Catnip College

How to Small Talk at the Store

Approach the register. The clerk will say one of the following:

  1. “Hi, how are you?”
  2. “Hi, how’s it going?”

If they say “Hi, how are you?”, reply with one of the 4 standard responses:

  1. “Good, thanks” or “fine, thanks” – Saying only “good” or “fine” and not asking how they are doing back will tell the clerk that you’re strictly business and have no time for chit chat. There are 171,476 words in the dictionary (OED2), and millions more in the Urban Dictionary. Do not use any of them to describe your day except “good” or “fine”. Wake up this morning to find out Fido kicked the bucket? You’re having a “fine” day. Dear old Aunt Frannie get decapitated in a freak boating accident? You’re having a “good” day.
  2. “Good/fine, thanks, how are you?” – Adding a “how are you?” at the end of your “good/fine, thanks” is a great option because it shows that you care about the clerk’s well-being as much as they care about yours.
  3. “Good/fine, just trying to stay cool/warm” – You can never go wrong with the weather.
  4. “Good/fine, almost off / just got off / going home” – don’t say where you are leaving or almost leaving from.

If the clerk say “Hi, how’s it going?”, there is an additional response you can use – “It’s going”. Make sure to really draw out the “i” in “it’s” to make sure the clerk knows you’ve had a long day.

Some other options include:

  1. “Bad” – If you’re having a terrible day and want to be honest about it, don’t. Just cough up a “fine” and be on your way. But if you do choose to do so, expect an “I’m sorry to hear that” followed by a now awkward silence.
  2. “How am I what?” / “How’s what going?” – a good dad joke and a charity laugh from the clerk can really lighten things up.
  3. Nothing – Say nothing if you like having your clerk hate you

Now it is the clerk’s turn to respond. Let’s see the expected responses to each of the above cases:

  1. “Good/fine, thanks”
    1. “Good”
  2. “Good/fine, thanks, how are you?”
    1. “Good, thanks”
  3. “Good/fine, just trying to stay warm/cool”
    1. “I know it’s crazy”
  4. “Good/fine, almost off / just got off / going home”
    1. “Oh nice”
  5. “It’s going”
    1. “I feel ya”
  6. “Bad”
    1. “Sorry to hear that”
  7. Nothing
    1. Nothing

When finished scanning the items, the clerk will tell you your total and may ask if you want to donate the remainder on the dollar.

When the clerk hands you your receipt, you may get a “thanks, have a good day!”. After being well-wished, you will want to return the favor with a “thanks, you too!”. If weather was mentioned, you might also get a “stay warm/cool!”, to which you can respond with an “I’ll try!” and one of those charity laughs that sounds like “huhuh!” and ends abruptly.

Refer to this flowchart if you get lost anywhere in the process.

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