Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Problem with “No Problem”

If you are a twenty something working in the retail or foodservice industry, then you would do well to take a piece of friendly advice from someone who was once standing in your shoes.

Lately, (actually for several years now) the response I have been getting from store associates and restaurant servers is “no problem”. Notice how I didn’t say clerks or waitresses, it’s about respect. Whether I have asked for a glass of water or asked where something was in the store, I am a still getting the standard, “no problem”. While this is often delivered in a courteous manner, it still falls short of respecting the customer on at least two levels.

First, when you reply with a “no problem”, it suggests to the customer that you are willing to overlook their interruption to your work. The mere inclusion of the word “no” automatically places a negative connotation on the exchange and suggests that you are going above and beyond the call of duty when in fact, you are actually just doing your job.  Second, it is a poor choice of words that sounds canned and impersonal, especially to those of us over 40. If the customer takes the time and effort to say “thank you” for your assistance, a much warmer and more effective response is “Your Welcome”. A nice alternative that also rolls off the tongue is “My Pleasure”.

I am well aware of the huge communication gap that exists between the younger and older generations, and I’m not saying that this is necessary all the time. To be sure, people can be extremely difficult, but when the situation warrants it and you’ve got no better reason not to, why not try smiling as you invoke these time tested winners ? I guarantee that your customers will notice. It may mean a bigger tip for you, a better performance review, or it just may make you feel better knowing that it really doesn’t take much to offer the respect that we all could use a little more of .


  1. I completely agree Mike, you are right on

  2. My first thought to "No problem" is that most frequently I heard it said by a person whose first language wasn't English after being spoken to in English. Maybe it's idiosyncratic to my experience when conversing in a foreign land -- or even in America to to a person whose second language is English. Again, it's a communication thing.

  3. Mark "Gonzo" PetersAugust 12, 2010 at 6:25 PM

    I am amazed to see this Mike..this has been one of my pet peeves for years also...what happened to.."no sir..thank you" after I thank the service provider for whatever service he or she have provided.....the problem as I see it is, at its root, a breakdown in the passing on of etiquette from parent to child...what about hats worn inside?.My dad would have completely lost control of himself had I worn a hat inside..let alone in the poresence of a lady or God forbid at the dinner table....look around the restaurants these days....hats..hats and more hats....I asked my grandson if he would please take it off when he sits at the table with me..he reluctantly complied..when I thanked him he replied... "no problem"

  4. Damn, you hit it on the head. My fave is that "At the end of the Day" thing I hear the press and every other smuck say befor they canfinish a sentence. And what is so "Awsome" about everything? But hey, No Problem. Have a great day! Unless you have other plans!