Some Customers Talk Like Search Engines and Workers Aren't Happy

Jamie Lerner - Author

Dec. 14 2023, Published 10:26 p.m. ET

Have you ever gone somewhere and just shouted what you needed at someone working there? For example, you show up at the grocery store and look towards an employee while saying, “Peaches!” Well, as it turns out, this isn't an acceptable way to talk to people. Even still, you aren't the only one who does it.

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TikToker Clover (@pisshead333) noticed a trend of customers doing this to him while at work. The trend has now been identified by the TikTok community as customers who talk like search engines and unfortunately, it's all over the place. Customers talk like search engines, shouting into a void, instead of treating people like people, and it isn't OK!

An elderly woman looking at her phone in the grocery store
Source: Getty Images
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People on TikTok agree that customers sometimes talk like search engines.

When you need to look something up on the internet, you simply type in exactly what you need on Google. For example, if you want a cure for a migraine, you’d simply type in “migraine cure.” Now, the internet has infiltrated the ether so much that people are starting to actually talk the same way they use search engines and it isn't OK.

Clover shared in his video, “Customers have this weird habit of, instead of just saying, ‘Excuse me, can I ask you a question?’ they just say like, ‘Kitty litter!’ And even if you’re not looking at them, you’re just supposed to know that they’re talking to you. You turn around and go, ‘Aisle 14!’” In what world is that an OK way to talk to somebody?

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But that isn't even the worst story Clover had to share. “The funniest one was the other day,” he said. “This guy just goes, ‘Excuse me, young sir,’ and I figure he’s talking to me. I turn around, I’m like ‘Yes?’ and he’s like, ‘Ingrown toenail!’ and I pause for a moment. I said, ‘What are you asking?’” It's absurd that people think employees only need to be spoken to in one-word prompts.

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“‘Medicine for it,’” the man then stated at Clover. “OK, I’m glad we’ve moved a step up in our level of communication from like pre-school to kindergarten … Can customers just like talk to me like I’m a person? Be like, ‘Hey, can you help me?’” Is that really too much to ask for?! We don’t think so!

Plenty of people shared their own examples of customers talking like search engines.

While Clover’s observation and plight are frustrating, at least he isn't the only one. Several people commented on their coping techniques for dealing with idiotic people who don’t know how to ask for help. “I always just say, ‘I’m sorry?’ And look at them confused until they treat me like a human being,” a top comment suggests.

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Another called back to an episode of The Office when Kevin tries to be more efficient by using fewer words. Everyone realizes that Kevin’s new method isn’t more efficient at all because it makes it more confusing for the people around him.

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Customers’ habit of blindly shouting their requests at employees can also be confusing. For example, in the ingrown toenail story, it took the man much more time and interaction to actually get to the point of what he needed. If he simply asked, “Where would ingrown toenail medication be?” Clover would have pointed it out, problem solved!

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So why do people speak like that? Well, it could be a symptom of aging. As people get older and start to lose brain function, piecing together grammatical sentences becomes trickier and more energy-consuming. So keep doing your daily crossword puzzles!

However, the real reason is more likely that customers don’t always see retail and service employees as people. In the context of business, they are often there to serve and help us, so it can be hard to comprehend how the employee’s work can affect their emotional state outside of it. It all comes down to just being a little kinder to each other.

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