Re: Bits vs. Brains

1

why are we pleased when salespeople at high-end stores (or the local coffee shop) remember our preferences and greet us by name but creeped out by the loss of privacy when computers do the same?

Databases, man. Databases.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 10:50 AM
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It's definitely the aggregation. I do think there is something to the idea of accountability, but not in the terms used; it is not that you want people to be accountable, it is the idea that somebody knows something about you and you have no idea who it is. It produces an asymmetry with the nameless, faceless horde that is disorienting and anxiety-producing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 10:58 AM
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I would also take issue with the assumption that one is necessarily pleased when a salesperson recognizes us or remembers our preferences. Counterexamples: Baptist in a liquor store, yuppie in a sex shop.

A non-negligible component of internet commerce (and browsing) is closer to these examples than to a Starbucks transaction.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:06 AM
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I wouldn't really care that some internet "merchant" remembered my personal preferences if I trusted them not to do anything untoward with them. And I would certainly care if my local salesperson remembered some personal details of mine and then sold them them to other people who used them to send me unsolicited mailings, for example.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:14 AM
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"... why are we pleased when salespeople at high-end stores (or the local coffee shop) remember our preferences and greet us by name but creeped out by the loss of privacy when computers do the same? ..."

If this is the typical reaction why do places like netflix program their computers to do this? It doesn't bother me any.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:15 AM
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It may be that people simply interact differently with machines than with other people, due to more general factors than the ones obtaining specifically to collection of biographical data.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:16 AM
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but really: who IS pleased 'when salespeople at high-end stores (or the local coffee shop) remember our preferences and greet us by name'?


Posted by: ge.ty.si | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:17 AM
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but really: who IS pleased 'when salespeople at high-end stores (or the local coffee shop) remember our preferences and greet us by name'?


Posted by: ge.ty.si | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:17 AM
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Agree with #1, but also #7. Unless there are other factors at work, being greeted by name at a store creeps me out.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:19 AM
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Huh, I like when someone remembers me at a store and I'm not bothered by the computer thing, if you mean things like Amazon remembering me and making recommendations.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:21 AM
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If this is the typical reaction why do places like netflix program their computers to do this? It doesn't bother me any.

I have heard (though I can't cite a source) that about 20% of people love having their personal preferences logged online, 60% are indifferent, and 20% hate it. The fact that it is profitable and 80% of the public is at worst indifferent to it results in it being pretty universal.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:21 AM
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who IS pleased 'when salespeople at high-end stores (or the local coffee shop) remember our preferences and greet us by name'?

Me.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:21 AM
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I don't mind being an entry in a database. I do mind actual people knowing my business on a conscious level. I want to complete my transaction with as little extraneous interpersonal interaction as possible.


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:26 AM
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It produces an asymmetry with the nameless, faceless horde that is disorienting and anxiety-producing.

Right. On the veldt it was many pairs of eyes glowing.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:26 AM
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Amber, you're that chick from that blog about the handbags, right?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:26 AM
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Computers generally do not greet me by name unless I've logged in to a particular system/account. I'd be pretty creeped out if they did.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:28 AM
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Greet me without my logging in, that is.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:28 AM
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7 and similar sentiments, see previous "coffee guy" discussions on this very blog. They're pleasant to have. In fact, having lost my coffee guy (along with my dignity) when I switched from being a student to purportedly working, if anyone has a recommendation for someone I can cultivate as a coffee guy (that is, a good coffee place which if I go to repeatedly I'll end up with someone knowing preferences) within a fairly tight radius from W. 55th St. in Manhattan, I'm interested.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:29 AM
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ogged, you're not a real person.


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:31 AM
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Fair enough.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:32 AM
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Part of what's unsettling about the coffee guy example is being reminded of your constant audience. Intentionally sharing through blogging feels different from having one's actions picked up incidentally in contexts you view as minimally performative. Also: physically-present guys pointing out that they know personal information about women feels threatening.


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:39 AM
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10, 12, et al: fair enough. and at a coffee shop, i agree, this can make the experience a little more personal, the transaction smoother and less alienating-ly 'late capital.' but, also, i suppose it would depend on what one means by talking about a high end store.

still, i'm less put off by the lack of 'privacy' (which one might be more inclined to forfeit off-line), by the way in which the 'friendliness' can seem like a corporate mandate, or some other simulation of kindness and society.


Posted by: ge.ty.si | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:42 AM
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I sort of get creeped out at the coffee shop too.

I come in and the girl behind the counter says "Double iced americano, right?" I'm thinking "Am I that predictable? Someone who I've never conversed with and who doesn't know my name has been analyzing my habits?"


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:48 AM
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Part of the Unheimlichkeit is related to the notion of privacy as control over the public identity we construct for ourselves.

It's one thing for the barista to remember that I like room in my coffee; quite another for him to notice that there's no tan line under my wedding band when I return from a week at the beach.

Similarly, the on-line store notices things that a human salesperson would not, or at least could not do comprehensively: how long we looked at an item, which photos appealed to us, what items we bought at other stores, etc. We construct our identity as much by what we conceal as by what we reveal, and it can be difficult to conceal anything from the Argus-eyed database aggregator.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:49 AM
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I like that the women at the espresso stand know my name, know what I drink, know my dog's name, etc. Presumably I'd feel differently if they were men and I were a younger woman, though I've never seen men working at any such place.

21 reads like a caricature of Goffmanian anxiety.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:51 AM
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though I've never seen men working at any such place.

Have you been living as the lone male among the Amazons and failed to mention it?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:55 AM
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Someone who I've never conversed with and who doesn't know my name has been analyzing my habits?

Just that habit. It's the only thing they know -- and need to know -- about you. Because we like to think of ourselves as well-rounded, interesting people, we typically forget that most of our interactions with others are extremely circumscribed in their scope and highly scripted. And beyond that, we also tend to forget the huge differences in the frequency of exchange between the participants: you get your morning coffee once a day, but the woman behind the counter gives hundreds of people their morning coffee daily.

In the specific case of women behind the counter in coffee shops, forgetting these two facts can lead to embarrassing mistakes with respect to how much the woman who makes your coffee knows or cares about you in particular.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:55 AM
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I love it when computers know who I am and remember my preferences. (Sometimes I'm annoyed, but then I just delete that cookie and I'm a stranger again.)

I'm creeped out when salespeople remember my preferences and greet me by name. It's a fairly sure way of making sure I never go back to that place.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:57 AM
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29

When salespeople take my cookies, I tend not to return to their stores.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:58 AM
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This all sounds a little odd. Maybe I'm self-consciously avoiding the situation, but I don't think I'd be recognized as a "regular" anywhere, and the one place where I was, the eclectic collection was the point of the place, so there wasn't any predicting of what I might want. Online stores aren't going to have anything more useful to remember about me than my shipping address.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 12:02 PM
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I would be happy with the internet remembering me if it followed that up by pouring me a beer or serving me pho. Otherwise, I am fairly ambivalent.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 12:03 PM
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29 - If only salepeople had cookies that could be deleted.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 12:07 PM
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In the specific case of women behind the counter in coffee shops, forgetting these two facts can lead to embarrassing mistakes with respect to how much the woman who makes your coffee knows or cares about you in particular.

When she walked over to give me a free cookie, I was flattered and thought she liked me. Now this thread reveals that she just wanted to track me for marketing niche research.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 12:12 PM
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It's a fairly sure way of making sure I never go back to that place.

Jesurgislac! great to see you. You always look so good in black.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 12:13 PM
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When salespeople take my cookies, I tend not to return to their stores.

29 - If only salepeople had cookies that could be deleted.

"Every time I fuck your wife, she gives me a biscuit."


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 12:17 PM
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How do these salespeople learn your names?

You do pay in cash, don't you?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 12:18 PM
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They're not closely comparable cases.

When your personal information is stored in a salesperson's brain, it's stored conditionally in a non-specialized storage device that's colocalized with whatever motives for harm might make its storage dangerous. In other words, the salesperson will remember which underwear you think makes your ass look sexy as long as he thinks he can sell you more, or can win your love by stalking you, or whatever else might motivate him to remember it. You move to another city and don't see him for a while, and you have no reason to fear this information's being out there.

When your personal information is stored in a computer database, it's stored in a device that's specialized for long-term storage, duplication, and wide accessibility. So once it's in there, any number of people with any number of motivations may be able to access it into an indefinite future. In other words, 100 years after you're dead, historians will still be able to make jokes about how you thought tiger-striped boxer-briefs made your ass look sexy.


Posted by: iancgdi | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 12:18 PM
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38

it's because we know the computer has been designed, told, programmed explicitly to do this - once we know it can, we would only be surprised if it failed to do this. it's a machine designed to mimic a simple human behavior, but the result ends up being condescending.

"THANK YOU, %CUSTOMERNAME%, FOR YOUR PURCHASE OF %PRODUCTNAME%. YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE %UPSELLNAME%! THANKS FOR SHOPPING %STORENAME%"

Great. thanks. enjoy my data, fucker.

on the other hand. people can remember you, but usually don't. when someone does remember us, it's because we've somehow managed to get inside that person's head just enough to make an impression - and in a no-pressure sales situation, we take that as flattery. "i must be a special customer, he remembers me!" and we know no matter how much he likes us, he can't remember every detail of everything we've purchased.


Posted by: cleek | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 12:34 PM
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39

I think 38 captures it exactly. Humans recognizing us (can) create a pleasant illusion of human interaction. "Hi, JRoth" in the Amazon ad in the sidebar of LGM doesn't make me think, "Oh, how nice, Amazon remembers me!"

I might add that, personally, I'm more of an anonymous-interaction kind of guy, but as I've lived 7 years in this pedestrian-oriented place, doing 90% of my shopping in no more than a dozen stores (mostly local), I've come to like being recognized (albeit never greeted by name). And the cute, competent manager at Kinko's gets straight to my order, so there's a real-life benefit.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 12:44 PM
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Question: would Funes the Memorious be a good salesman, or a bad one? I assume bad.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 12:44 PM
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As someone in a business that relies heavily on personal interactions, I'm actually terrible at names, which is a noticeable drawback in marketing. I'm always impressed, professionally, by those who have a natural talent for it (or who have cultivated their talent to the point where it appears natural).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 12:46 PM
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...perhaps I'm weird, but I hate being remembered by salespeople (in all the luxury boutiques I frequent, naturally). They remember me because they have to grovel to customers who like to spend a lot of money. They almost certainly make even less than I do, and I can't even tip them. (Or I could, but it would be weird.)

There's a shoe place from which I purchase my peculiarly-expensive-compared-to-everything-else-I-own shoes, and they've messed up a couple of orders recently. Nothing serious--I mean, I got the shoes. But listening to the store manager fall all over herself to convey how sorry they are that a deeply valued customer like me got her shoes a day late...well, it makes me want to manufacture my own shoes out of tires. (Ouch!)

Also, being grovelled at reminds me of all the grovelling I have to do as a secretary, and it makes me feel guilty for shopping enough that someone recognizes me. Perhaps this is why I spend so much money in the couple of second hand bookshops where the help is so damn surly--they'd probably gnaw off their own lips before they'd grovel to me.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 12:52 PM
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42: Ah. Groveling. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any salespeople who are so much as obsequious towards me. Like the produce market in the Strip - it's not about the checkout woman (girl? indeterminate - she's part of the family that owns it) sucking up to me. She recognizes me as someone who's in at least once a week, who's polite and friendly, and at whom she can roll her eyes at another customer, or scold me for returning for a forgotten item.

I feel much more dubious about it at the big, local grocery store - I'm one of a million customers, she's one of a hundred clerks. If she remembers me - and she likely doesn't - it's only an upgraded version of the corporate-enforced greetings she's obliged to give.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 1:03 PM
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40: I suspect people would be freaked out by how he counted out their change.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 1:13 PM
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I suspect people would be freaked out by how he counted out their change.

Cliche stoner/anarchist-type clerk at Whole Foods: "$15.82! That's, like, my favorite total! Awesome."

Weird, harder to pigeonhole clerk at Whole Foods: "OK! That's a 25-50-75 and 8 to make a dollar! And 8-9-10 to make 10! There's your change! Have a great day!" I cannot express his weird, enthusiastic flair for change-making. It was like he got the job in order to be able to make change for people all day long.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 1:20 PM
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It was like he got the job in order to be able to make change for people all day long.

OCD?


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 1:24 PM
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One of the best ways to short-change someone is to count out 1-2-3-4 dollars, with eye contact, while handing them three. Busy people who don't fiddle with their money are the best targets.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 1:25 PM
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OCD?

No - personable as hell, and flamboyant in his change-counting, not obsessive. It was the change-counting equivalent of a clerk sky-hooking a bag of coffee beans into your cart as you rolled by.

Hmm. I haven't seen him but once - I wonder if he was too weird to last.

with eye contact

Well, see, there's your first mistake.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 1:32 PM
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43: The thing is, it's the power-and-money asymmetry that bothers me. I'm a professional groveller (that's half of what secretaries do, make people feel cared-for and important) and although in my current position I like the people I work for, in most I have not. My warmth and smiles were a put-on (and a good put-on; I was always complimented on it) based on fear that I'd lose my job for being insufficiently perky.

And there's the fact that all these low-status jobs (except the surly-bookstore-clerk ones) have a hidden affective-labor requirement. It's not articulated; you're supposed to be pleasant, of course, but they don't say that you actually have to project feelings, get all emotionally tangled up with stuff. There's a kind of exhaustion and frustration that comes from spending the whole day being...well, it's not insincerity, but it's kind of synthetic...being synthetically emotionally engaged with total strangers. Especially the fancy ones--if you encountered them in their professional roles, they wouldn't feel obliged to be all emotional with you, and in fact might well condescend to you.

I also hate the logic of "I grovel while I'm on the clock to earn my wages, then when I'm off the clock I pay someone else to pretend to care how my week is going".

What is the solution? Clearly individualist anarchism, where we live alone on our tiny homesteads, making our shoes out of honest dirt.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 1:33 PM
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Weird, harder to pigeonhole clerk at Whole Foods

Counting up to the sum paid is the correct way to make change, not the "weird" way!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 1:35 PM
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49: I dunno, when I worked in retail, the few customers who came in often enough and were friendly enough to make an impression I would be genuinely pleased to see. The crappiness of the job does not refute the simple pleasure of human interaction.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 1:39 PM
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change


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 1:40 PM
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but really: who IS pleased 'when salespeople at high-end stores (or the local coffee shop) remember our preferences and greet us by name'?

My inlaws. Which is why I detest going out for dinner with them. But I have just successfully evaded doing so tomorrow night - yay!


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 1:40 PM
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I'm surprised no one has mentioned accuracy - computers are notoriously bad at accurately matching what I buy/look at to what I might want; a good clerk (like the one in Julian's anecdote) does well precisely because the recommendation is spot-on, which leads to sense of there being a real relationship.

I have - and do - feed data into computer systems if I have a reasonable expectation of it being able to offer me useful information in return. However, Amazon can't distinguish between a gift bought for a friend who's having a baby shower, a book bought for myself to read on vacation, and a book bought out of professional interest. A competent salesclerk of the type we're discussing would know, remember, and apply that kind of information.


Posted by: parodie | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 1:51 PM
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Counting up to the sum paid is the correct way to make change, not the "weird" way!

No, no, note the exclamation marks. Note the additional language. It wasn't the form, so much as the energy (although the form was distinctive, perhaps just in his language).

As I said, I can't convey it well - it's been a few weeks, so I've forgotten his specific language, plus it's hard to express his enthusiasm in writing.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 1:55 PM
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have just successfully evaded doing so tomorrow night
asilon is a time-traveler.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 2:05 PM
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My sense of retail interactions has changed since my brother opened a retail business (Ice Cream store).

I used be someone who preferred retail transactions to be low interaction by default -- I don't want to have some random person interjecting themself into my day (what's the Paul Fussel quote, "What I hate about contemporary life is a deep unimaginative contempt for human beings disguised as friendly concern. . . . ).

Listening to my brother talk about running a business has made me much more likely to talk to people in stores, and in particular small business owners. It's clear that part of the life of a small business owner is to spend all day obsessing about something that most people don't think about, so it's very welcome to have a customer who shows even a beginning of a sincere interest in what you're doing.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 2:14 PM
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56 - doesn't that make sense? It made sense to me when I wrote it .... They invited us all out for dinner tomorrow night. C and I both need to be doing other things (and wouldn't have both been able to because of the children). Just spoke to the inlaws and arranged that they will take the children out and neither C nor I have to go. Fucking result!


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 2:21 PM
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SCORE.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 2:23 PM
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57: indeed, I think for a lot of people who work at -- or own -- small, independent retail stores, a lot of the pleasure of their work is having somebody to shoot the shit with here and there. My cousin owns a seafood store and talking to customers about the Red Sox is definitely a primary motivator getting him in there every day at 7.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 2:27 PM
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Why do you say high end stores? The people in my local pub, newsagent, off licence, comic shop and coffee shop know me, but I don't think any people in high end stores know me.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 2:45 PM
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First time I've had to look at a thread in ages, and I love this from Frowner:

There's a kind of exhaustion and frustration that comes from spending the whole day being...well, it's not insincerity, but it's kind of synthetic...being synthetically emotionally engaged with total strangers.

So, so, so true.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 2:53 PM
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When I was temping as a cashier at a bookstore a year or two ago I had to greet so goddamn many customers that towards the end of one shift, during an especially long transaction--the credit card was taking a lot time getting approved, or something like that--some kind of timer went off in my head and I went,"Hi, how are you!" to a customer who had been standing across from me for the last five minutes. Embarrassing.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 3:17 PM
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I'm generally NOT pleased when high-end salesmen remember my name. With a very small handful of exceptions, I don't want to be recognized or known when I walk into a store or restaurant. Basically, I only want to be recognized if I actually *like* a member of the staff personally, would preferentially choose to talk to them because I like them or think they're interesting. I stopped going to one local restaurant for lunch because the manager there started recognizing me and saying, "Hey, my man!" in a big buddy-buddy way. Dude, I just want to sit here for 45 minutes reading a novel and eating: I'm here for a bit of peace and quiet. I don't like the sense that you're aware of my once-a-week presence. I absolutely *hate* it when the clerks at the local supermarket address me by name based on what the cash register says my name is when I use a debit or credit card.

I like exchange to be anonymous unless it's my choice to make it otherwise.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 7:20 PM
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I was weirded out when I want to a KFC I'd been to maybe once, probably over a week or two before, and the cashier said "I remember you." Since it wasn't really a greeting or a hello, I wasn't sure what to make of it. I might of mumbled something in a low, puzzled tone, like "you remember me?" and just ordered. I'm really not very memorable.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 7:38 PM
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want s/b went and "might of" s/b "might have"

I continue to blame the fact that I had to use instant messaging at work for my upturn in comment errors.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 7:39 PM
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Somewhere w-lfs-n wrote a comment arguing that "might of" is the correct usage, but I can't find it.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 7:47 PM
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As in "the might of w-lfs-n's wrath at grammatical heterodoxy," yes.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 7:51 PM
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People always liked it when I remembered stuff they'd told me, what they did for a living or if I asked them whether they liked something I had recommended.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 7:55 PM
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I like exchange to be anonymous unless it's my choice to make it otherwise.

But unfortunately, exchanges are two-sided affairs.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 7:58 PM
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57, 60: I had the weirdest experience in the local Mexican store (not, oddly, run by Mexicans. Maybe a Mexican with an American wife? Never been clear to me, but the mother & daughter are white as the day is long): I was just making small talk with the ~20-y.o. daughter; I asked if she ever got to visit Mexico. She said no, but then launched into this whole thing about the travel she'd like to do, and a bus trip she took through Europe, and on and on. I had felt somewhat awkward even making small talk - clearly much older guy with daughter, chatting up cute young woman. But it turned out she was thrilled to have someone to talk to, or something.

I suspect there's a huge gulf between retail-bot experience and the experience of family business (whether from parent or child).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 7:58 PM
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This is a two-kinds-of-people thing that I didn't know existed. I'm a regular at a bunch of local places, and I'll chat with people when given the chance. The other day my friend and I chatted with one proprietor for about twenty minutes, while he told his how he'd gotten into the business, how he'd left his old job, all while offering us beer and basically just shooting the shit.

For the most part, this seems like a matter of personality and taste, but I'm a little surprised that Burke is the way he is, because I would have expected him to make an effort at community-building. Yeah, you, procedural murderer.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 8:07 PM
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I don't actually mind being a regular at places where I'm a regular (not many, admittedly, and none currently). It's the too quick jump to informality - the classic being the cashier reading your name off the receipt* - that bothers me.

*I was grocery shopping with my sister and her husband once and the cashier thanked my sister or her husband - whoever paid for them - by last name. I was next in line and I got thanked by my first name. I didn't recognize the cashier and wanted to say "so, we're on a first name basis?" but I didn't.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 8:12 PM
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I think everyone hates the reading of the name off the receipt; it's so false. Places that used to do it to me don't anymore. Don't know if that's a change in policy or if the cashiers just got sick of it.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 8:19 PM
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Amazon can't distinguish between a gift bought for a friend who's having a baby shower, a book bought for myself to read on vacation, and a book bought out of professional interest.

You can edit your profile to exclude purchases (or include things you already own). For a while, until I worked out how to change the profile, when I bought a couple of gifts and a number of books for my oral exams in a space of a few months I was being recommended exclusively books that I owned or games similar to taboo. I never actually buy anything based on the recommendation, so mostly I just wanted the page to look different when I logged in.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 8:20 PM
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Disclaimer: This is wishful thinking. I know lots of reasons why it couldn't be done without enabling very many bad things.

While browsing Matt Yglesias' blog, it struck me that one of the few actually good things to come out of really massive databases of net activity would be the chance to write a true history of blogging which identified just who all the major trolls like "Al" actually were. It would be interesting, in the sort of way (though with smaller stakes) that access to KGB and Stasi archives is "interesting".


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 8:24 PM
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I ended up believing that "Al" was a franchise and was paid. Probably not very much, and the various Als were probably sincere at some level, but his diligence, persistence, and lack of variation made me think that he was on script.

I especially remember that he was purveying the "flip flop"talking point weeks before it became widespread.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 8:49 PM
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Al trolled here for a while and I looked up his IP and found a bio at his employer's site that matched what I knew about him, so I was reasonably confident that I knew who it was. Of course now I've forgotten.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 8:52 PM
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John, I know that Teresa Nielsen Hayden thinks the same of several of the prominent anti-liberal trollers, and that she has some fairly solid evidence for it in at least some cases. Depressing and stupid and therefore plausible, is my verdict of the moment.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 9:12 PM
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On the retailer/etailer thing, I understand that Musician's Friend, one of those rare online stores that actually encourages you to call in rather than hiding their phone number deep within the site, assigns you a personal contact the first time you call, and that every time you call from then on, you deal with that person.

Not sure if they match drummers with drummers, etc.; also not sure if the system automatically routes your call to, say, Melissa, because it recognizes your number, or if you dial an extension. The latter I would prefer, in case I drew an idiot in the lottery, you know. But otherwise, I thought it was a neat idea.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 9:21 PM
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Somewhere w-lfs-n wrote a comment arguing that "might of" is the correct usage, but I can't find it.

It was "would of".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-10-08 11:19 PM
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I like being remembered in stores and, like ogged, often hang around chatting with the people. sometimes this can be very helpful, like the record-store guy who sets music aside for me that he thinks I might like.

on the "al" front, I'm with emerson: franchise and paid gig. it sometimes surprises me that "he's" still around, for some reason. it is an effective way of making the comments at sausagely and ezra klein's sites totally worthless, though, so I guess someone's getting their money's worth.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 04-11-08 12:38 AM
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34 - Right, that's it, I'm never coming back here.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 04-11-08 3:48 AM
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