Although a whole lot of Canadians work in customer service (look up the stats- it’s a big chunk of employed Canadians), I am sure I will never be one of them.
-“Good morning, thank you for calling Robbers Company, I’m Kerry, and how may I help you today?”
Excuse me, why is she sounding like she wants to be my new best friend? And why do I need to know her first name? Should I respond with my own first name? Is she aware of the fact that I really don’t care what her first name is? And why is she so pleased I’ve got a problem with my mobile or electricity or whatever bill? Why is she thanking me, anyway?
Iranians are known for their elaborate courtesy -to the people they know. They make up for the forced politeness they have to show to relatives and acquaintances by being dreadfully rude to strangers, if they think they can get away with it. The classic example are drivers. No matter how many times radio shows beg people to just show a tenth of the politeness with which they habitually treat their distant relatives, Tehran drivers, be they professors, dentists, lawyers or whatever, tend to jump out of their cars and scream streams of blood-curdling invective at each other at the slightest mishap.
And so, customer service has very little meaning, in Iran. If a company employee greeted you the same way Canadian companies greet their clients, you would think they were stark, raving mad. A hostile stare, a pretence of being busy, a grunt is the way most clients are treated. This “Hello, I am Mary” business is unheard-of, and quite bizarre, for a newcomer.
In fact, first names are quite precious, in Iran, not to be tossed around at the strangers who calls you. Close friends and relatives aside, the general rule is surnames, prefixed with Mr. or Ms. -especially between the sexes and especially if there is a significant age or position gap.
So the fact is, I don’t feel comfortable with this pseudo-friendly style of greeting which Canadian companies deal to their beloved clients. I feel that it is only a ploy to send me more bills and get me to spend more. I’m sure there must be a golden mean between this fake bright pratter and the hostile grunts of their Iranian counterparts.
Except I don’t think anyone has found it yet.