The Unwelcome Guest


All marketing is bullshit. Know why? It’s all done to get you to buy something, and the moment that the purchase/sale transaction appears on the agenda, every piece of communication is aimed at making you feel inadequate or afraid, in order to persuade you to make a purchase that’s going to make it all better. Or so the marketing tells you.

Marketers make up words to sell their stuff, or give new meanings to existing words. The problem is…there are already perfectly good words that more accurately describe whatever it is the marketer is redefining (badly).

What’s In a Name?
“I can help the next guest in line,” shouted the bored-looking part-time student staffing the register.

I looked around, and realized that her proclamation had been aimed at getting my attention. But…guest?

At what point did I become a guest in this store? I don’t remember checking in, though I really did want to check out. Nobody had taken my bags, I hadn’t been told to enjoy my stay when I arrived. Nobody was asking if I needed to order a cab, and my car had not been valet parked when I arrived. And, most annoyingly, there was no minibar.

I might be a curmudgeon about this, but calling shoppers “guests” is total and utter bullshit. It doesn’t make me feel more welcomed, and it doesn’t make me feel better taken care of. It’s fancy frosting on a cake whose ingredients are not known by the eater.

What or Who Are Guests?
The problem I have with calling paying customers “guests” is, I think, that’s it’s dishonest. Hotels have guests. People come, and they stay. Overnight. Restaurants (excluding fast food eateries) have guests. People come, and have care taken that their personal dining needs are met.

Neither Webster’s, nor the OED define “guest” as a consumer of goods in a store.

In the stores that use this misnomer, sales assistants don’t take a special degree of care to make certain that the shopper…sorry, guest…has a great experience. There is no personal touch. Most barely communicate above a grunt. If hotels and restaurants attempted to engage their guests with the same level of apathy as the assistants in these stores, they’d be the easiest places to get a reservation.

In your store I am a customer. I am there to procure something. I am there to engage in a transaction where I give you money and I get a product, and in order to give you that money I have to stand in line.

What’s The Difference Between A Restaurant and a Store
In a hotel I can check out from the TV in my room. In a restaurant the bill is brought to my table. You see, those are payment solutions that are created for the convenience of the guest. If I have to stand in a line that has a light-up number at the front of it I am not a guest, I’m a customer. And no matter how many times you call me a guest I’m never ever going to have that warm and fuzzy towards your store that I have when I think of some of the great hotels I’ve stayed in, or some of the amazing restaurants I’ve dined at.

So How Can a Business Engage and Be Genuine?
Call me a customer. Call me a consumer. Actually, don’t. Train your staff to make eye contact with me, smile, and politely say “Hey, I can help you now. Thanks for waiting. My name is ______, are you enjoying your day?” And then really engage. The benefit to you? You don’t need to pay a marketing idiot to reassign meanings of words, and I’m more likely — much more likely — to come back to your store.

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