There’s definitely an art to making folks feel welcome and Rick Allen has mastered it.
For years now, shoppers of all ages entering and exiting the Meijer store in Oxford have been the recipients of a warm smile, a friendly wave, some pleasant words and a helping hand, all courtesy of the 65-year-old gentleman manning the front doors.
But as it often does, the new year brings changes and one of them for 2018 is the absence of Allen from his familiar post at Meijer #197.
He punched out for the last time at 3:30 p.m. New Year’s Eve and is now retired from the greeter game.
It’s “the people” that he will miss most.
“Getting to know them, getting to know the families, getting to know the kids, watching the children grow up – it’s all been a big joy,” Allen said. “I’ve made a lot of friends.”
Allen’s worked at the Oxford Meijer since the store began serving local shoppers in 2001. “I helped open the doors,” he said.
He’s “worked a variety of jobs” in his life “just to keep food on the table” for his family, but his greeter gig at Meijer has been the longest and his favorite.
“I’ve been fortunate to be paid for something I really, really enjoy,” said Allen, who was born and raised in Sedalia, Missouri.
The secret to being a good store greeter, according to Allen, is “you have to come into this job with a positive attitude.”
“Whatever is going on in your life has to stop when you walk through that door,” he explained. “It’s now about the customer. Making sure they are greeted, making sure they are assisted – whatever it takes because you want them to come back. That’s the big thing. That’s the reason we’re here – to serve people.”
In the end, Allen said it all comes down to one simple thing that’s true just about everywhere in the world – “People respond to friendliness.”
Allen’s friendly demeanor has not gone unnoticed by Meijer shoppers. It’s made him something of a local celebrity.
He recalled sitting in a Flint restaurant with some friends when “this lady comes up to me and says, ‘Are you the greeter from Meijer?’”
“It happens everywhere,” Allen noted.
It even happened in Missouri. He was at the St. Louis airport with his son when a woman recognized him. “My son says, ‘Dad, are you being stalked?’”
Although he retired from Meijer for health reasons, Allen, who lived in Oxford for 17 years prior to his recent move to Lake Orion, is not done working. He plans to take the winter off, then start looking for a new job in the spring.
One thing folks may not know about Allen is he’s got a wee bit of ‘the luck of the Irish’ in the form of his children – Rebecca, 33, and Joshua, 23.
“They were both born on St. Patrick’s Day, exactly 10 years apart,” he said. “That was a unique experience.”
Congratulations on your retirement, Rick. Thanks for making the shopping experience at Meijer a pleasant one and good luck in your future endeavors.