Haha, (not) funny.

Readers who have been reading Service Untitled since at least June 13 know that I don’t appreciate humor. Actually, that’s hardly the case. I like humor, comedians, and all of that, but don’t appreciate sarcastic or “realistic” humor during customer service interactions.

Like from my experience at the Marriott:

The front desk clerk joked about something related to my reservation. He said something along the lines of “You have a parking lot view, correct?” when I specifically asked for a mountain view. He was kidding, but I don’t usually appreciate that kind of humor.

That isn’t humor that I appreciate. In fact, it’s quite annoying and extremely unprofessional.

I saw something similar when I was at an Apple store about two weeks ago (pre-iPhone). A teenager came into the store with his mom and said he wanted to buy a 30 GB iPod. The sales representative (er, Mac Genius) said that he had to order the iPod online. According to the sales rep, they were no longer available in the store and had to be ordered online. The teenager couldn’t believe it. The rep had me going for a minute or so too. After a minute or two, the rep said he was kidding and went to get the shopper his iPod.

A friend of mine who applied to work at the Apple Store saw a similar joke from a manager who pretended that he had forgotten my friend had an interview. My friend, who was nervous enough to begin with, didn’t really appreciate the humor, but told me it wasn’t that dragged out.

I’m not that old and understand that Apple is trying to be hip and all of that. I doubt the same manager would play a joke on the customer. If so, I doubt Apple’s head of retail or Steve Jobs would approve of it. If they do, it definitely isn’t good customer service.  The company has a sense of humor, which is great, but it should be limited to internal communications, not communications with customers as well.

My opinion is that these sort of jokes are unacceptable during customer service interactions. They are on the same level as calling someone dude or bro. Not the end of the world, but not professional.

What do you think? Am I just too uptight or do you agree that these sort of things are unprofessional?

5 Responses to “Haha, (not) funny.”

  1. Stephen said:

    Jul 03, 07 at 12:37 pm

    I totally agree with you… these horrible attempts at humor are less than service-oriented… I have been places where people will tell me the price of a coffee cup as “one thousand and ninety-six dollar” when it is really $1.96…. I get it, and I am sure they are trying to make the experience enjoyable… but, if you want to provide me with service, just do what you are good at, make change and give me a cup… or change the sign to offer, coffee cup and a joke… and then staff with comedians…

    I think that it is a social ineptitude by most people who are trying to make the experience enjoyable, but are under-equipped… without sounding humor-elitist, I just don’t find most people funny…

    Don’t know that there is a solution to this…

  2. Service Untitled said:

    Jul 03, 07 at 12:51 pm


    I agree. Most people aren’t funny and when you are the customer and on the tail end of the joke, it isn’t funny. There are good uses of humor in a customer service situation, but things like what you and I talked about are not good uses.

    Thanks for your comment!

  3. Maria Palma said:

    Jul 10, 07 at 2:24 pm

    Hmmm…Interesting post…As much as I agree with pretty much everything that you’ve said on this blog so far, I think this would be the one thing that I disagree with.

    However, I understand that there are certain situations when humor is not appropriate. I sometimes used humor to “test” how easy-going a customer is. There are customers who just want to be in-and-out and I can understand that. That’s when I know it’s time to pull up the sleeves and just do my job.

    For the most part, I can take a joke. No harm done. Unless someone decides to tape a note on my back saying, “Kick me”.

  4. CustomersAreAlways said:

    Jul 10, 07 at 3:30 pm

    Customer Service Humor…

    Service Untitled has a post that got me thinking today.  When is humor ok in a customer service setting?  What about this situation…A teenager came into the store with his mom and said he wanted to buy a 30 GB……

  5. Service Untitled said:

    Jul 10, 07 at 8:23 pm

    Hi Maria,

    Thanks for your comment!

    That’s fine. You are probably more easy going than me. 🙂 I don’t think it is appropiate to test the customer and drag it out. If you can do it with taste, I think it can be done well.