One of my big pet peeves is when people start off conversations that have a specific purpose with small talk. Usually, but not always, this is people I don't know too well personally. I don't understand it at all. Maybe they think that I'm really stupid, and won't notice that they're doing it, and rather think that we were having an exciting and friendly conversation, and then a request or question just happened to slip in. It's so pointless, and so irritating. Here's how it goes...
Person: Hey, how's it going?
Me: (sigh) Fine.
Person: How are you liking the Segway?
Me: (sigh) It's fine.
Person: Gonna miss the warm weather?
Me: (sigh) Not really.
Person: Oh, one other thing; (insert question here)
Wow! Really subtle. Good work. Whatever you thought you were doing by getting on my good side or whatever, you've failed miserably. Now I'm irritated at you before you even ask your question. Compare and contrast:
Person: Hey, (insert question here)
I'm not against small talk with people I know. I can even tolerate it for a short while with people I don't know. But if you have a question, or a request, or just a statement, just SAY IT. Not to mention the fact that if I'm busy when you ask, I may ask you to come back later if you start talking about inconsequential things, but I'll happily answer a focused question.
I consider myself lucky that people on my team don't do this, which I even find kind of surprising. But a lot of people do, both in person and over IM. Even a few people I know very well will always preface questions with nonsense.
I don't think it's unreasonable to ask people not to start off conversations with topics that they don't actually care about when they have a topic that they do care about waiting.