I’m not an overly grateful person, but I think I said thank you roughly 50,000 times today. Why? Because I work in retail, in Britain. That makes for an overwhelming combination of gratitude and apologising for no real reason.
Every exchange with a customer requires at least four offers of thanks:
- For handing over the item they wish to purchase.
- For giving me their money.
- For thanking me in return.
- For leaving.
This abundance of appreciation does make you wonder about the value of the word. Am I really grateful for every step of the retail journey? Am I genuinely glad to receive a handful of coppers to count out? Or am I just filling the gaps in our exchange in an effort to be polite.
I’m leaning towards the latter.
But of course, we have to be polite. So perhaps, as retail assistants, we could try to be more creative with our niceties:
Customer: hands over items
Assistant: I shower you with appreciation
Customer: hands over money
Assistant: Do I get to count all of these? That’s spiffing!
Customer: thank you
Assistant: Jolly good. Tally-ho!
I know, it sounds bizarre. But that’s the point. It sounds as ridiculous to say ‘spiffing’ in the 21st century as it does to say thank you four times in under a minute. Almost every interjection from the assistant is unnecessary, but we will continue to over-thank at the risk of sounding insincere in order to be polite.
So what’s the answer? To hell will politeness. Tomorrow, I am going to perform a wild experiment and say thank you only when it is necessary. Wish me luck and…
Thank you for reading!