Wednesday, August 24, 2005

No problem

In spite of my general churlishness and almost-total disdain for the human race, I try to be polite. It's a generational thing, I think; I was raised to say "please" and "thank you" and to hold doors open for other people, so that's what I do -- even if the dimbulb counterhelp is too busy chatting with their cohorts to turn around and take my money in a prompt fashion.

So here's the deal. When you're a worker in the retail service industry, you're supposed to say "thank you" to your customers. You make a sale, you take an order, you take their money, you say "thank you." Except that today's service help seem not to know this. More often than not, when a counterperson takes my money and gives me change he or she doesn't say anything. If any words dribble from their mouths, it's the phrase "here you go." Sorry, folks, "here you go" is not the same as "thank you." Not that I view myself as all that special, but all retail help should treat their customers as if they were. Hence the "thank you," now missing from our collective retail vocabulary.

So what do I do when a mentally suspect counterperson attempts to take my order, or when a perpetually disinterested cashier hands me my change, or when a distracted waitperson slides my plate down the table? Why, I say "thank you." Forget that that's what the retail help should be saying. I'm polite. When someone hands me something, I say "thank you."

And what does that retail worker say in response to my "thank you"? They say "no problem." Not "you're welcome," which should be the proper response. No, they say "no problem." As if they wanted to reassure me that I wasn't really bothering them by giving them my order or my money. "Hey, man, it's no problem, I didn't have anything better to do than to wait on you." No problem, my ass.

Here's the problem. American society in the 21st century has lost all civility. When a retail worker responds "no problem" to what should be a privilege to serve the public, all perspective has fled. I don't know whether it's a sign of poor breeding, poor schooling, or the heathen influence of MTV, but it's not right and I don't have to like it. We need a return to common etiquette, and a dismissal of this casual indifference. And people wonder why I've become so curmudgeonly...

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree, no problem.


Joe said...

Mike, remind me to always order and get my food before you from now on... I don't want the waiter to accidentally do something to my dish in retaliation for your disappointment with the whole manners thing. Hey, when did you get so darned old-fashioned? Thanks for contributing to the discussions over on my blog, btw...and don't you dare say "no problem"!

The Curmudgeon said...

This is another reason to be polite, despite the "no problem" annoyance -- so the underachieving dimbulb behind the counter doesn't spit in your food!