Farrell’s: Customer Service on Steroids

by Renee Romero

“The Managed Heart” by Arlie Russell Hochschild, focuses on the fact that, in many customer service jobs, the “emotional style of offering the service is part of the service itself” (Hochschild 5). This concept did not seem like such a novel idea to me at first, but as I read on, Hochschild began exploring the emotional toll that having one’s emotions managed can take on a worker. I realized that it is important to think of how strange it is that I expect my waiters/cashiers/etc. to always work with a smile on their face. I actually sometimes do complain when I receive service from someone that does not seem happy, and have commented that “they chose the job,” with no regard for their personal feelings. How have customer service jobs evolved to the point that the actual feelings of the worker do not matter; rather, it is accepted that labor, “requires the worker to induce or suppress their feelings in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others” (Hochschild 7).

This is a strange phenomenon that is accepted by most people in customer service jobs. I have heard from at least 2 friends and my own sister (who worked at Hollister, Forever 21, and Starbucks, respectively) that you always have to smile and be pleasant no matter how you were feeling. Often, one even had to work while sick, unless that sickness reached the point where the customer no longer felt “the sense of being cared for in a convivial and safe place” (Hochschild 7). Thus, not only were people being forced to control and manage their emotions, but also even physical discomfort at times, which leads to the question: are worker’s feelings, or even their bodies, their own? As Hochschild points out, this is a question we readily accept when looking at somebody like the child factory worker of the past, but something we often overlook in the present.

While examining these questions, I could not help but think of the most fakely happy place I have ever been to, including Disneyland. Many of you may not have heard of it. I myself didn’t hear about it until one opened up in my hometown of Rancho Cucamonga a couple of years ago. The place: Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour Restaurants. The service: energy (besides food, of course). At Farrell’s there is always a party. That is the best way I can describe the noise, commotion, and energy of the restaurant. Check out this video below of what happens every 10 minutes at Farrell’s.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfOwb0mFFGc

Literally, every 5-10 minutes. Customers are serenaded for their birthday, when they first arrive, and there are special songs for different order choices. If there isn’t a special occasion, sometimes a group of workers will just parade around the restaurant singing and beating a big drum. While this is actually quite entertaining every once in a while, imagine going there everyday and hearing the same songs and seeing the same fakely bright smiles. Now, imagine that you work there. You don’t have to see the fake smiles and excessive energy; you have to provide it, day after day. You have to wonder, what relationship do the workers have to “the “artificial elation” induced on the job?” (7)  “In what sense was it their own elation on the job” (7) that produced such service day in and day out?

I decided to go look at the application to work at Farrell’s and found statements such as, “all workers are able to deliver and promote “Disney” like service.” They call it, “Happy-itis.” Not only that, but in order to work at Farrell’s, you must “have a fun personality;” which already begins emotional management before you even start working there! The application also states that employees “are friendly, smiling and enthusiastic.” While these requirements are not on the actual PDF of the application, each employee is investigated for appropriate happiness and energy levels, in a unique in-person portion of the application process. I have included a video below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rhsqP6pyV4

Also, here is the link to the application: http://www.farrellsusa.com/join-our-team.php

Although I never thought about in as much depth as Hochschild, I do think it is highly important that we look at the toll forced emotional management places on our workers. Looking at a place like Farrell’s proves that point.