If the guardians of the universe ever give me the opportunity to momentarily pop into people’s consciousness, I know for certain I will go straight to the minds of the thousands of customers I waited on after school and on weekends in the 1990s.
First I will apologize for repeatedly welcoming them to the Gap.
Then I will make a confession. “I never wanted to ask you if you’d like socks with that. Never. That is not reflective of my fashion values.”
Even now I cringe at the memory. “Would you like socks with that?”
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It was the kind of question designed by people who never have to ask it, who never have to experience a very specific look called “I just want to pay for this and go home. Please? I worked all day.”
I pictured these executive question-drafters in California, all wearing Gap sweatshirts and smelling like Gap Dream body spray, sitting around a table while they brainstormed upsell options. “Would you like sweatpants with that?” Mmm. Too lifestyle presumptive. “Would you like another sweater with that?” If only, right guys? “You know, people really need help remembering to buy socks when they want to buy socks ...” You did it again, Jimmy. Let’s have lunch.
Every time I asked customers if they’d like socks with that, I felt like a dead-voiced hostage denouncing my country. “I am no longer an American. I believe all people should buy socks in one of the accent colors represented in the V of their Gap Varsity Sweaters, even if they don’t like socks, even if they think matchy-matchy is for babies. All hail, socks.”
Right now, I would especially like to offer my apologies to the gift-buyers. I preyed on you. I knew you would always say yes so I asked, and asked, and asked. I made you think a box containing a folded sweater was incomplete without a pair of matching socks placed at the breast, all so I could honestly say “Yes” when my bosses checked in to see if I was maintaining the party line.
“Good, good. We’re just making sure,” they’d chirp before returning to the back office to eat salad and “do the schedule.”
The problem I had with asking people to buy more at the last minute was that it amounted to opportunistic begging and strategic wear-down. We were not making legitimate sartorial suggestions with these socks; we were asking customers for three more dollars before we let them leave the store.
But if we didn’t do it, we would be Gap-shamed by managers who sing-songed their reprimands.
It is because of this experience that I have some sympathy for all the part-time workers out there who, in order to make their near-minimum wage, are required to ask us silly questions, such as do we want to put our purchases on that store credit card we must already have because who doesn’t? ... “What! You don’t have one?!? I didn’t see that coming. Would you like to save another 10 percent by opening one then?”
I get annoyed, yes, but I feel bad for the part-timers who have to ask us “Do you want to donate $1 today for people and animals who clearly don’t have it as good as you do?,” even when they give us a silent facial response that literally translates to “Really? OK, Satan.”
But I cannot forgive the survey-askers, the people who take up even more of my time telling me to go online and fill out a survey so I can get a coupon for a doughnut.
I have tried to be kind to the survey-askers because I know it’s not their fault. I know it’s Jimmy at the board table just spit-balling ideas. “What about this? Right when the customer is being handed the receipt, that final piece of paper that will liberate them from the constant deal-spouting out of the mouths of our store employees, we take THAT opportunity to explain to them how to log on to our website, use a code and fill out a 15-minute survey? Then we’ll take their personal information and email them seven times a day about sales! Lunch anyone?”
Everyone wants to survey us. Every store has a receipt telling us that our shopping experience is far from over. Give us feedback!, they say. GIVE. IT. TO. US.
Even when I get oil changes at my car dealership, I am reminded to fill out an online survey about the experience. I have never in my life had to rack my brain the way I do when I’m being asked to recount the details of my “oil change experience.”
But I do it, because I know it benefits the guys who work there and also I don’t want a black mark next to my name that says, “Leave the cap off. She doesn’t take the survey.”
This last time, though, I forgot to take it.
Here’s what happens to customers who forget to share their opinions on their oil changes: THEY GET CALLED AND EMAILED AND CALLED AND EMAILED BY THE DEALERSHIP REMINDING THEM TO DO SO.
So here’s my survey answer, Jimmy the Idea Executive: I do not want socks with that either.