Checkout Small Talk: I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

I’ve noticed that at many stores cashiers are trained to ask if customers found what they were seeking. (Without fail I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For runs through my head when I am asked this question.) I’d like to know the purpose of this practice. My stock response is something affirmative regardless of what my shopping experience happened to be. It occurred to me that maybe I was missing a genuine attempt to help me, so I decided to answer this question truthfully. So for several weeks I responded with puritanical honesty and exactness when asked this question.

Bad call.

I received no helpful service, wasted time, and most definitely made some cashiers annoyed. I wanted to say: “Wait, you asked me! Why are you now annoyed at me?” And that’s when I realized that this question has as much weight as a social “How are you?” query.

I’d like to know if employees are supposed to report items customers could not find to management. Is the intention to change product inventory or product placement? Or is the intention to make the staff appear helpful? The problem with this practice is that it highlights in my mind when a store does not have something I wanted, and it also made me aware that the store employees could not solve the problem for me.

Have you ever had a positive experience from a “Did you find what you were looking for?” moment?

Do you have any theories about why stores do this?

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