Thursday, January 15, 2009

You say, "Thank you". I say, "You're welcome".

You say "Thank you". I say, "You're welcome". At least that's how my mother taught me. It's good manners to respond to a "thank you", with a "you're welcome". But, it seems like many people either didn't learn their manners the same way I did or maybe they just don't have any manners. Either way, I've got a pet peeve to rant on as a hiatus from the heavy tech nature of my last couple of posts (Cheryl, I'm primarily thinking of you as I write this non-techie post).

It's pandemic: waiters, store clerks, gas station attendants, even the phone person who helped me with my recent airfare purchase. All of them responded to my "thank you" by saying something like "no problem" or "yep" or "sure". It may be my upbringing to be mannerly. It may be my Southern roots. It may be just some other voice in my head that translates what I hear, when I hear any of those responses. But whatever the reason, when I hear anything other than "you're welcome", it immediately seems rude to me. When I hear "no problem", I think, "it shouldn't be a problem since I'm paying you for your time and service". Or, when I hear "yep", I immediately picture a gum-smacking, sixteen year old rolling their eyes at me and breathing a long-suffering sigh in my direction as they trudge back to the kitchen to get the baked potato that was left off my order.

Somehow saying "you're welcome" at least gives me the impression that you are having a personal interaction with me and not just giving me your time/attention/service because you have to be there when you'd really rather be anywhere else. It just seems like the "nice" and polite thing to say.

I know it's likely that only I have an objection to such flip responses, but I admit it. I do.

So, if you happen to get a "thank you" from me, I'd really appreciate a "you're welcome".

Thank you for reading. ;)


Gints Plivna said...

Sometimes reason might be non native english speakers, I bet. For example Latvians answer with phrase, which literally would be "please". So probably other nations answer with literally "no problem" :D

Robyn said...

first things first .... you're welcome :)

and if I have answered 'no problem' in the past, a brief explanation. I grew up in Southern California and we mixed Spanish with our English. In Spanish, the common answer to 'gracias' is 'de nada' (of nothing). As it was used, it implied that the task done to earn the thank you was only a small thing, and that the receipt of the thank you felt unworthy of thanks. 'No problem' to me is 'de nada', and years of living in the Southeast haven't undone my training either.

I believe the French 'de rein' is similar.

Don Ford said...

You're welcome. ;-)

Karen said...

Gints and Robyn,

It's funny that you mention the non-native speakers and foreign language influences on American speech. I was thinking about that after I posted and it hit me that I don't get the same feeling that the response is rude if it's a non-native English speaker. I suppose that subconsciously I adjust what I expect to hear in that case...strange. But, I still get a rude or flippant vibe otherwise.

Actually, I think as much as anything how I react is based on voice tone and expression as it does what is said.

Well, at least now I have something else to ponder the next time I'm at Applebee's and the waiter says "No problem lady".

Cheryl said...

Since this is a "non-technical" topic, I will add my two cents! I absolutely have my pet peeves (leaving your shopping cart in the middle of the parking lot is one of them), but I've been thinking about this one and wondering if perhaps some people who work with the public just get tired of saying the same thing. Maybe they try to vary their responses from "You're welcome" to an occasional "No problem" just so they don't have to say the same thing all day. I don't know for sure, but no response at all bothers me a lot more than some acknowledgment of my "Thank you." Oh, and by the way, "You're welcome for thanking me for reading, but I thank you for writing!"

jan van mourik said...

In Dutch we'd also say "geen probleem" or "no problem", if I remember correctly :-)
I do hear "no problem" or "sure" a lot too, maybe I even use it on occasion. And I must say that "sure" is much shorter and faster than "you're welcome"...

Unknown said...

Sometimes I answer 'It was my pleasure' instead of 'you're welcome' if I feel the thank you was too generous. Sometimes 'you're welcome' just feels like 'oh, I absolutely deserved that thanks so you're welcome'.

Oyvind Isene said...

A person who hates to be a burden or interrupt others may out of empathy choose to say "no problem". That is a quicker way of saying "you are welcome again, this is what I do".

robert said...

Disclaimer: no native speaker here.

Often there is no reply to a "thank you" and that's probably even more rude than a "no problem" or "sure".

I cannot remember that my English teacher taught me to reply to a "thank you" with "you're welcome" - I believe, I learned it from Usenet posts or so. So I am happy already when I don't forget the reply. :-)

Kind regards


Joel Garry said...

Do your googling before you rant! :-)

word: redisms

Karen said...

Good one Joel! That was almost word-for-word how the comments on my post played out.

OK everyone....I give up! I get it that the words aren't important. It's the acknowledgment that matters regardless of how it's worded.

I've been listening even more carefully lately and have noticed quite a mix of responses to my thank you's. And, the only time I really get annoyed is when the response "has an attitude". If it's a genuine acknowledgment and not a huffy response that sounds like the person is put out just to have to help me out, then I'm good to go.

So, bring on "no worries", "no problem", "my pleasure", "you betcha" and whatever other response you've got in you. I'll cheerfully accept. Just please don't huff at me when you give it (that I still can't get over). :)

spinfisher said...

I think "you're welcome" is the nicest response to "thank you."
It is humble to say "you're welcome..."
It closes the gratitude loop. People are afraid to do that because when they have done something nice, they are one up in the spreadsheet of life. When you say "you're welcome" you even out the spreadsheet for the other person. When you say "thank you" back, you increase the spreadsheet in your that person has to say something and if they say nothing they still owe you. It is fear of humility that keeps "you're welcome" away. None of us wants to be beholden to the other... think of the joke about the unending feedback loop of "thank you," "no, thank you!", "no, really, thank you!", NO! Thank you!!!"

Saying you're welcome is simple, humble, and closes the loop entirely allowing both people dignity and graciousness. Saying thank you back keeps the loop open while saying things like "no problem" creates more questions like "dang, should I have thought it was a problem?"

Just be humble -- say "you're welcome" when someone thanks you. They will be astounded most of the time and feel even better about the whole affair.

imadork8 said...

Definitely say "You're Welcome!" I Even send out "You're Welcome Cards" Check them out, they are great for laughs-

Unknown said...

Actually I have your pet peeve in reverse. While on occasion you're welcome seems most appropriate and polite, I find that people who say it constantly are telling me that there they did what they did out of a sense of "proper-ness" (obligation), and likewise by saying you're welcome, it feels like it was an effort, rather than coming from the heart. This is particularly so when a compliment is given. To say you're welcome after being thanked makes me question the sincerity of it.

Caralyn said...

Funny- I actually googled the question "is it rude to say no problem instead of you're welcome"
and found this post. For the life of me, when I'm at work I have such a hard time saying "you're welcome". I always say 'no problem', but I've been questioning as of late if that's appropriate.

Let me explain.
I'm a nurse, and my patients and their families thank me all day for bathing them, changing their sheets if they're incontinent, giving them medications, or just stopping by to check on them. They thank me for asking if they are okay or in pain. They thank me for doing the basics. I haven't saved a life, I've just given them what is expected, what they deserve, and basic courtesy. They thank me for simply caring enough to spend time to talk to them.
It's funny, because all day I thought about this while replying with my signature smile and 'no problem'. I do make a point to not be flippant about my response, however.

For me, to say 'you're welcome' feels like I'm taking credit for something that I don't really deserve. I'm doing my job. I'm simply making their stay on my floor as comfortable as possible, because not only is it my job, but they deserve it. And it Should be done. It shouldn't be something special, or noteworthy. It's just what it is.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my job, my patients, and their families. I love doing what I do, and I love that I get to help them get better, no matter if they are in a bad mood, messed the sheets, or need help standing so they can go to the restroom. I love it, and I get so much joy from doing it. But it feels selfish to me to say 'you're welcome'.

I'm from the south as well, so I'm raised with ma'am, sir, thank you and please as well... but when it comes to 'you're welcome' at my job, I just can't seem to spit it out.

Karen said...


I think a genuine response is the best response...the words are secondary. It sounds like your patients "get it" that you care and that's what matters most.

Mikersson said...

Hello, nice article.

In Spanish it's a good manner to say (both):

(you)- ¡Muchas Gracias!
(Me)- ¡De nada!

Quite funny that in swedish do not exist the word: "please" ("por favor" in spanish)the key word that can open many doors in life.

Thank you very much for that!

Kakabeka said...

I don't hear that irritating
No Problem as much as I used to...

I've noticed that the talking heads on TV for quite a while respond to Thank You with the inane response Thank You indicating to me they are terrible communicators.

"Civility refers to behaviour between persons and groups that conforms to a social mode in accordance with the civil society, being a foundational principle of society and law. It carries the essence of politeness, courtesy, good manners, courteousness, respect, graciousness and consideration."

Aceboympk said...

My wife thinks I'm nut because it bothers me when people respond "no problem."

So she sent this to me. When I responded that at least I'm not too crazy, or the only crazy person out there who feels this way, she said at least Karen has an excuse: she's a southern gal.

Oh snap!

Janet Arnwine said...

I have always been taught when someone says, "Thank you" you reply with "You're welcome". I grew up in the south and manners were entrenched into the fabric of our everyday lives. Rude behavior has become abundant unfortunately. People are too focused on their technology driven devices that they don't even take a moment to remember the kindness and good manners we show everyone we interact with daily. I have several pet peeves, but rudeness rates at the top of my #1 pet peeve. Take the time and be kind, remember you get what you give. It only takes a moment to say "You're welcome", and there I said it more than once in this quick paragraph.

Have a wonderful day!