Be Nice

Note to cashiers at Mobil Self-Serve, CVS and Dunkin’ Donuts:

After I hand you money, and you give me change, and I say “thank you,” it is acceptable to reply with any of these phrases:

  • “You’re welcome.”
  • “Happy to help.”
  • “Have a nice day.”

It is not okay to look right past me into space, and say nothing at all.

35 responses to “Be Nice

  1. Dennis Wong

    Try self-service as I do. Then you can welcome, thank and wish yourself a nice day. You can also compliment yourself on such prompt, efficient and pleasant service with a smile. Time to make you own day.

  2. Add to the list of “not okay” responses by clerks or wait staff (when thanked by paying customers/patrons) the all too common:
    “No problem”.

    That one is somewhere between a blank stare and a “you’re welcome”, I suppose. But it’s kind of like a “Having to accept your money or fulfill your request wasn’t too bothersome or problematic for me – so I guess you can come again if you want to” response.

  3. As far as Dunkin’ Donuts goes, the service is so fast that they have no time for pleasantries. The thank you is replaced with “next!” 🙂

    I’m just so amazed by their speed.

  4. Bobbie Herman

    But you’ll notice there’s a cup prominently marked “Tips” on the Dunkin’ Donuts counter.

  5. At least “no problem” acknowledges your existence.

    My husband and I disagree on whether to leave money in tip jars at counters. I tip when someone brings food to my table, but not when they don’t move from behind the counter. He says he tips because they did provide the service and are poorly paid.

    What do others think?

  6. The principal reason we developed ATMs (AKA Customer Activated Terminals or CATs) at Citibank back in the 1970s was because they were friendlier to customers than the tellers. They also took fewer vacations and sick days. 😉

  7. Working Rage-aolic

    Hmmm . . . I think the reason they developed ATM machines as well as free checking was to make money. Dan, I think you should write a book on the Rules of Tipping because Mary has a point. I never know whether to tip the flower delivery guy anymore? And while I know you are a very polite gentleman, Dan, why aren’t these establishments saying “Thank you!” to you?

    • Why don’t they say “thank you?” Maybe they haven’t been trained by their bosses (or parents). Maybe they’re bored, distracted, too low paid to care, or don’t think it matters. Maybe so few people say “thank you” to them that they don’t know how to react. Maybe they’re basically not nice people.

      Any other ideas?

  8. Just say “you’re welcome”, after thank you . Works everytime!

  9. The checkout phrase “Is that all?” puzzles me everytime.
    No, come to think of it, I would need toothepaste,cotton balls, laundry detergent and a birthday card! Since I’m already here and you’re asking me, could you please get them for me? Thank you very much and have a nice day.

  10. How do you do?

    Someone I think is wise once said: Manners are there, not to make it fancy but to make others feel comfortable. Clearly, at the check-out counters described (and my suspicion, lots of other places too) no one is thinking that way…why indeed? Surely the best thing anyone can do is model politeness early and often in the hope it rubs off all around. Parents: That’s us!

  11. Did’t you know that in Weatport , and elsewhere, rude is the new politem. Try pulling into traffic without a police escort or worse yet, try being nice and letting someone in and see how quick the folk behind you start honking

  12. I was very aware of the employees at Stop & Shop being somewhat “dazed” when I would finish our transaction. Never a “thank you.” I usually said it first for some unknown reason: Was I thanking them for taking my money??? For doing their job??? I wrote a letter to the management of Stop & Shop and of course, they said they would have some training in that area.
    Nothing has changed. And I shop late at night and have gotten to know many of the cashiers as well as the stockers/janitors, etc. They are very nice, good individuals but I do not think they have been “trained” or indoctrinated in the word “thank you.” I noticed Whoppi Goldberg has been harping on people just using the word. So, to answer your question Mr. Woog, I believe it comes back to upbringing. It has nothing to do with education or income for many you hold doors for or grab their bag at the dump, don’t say it either. Maybe we all ought to just stand there until they say “thank you”???? Perhaps they will learn that way. Until then, what is, is.

  13. Sensible One

    People in the service industry – Stop & Shop, CVS, Dunkin Donuts etc….. are not only unconcerned with politeness, they could care less about the patrons or their jobs. They are paid minimum wage. There is little chance of advancement and they are simply putting in their time until their shift is over.
    I am sure that they are all nice, good, people (to quote Igor) but I don’t think training will do a thing. Perhaps if some money was attached to providing good customer service, they might be so inclined, but I doubt that will ever happen.

  14. While Sensible One is always sensible, I hate to classify individuals according to their jobs or status. There is a gal at Stop & Shop at night who always asks about my dogs and always says thank you. Others do not. There are also guys at the YMCA who may give you a grunt when you hold the door for them or even say hello. There are folks at the train station that will cut you off in a minute for a parking spot. I think, culturiologically, we have begun to distrust each other and probably, as Dan initially suggested, not become very nice. Such trait is led by corporate America who, for example, charges 32% on credit card balances and are the same entity that pays that cashier minimum wage for only 20 hours a week so they don’t have to give them benefits. It is a changing world, Emily Post is turning in her grave.

  15. Gary Singer

    After living in Westport/Weston for 40 years we moved, first to Sedona, AZ, and six years later, here to Sarasota, FL. The difference in service industry attitudes north and south is dramatic. Yes, teen agers still answer “thank you” with “no problem” in many cases, but that is their way of saying “you’re welcome”. They smile, they’re polite and friendly, even when extremely busy, and they actually make eye contact. The clerks in the super markets couldn’t be nicer or more pleasant. They’ll always offer to take your packages to your car and unload them for you. Tips are never accepted. When we’re back in Westport, or most anyplace in the northeast
    (especially NYC), we are amazed at the difference. Here the attitude is
    “May I help you?” Up there it seems to be, “Why are you bothering me?”

  16. Arthur Johnson

    People are people, no matter where you go. I am glad to hear that Mr. Singer’s experience in the southeast and southwest have been good. Yet, I have been in Palm Beach where they treat you like dog poop and the kids in Houston look the other way like they do here. One big difference: high school kids in those areas actually work. Most of individuals we have discussed here are shipped in from Bridgeport to work because of the shortage of labor here. Such is not a class distinction but an observation.

  17. Sensible One

    The various experiences voiced here are interesting to me. I have found people in NYC are particularly pleasant and love going into the city. Going to the grocery store is not nearly as “fun” and perhaps our expressions and body language reflect that. I don’t think that the cashiers jump our of bed every day and shout – hooray – I get to go and stand on my feet for eight hours and collect money!
    High school kids did at one time work part-time in stores etc. and of course, on summer vacation in Westport.
    I think that the college process changed all of that. Putting on your college application that you worked at Dunkin Donuts (or anywhere else in the service industry) for the summer became a negative. It was more important to have something more enticing and exciting on the application so that you would stand out in the sea of students applying to all of the schools. Especially the top schools.
    But, Mr. Johnson is correct, most of the individuals who work here in what are considered menial jobs, are from Bridgeport. I do know that for quite some time, Balducci’s tried to hire kids from school, but found their schedules too restrictive. That also contributes to the situation.

  18. As usual, you intend to enlighten oh Sensible One. In such insight and in tune with Mr. Johnson, the CEO of J.Crew (and former founder of The Gap) said in a recent interview that the first question he asks job recruits: “What kind of job did you have in high school???” His rationale is that once you have been at the bottom and taken all sorts of “dog poop,” you get a better appreciation for something better. The kids today are so structured between lacrosse practice/guitar lessons/building houses in the Dominican Republic that they lose out on the common experiences that may just help them in the long run. I think it is the parents’ high expectations that may trigger this but regardless, it is a disservice. I do believe Mr. Johnson did contradict himself with “people are people” and then denying class distinctions in those who are really the core of the service industry here. That being said, I agree with him that people are people, no matter where, what color or what background. I have the most polite Latino working for me who actually shakes my hand every time I see him. So rudeness and lack of manners is blind to race, creed, gender or religion. I think it has a lot to do, much like success in education, with the parents’ involvement and the quality of that involvement.

  19. Sensible One

    Oh my Igor, I detect a tone of condescension! I don’t ever “intend to enlighten” anyone. What I have said here is my opinion. I think that most people who are in dead end jobs are not particularly enthralled to get up and go to work every day. It is the same thing day in /day out. They are interested in putting in their time and getting a paycheck. Period.

  20. Richard Lawrence Stein

    Funny… I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on an Army base during the Viet Nam war. When my father went to check me out of the nursery, there was a very small nominal fee. Most would give the nurses an arguement for having to pay. My father said happily Thank You!!!, and went on his merry way. The nurses were all taken by his thanks, because most were rude and mad about the fee. Interesting how being civil at different places is looked upon.

  21. Gary Singer

    To Arthur Johnson: I agree with you on all points.
    When I applauded the service people here I Sarasota), I should have added that most are native or from mid-west or bible belt families. Those on Florida’s “gold cost” (Palm Beach, Miami,etc) appear to merely be north-easterners transplanted. I should have further added that we have our share of rude service people, and Westport has plenty of caring, smiling ones. Merely walk into Silver’s and see what sort of caring service you’ll receive from Steve or Susan. Or at Sally’s Place. Or from the server’s at Bogey’s

  22. Outside Observer

    You know the Dunkin Donuts, next to Earth Animal and across from Fresh Market, are some of the nicest people in town. They are also cheaper than the other two which are owned by another couple. Intersting how it often starts at the top!!!
    P.S. It help to give a tip too!

  23. Sensible One: Hardly critical. I find your comments very intuitive. Seriously. Funny how emails can be mis-construed. However, I used to make well into the 6 figures practicing law and dang, that job at a donut job always looked pretty good. 90% of all jobs are boring as hell.

  24. Innocent Bystander

    I was brought up with hounding echo of my parents saying: “And what do you say????”
    after being given anything. Those days are gone and I think our culture is reflective of such lack of proper “thank you’s”. Is that good or bad?
    It seems by the reaction here that it is not good.
    “Thanks” Dan for making us aware of that the world is turning to “dog poop.”

  25. Innocent Bystander

    I was brought up with hounding echo of my parents saying: “And what do you say????”
    after being given anything. Those days are gone and I think our culture is reflective of such lack of proper “thank you’s”. Is that good or bad?
    It seems by the reaction here that it is not good.
    “Thanks” Dan for making us aware that the world is turning to “dog poop.”

  26. Sensible One


    I was responding to what you wrote: “you intend to enlighten” – meaning that I have an intention to educate people. I am the last person who would try to do such a thing. I certainly have my own opinions that sometimes do not coincide with yours – but that doesn’t make you any “righter” than me.
    We are talking about a much bigger issue that goes far beyond manners and upbringing and the general “goodness” of people.

  27. Lawrence Zlatkin

    Of course everyone should answer with a thanks or a courteous greeting. and, it has still baffles me that people in the northeast walk by people they know without saying “hey” or “hi”– which is just old fashioned midwestern courtesy. (i am still recovering after 18 years in westport from Chicago withdrawal).

    but, as for clerks at fast food here, who are paid minimum wage to work in an affluent town, my view is “give them a break.” knowing what it is like to live in westport, my sense is that they are just getting by to get out of town at the end of the day. i always thank clerks, but, i have no expectations.

  28. I agree that It would be nice of cashier would say “thanks, have a great day!” each time I bought a cup of Joe in the morning.

  29. Sorry for the premature post. Anyhow, what I find odd about this discussion is that not one person looks at it from the cashier’s standpoint. Would you agree there are entitled, non appreciative, rude and rushed patrons coming in and buying coffee from cashiers every day? If yes, how would you feel? Over some time, you might not be able to muster up a “thank you” or “your welcome” either.

    Enjoy compo beach today. Bring on the summer!!!!

    • Interesting, JW — but if so many people were “entitled, non-appreciative, rude and rushed” — which in Westport is definitely true — wouldn’t you be MORE inclined to respond to those who actually did say something nice to you?

      Just wondering…

  30. But JW, isn’t the customer always right? The politics of consumerism, America’s strongest economic profession, have changed. There is no question that the minimum wager is bummed out especially in this area. What I love is the sackers at Stop & Shop — Debbie, Tim & others —- that are really “special” people and go out of their way to be friendly and courteous. We all might take a lesson from them.

  31. caring person

    i have always find that if you are looking for good service at a gas station…try the BP station across from blockbuster..the kids that work there are very nice and the manager who is an indian fellow is also very helpful and nice as well

  32. Dan,

    Never mind the ‘help’: I thought you were talking about fellow Westporters! My favorite is holding the door open for someone, and they waltz right in without even a thank you!

    It IS getting worse, and the behavior of the resients degenerates a little more each day.

  33. Innocent Bystander

    No question manners have gone by the wayside but then again I am beginning to sound like my father which I swore I never would. Many people react well when you happen to say “Hello” or “Thank you” to them. Others do not. I have noticed that if you are upbeat (which is hard these days), the cashier will often be friendlier with the next customer. No complete answer but that is what makes life so interesting: none of us are exactly the same.