Why isn’t ‘You’re welcome’ the reply for ‘Thank you’ anymore? It used to be–back in the olden days when courtesy was a way of life. That was before the phrases ‘Not a Problem’ and ‘No problem’ took our culture by storm.”
I was at a breakfast place with my friend, Sarah. We were having a good time when, for no apparent reason, I became irritated.
“I’m aggravated.” I squawked. “It’s not you or me, but something isn’t right.”
Sarah laughed, “You’re not having one of your baby meltdowns, are you?”
Just then the perky waitress returned with our iced tea.
“Thank you,” I smiled.
The waitress gushed, “Not a problem,” and skipped back to the kitchen. I didn’t know why just then, but I didn’t like her reply. Then came the third encounter.
“Not a problem,” she chirped. She was very friendly, but obviously following her peers into this language mine field.
Okay. What’s the big deal? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here goes.
“Thank you” is a show of gratitude for service rendered. “You’re welcome” is a reply that focuses the attention back onto the one who’s grateful—that is the customer. It’s a pleasant exchange. In addition, the phrase “You’re welcome” begins with “You” which, once again, focuses back to the grateful customer.
On the other hand, when “Not a problem” is the response to “Thank you,” who’s that about? Not the customer. This phrase sounds like the server’s saying, “I didn’t have to go to any trouble to do this for you.” So, the server is highlighted. There is no acknowledgement of the customer’s gratitude. Then, there’s the fact that “Not a problem” starts with “not.” Isn’t beginning a courteous exchange with a negative word sort of like shooting yourself in the (good communication) foot?
So, there it is. Am I crazy? I don’t think so. I’m just a woman who longs to hear, “You’re welcome.” Why? Because, gratitude is one of life’s simple joys, not just sometimes, but every day in every way.