February 12, 2010

Was A "Social Lie" Called For?

As many of you know, over the Christmas holiday I had a part-time job at a chocolate shop. It had been a dream of mine since I was a little girl to one day work for this chocolate shop company. I not only got to live that dream, I got to live it in the very store that had inspired me as a child.

Recently, they called me back to work there again for the upcoming Valentine's Day rush. I said yes and, as I'm currently an employee there, I'd prefer not to mention the name of the company here just yet. You probably know and that's fine; let's just see if we can avoid mentioning it in the comments, m'kay? ;-)

I worked last night for a few hours and had a moment that left me questioning my response to a customer query. Now, customers ask me a LOT of questions during each and every shift (when I'm no longer working there, I plan to write about some of them) and because a high level of interaction is required, I turn into the perkiest, chattiest Cathy you ever did see. So not me in general, but it's kind of part of the role. I'm used to being questioned and responding in a friendly manner and tonight was no exception. The question this time was a first for me, though.

A nice man (who had been kind enough to let an older lady go first because he was indecisive about what to get), who I would say is around my age, was ordering his candy and I was getting it bagged for him. I think he asked a question or two about what kind of boxes were available and it was a pleasant interaction. Then he smiled and asked, "It must be really hard for your other half to get you something special for Valentine's Day when you work in a chocolate shop, huh?" I didn't really think about it too much, I just replied honestly, smiling, "Well, if I had another half then, yes, it might be difficult for him!"

At least two of the ladies in line visibly cringed and one said, "Ohhhh..." in an "Ooh, you stepped in it, mister," kind of way. I could tell that he didn't really know what to say for a moment, so I continued on in an attempt to mitigate his embarrassment, "But then, I love getting chocolate so it really wouldn't be all that hard!" I kept smiling and finished the transaction. He recovered and was smiling again when he left.

I was left to wonder if being honest (but pleasant) wasn't the right move in this case, however. Because while I didn't mean to put him on the spot, he was making a common assumption I encounter all the time: Coupled, until proven otherwise. I'm used to setting the record straight, so it came naturally and there was no ill will intended in my answer. Now I'm thinking, however, that it wasn't actually meant as a personal question -- it was really just like the ones I get all the time along the lines of "Oh, how can you stand to work here without eating chocolate all the time?!?" -- so perhaps I should have just played it off with a laughing, "Oh, it is!" or something similar.

Was the so-called "social lie" called for in this case? What do you think?