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Service Encounters

Openings and Tone Setting

The opening and tone setting of a service encounter can be very important in establishing how successful (or unsuccessful) the transaction is going to be.  Without the proper greetings and tone setting, it would be more difficult for both the service provider and the client to reach common ground. 

For example, imagine the last time you were in a store and the clerk was rude.  What did you do?  Sometimes people leave the store and do not make their purchase or they complain.  Sometimes they do nothing, especially if it is a small item they are purchasing.  How might your perspective change if we told you that the store was a travel agency and you were planning a very expensive trip?  You would probably be more inclined to walk out and find a different travel agent or, at least complain. In this section, we will examine some of the most important features of openings in service encounters in Spanish.

Pragmatic Strategies

Greetings in service encounters tend to vary across language varieties and types of service encounters.  However, in almost all instances they exist and are used to establish the interaction. 

Formality
In Spanish, greetings tend to fall across a formality continuum ranging from formal:

Buenos días. Buen día, señora

to less formal

Buenas

to informal, especially common among young people.  

Hola…hola, ¿qué tal?

In addition, politeness expressions are common in some places:

Buenos días, ¿en que puedo servirle?

 

Familiarity
Another aspect of greetings that are important are service encounter interactions with people you know.  Many people go to the same vendors or stores each week to buy what they need and, in doing so, establish a relationship with the merchant.  Thus, the service encounter is more than a transaction; it is an enjoyable social experience as well.  In these cases, more extensive greetings and interactions are common.  They often include:

    • Personalized exchanges discussing politics, health, and school.
    • Jokes and humor.
    • Health and well-being inquires.

Some Example Opening Sequences

Now, in order to get a better idea of how opening sequences appear in Spanish, let’s look at some examples.  As you play each sequence, pay particular attention to the formality of the greeting as well as the general tone of the interaction. 

Greeting 1

En la librería

A client walks into a bookstore in Northern Spain.  The merchant greets her.

Indicate the level of formality below:

Very Formal
Formal
Somewhat Formal
Informal
Very Informal

Does this level of formality seem to set the proper tone? Explain your answer.

How many greeting strategies were included in this interaction?

List each of the greeting strategies used by the merchant and the client.

Merchant

Client

If you had to guess, do you think the client and the merchant know one another? Why or why not?

In general, how would you describe the tone of this interaction?  Do you think it was pragmatically appropriate?  Justify your answer. 

 

Greeting 2

En el mercado

A Peruvian woman goes to the market to buy vegetables and greets the vendor.

Indicate the level of formality below:

Very Formal
Formal
Somewhat Formal
Informal
Very Informal

Does this level of formality seem to set the proper tone? Explain your answer.

How many greeting strategies were included in this interaction?

List each of the greeting strategies used by the merchant and the client.

Merchant

Client

If you had to guess, do you think the client and the merchant know one another? Why or why not?

In general, how would you describe the tone of this interaction?  Do you think it was pragmatically appropriate?  Justify your answer. 

Synthesis

How do the openings you saw here compare with openings in service encounters in English?

If you had to teach someone about the pragmatics of openings of service encounters in Spanish, what would you teach them?

 
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