Walmart is bringing back what we should have in the first place.

Sam Walton had a dream.

It was of a big store with a small town feel.

That’s why he put cheery greeters right inside the front doors, to say hello to everyone that entered, direct them to the appropriate aisle . . . and give each customer a little “mom and pop” like love.

In 2012, the suits at Walmart “reassigned” all of Sam’s greeters . . . thinking they were more valuable tidying shelves.

And, as karma would have it, shoplifting increased.  (I’d argue that it was not only because the greeters served as an extra set of security eyes . . . but also because it’s harder to steal from “mom and pop” than it is from a big-box store with no personality.)

But there is good news for Sam’s legacy . . . the greeters are coming back!  This summer, if you head to a Walmart, chances are you’ll be welcomed to the store with a smile and a “Hello” as you look for your sunscreen, underwear, patio furniture, etc.

Wouldn’t it be great if every show on Broadway had a Show Greeter?  Like a maître d’ at a restaurant . . . or a concierge at a hotel (but less snooty than both).  I know we have house managers and ushers, but they’re too busy with the logistics of getting 1,500 people seated by 8 PM to give the extra touch of service I’m talking about (and they work for the theaters, not for the show).  A Show Greeter could welcome people to the show, point people to the merch counter, collect email addresses, take pictures, hand out flyers with social media calls to action, etc.  There’s no doubt that the promotional work this Greeter could do would pay for his/her salary easily.  (We experimented with a greeter at Godspell that we called “Godspell Girl” who was a big success – she even had her own twitter account.)

And this isn’t just for Broadway shows.  Non-profits around the country, regional theaters, community theaters . . . all could benefit from having a Walmart-like greeter.

Because the more welcomed a customer feels at your theater, the more likely they will want to come back.


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  • Frank says:

    NYC must be dumber than I thought. This type thing is pretty well standard practice at many regional theaters I’ve been to around the country. It’s sad when simple courtesies have to be “discovered”.

  • Kristi R-C says:

    Standard Practice at many theatres across the country!

    As is a pre-show greeting by the GM/President/CEO including info on upcoming shows, a fundraising plea and a reminder to turn off your cell phones.

  • Carvanpool says:

    Which Union will get the slot?

  • Stephen Marmon says:

    Great idea. Perfect job for new young crew.

  • Jay Clark says:

    Good idea- BUT, I think it would need to be by theatre and not by show. Of course the show would pay for the person and that would cut into profit for the producers. Good maitre d’s, more times than not, build up credibility due to longevity. Could be more of a people person than the house manager in many situations.

  • Nicky from Brooklyn says:

    You don’t have to leave NYC to see this happening. Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn has well-trained ushers greeting patrons at the door, pointing out where the box office and rest rooms are, telling patrons that beverages ARE allowed in the theatre, making sure patrons know how long the running time is, and even recommending area restaurants. At the end of the evening, there is someone at the door thanking patrons for coming, answering questions about the best place to try to catch a taxi and because of how that theatre is configured, many of the actors will greet guests in the lobby following the show. It’s a terrific dynamic and all this friendliness must help with subscriber ticket sales.

  • Debbie Saville says:

    I have a little different slant on this idea and I talk about it all the time in Corporate America…. “employee engagement”, when you have an engaged workforce, one that no matter the work you do, you go in wanting to do your best, because you feel your efforts are appreciated. So in a similar path to what you are talking about, I believe in engaging the audience. My version of this I started with a Cabaret style dinner/theatre many years ago. The evening was all inclusive, there was dinner, a bar, the play/musical and an audience that was so engaged, they didn’t want to leave the theatre afterwards. And so I gave them more…. an “aftershow”, sort of like a variety show environment with comedy and music. There were nights when the house didn’t close until after 2am. Those audiences went home “engaged” and “connected” to the theatre, anticipating what would be next. And now, with my first original musical, featuring the band in the production, I have the audience engaged to the very end with a “finale” song after the cast curtain call. Just when they think it is over, we do a band curtain call that leads into a toe-tapping number and leaves the audience calling out for an encore, just like you see at most concerts. And so, I am incorporating an “aftershow”, with a 45-minute band set that engages the audience to get up and dance. Now they are even more connected. Who does that??? I do! So, what I am suggesting is, be different, be unpredictable, give them something a little unexpected, and they will be engaged,they will talk about it with everyone they know and we all know word of mouth is great for business!!! 🙂

  • Andrea says:

    Hate to break it to you, Ken, but this isn’t a new idea. Check out Woolly Mammoth’s Connectivity Department in DC or The Clarice’s Audience Engagement Department at Univeristy of Maryland. They are just the two that pop to mind–there are certainly more!

  • Dan Radakovich says:

    I believe you meant to say shoplifting DEcreased. 🙂

    Actually I never much cared for the greeters at Wal-Mart because they seemed hokey and in a no-future at or below minimum wage job for an anti-union wannabe monopoly obtaining retail giant. Thanks for the new perspective. It may be a small thing compared to the rest, but it is nice to appreciate not everything they do is anti-societal.

  • Hi Ken,

    I love reading your blogs and find them informative, entertaining and useful as a playwright and as a Broadway fan. Thanks for all you do. I’ve been listening to your talk with Lonny Price, great stuff! I don’t love Walmart comparisons just because I don’t love Walmart–how they treat their employees, etc. I appreciate the idea though.

  • RICK says:

    I loved Debbie Savilles’…comments….I saw this concept at a production last month of 42nd Street…Wow!…If this Broadway producing doesn’t work out..(Not!) I can always be a one man show at a Mega WM store in NYC.
    … I am only 56…and as I tell my students…Oh!.. and dyslexic …Just saying…Thanks Ken, …for the back up plan…

  • I’m curious about the logistics of this in Broadway houses. It always feels like such a rushed, chaotic time – entering the theatre with crowds of people, trying to get to the bathroom/bar before the show starts, finding your seat. And then the mad rush to get out once the show is over.

    I think it could work well in smaller, more intimate settings. But for Broadway houses, you’d almost need a team of greeters, equally distributed throughout the theatre, yet not in the way.

    It’s a good idea! (And it’s nice to see that regional theatres are already doing this.) It would add a great personal touch to the theatre going experience, and could be very successful – especially at getting patrons to come back, if they feel personally welcomed and attended to.

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