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Warm tasking and interruptions in a store

Hi Guys!

Today I went to a physical store (a pick up point) to send back a package I had received with an online clothes order.

I had already gone to this store one year ago, for a similar online product return.

The owner of the store, that time, had power moved on me heavily, and I wrote about here in my journal.

So today I went there again for a new round.

I enter and this form of "warm tasking" ensues.

Me: Hi.

Owner: Hi. Is it a pickup?

Me: Yeah.

Owner: Ok, easy, put the package down on the floor. [my actions and thoughts in grey: tasking starts already]

Me: (I put the package down). Actually, it's five items to pickup.

Owner: Oh it's five. Nothing was good? (tries to mind my personal business)

Me: Nah, it was a "try it out order", meant to be this way. (I suppose I tried to counter by breaking rapport, as he was masking his trying to be dominant behind a very warm tone and behavior)

Owner: Oh, ok. Spread the items out here on this table. (I start getting really annoyed, but still do it)

Me: Here's the bar code. (I went very dominant in body language here, standing very near him)

Owner: Five bar codes.

Me: No, it's just one bar code for the five items.

Owner: Oh, so it's one pick-up then, not five. Sorry I misunderstood (I sensed some weakness on his part here)

Owner: You can put the cell phone here on the table. (so annoying)

Me: No, I'll keep it in my hand (direct non-compliance on my part with a personal item)

Owner: (starts scanning the code, I sense he is stopping the tasking for good now)

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Then, probably sensing that I was starting-to-get-some-power-back, the other clerk in the store came to the rescue (of his boss).

Other clerk in the store: Hey can I ask you something?

Me: (I did not realize he was talking to me)

Other clerk: Can I?

Me: (turning around) You're talking to me?

Other clerk: Yeah. Thank you.

Me: It's a pleasure if I can help. (countering the anticipated "thank you")

Other clerk: I wanted to know how do this "try it out" orders work... they send you the thing and you decide in 30 days...

Me: It's 7 days. And you don't... (I suppose I was still unconsciously going with "break rapport" as a strategy here)

Owner: Sorry, the bar code was not read correctly.

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Here I sensed an opportunity.

Me: (to other clerk) Sorry, please let me finish this for a moment. (I turn around to the owner) Here's the bar code again (he scans it) Did it pick up this time?

Owner: Yeah. Your phone number?

Me: xxx...

Owner: x...? (he probably faked not hearing to make me repeat, so I started repeating more loudly and dominant)

Me: X - X - X - X- X - X- X- X.

Owner: I sent you the receipt. We can put the items in the box you brought.

Me: The instructions said I didn't need to bring a box and you would take care of it. But if the box can be helpful to you, happy for you to use it.

Me: (I turn around to the other guy).

Owner: (this time starts putting the items himself in the box.)

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I went on to talk to other guy.

Me: So they send you the items, you have 7 days to try them on, and you only pay for what you keep. That's how it works.

Other clerk: Ok.

Me: (to owner) So we're all good here? Finished?

Owner: Yeah, all good.

Me: Ok, bye

Other clerk: Thank you for the information (he probably tried to paint me as if I was making an effort for him here)

Me: Thank you! (more warm and loud: I suppose I tried to rebelance that they were the ones doing a service for me. I then exited)

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Happy to read your thoughts on this interaction guys.

Lucio Buffalmano, John Freeman and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoJohn FreemanTransitionedKavalier

Great stuff, Bel.

Sounds to me like you did real well.

I think the link to the journal was missing or I'd have gladly taken a look for context/comparison.

Also good to be kinder and helpful to the clerk, which is a great move to show that you're only curt with those who are too bossy/dominant/asshole (a parallel could be drawn to the girl of your recent journal entry).

Was it a woman?
I've seen this behavior more frequently from women than from men.

Overall, these type of people can be very annoying and, from what I've seen, also acquire some power in life if they have some other skills or drive. But they rarely make it very far since they piss off too many people.

Some ideas:

  • IF it's easy to avoid don't put the box down first thing, so that you don't start with a compliance
  • If it would be weird not to, repeat "I'm gonna put it here", so you self-task instead of executing his task (little self-defense power move, I think it should be in PU's lesson as well)
  • Rapport-breaking joke: "oh it's five, nothing was good"? You: "they were so good I decided it was best not go get addicted". Just a silly joke to avoid answering and following the lead and displaying some "convention breaking social power"
  • Make a meta-comment on the behavior. For example: "spread the items here", "eheh you like telling people every little thing they were going to do anyway eh"

But all small things/ideas.
Overall, you did great.

Ali Scarlett, Transitioned and 3 other users have reacted to this post.
Ali ScarlettTransitionedKavalierBelPower Duck
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Thank you so much, Lucio.

Your suggestions are golden and I'll try to implement them next time if this happens again.

They were two men.

I tried to find the past journal entry but couldn't.

The previous time, one year ago, it had gone basically like this:

  • he had tasked me in exactly the same way, and I had complied to everything without realizing it;
  • he had told me "Here, I'll do you a favor" and then handed me a leaflet of his store - and I thanked him.
Lucio Buffalmano, Ali Scarlett and 3 other users have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoAli ScarlettKavalierDGX37Power Duck

Tschhh, look at that, just one year, turned into a beast.

Two poor guys there must have been thinking it was Clark Kent in chill version the year before, then came back to give them a taste of superman.
They'll be gone next year in shameful self-destruction rather than meet you again 🙂

Ali Scarlett, Kavalier and 3 other users have reacted to this post.
Ali ScarlettKavalierBelDGX37Power Duck
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I was reflecting on the dynamic that took place in this store again (as per the first post in this thread).

My original (wrong) unconscious thought on these "warm tasking moves"

I originally titled this thread "Warm tasking".

Part of the reason why I was unsure whether to address these "tasking" power moves, initially, was that they were framed as acts of kindness on the part of the store owner.

I think my original transcript of the dialogue (in the first post of this thread) was missing the gestures and attitude and tone that the store owner adopted. In other words, my post was not clear on this point.

They all framed "him telling me what to do" as an act of kindness on his part, as if he was letting me "do things in his store".

Here is a better transcript:

Owner: Ok, no worries, put the package down on the floor. (with gestures as if he was making me a favor)

Owner: No problem, spread the items out here on this table. (same as above)

Owner: Put the cell phone here on the table, no need to keep it in hand. (same as above)

So, now, I believe a more correct description of what took place would be the following:

"Favor tasking"

Where the "favor" is on the part of the tasker.

This "category" of tasking seems to be composed of two overlapping dynamics:

1. tasking

2. (fake) favor/kindness on the part of the tasker (debt creating/inflating)

1. Tasking is meant to frame the tasker (in this case, the store owner) as being higher power than the customer (in this case, me), with all consequent effects on the social dynamics.

2. Then there is the (fake) favor by the tasker, combined with the tasking, which results in the creation of a "fake debt" on the customer's side.

It's a form of "debt creating/inflating" (social scalping) composed of a combination of "providing imaginary help" and "being overly kind".

Actually, it's the combination of extreme kindness in tone and gestures that is sufficient, in itself, to frame the tasking as a "favor" on the part of the store owner:

Owner: Ok, no worries, put the package down on the floor. (subcommunication: you can use my floor, see how kind I am)

Owner: No problem, spread the items out here on this table. (subcommunication: I'm letting you use my table, see how kind I am)

Owner: Put the cell phone here on the table, no need to keep it in hand. (subcommunication: you can continue to use my table, and I'm being sooo kind to let you not tire your hand with your cellphone while you show me the barcode)

It's meant to wrap the tasking under a cover of "I am making you a favor, not ordering you around".

But make no mistake: the tasking component definitely was there, and was also very pronounced.

I remember now another significant detail: he told me to put the box containing the items I had to return on the floor. Then he told me to open the box and put the items on the table.

But: the floor zone where he told me to put the box was not near the table, and the table in any case was big enough to hold both the box and the items.

In other words, he created a situation where I deliberately had to expend effort.

Not to say that he should have just done it himself.


The covert frame (of fake kindness/favor) is fake, and insidious.

It's insidious because it's hard to recognize and defend from the tasking if the tasker frames his tasking as an act of kindness.

It's fake, because the true frame here was that I was returning items bought online, and the store owner would be paid for the return (by the online shop).

In other words, the store owner wasn't making me a favor: he was doing a service to me in exchange for money (the fact that the money would be paid by a third party is irrelevant, but no doubt amplified the cover for the tasking).

The power mover was very good at this, and also very experienced

I now note another detail: he broke the "fake favor tasking" in steps.

In other words, he didn't start with a big tasking, nor did he stop after the first tasking.

Instead, he created momentum by progressively escalating micro-tasking power moves which, in themselves, were difficult to recognize.

This way, even if someone checked his moves, he would lose little power and also have a good cover.

He was very good, and deliberate in what he was doing.


The motive behind the "loan sharking/debt creating tasking" power move was thus:

  1. to make me more pliable to his frame by framing me as lower status/executing his orders;
  2. to gain a fake credit against me, thus raising the possibility that I, feeling indebted, would use his other store services, or leave a positive review of his store (which I later saw many people did online).

Again on the effects

Each component amplified and compounded the effect of the other:

  • the tasking made it more likely that I would feel subservient and thus "in debt", and that I would "repay the fake debt";
  • the fake favor made it less likely that I would resist the tasking, and made any resistance attempts on my side easier to frame (if needed) as me "being ungrateful".

By the way: in other situations the favor can also be real, but still be mixed with the tasking.

Eg: "Please sit here".

A double punch power move that is useful to recognize not only for defending, but also possibly as an aggressive move against the really bad people:

(fake) favor-tasking them.

Side note: another way to defend

There is another way to defend against this move.

It's this:

Power mover: Put the box here, no worries.

Me: Oh, thank you! (said while smiling, with a tone of "thanks for nothing")

Granted, this move breaks more rapport, and thus it's more useful in formal hierarchies: for example, as a higher-up to defend against "fake kindness tasking" on the part of a subordinate at work.

Lucio Buffalmano, John Freeman and Power Duck have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoJohn FreemanPower Duck

Great analysis, Bel, thank you for sharing this.

I've seen this same dynamics more often from very high-power women, especially older ones.

The frame for them is the "helpful and kind grandmother who tells you what to do for your own good".

Of course the "own good" is all to be seen and far from certain.

May deserve its own name and definition, actually.

Something like:

  • Mother hen dominance, to command, task, and direct others with (potentially false) kindness as well as potentially within the frame of doing so for your own good
Ali Scarlett, John Freeman and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Ali ScarlettJohn FreemanBelPower Duck
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