guest

If you are an employee of a big-box retailer and I’m in your store, there is a word that precisely describes my relationship to you. That word is “customer.” I am here to buy something and you are here to sell it to me.

But you don’t call me your customer. You call me your “guest.”

If you are a person reading this on the internet, you’ve probably already guessed why big-box management thought this would be a great idea. Someone must have told them that words can change the way we think about other people and the way we interact with them.

Maybe if big-box employees call us “guests,” they will have warmer feelings toward us. But couldn’t it also change our feelings about them?

Think about it: We walk into a building. We stand under harsh fluorescent lights. Our host makes us pay for the privilege of wading through a sea of junk to find the thing we’re looking for, then standing in a big line for a long time before we’re allowed to have it. They don’t offer us anything to drink or a place to sit down.

If we’re customers, this is nothing personal. It’s business as usual. If we’re guests, these people are the worst hosts ever.