Saturday, December 8, 2007

Dear fellow heathens

Need some help here.

So I don't generally mind the whole Christmas-centered culture of December in the US. Mostly, I think, because I don't tend to go into the den of consumerism that is the mall (OF DOOM). I don't even mind, on the rare occasion when I do end up interacting with a service sector employee, being wished a Merry Christmas. I just don't view it as something worth getting bothered over. But what, pray tell, am I supposed to answer when asked whether I have done my Christmas shopping yet? Twice in the last week I encountered that particular form of small talk. For starters, I am not sure why a Starbucks barista should care, or what kind of answer was she looking for? But she did seem a little taken aback by my answer of "I don't celebrate Christmas, so no."

So, fellow heathens, is this just me, or is this a common question now? And what am I supposed to say? What do you say?

24 comments:

C. said...

Say you don't celebrate Christmas. I do happen to celebrate Christmas but it still annoys the hell out me that other's do not recognize other faiths than their own. I do Christmas out of tradition and not religion and I abhore the consumerism of the whole thing. Instead of asking will you be spending time with your family and friends, people ask have you shopped.

My Reality said...

I would tell the truth. And then wish them a Happy Hannukah.

AmyinMotown said...

Yeah, I would just say "Well, actually I celebrate Hanukkah and we exchanged gifts already, but yeah..." or whatever.

This is why a) unless I know for a FACT someone celebrates Christmas, like I am at church with them on Christmas Eve know for a fact, I wish them a happy holiday instead--I figure that covers everything, because even if they celebrate nothing at this time of year everyone kind of has an enforced holiday, in the vacation sense, by the fact that very few businesses are open on Christmas Day.

As far as the Christmas shopping comment--eh. Retail employee small talk, I'd let it go. People are so freaking churlish that I can't frown on niceness, even if it's naively asuming everyone does the same thing.

slouching mom said...

i haven't been asked that question, but i wouldn't let it bother me, i think. i'd put it down to her a) looking for a tip; and b) being kinda dumb.

Beruriah said...

This afternoon I saw a mini-van with antlers and a red nose. Josh groaned and I responded, well at least it's honest. The mini-vans bring the gifts, not Rudolph.

I'm sure I've been asked this but I tend to shrug it off or engage in cultural analysis with my husband. I would just say, Thanks, I'm Jewish, and say a little prayer of thanks that I don't have so much shopping to do.

thrice said...

I wouldn't really want to engage with the barista, just cause I don't like barren conversations, so I would just say "no I haven't thanks."

Tash said...

As an atheist who celebrates a rather pagan Christmas, I can't WAIT until someone asks me about my shopping. or cards. Because I will unload about dead babies. Hee. No, I probably won't. Who am I kidding. How 'bout "Presents don't really fit under a Menorah." Or you could make some snark about the New Testament and commercialism that would sail over their heads, but at least make them think about asking again.

Waiting Amy said...

So funny, I was just asked this today, and stumbled over how to respond. The strange part is that I was asked by the RE's nurse at my transfer.

I guess I can see how it is small talk, but rather commercial in topic. We celebrate Hanukkah in our home, but my family is Christian and we visit them and celebrate with them. So, I just said I was done shopping but that we also celebrate Hanukkah. It was awkward. *sigh*

Rachel said...

Hi. First comment here. I admire your blog very much.
I work at Starbucks. And honestly, that small talk the barista made? We are REQUIRED to do it. It is called "connecting" and we are constantly being evaluated on whether or not we are doing it well enough. At this time of year, the majority of our customers are doing Christmas shopping, so that is a very easy way to try to connect. Your response was appropriate. The barista may have seemed taken aback, but I doubt she really cared. We have to talk to hundreds of customers a day, and routinely run into persons of all persuasions. It is generally one of the bright sides of our job.
I'm sorry that you feel that "service sector" employees are such a chore to deal with. It is a hard job, and we don't get very much respect from the people that we serve. We aren't doing it for the tips, as Slouching Mom suggested, or, as she also suggested, because we're "kinda dumb." There is just an expectation that we try to be nice, even to people that obviously think they are better than we are because they don't work at Starbucks.

christina(apronstrings) said...

i think you should get all extra snarky for the holidays. respond with things like "well, yeah, i did, but because i shop without paying, they took it all back and called the police."
the holidays need extra snark. and i think *you* are the one to provide it.
; )

Julia said...

Rachel, the funny thing is, this was not my usual Starbucks. In the ones I usually stop by (yes, sadly, there are multiple ones I frequent) I actually enjoy chatting with the baristas, I think because the conversations never seem artificial. This just seemed so out of the blue, and then her reaction seemed strange too.
I am sorry if my reference to service center employees offended you. I said that because nobody else ever says Merry Christmas to me. And I actually don't find it a chore at all, I understand that they are required to greet customers, so I don't mind the Merry Christmas and I don't snark back on how that's not my holiday of choice. This one was different because it focused on the consumerism part of the season, required an answer, and then I felt funny because the whole thing became awkward.

Christina, that's too funny. But I think I might not get my latte if I said that, and that would make me very very sad...

Aurelia said...

Yeah, I'm agreeing with Julia here in her reply to the barista. They may be required to connect, but they could ask something else, like "So how is your day going?" or something else more generic.

Funny thing is, every Starbucks I've even been in has been so busy, I've never been asked any question like that, or even spoken to beyond asked for my order. Everyone is nice, but when the lineup is out the door...it limits things.

Maybe the solution is to go to a busier one?

niobe said...

Hmmm...lots of excellent ideas and I guess I'm not too surprised that SB employees are supposed to make small talk as part of their job.

You might also want to prepare Monkey for what to say when people ask her (as they inevitably will) what Santa brought/is going to bring her. I find that "Well, I've been pretty bad this year, so probably a lump of coal" or "Nothing. I think he gave all my presents to the kids next door" work very well.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that she seemed taken aback by your answer. Maybe it's because I live in a multi-cultural area - there's a lot of Christmas stuff out, but also a lot of Hanukkah stuff and Kwanzaa stuff, etc.

Bon said...

crappy. blogger ate my comment.

long story short, perhaps a letter to the Starbuck management about easing up on employees so they're not forced to make inane commentary on the hegemony of Christmas and commercialism?

or just get them hiring Niobe's kid. ;)

and Rachel, i worked service for years and know well how crappy it is to be expected to say perky friendly connecting things to people. but even where i live (oh the boonies! pretty non-multicultural) it's still kinda dumb to assume that everyone celebrates Christmas...just in defense of Slouching Mom's comment.

S. said...

As someone who depends on people doing a LOT of Hanukkah and Christmas shopping, I'm with Rachel. In my neighborhood, there's not automatic assumption of Christianity, but a lot of non-Christians still have Christmas shopping to do, for work or friends or extended family (that would be me, raising my hand, yes). If you're out here in retail land, you hear a lot of bitching about it. Tho' the barista could have taken your response in stride.

Betty M said...

Here in the uk it is a pretty standard time of day passer round about now. As a non-Christian too I usually just say "not yet" and leave it at that. Everyone has to do Xmas shopping for food in any event as Xmas day the whole place grinds to a halt and even Starbucks are shut everywhere except the touristy bits of central london. Interestingly in my experience most non-christians here have trees, turkey, crackers and sometimes even presents. Definitely no "happy holidays" cards - "season's greetings" is the furthest that is usually gone in the name of inclusiveness.

meg said...

Julia, I never get smalltalk in stores. I think I must just look like too much of a bitch? I'm not sure. But I would probably say that I don't celebrate Christmas too, because I don't!

Jenny F. Scientist said...

'We're making donations to the ACLU this year.'

Not really. There are so many Jews here that nobody asks that question.

Snickollet said...

You've gotten plenty of good comments here, but I'll chime in and say that I think your response was totally appropriate. I'd give the same response to anyone who asked. It was honest and polite. What more could you want?

Nicole said...

I would say, "Nope, I am waiting to find out how much others are spending on me first."

www.christyna.wordpress.com said...

ha ha ha you guys are cracking me up!
I too have worked a lot, A LOT of customer service jobs in younger years, they really do force you to talk. I find when I'm getting coffee they take my order and move on and then I hear "tall caramel macchiato" (sp?) grab it and go, it's usually busy or they are talking amongst themselves and I'm so fine with that. There are so many more things to say to someone as small talk I would never touch, Religion (or assume one was a certain faith) or Politics with a stranger, tho I too might have answered something sarcastic back...but more along the lines of why do I need to get you a gift now too? ha ha ha

cooler*doula said...

A 2005 poll found that 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas - so - an understandable mistake on the part of the barista.

That said - I think your response was totally reasonable.

The Town Criers said...

This is so funny; someone asked me this last night as I sat down, "oh, have you done your Christmas shopping?" I just said a slow, "no." Then after a long pause, the woman brightly said, "oh, you must be Jewish! Have you done your Chanukkah shopping?" And I just sort of smiled and said, "you know, we actually give our gifts on another holiday, Purim. We just light the candles on Chanukkah..." She didn't really know what to make of that so she just continued on to the weather.

I don't have a good answer; simply a head nod.