This past week I received an interesting note from an old college buddy, Pete Walsh, who is also a frequent visitor to ideationz. He commented about the fact that when you say “Thank you” to a cashier or server or customer service employee, the most common response seems to be “No problem!” So why would this be worth discussing in the first place? Well, Pete’s point (which I agree with completely) is that we are losing our sense of courtesy and appreciation in many levels of social and/or economic interactions.
One might question (as Pete did) as to why it should be a “problem” for a retail employee to take your money in the first place? If there is no reason why a “problem” should exist in a retail exchange, then why would a store clerk be compelled to assure the customer that there is “no problem”? Why not respond back to the customer with a mutual acknowledgement (“Thank you” for being our customer), or, better yet, to make the customer feel a little special (“My pleasure” in serving you today). Or, simply acknowledge the customer with a sincere response (“You’re welcome”) and move on.
Responding with “no problem” implies that on some level the store employee had to go out of his or her way to process a transaction, which is the reason the retailer exists in the first place. The reply seems both inappropriate and odd. My curiosity piqued, I kept a tally of six exchanges that I encountered with cashiers, mostly of a demographic between 16-25 years old, somewhat evenly split between male and female. In three of the six instances, I was told “No problem” when I thanked a store employee. In one situation, I was ignored completely by the clerk. In one exchange, upon my thanking the store employee, the response was “Next!” And in one retailer, my “Thank you” was treated to a seemingly genuine “Thank you”. One in six is not impressive.
Granted this is not a scientific study of contemporary mannerisms, but it does raise some interesting questions for retail management to ponder. One, if you can’t rely on your (largely millennial) employees to interact appropriately or courteously to your customers, there might be a training need that should be considered. Second, if a courteous and appropriate employee is becoming less visible in today’s marketplace, then there might be an opportunity to differentiate your business by nurturing and encouraging simple rules of etiquette.
I suspect that Pete is not the first person to have been put off by this apparent trend. I would be curious where you stand on the matter. Are you comfortable with being informed that providing minimum service in exchange for your money is “no problem”? Is this another indication of eroding social mores, or is it really just “no problem” at all? What do you think?