I Have A Problem With 'No Problem'

Also, congrats to the DiBettas, today's government meetings, last night's Planning Commission results, and a great debate.

So I'm at the grocery store ('supermarket' seems far too regal a word for our downtown Safeway), and the young girl is putting my stuff into my Patch bags. I pay for my groceries (and yikes! are things getting expensive) and thank the young girl for putting my stuff in the bags.

"No problem," she said.

This is one thing I've noticed for a few years now, and it continuously bugs me. When did "no problem" become the appropriate customer service response? It feels dismissive. Let's just continue the sentence. . . "no problem, I've done you a favor but don't think anything of it, really."

And that's the problem. Making me feel as though you've done me a favor by doing your job feels strange. The fact is, I've done you a favor. I've selected your establishment to patronize, and as a result you have employment. And a paycheck. For that, you should at least pretend to be grateful. And "no problem" does not come off as gratitude. It comes off as attitude.

I can't find too much fault with the youngsters, though. It's really up to the managers to train their employees on customer relations. So if you're a manager, please advise your youthful workforce (and your older one, too, for that matter) on the appropriate ways to interact with your customers.

Unless, of course, that's a problem.

  1. Just want to take a second here to point out that Saturday will be the 50th wedding anniversary of Ed and Donna DiBetta. Martinez Patch wants to extend our heartfelt congratulations for this very special occasion.
  2. Today at 3 p.m. the Martinez Waterfront Joint Powers Authority (Martinez and East Bay Regional Park District officials) will get together to discuss items of mutual interest. Included in those items is a request from the for a fence around the courts, to help prevent ongoing vandalism. Park board member Ted Radke is not fond of the idea. What do you think?
  3. Tonight at 7 p.m. the Martinez City Council will discuss and perhaps approve the two-year budget for 2011-2013. The council promised to find $50,000 somewhere to prevent cutting hours for staff at the . Tonight perhaps we'll find out where that money came from, and if some other employee wound up getting their hours cut instead.
  4. At last night's meeting, a proposal by celluar service T Mobile to install three antennae on top of an electrical tower at Hidden Valley Park drew absolutely no one to the meeting. T Mobile representative Karen Lienert said she sent out 140 notices about the proposal, and received only one response -- from someone in favor of the plan because it will improve reception. The commission will decide on the proposal later this summer.
  5. Finally, there is a healthy debate going on in the 'comments' section of the How to Transform A City article from a couple of days ago. This is the kind of back and forth that makes online journalism more of a participatory activity than a passive experience.
Celeste Altus June 15, 2011 at 05:23 PM
T-Mobile representative Karen Lienert sent about 140 notices? To homeowners, to the media, or where? That is it? That park is less than a mile from my house and I didn't get any kind of notice. That kind of issue draws absolutely no one to a public meeting in Martinez versus angry mobs with pitchforks and torches in Walnut Creek - and my guess is Martinez residents are busy working !
Matthew Segura June 15, 2011 at 08:38 PM
About the "No Problem" response, I think it's more of an automatic cultural response as opposed to one with any forethought about the potential reactions. How many times when, you're in a hurry and you see someone you recognize and, because you're in a hurry, you start to formulate your response before you even exchange greetings and you get it wrong. Maybe it's just me, but, while it would be nice to see people put some thought into their responses, I don't think most people even consider the fact that someone might take umbrage with a "No problem" response (or something similar). As a matter of fact, I'd assume that there are countless responses to typical gestures that would offend someone, but I think overall, given most people know it's a response that is generally given in good nature, most people don't pay much attention to it (nor should they). Just my $.02.
Patrick J. McNamara June 16, 2011 at 02:02 PM
Regarding the idea of a "fence" around the bocce courts, I don't think a fence is what the players want. I think what they want is a locked gate and exclusive access (or at least controlled access). I don't like the idea. Those courts belong to the public at large. If I want to grab my cheap set of bocce balls and go play, why should I need permission and access granted by some bocce court monitor? Please correct me if I am wrong, but I doubt they want a fence with an unlocked gate to keep the wild bison herds out. They want to keep the homeless out. The other 99% of the populace who are not the "approved" bocce regulars who will also be inconvenienced or excluded... well, they are just collateral damage. If sleeping homeless are deemed to be a problem, deal with that by pruning trees, shrubs and ground cover for clear fields of vision by EBRPD and Martinez Police who will, of course, make routine patrol checks on this declared problem. If it is not a problem worth the few minutes of spot-checking 4 or 5 times per shift by park & Martinez police, then it's not a problem worth fencing off and excluding the public from what is not an exclusive bocce club.
Donaleen DiBetta June 16, 2011 at 03:31 PM
Many thanks for the 50th Anniversary congratulations!!! See you Sat. Donna & Ed DiBetta
Robert Rothgery June 16, 2011 at 04:11 PM
I am often confronted with another platitude: "Did you find everything okay?" When my wife is not with me I have been known to diagnose the chickens -cardiac arrest, and don't forget that avocado with an arterial venous fistula. Often I just mention that the chicken pieces in the deli are much colder than the hot holding temperature, (139º), required by law.
Patrick J. McNamara June 16, 2011 at 04:57 PM
That's funny. My pet peeve is when I ask, do you have any whatchamacallits, and the reply is, "all we have is what is there."...to which I have often been tempted to reply "Yes, but I am all but legally blind, so I cannot see what is there, so I am asking you to physically help me search, or call over another store employee with a more comprehensive knowledge of what you carry." Instead, I usually just say "OK, sorry to have bothered you." and leave the store.
Gigi Walker June 16, 2011 at 05:48 PM
pet peeve, and I use the term all the time,, "this is a non issue" gosh I wish I could say something nice about it ,,,but when it's coming out of the mouth of someone using the term, really your point of view is null and void period! .. so it can leave the person whom may really have an issue going on to be dismissed as a non issue , it can be hurtful at times...so I'll be more careful using the Term ! and Jim I'll avoid the "No Problem" term as well...my new term will be " my pleasure" and with the "Non Issue" term ,I'll change that to , "at this time your problem cannot be heard" ! OMG I hope the city council don't pick up on this!
mark simons June 17, 2011 at 02:52 AM
Excellent observation..two thoughts: a) it should be (as you alluded to) "no problem...thank you for (insert description of event here)" but what really gets me is the REPEATED response with the same verbage. "Can I have some water?" NP "Can I see the menu again?" NP "Can you bring some exta.." NP ALL answered one after the other with the same NP response...THANK YOU ROBOT WAITER! Oh...and btw I am really glad to hear it is NO PROBLEM. I mean that IS your job right?
Chris Kapsalis June 17, 2011 at 03:48 AM
When asked "what's going on?" the answer is almost always "Not much" even if the person is swamped in drama. When asked, "How are you?" the answer is almost always, "Fine" even if you are not. However, when thanked, the answer should be "your welcome" then a hand out for a tip. Many places do not allow their employees to get tips. I think more musicians should have a few tip songs, to remind people to tip. There is nothing wrong with working hard and getting a tip or two. Money talks. When someone washes your car or mows your lawn, or carry's your golf bag, you should tip them if you can. They will understand if you can't. We have forgotten about common courtesy, like tipping. So, she should have said "your welcome" then put her hand out for a tip. If no tip comes, then you rub your fingers together and go " Ahem" , then put your hand out again.
Bruce Campbell September 15, 2012 at 04:05 PM
I get that it's not meant to be dismissive, and I have "zero problem" with it amongst friends, but in business it's weak and I wouldn't want MY employees saying "no problem" when they SHOULD say "You're welcome!" or "I'm glad to do it!"


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