Today’s ‘Mad Men’ selling fake pleasantries


M ad Men is back on television, reminding us how far the science of selling has fallen since the Age of the Three-Martini Lunch.

Don Draper, the sexiest advertising man not really alive, and his partners at the fictional 1960s Madison Avenue agency Sterling Cooper Draper, might seduce their secretaries and play their wives for fools, but at least they aren’t insulting the intelligence of the consuming public.

The phony pleasantries passed off as public relations by present-day practitioners of the craft so stylishly executed on Mad Men assault us in every venue. There is no respite.

At Publix, where shopping is less of a pleasure than it used to be, the simple, sincere friendliness that founder George Jenkins cultivated in his cashiers and stock boys has overripened into an exhausting Kabuki theater of fake friendliness.

Customers are assumed to be in need of a verbal hug from every employee within three aisles of where they are pondering a purchase. If “Are you finding everything OK?” were a drinking game, Publix could sell liver transplants in the pharmacy.

At the bank — any bank — a greeter is stationed at the front door where the uniformed guard used to be on duty discouraging Willie Sutton wannabes. These days, it’s the banks robbing customers, and the greeter’s job is to direct you to the “financial service” that will best enable you to buy things you don’t need with money you don’t have.

You just want a check cashed? The line forms at the right, and plan to bring something to read while you’re standing in it. Otherwise, you’ll be watching a half dozen “bankers” sitting idle in their offices waiting for someone to financially service.

But you can de-stress at the gym, right?


That front desk where genuinely friendly staffers could distinguish between day trippers and people who pay a year in advance and come every day has been converted into a border crossing, complete with an electronic badge that must be scanned.

But if checking in at the gym now has all the charm of checking in at the airport, they’ve got your back — literally — as you leave. You may be six feet past the front desk on your way out, with the electronic doors opening under your feet, when six people behind the desk notice you are leaving, at which time they begin shouting “Goodnight!” and, “Did you enjoy your workout?”

You might not hear them if you’re on an endorphin high or planning dinner or pondering the meaning of life, so they shout a little louder.

“Customer service” has been dumbed down to the point where jobs depend upon one’s ability to make customers acknowledge pleasantries that would be superfluous even if delivered to one’s face, as opposed to one’s fanny.

Mad Men’s fifth season opened on a recent Sunday to 3.5 million viewers, some of them wondering how Don Draper would have fared in a world where success is measured in recommendations on LinkedIn, followers on Twitter and friends — some real, some fake — on Facebook.

Florence Snyder is a Tallahassee-based corporate lawyer who has spent most of her career in and around newspapers.

© Florida Voices

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald


    The imperative is to educate our children

    When the two of us were graduated from high school, nobody seemed to be worrying about China or Brazil or India competing with us as an economy or in education. We took for granted that we were the best in the world in education and the economy and had no reason to believe that would ever change. Everyone seemed to be able to get a job — and to do so with not much more than the bare basics of education.


    Learning alongside my daughter, Bela

    My daughter, Bela, who has autism, doesn’t go anywhere without a pair of socks, which is odd because she never wears socks. Rather she carries them around as if they were dolls.


    His words dazzled the world

    Gabriel García Márquez has left us. His was also a death foretold, but no less shocking, because we resist saying farewell to our heroes. And García Márquez, the immense writer, was a superhero of literature.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category