Sunday, January 18, 2009

Required to emote

I see more and more sales pitches based, strangely enough, on love.

From Citizens’ Bank “Credo”:
Hug the customer. Smile. Say thank you. Return phone calls and e-mails in a timely manner. Do whatever you can every day, in every way, to provide world-class service. Give customers a reason to say, “Wow, I love these people.” In short, treat the customer the way you would love to be treated all the time.

It's an odd blend of professionalism and Barney the dinosaur. Of course bank workers should return my phone calls, but they should not hug me. I may appreciate their good service, but I will not say, "I love these people." And as a worker I shouldn't be required to display emotional attachment to people who are in fact not my friends but my customers.

When Jeff and I were researching wedding rings and the ethical problems with the gold industry, I read a series of incredible statements by companies selling "ethical gold". Cred Jewelry's slogan is "Mined with love, made with love, to show your love". On their website they explain that they mean their company "will work toward" standards like:

Employment is freely chosen.
Working conditions are safe and hygienic.
Child labour is not used.
No harsh or inhumane treatment is allowed.

In short, they mean "We're approaching normal American labor law." Because most gold miners work in conditions that more resemble slavery, by comparison this constitutes mining "with love". Likewise, Equal Exchange fairly-traded products have the slogan "From small farmers with love." I can just picture a miner smiling fondly as he shovels, thinking, "Some American will be really happy when her husband pays hundreds of dollars for this bit of metal." Or a coffee farmer picking beans and thinking, "This will make a wonderful latte for someone in Germany." Even if you treat him better than your competition, don't expect me to believe that man loves his job. How about "Mined with dignity"? "Farmed fairly"?

By all means, let's treat each other with compassion and respect. Do whatever you do - mining, selling coffee, answering the phone - fairly and ethically. Work on your agape. But don't confuse business interests with love.

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