The woman behind the counter asked me a very unusual question. You see, I had popped into Boots the chemist near the Monument in Newcastle. I wanted to buy some pain killers and for some peculiarly British tradition there is a ritual that we have to go through. The tablets contain codeine, which can be highly addictive, and so the law requires that the salesperson explains to me the risk of taking the pills. Every time.
No more than two at a time and no more than 8 in 24 hours. Be careful if you are driving and don’t give to anyone under twelve, anyone breastfeeding or who may be pregnant. Also don’t take for longer than three days. I can recite it from memory, as I am sure the assistants can. They should give a handout.
It is odd that we go to such lengths to protect people from this over the counter medicine, though I did read that such precautions have prevented over 60 suicides. I am able to buy things with much greater ease that could do me much greater harm without any ritual. Cigarettes and alcohol spring to mind, if I was that way inclined, or even petrol and household bleach which could be much more dangerous.
Still, rules are rules and I stood as she went through her spiel before handing over the merchandise. It was then that she asked me the question, ‘How has my manner been in serving you today? How have I come across?’
I was taken aback. I have never been asked such a question so directly. Yet why not? The assistant was asking for feedback in the way that she had met my requirements. It was like smiley buttons that you hit when leaving a store or the stars you give on a website only much more personal. Much more personal. It was very brave.
I thought about it before replying ‘Engaging, you have been very engaging’, which she had been.
Since then I have been thinking about it a lot. I want to know what led her to ask and what she hoped to get out of the responses. When I am in Newcastle next time I am going to ask her, if she is in the store.
Why? Because I am not sure I would be that brave to try it myself.