeter, and he is not greeting anyone, then what is the point? The position is not serving anyone, not even Duster.” I thought this was a pretty good point.
I’m not sure Kevin did. He kind of sighed, as if all of this was a waste of his time.
So I added, “Do you see what I mean?”
“Yes sir, I do. It’s just that he’s an old guy and this is just something for him to do. I just don’t think it’s really worth making a big deal over.” He told me.
“Well, I don’t think I am making a “big deal” over it.” (I normally eschew the use of air quotes but I think Kevin benefitted from them in this situation.) “I think it’s a legitimate point.”
There was some silence. Finally, Kevin said, “What would who like me to do about this, sir?”
“Well, I think letting the man know that he is not doing his job very well and that he is creating some disgruntlement among the customers would be helpful. And an apology would be appropriate.” I mean, that sounded reasonable to me. I was trying to help Duster too.
“So you would like an apology?” Judging from the expression on his face, Kevin seemed rather taken aback by the idea. And not very enthusiastic.
I said, “I don’t think it’s a bad idea.”
Kevin seemed like he was about to say something but he stopped. He kind of put his head down and then said, “Fine.”
So we walked over to old Duster’s post. He was sitting there, not doing much. What a shock.
“Hey Duster,” Kevin looked really uncomfortable, like he was just looking at his shoes and stuff. I mean, if he wants to be a manager he needs to man up. Sometimes, you need to take people to task if they are not doing the job. It’s just business. “So, ah, this customer said you didn’t really greet him when he came in.”
“I didn’t?” he asked. “I’m sorry, it’s just that my knee is really hurting from that surgery and it makes it a little hard to focus. Plus the heat, I really don’t do well in this weather.”
Okay, so I know he’s an old guy and all and I am not without sympathy. I was starting to feel a little bad about this whole thing but, on the other hand, if you see something, say something right?
“I totally understand, Duster, and we all want you to be comfortable. You are doing a great job and everyone really likes you a lot. We love having you here and all our regulars just adore you.” Kevin was practically gushing.
Now, at this point, I felt that maybe this little speech was for my benefit. It certainly seemed to be directed at me. Moreover, the point was being lost. Duster, for whatever reasons, was not doing his job. Maybe he had had a knee replacement, maybe the heat was getting to him, maybe his blood sugar was down. The bottom line is, however, the job.
“Okay,“ I said, “I know everyone reveres Duster here. The point is that you do have a position for a greeter and Duster is the greeter and I was not greeted.”
“I’m sorry, sir.” Duster said. “Like I said, I just have these health problems and it just makes it kinda difficult to focus sometimes but I hear what you’re saying.
There were some beats of silence. I thought maybe he was going to add something.
“Okay then,” Kevin said, rather abruptly. “I think that has been resolved.”
I was going to say something else but I had to get going so I just said okay and thank you to Duster. I don’t know what I was thanking him for; he hadn’t even gotten up during the entire exchange so I’m not sure he even grasped the point I was trying to make. But you know what? I didn’t bring it up. I’m bigger than that.