Feeling down? The ‘compliment guys’ are here to help
Stress relief at Washington University is now instantaneous.
Each Friday for the past two months, freshmen Greg Herren and Mike Bjorgaard have positioned themselves by the Forsyth Boulevard Underpass to compliment students as they walk to class. They arrive at 8:30 a.m. and continue to dole out compliments until 11 a.m.
“We just wanted to make everyone’s day a little brighter. It’s a great way to start a Friday,” Bjorgaard said. It’s the earliest I wake up all week…I wouldn’t wake up this early to study, so we have to wake up early to give compliments.”
Herren posed the idea of starting a compliment club to Bjorgaard, one of his Beaumont 1 floormates, at the beginning of the semester. Herren witnessed a similar program at Purdue University during a college visit and decided to bring it to Wash. U.
At first, the sight of two men yelling compliments to every passerby at the Underpass confused students. Any skepticism of Herren and Bjorgaard’s intentions, however, was quickly dispelled.
“We have some sort of regulars…people that come by for five minutes and just talk with us, which is very cool,” Herren said.
“We had to build up an understanding. There are people that come out just to see us. We had one experience where someone drove over from the Village just to see us,” Bjorgaard added.
The compliments themselves are topical, a necessity since the “compliment guys” must reach hundreds of students each hour as they walk to class.
Student response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I like what they’re doing. It’s kind of nice to get a compliment in the morning. It’s not personal, but it’s something nice to start the day,” freshman Steven Peterson said.
“I think the biggest thing was the acknowledgment, for them to appreciate it,” Bjorgaard said. “On exam week, we went out…and one person just stopped and basically told us that they were really nervous going into the exam, but because we were out here, it put them at ease a little bit.”
Now two months into issuing compliments, Bjorgaard and Herren often receive help from other students. Freshman Surjan Singh, who met Herren in physics class, has stood alongside the original “compliment guys” for the past month, regardless of the weather. All three students are enrolled in the engineering school.
“I figured I’d try it once and see if I like it…It’s really kind of weird to do it. You wouldn’t think you’d get so much satisfaction from just complimenting people,” Singh said.
The success of the group has Herren and Bjorgaard eying expansion. They hope to start programs in front of the library and in the Village. They have applied for Category III status within Student Union, which would recognize the group as official but would not provide any funding.
The “compliment guys” received a small boost on Jan. 21, when two employees from Bon Appétit Management Co. braved the snow to distribute free hot chocolate to students as they walked to class. Nadeem Siddiqui, resident district manager of Bon Appétit, had offered the hot chocolate to Herren and Bjorgaard after seeing how beneficial the compliments were to the community.
Jan. 21 did not pass without its problems, however.
“Someone called the cops on us because they thought we were high school kids sitting on the ledge hitting on college girls,” Bjorgaard said. “We actually were giving out hot chocolate that day, and a girl told me ‘look behind you,’ and there were two squad cars sitting behind me with windows down, and the lady was just yelling at me.”
Though the Washington University Police Department took down Herren’s and Bjorgaard’s information, they allowed them to continue doling out compliments. The complimenters informed WUPD that they would be out again on Jan. 28, and there were no problems.
The successes of Herren, Bjorgaard and Singh have led to rumors of additional groups forming to grab their piece of the action.
“My girlfriend has heard people talking about starting an insult club right next to us…It wouldn’t exactly be the best club in my opinion,” Herren said.
The “compliment guys” have no plans to stop providing their service to the community.
“They’re just genuinely nice guys who want to make people’s days a bit better. It’s the morning; people are tired; they don’t want to go to class, and they [the “compliment guys”] just want to cheer them up,” said Ethan Goldstein, a freshman.
“I feel like it’s been helping my karma points so much,” Herren said. “There were times when I’d go to a vending machine, press a button and it gives me two sodas…it’s like ‘Oh, cool.’”