Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Don't say 'have a nice day' unless you mean it (July 06 Manistee News Advocate)

Who first came up with “have a nice day?” And did anyone ever actually mean it? It’s an expression that has been passed down for generations now, and I’m not sure anyone knows where exactly it started.When I worked in the service industry, I never used this phrase, because I don’t think it is very sincere. We usually hear these four words as we leave a cashier at the grocery store, gas station or other similar business. We often hear it from complete strangers when we’re on the phone, as well.Generally, the amount of enthusiasm and care given to uttering it are considerably dispassionate. On the other end of the spectrum, the fake enthusiasm given to saying it are enough to cause nausea.It has become the mandatory period to any conversation where one participant of the exchange is a member of the general public, and the other, a customer.Does the guy working behind the counter at the gas station really care if I have a nice day or not? He doesn’t even look up at me when he says it, and the amount of excitement in his voice is on par with saying something like “enjoy your root canal as much as I did mine.”I haven’t ever found myself pulling into the service station in a bad mood, paid for my gas, and miraculously turned my attitude around after being asked to “have a nice day” by a complete stranger.“Why, thank you very much, young man! I think I will just go out and have a nice day! That was all I needed!”Okay, that was a little too sarcastic, I know.But why do we say it? What is it adding to the human experience? I advocate that we discontinue this worn tradition and instead replace it with a genuine, sincere conversation between customers and the businesses that they patronize. Or, as a service employee, if you choose not to engage the customer in any type of joyless banter, feel free not to do so. The lack of a conversation is better than a canned corporate sentiment doled out with the most minimal of intensity. Now, I’m not being pessimistic, or disparaging to anyone in particular. Once in a while, someone bids me a good day and I think they actually do wish me some good will. There are some actually genuine folks out there asking me to have that nicest of days -- but that is the choice of the person doing the talking -- they shouldn’t feel obligated to do so because of tradition or some ridiculous company policy.I think we need to free service industry workers from feeling that they have to wish me good will. If you are waiting on me, folks, you’re off the hook. Don’t go too far the other way, though, you still have to be pleasant.If someone leaves a bad tip, or is difficult, these hard working, often low paid service workers aren’t allowed to say “have a bad day,” so why force anyone to say the opposite if they don’t want to? When I was a waiter, (for what seemed like an eternity), there were many times that I held my tongue when people snapped their fingers at me, or treated me with a level of condescension previously reserved for bottom-feeding members of the lowest echelon of society. I found that in those situations, it was better to just not say anything at all, lest I say something I might regret. I surely didn’t want any of these bad eggs to have anything resembling a nice day after they left my company. I actually wished for quite the opposite.Why not just cast away the catch-phrase “have a nice day” forever? Blot it out of the public consciousness. Pretend it never existed. It may even feel liberating for us all, who knows?And while we’re at it, lets do away with asking each other “how are you doing today?”, when calling complete strangers on the phone. Nothing tips me off to a telemarketer more quickly than picking up the phone, hearing my first name pronounced “clean”, and then being asked how I am doing today by an unrecognized voice from some telemarketing warehouse in Idaho. He doesn’t care how I’m doing. Its just something that’s written on his little telemarketing script. Sometimes I just say “horrible, I just lost my job, my dog was hit by a car, and I found out I have cancer. How is your day going?”He lied when he pretended to care how I’m doing, so I’m just returning the favor. So, if you don’t mean it, lets do each other a favor and just skip all of the fake sentimentalities, especially “have a nice day.” Wish me a nice life, or a nice month, or something more original, instead.Cean Burgeson can contacted during one of his nice days at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

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