I can’t imagine anyone reading this has not, at some point, in some store or office, thanked someone and in response been told it was “no problem.” I get it all the time.
I try to be polite and good mannered all the time. Plus, having worked in retail and food service when I was young, I understand how difficult dealing with the public can sometimes be, so a sincere “thank you” is offered at every opportunity. I may even go overboard at times, so you will understand why the following column, which appeared in The Boston Globe, caught my eye.
To make sure there’s ‘no problem’ try ‘You’re Welcome’
During a visit with my father, I happened to catch the end of the television game show, “Wheel of Fortune.’’ On a couple of occasions, I’ve seen Pat Sajak, the emcee, bring up an etiquette issue. Thank you, Pat.
This time he let loose with an etiquette pet peeve that struck home. He asked, rhetorically, what the deal is with people who respond to a sincere “Thank you’’ by saying “No problem.’’
I couldn’t agree with him more. “Thank you’’ is an expression of appreciation one person offers another. To respond “No problem’’ is to shrug off this acknowledgment as really being undeserved.
Too often we ignore or dismiss “Thank you.’’ Saying “No problem’’ is one of the most common ways it’s done. Nobody likes to be dismissed.
I’ve written about the importance of saying “Thank you’’ and writing thank-you notes in previous columns. As important as it is for one person to say “Thank you’’ to another, it is equally important for the person being thanked to acknowledge the thanks sincerely. And the friendliest, nicest, most sincere response is “You’re welcome.’’
By saying “You’re welcome,’’ a person shows she has heard the “Thank you’’ and appreciates the recognition given by the person saying it.
One of my own pet peeves in this arena is people who respond to a “Thank you’’ by saying “No, thank you’’ with the emphasis on “you.’’
Huh? What did I do to deserve your thanks? When I hear this response, I wonder if the person is trying to trump my thanks with theirs.
If you want to return the “Thank you,’’ there’s an easy way to do this. First acknowledge that you’ve heard it and appreciate it by saying “You’re welcome.’’ Then, having done that, you can say, “And thank you, too. I really appreciate . . . ’’
By first acknowledging the other person’s thanks, you are taking a moment to focus on what they have said and show that you appreciate their gesture. You are showing them a measure of respect. Then you can offer them your thanks as well, and it, too, becomes a sincere demonstration of your appreciation of them.
When I’m thanked by the checkout person at the grocery or or other store, I always say “you’re welcome.” Unfortunately, more often than not these days, a “thank you” is not forthcoming as the person hands me my change and receipt, so I issue a “thank you” of my own which is too often met with indifference or a “no problem.”
I sometimes wonder if this is just another face of the general coarsening of American society, or if it’s the result of parents who don’t bother to teach their children about manners and politeness or if the person who trained the employee is an example of The Peter Principle at work. Whatever the answer, business owners would do well to think about the message their most visible employees are imparting to customers.
Politeness demands that we let it go when our thanks are met with a “no problem” even though I always want to ask if doing their job courteously and well normally poses a problem for them but in my case, did not.
Is my experience a function of living in the Northeast, where high school and college kids fill most low-level positions at stores or is this kind of thing common where you live, too?
Do you have a problem with “no problem” or do you often say it when thanked? If so, why do you say it instead of “you’re welcome”?
And do you wonder, as I sometimes do, if all this will bottom out one day and a return to civility and politeness and good manners will begin?