Wednesday, September 18, 2013


First off I want everyone under the age of 55 to say collectively to me, “Get a life!” If you have said that, you can now proceed to read what my curmudgeonly self has to say.

I would like to know what, if anything, parents of teenagers today have taught their kids about what is and what isn’t the polite thing to say in the workplace. I also would like to know what kind of expectations and/or training bosses give to those same teenagers.

Case in point: the Jer and I went to lunch yesterday and were referred to as “You guys” from the moment our cute little hostess led us to the table (Is this ok for you guys?) to the receiving of the bill at the end of the meal (Here’s the bill, you guys. Thanks for coming.)

I’m not asking for “May I’s” and “Ma’am’s” here. And I’m not concerned that “You guys” sounds disrespectful. What does concern me is that no one apparently has told these kids in the service industries that there is a nice, polite way to interact with customers, and referring to them as “you guys” isn’t it.

The manager of that restaurant probably did not think to give his kids a crash course in appropriate language usage. But I'd like everyone reading this who employs teenagers to stop a second and think about how they want their customers to be spoken to.

Second, I would like to lodge a protest at the loss of the phrase, “You’re welcome” which for eons past has been the appropriate response to “Thank you.” Frankly, I would rather get NO response than to have said to me, “No problem.” This last expression has insidiously crept into our language and one can hardly eat out anymore without hearing it. I understand if I have asked the waitperson for something out of the ordinary, a response of “No problem” is, well, no problem. But it grates on me that when I thank a person, any other response than “You’re welcome” feels like the thanks has been rejected as not significant enough for a decent acknowledgment.

Ah, now I hear you saying it – “Get a life!” But wait, I have one more – this final one not being so much a misuse of specific language but misdirection of it.

Here’s the third scenario. I go into a grocery store, step to the check-out counter with $150 worth of groceries, and while I stand there watching the clerk ring up my purchases – no insignificant amount – I am totally ignored, while I have to listen to a running commentary between the cashier and the box person over their love life or lack thereof. Where is the ethic that the customer is important, or comes first, or even should be coddled so as to generate repeat business? It is obvious that the person holding $150 or $200 in their hands is not very important to these two employees. And I wonder if management ever has taken the time to see how pervasive this behavior is and has tried to get these people back on track. I know of few other jobs where two people can stand around while they are working and carry on such a private conversation in front of customers.

Those of us over 55, who – believe it or not – do already have a life, mostly do not feel it is our job to tell parents and tell employers what they should do to prepare their kids and their employees for the real adult world. So we mainly fuss among ourselves, knowing that we are not so relevant anymore and are shaking our head at the direction things seem to be going.

For the few of us who have the opportunity to put our thoughts onto paper, we implore the multitude of parents, teachers and employers who have an opportunity to hone and mold these young people – mostly good kids to begin with – to turn them into first class young adults, setting standards for interacting properly with their elders and with customers of any age.
It would be wonderful to think someone is listening to my curmudgeonly self.   But alas....


Olga said...

That private conversation thing gets to me, too. I think we should start offering advise from our wise perspectives.

Nancy K said...

Amen and AMEN!!!