Atlantic Station = Truman Show

Okay, mabye not really, but, during a rush hour visit this evening, I found the overly eager friendliness of every single employee in the Atlantic Station Publix extremely unsettling. I’m not faulting them for making me feel uncomfortable, I’m just articulating that workdays are grounded in two fundamental frames of thought–routine and defensiveness–and extremely gracious grocery employees don’t reinforce either one of them. I needed to pick up some Halloween candy with which to defend my homestead from marauding children. (Yes, I was prepared to pay full retail.)

As I entered through the automatic doors, the vendor restocking the soda machines whirled around and cheerfully demanded, “How are you doing this evening?”

“Good, thank you. Uh, how are you?”

“I’m great!”

I made my way past the check out lines and was a little surprised to discover no giant Halloween candy display whatsoever. I suppose there aren’t a lot of small children, or residents, really, in Atlantic Station yet. Still, I thought all American retailers aspired to the same predictable standards. I turned my gaze upward to figure out which aisle I needed. “Hello, sir, what can I help you find this evening?”

This nice lady had come out of nowhere and she seemed genuinely interested in helping me find my way. I actually glanced around to see if there was a coworker snickering behind an end cap at their friend’s boldly sarcastic enthusiasm. No conspirators in sight. This girl meant business. The thing is, for as much as large grocers each think they have designed the ultimate grocery shopping experience, all frigging grocery stores are exactly the frigging same. I had alotted about 24 seconds to find my bearings, make my selection, and be out the door, and, as nice as this lady seemed, her extra customer service could very well slow me down.

“Halloween candy?”

“Right this way.” She proceeded to walk me directly to the candy section and then leave me alone; quite possibly the most perfect customer service experience in the history of spoken language.

I pretty much grabbed one of everything and made my way to the cash registers where all of the cashiers who weren’t currently assisting customers were standing in front of their lines recruiting potential check-outees. At this point, I was starting to wisen to their antics.

“I can help you right over here, sir.”

“I’ll bet you can.”

After pleasantly, but, more importantly, quickly ringing me up, my cashier bid me farewell, wished me a happy whatever today is, and sent me on my way. I could see the door and was prepared to walk through it when I felt a wave of anxiety wash over me. “Have a great night, sir, come back and see us soon,” said the bagboy who had bagged none of my groceries nor stood anywhere near my checkout line nor had any conceivable reason for wishing me well despite actually wishing that I be well.

This visit to Publix was the first time I had been anywhere inside Atlantic Station aside from IKEA, and I cannot attest to the niceness of the employees at any of the other businesses, but if Atlanta ever hopes to be spoken of alongside some the other great cities in the world, something has to be dome about this rampant pleasantness at Publix. They’re giving us a bad name!! Yankees and carpet-baggers and conventioneers and tourists and people from Canton and Conyers and Jonesboro are NEVER going to take Atlanta seriously as a cosmopolitan metropolis unless our grocers start giving off a little mustard in their demeanor.

My other theory is that Publix knows I’m pissed at them for only offering one brand of organic, fair-trade coffee and charging $7.69 for a 12oz. bag of it. I could cultivate, harvest, and roast my own for less than that.

10 Comments so far

  1. Tony Mc (unregistered) on October 31st, 2005 @ 11:38 pm

    Enjoy it while it lasts. They will be surly once the crowds really start to come. I give 3 weeks, right before Thanksgiving.

  2. Yall (unregistered) on November 1st, 2005 @ 8:39 am

    Being from up “North”, sometimes I feel like this stuff is part of that “Southern Hospitality”.. I’m still not sure how it works. By just saying “have a great day” and “how are you” I’m supposed to feel good, but I can’t help but see them all as empty gestures. The people at Publix really don’t care or want to know if I’m having a bad day or not do they? What if I proceed to tell them about it? Maybe I’m old fashioned, but give me a northern grocer who gives me a sneer when I walk up- confirming they don’t care how I’m doing. Honesty!

  3. Lori (unregistered) on November 1st, 2005 @ 8:56 am

    See, I’m from Mickey Mouse land (Orlando). The cheesey niceness is mandatory there, so I guess I’m immune to it.

  4. Burnsie (unregistered) on November 1st, 2005 @ 9:42 am

    Deal with it, Atlantans. The problem is with you and not Publix employees, if pleasantries exchanged at a grocery store make you uncomfortable.

  5. Greg (unregistered) on November 1st, 2005 @ 10:44 am


    As a danged foreigner to these parts I’ve noticed this a lot, and it’s everywhere… It’s damn near rampant!

    So now I’m lead to believe it’s not an act put forth by Publix employees, I’m thinking they actually mean it and it makes me feel fuzzy inside

  6. kate (unregistered) on November 1st, 2005 @ 5:52 pm

    I tend to shoot the breeze with friendly customer service folks while I am in line or walking around stores, and when I return they (usually) remember me. That’s kind of cool. When I am walking in, I’ll give them a nice “how’s it goin.” Why not? If the overeager employee is annoying, I just ignore it. I’ll take the friendliness at Publix anyday over the welfare-like Kroger stores, where the employees look like they can’t wait to get home and watch their TIVOed docudramas on TV.

  7. Amber (unregistered) on November 1st, 2005 @ 6:17 pm

    This is one of those traits about the South that I find endearing. And who cares if it’s an empty gesture or not? Endearing, I say. I lived in NYC and loved living there, but sometimes I would get a little cheesed off at the lack of endearing empty gestures.

  8. dpnation (unregistered) on November 1st, 2005 @ 7:42 pm

    I live in Atlantic Station and have found the nicer than normal workers to be true in most of the retail stores.. I’m thinking since businesses are open but not overwhelmed (seeing that only about 50% of the residental areas are occupied/not under construction = not max capacity), that the sales people have nothing better to do. Most places I’ve been to have been pretty dead, but then again, I avoid going to shop on weekend afternoons.

  9. Paula (unregistered) on January 9th, 2006 @ 7:52 pm

    I personally find it refreshing to know that there is still some people out there carrying the George Jenkins spirit-way to go fellow Publix associates… as you know from our experiences, you will always get a person that will not be happy regardless of how you treat them!!!

  10. NotKidding (unregistered) on January 12th, 2006 @ 6:08 am

    Does anybody remember what life was like people were allowed to be themselves? Do you really think anybody at Publix or anywhere else for that matter gives a shit about you? Get over your self! Remember what they are getting paid per hour; probably working 2 or more jobs right? What IS their MOTIVATION? It is Not a mystery people….Wake Up. We have been so socialized by corporations that they actually write it down for us in pretty little (actually huge and boring) detail about just how perky we have to be in order to get that $6/hour to bag your toilet paper. I would pay more for my groceries if everyone told me to fuck off the entire time I was shopping. Thats a job worth having!

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