Should retail workers have to smile?


People often forget that the economy is not some conglomerate, unrecognizable, giant beast that invisibly shapes our lives; on the contrary, it is run and maintained by actual human beings who experience life in much the same way as anyone else would. So why is it that as a society participants in this economic machine are expected to not act like human beings and instead are forced to live in some smile-driven lie of an existence?

Retail workers are a fantastic example of this unhealthy expectations society has for members of the economy. According to Roger Dooley, author of a neuromarketing blog, there is a phenomenon known as the “unconscious emotion” where people trust other people who smile. But this very phenomenon has to do with a societal expectation that someone who is smiling is someone who is experiencing their reality in a ‘positive’ way and therefore postal possesses some form of emotional intelligence. But this assumptions is blatantly false and harmful for workers.

Emotional intelligence has far more to do with understanding why they feel the way they feel authentically and figuring out how to live their life accordingly to that emotion state.

Forcing individuals in retail to smile in order to achieve the illusion of emotional intelligence damages the real emotional intelligence of these workers. Frankly, no person, no matter how emotionally intelligent, will always be so happy that they are beaming all the way through multiple shifts a week. People are more complicated than that.

It is better for the workers within this economic landscape to express how they actually feel. If a worker is angry about something, let them vent. If a worker is in a state of depression, let them act introspectively. Do not judge the purchases that will be made at the store strictly upon the worker’s emotional state. It is simply unfair.

While this could seem strange to consumers, it is also deeply understandable. Understanding first that workers are actually human beings is a great first step to understanding their mood. Once that is accomplished, the customer can buy whatever suits their mood.


Working in retail or the service industry is arguably a ubiquitous experience for most Americans. These job types are the epicenter for training employees to succeed in one main thing-customer service. Retail jobs require pleasant interaction with other people, no matter how rude they are. And while an immediate reaction in any other scenario might be to react poorly, it is not okay, as an employee, to be rude.

Retail and service jobs can be emotionally straining in additional to being flat out infuriating. There are many experiences unique to these jobs based on interacting with a large amount of diverse people. For example, customers asking if they can buy something for free because it’s not tagged, or insisting to speak to the manager if something minuscule doesn’t go their way. Yes, these experiences are dumb and unnecessary, but they don’t constitute inappropriate or rude behavior from the employee on the receiving end of that behavior.

Employees don’t need to be over-the-moon happy to be working a crappy job, but they need to remember that they’re representing not only themselves, but an entire company.

Yes, everyone has their bad days. Nobody wants to be served by a robot when they’re shopping or eating at a restaurant, but everyone wants to be served by a decent and smiling human being.

Are there crappy customers who don’t deserve to be treated nicely? Always. Just be the bigger person. No one is asking an employee to be excessively happy at all times, but there’s a time and place for scowling and it’s not at work.

Fake smiling is not ingenuine. It’s adhering to a set of responsibilities and standards that come along with working any retail or service job.

It all comes down to human decency. Obviously, nobody is a robot programmed to be happy at all times. But, having a bad day shouldn’t translate into having a bad attitude at work. Just be a decent person.

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