Russia's retail workers smile more than America's, in shocking reversal

When McDonald’s opened its first store in Russia back in 1990, one of the biggest challenges was getting employees to smile.

“We were always a little bit afraid of America’s smile,” a former worker from that McDonald’s told Alix Spiegel in the podcast Invisibilia.

Three decades later, things have changed radically. Russia’s retail workers now smile more than Americas, according to the 2016 Smiling Report, compiled by Better Business World Wide from more than 1 million mystery shopper evaluations across a spectrum of industries.

Russia ranked 10 on the Smiling Report with 90% of retail workers smiling. This is a major improvement from 2005, when only 45% smiled.

America — once famous for its smiling customer service — ranked 19 at 87%.

What changed?

For one thing, Russians liked the mood at that first McDonalds.

“Everywhere else you go it was just gloomy and dark and dirty and there were troubles, stress, and you come to McDonalds and it’s — everybody’s always happy and you see smiles,” Chekalin told Invisibilia.

Over time the smiling culture caught on.

For one thing, Russians have realised that polite employees boost sales and attract clients, Oxana Aukchenkova of the mystery shopper organisation NEXTEP told Russia Beyond The Headlines.

The region that smiles least these days is Asia, with clerks smiling at customers only 65% of the time.

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