Is it possible to ask out a customer?
February 12, 2015 6:08 PM   Subscribe

I've been having a lot of casual conversations with a regular customer and I get a vibe that he may be interested, but I do not want to make things awkward in any way in case I'm wrong.

This all might sound silly, but I could use your advice. I've been working in a deli for almost 4 months now and I've gotten to know who most of the regulars are. One of them I've always thought was adorable. We'll call him Peter. He was very quiet, always smiling, but said very little. Over time I've gotten comfortable enough to open up to my co-workers and the regulars. Now when Peter comes in, I make as much small talk as I can.. about the crazy amounts of snow we've been getting, about our jobs, etc. Safe topics. I feel like I'm going to run out of things to talk about soon, and I want to get to know him more. The problem is, the only time we can talk is when I, or someone else, is preparing his order. What makes me think he might potentially be interested is that, a. I've gotten him to talk a lot more than he used to, b. when he's waiting for his order he tends to stand where I am, whether I'm preparing it or not, and c. when we say goodbye he seems to hesitate, like he has more to say, and he holds eye contact (while smiling) whereas most customers are just like "Thanks! Bye!" and leave. He lingers just enough that it's noticeable, but not so much that it's awkward.

Some caveats:

1. I'm gay, and I don't know if he is. All of my co-workers know I am, but this generally does not come up with customers, so there's no way to just.. put it out there.
2. He's foreign, from Sweden (I'm from the US), and I have no idea how this could potentially play into how he acts (or not)
3. He is a delivery guy for an auto parts company that is two doors down

The conversations we have are short, but we are always smiling through out and maintaining eye contact. I would never want to offend him or any customer, particularly regulars, and make them feel uncomfortable. I feel like I'm at a stalemate. Would it be completely wrong of me to "pursue" this? Is there any way I could without offending him? I have worked in customer service for 10 years.. and I've found customers attractive or interesting in the past, but I've never wanted to see if things could go further.

Thank you so much for any advice,
posted by blackzinfandel to Human Relations (13 answers total)
I don't see why not. Most people these days aren't going to get their panties in a twist if the person asking them out isn't their same sexual orientation. In fact, why not just have a friendly beer or coffee together and see where it goes?

Next time he's hanging around waiting for his order, you could say, "You seem really nice, want to get a beer after work?" He'll either agree or not, and it shouldn't get weird.

I will say that the eye contact thing is a European thing, so don't go by that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:20 PM on February 12, 2015

Swedish people, and scandanavians in general, often tend to come across as a bit reserved, maybe even introverted, just because that's the culture.
posted by gryftir at 6:38 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Perhaps one of your Safe Topics lends itself to the proposal of an outing.

"Yes, this is also my favorite sandwich. I find it perfectly complements a particular local beer. Have you tried Particular Local Beer? ... Oh, but you should. The place that makes it is a brewpub, actually, and the owner is a friend of mine, so I've seen the vats -- they're fascinating, real high tech but also craftsmanship. If you're free this weekend, I'd enjoy showing you around."
posted by feral_goldfish at 6:39 PM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]

Do any of his coworkers from the auto parts store come into the deli? Maybe you could subtly ask them if he is gay?

ps. on the off chance your deli has policies about asking out customers, you might want to check into that also.
posted by TheAdamist at 6:53 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh god, don't ask his colleagues if he's gay!!! It's not their business and he could get bullied horribly. Or not. You can't know. And it's his work place!!

Ask him out for a drink. See what happens there. Everyone on the green always says not to ask out customer service staff because it's their job to be friendly, he couldn't know if you're interested or just being the ridiculously helpful American server that no one in the rest of the world has experience with. (Because we all pay living wages and our servers are as entitled to be as rude as anyone else.)

Ask him out. Be discreet because you're so close to his work and lots of people like to keep them separate, regardless of orientation.

Enjoy. Crushes are lovely.
posted by taff at 7:08 PM on February 12, 2015 [20 favorites]

"Hey, if you want to hang out some time here is my number". It is asking him out without asking him out but everyone knows what is up. The important thing is, ask once and if he never calls you drop it completely.
posted by munchingzombie at 7:17 PM on February 12, 2015 [7 favorites]

Swedes are much more liberal than Americans about almost everything and Sweden is very gay friendly, according to this article. So just ask him what the Stockholm Pride Week is like or which area of Stockholm is comparable to Chelsea in NY etc . Read for a week, maybe by then you'll want to visit Sweden, and chat with him about why it's a top travel destination for gays, where to go to enjoy the scene and you'll soon figure out if he's gay.
posted by lillian.elmtree at 7:35 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

Mention something about Facebook and ask if he's on Facebook and ask him out on Facebook, unless I'm terribly old and the kids don't do Facebook anymore.
posted by xingcat at 7:50 PM on February 12, 2015 [9 favorites]

All good suggestions above (I particularly like the Facebook suggestion). If you're embarrassed to say any of these things in front of your coworkers, what about writing "Want to grab a drink sometime?" and your phone number on a slip of paper, fold it up, and hand it to him next time you see him - kinda high school but it will (hopefully) get your point across discreetly.
posted by sunflower16 at 8:14 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Lead with the smalltalk, take it home with a smooth move.

You: "Looks like it's going to clear up this weekend huh?"
Him: "Yeah it should be nice."
You: "Got anything fun planned?"
Him: "Oh just [whatever]."
You: "I was thinking about going to [some local street fair or festival or event or something] but I have no one to go with. If you're free, would you want to go with me?"
Him: "Oh sounds cool sure/hmm maybe when is it/oh well I'm not really into artisinal locally sourced freestyle jazz swapmeets."
You: "Awesome/Saturday/Maybe some other time then? Your order is ready, so let me just write my number on your coffee cup, text me and let's figure it out!"
posted by books for weapons at 8:40 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

Take your break as he's finishing up his order and walk out with him; see how the conversation progresses outside the deli and go from there.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:10 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

I like books for weapons' script, but might tweak it a bit to give both of you a way out just in case (and also so it doesn't sound like you don't have plans), e.g., "I am going to ____ [and then definitely go there]. Yeah, I think it's going to be a fun party/night/thing. You know what, you like [thing you noticed], maybe you'd enjoy it - you should come and check it out, if you don't have other plans".
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:37 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

If it were me (but I'm a hetero woman) I might drop by his store when there's not much going on because "now I'm curious what your workplace is like!". You know, in a jokey flirty fashion.
Or yeah, offer to hang out next time.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:32 AM on February 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

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