Monday, April 16, 2007

Something Besides My Maudlin Meanderings

Whenever we read/hear/watch the daily news, it always seem to be bad news, or really awful news. Today was no exception, today was a day filled with horrific news.

Except for one (old) news story I heard today.

For some reason, it stayed with me........sigh.....that doesn't happen often, I forget most factual items rather quickly. It must have stuck, because of where my imagination flew off to when I heard it. Visions of blue vests, with lots of "flair" pinned to them, yellow smiley face stickers, and grey hair.

Do you shop at Wal-Mart? or Meijer? They employ very special people, to perform a very special job. The main job requirement is one in which, the employee exhibit an extremely effusive, bubbly personality, and a kind smiling face.

Their official job title, I believe, is A Greeter.

Their purpose?

No, it is not to happily find you that one special shopping cart without the squeaky wheel.

The psychology behind The Greeter, is to deter shoplifting.

Does it work?

Hmmmm, in 2006 Seattle, Washington held the great distinction of having the 7th highest number of bank robberies in the state.

So far, in 2007 robberies have been down from the same quarter of 2006, to almost half the number. (either the job market is better, or their new technique works)

How? By using a version of your friendly neighborhood Greeter.

South Coast Today Article

Excessive friendliness is the key to the "Safecatch" system created by FBI Special Agent Larry Carr. The premise is that an overdose of courtesy will unnerve would-be robbers and get them to rethink the crime.

"If you're a legitimate customer, you think, 'This is the friendliest person I've met in my life.' If you're a bad guy, it scares the lights out of you," said Drew Ness, a vice president of Bellevue-based First Mutual Bank, who advocates the approach.

Carr, who has taught the method to employees at 16 Washington banks over the past few years, credits the system in part for the drop in Seattle bank robberies from 80 in the first three months of 2006 to 44 during the same period this year. On Tuesday, he ran a training session for employees at a First Mutual branch in Seattle.

The method is a sharp contrast to the traditional training for bank employees confronted with a suspicious person, which advises not approaching the person, and at most, activating an alarm or dropping an exploding dye pack into the cash.

When a man walked into a First Mutual branch last year wearing garden gloves and sunglasses, manager Scott Taffera greeted him heartily, invited him to remove the glasses, and guided him to an equally friendly teller. The man eventually asked for a roll of quarters and left.

Carr said he suspects the man was the "Garden Glove Bandit," who robbed area banks between March 2004 and November 2006.

Carr stressed that employees should never put themselves in danger, and they should comply with any demands made by an armed robber.

Some interesting follow-up comments from the Cognitive Daily running a similar version of the same article.

Comment # 1: "If you're a legitimate customer, you think, 'This is the friendliest person I've met in my life."

If a bank clerk shook me warmly by the hand and came on extra friendly, I'd think "Fuck off you creep, I don't want your obviously fake charm, I just want you to do your job. And if you can't do that, I'll find another bank."

Besides, how are they supposed to spot "potential robbers" and single them out for the smarm treatment? Anyone wearing sunglasses? Anyone they haven't seen before? Anyone who just looks a bit rough and unshaven?

Posted by: Kapitano

He has a point in regard to profiling.

Comment # 2: I agree with Kapitano. I hate the banks that feel the need to greet you with a fake smile and ask you how your day is. I don't like interacting with fake people to the point where I do all my banking at the ATM and shop at the grocery stores where you can check yourself out.

Posted by: Adria

She seems like the friendly sort.

Comment # 3: I'm assuming they're basing this approach on the fact that most bank robbers share certain psychological characteristics or are of a certain psychological type. Perhaps the bank robber is generally of average or below-average intelligence, has poor social intelligence, low self-esteem, yada yada yada. Some years ago here in Buffalo, a bank teller told the robber he had to have an account to rob the bank (evidently she must have seen that the hamster in his head was pretty slow), and the guy got discouraged and left. This friendly approach definitely would not work with an armed gang that immediately takes control of the whole bank, or a drug addict in desperate need of money for his next fix.

Posted by: Dave Group

Bet she received a raise and a promotion, I know I would have given her one!


X. Dell said...

I never shop at Wal-Mart (or do business with that bank), so I didn't know about the greeter. Were the guy to walk over to me, I suspect that I would feel somewhat put off.

Social control with a smiley face. Can you think of anything more Orwellian?

Fiona said...

Hong Kong has some strange retail practices, the most recent of which seems to be for shop assistants to shout everyone that enters the shop...quite disconcerting

Much like the "irasshaimase" when entering a Japanese restaurant.

Wal-Marts are fun but intimidate me. Seriously, what do they do with all that food that isn't sold by the sell-by date?!

The Savage said...

Does it ever occur to the news agencies that printing articles like this give pointers and tips to would be criminals?

Anonymous said...

Interesting! I have too many thoughts and querries concerning this one and I gotta get back to work, but great post!

Anonymous said...

I think it kind of gives credence to my theory that we all have the ability to make the world a better, kinder place. Smiles do make a difference. I'm not overly fond of greeters at Wal-Mart but I do appreciate a smile and a good morning.

Sunny Delight said...,

It is in its way, isn't it, the way you look at things, is at times an eye opener for me.

What is the phrase the Japanese say, when entering a home, and leaving? Always the same I think, there is another language.....that their greeting basically says..."I see you." To me that is a bit different.....this over abundance of effusiveness is a bit "fake".

The food, such a waste here.


Has it ever? Should it?


Ah, expound those ideas! And, thanks.


It does, when it is sincere, but when over the dunno....