Working retail is often a thankless job, and because people in the service industry are often treated like dirt, I enjoy making small talk. Now I'm rethinking that since watching the TikTok of one employee who would prefer customers skip the forced interactions. Was I being selfish in my pursuit of chitchat with the people who are taking my order at a restaurant? Maybe.
According to Oliver Bork, who goes by @olivermbork on TikTok, he would prefer it if no one ever spoke to him. Don't be fooled by the name tag; Oliver doesn't wish you to know him and he need not know a single thing about you. Please keep moving.
This retail worker does not want you to read his name tag, explaining: "You already can see me and that's more than I want."
According to Oliver's TikTok bio, he is 22 years old and I'm left wondering if part of his aversion to jibber jabber has something to do with his age. I have noticed the youth of today panics at the thought of an actual phone call and cannot fathom just dropping by a person's home unannounced.
Once upon a time, that was all we had. It wasn't even that long ago so please stop picturing the 1930s. Back in my day, the mid-'90s, gabbing on the phone for hours was the norm, so it stands to reason that extended to strangers as well as friends. Despite being a child in the '80s, I love talking to strangers! Small talk is a lost art.
"I know my name is displayed right here and it's like a nice thing to do," says Oliver, referring to strangers calling him by his name by reading his name tag. "Please don't do that. You already can see me and that's like more than I want."
His name tag is from the Dollar Tree and I daresay they do a fair amount of business. Who wouldn't want to go into a store that will sell you dishes and gum for the same price? All this to say, working in customer service but not wanting to speak to customers could be a problem.
Again, I'm of the mind this has everything to do with texting and social media. At 22, Oliver has been online most of his life which means communicating in person has diminished greatly. It stands to reason that speaking to a human in the wild is quite foreign to him. Love to sound like an old curmudgeon!
It's possible Oliver is an introvert which means he could be dealing with social fatigue. According to PsychCentral this can be when an "emotional and physical response to social overstimulation that leaves you feeling drained and exhausted. You might feel physically tired, stressed, angry, or irritable. Social exhaustion can feel like hitting a wall."
In order to combat social exhaustion, it's important to set boundaries. Obviously that's a little more difficult at work but maybe Oliver can request doing a less customer-facing job like stocking shelves.
Oliver isn't alone in how he's feeling. Many people in the comments agreed and said what made them uncomfortable was how familiar a stranger was being. Saying someone's name can absolutely create a false sense ot intimacy.
"It feels like such an invasion of privacy. I didn’t consent to you knowing who I am," responded one TikToker. A lot of people admitted to being shocked when someone knew their name because they forgot about the name tag. Now that I think about it more, this protective feeling of one's privacy could be in response to social media, a place where one could argue folks share too much. Is Oliver, and others like him, over correcting? Are we moving toward a life of solitude? I hope not.