With everyone is saying “Thank you” today, what better time to think about what comes next?
When you or I say “You’re welcome” it’s after we’ve done something nice for someone, like helping an elderly person across the street or resolving an intractable case.
When businesses say “You’re welcome” it can be genuine, too. But it’s too often uttered at the wrong moment, it’s insincere, or it’s even meant as an epithet.
It’s “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out “– or worse.
Inappropriate “you’re welcomes” happen at the wrong time. I’ve heard “you’re welcomes” uttered by crewmembers after an awful flight, by store clerks when you fail to find the item you’re looking for, by restaurant servers when you under-tip because they just didn’t give a damn about your table.
Do they mean it? No, of course not. It’s meant sarcastically — you’re welcome. These “you’re welcomes” are rehearsed in the break room. They contain just enough toxins to make the employee feel better, but not too much, so that if a manager is called over, there’s plausible deniability.
But the meaning is unambiguous. Do you really want me to say it?
Perhaps the most common “you’re welcomes” are the ones uttered without any emotion at all. They are scripted and insincere. They’re not meant because the employee is forced to say it after each transaction. While these “you’re welcomes” are also benign, they suggest the business just doesn’t care. Often, that’s true not just for the employee, but for the entire company.
The wrong “You’re welcomes” can also be after a company has delivered a substandard product or service: Loyalty points that don’t belong to you and can’t be redeemed, a too-small airline seat, a cell phone with no meaningful warranty, a car that’s a lemon.
Here, too, the employees know they are delivering a bill of goods, which makes their “you’re welcomes” insincere and disingenuous.
They practice these “you’re welcomes” in what passes for customer-service training. They deliver it to you in the same tone as a doctor ordering a patient to take their medicine for their own good. Except, it’s not for your good — it’s for their good.
And that is the Great Lie. You’re welcome for this awful product that you had to buy because the free market doesn’t work and a glorious oligopoly is here. You’re welcome for all that.
The next time you hear the words “You’re welcome,” you should take note. Who is welcome? Are these employees helping me or helping themselves?
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find yourself saying, “I’m welcome? No, you’re welcome,” which is pretty much the only way of registering your disapproval when someone uses that phrase inappropriately.
So on Thanksgiving Day, with everyone talking about gratitude, I’m all for joining in. But I’m not keen on the “welcomes.” I don’t believe some of them.