Thank You...No Problem!
First off, a heartfelt "thank you" to Amy Kannel of the Lavender *Sparkles* weblog for turning me on to our topic today. Amy posted an entry to the Nashville is Talking weblog portal last weekend that sparked my (and hopefully your) immediate interest; the subject matter concerns the impact different ways of responding to "thank you" have on people.
Imagine that a warehouse clerk at Sears hustles and bustles a heavy piece of exercise equipment you just purchased out to your waiting vehicle in the store parking lot. "Thank you so much!" you say to the young man. "No problem," he replies.
As you drive off, your mind sets to turning. "What was the potential problem? That I indirectly asked this employee for assistance in helping me to lug this awkward, bulky item to my vehicle? That I momentarily pierced the bubble of this young man's thoughts as he stood shuffling his feet with his hands stuffed in his jeans pockets in the middle of a dusty, lonely warehouse? What?"
The response of 'No problem' to 'Thank you,' friends, is what is known as a non sequitur.
The Wikipedia editors have an interesting perspective on 'no problem':
[No problem] is typically used to mean "I've taken care of it" or in place of "You're welcome," in response to "Thank you" (i.e. "No thanks are necessary; my effort was no problem for me"). It has no real meaning outside of the context in which it is used.
A phrase or idiom dictionary translation of "no problem" might read "I'll take care of it" or "there's nothing to worry about." However, it effectively means "I'm not going to give you any other assurances," and thus ends a conversation about whatever risk is about to be incurred. Some think it means roughly the same thing as "shut up."
Jewish World Review's Bob Greene hits on some extremely salient points in his piece "And now even saying "thank you" creates a problem" (great article! please read it), some of which I addressed in my essay "You Guys":
Of course, you can always hit the trifecta. You're in a ticket line at the airport. You're waiting for someone behind the counter to acknowledge that you're alive.
Finally the person says:
"You guys need to move down to the next counter."
Out of habit—or fear of offending—you say to the airline employee:
And the employee, without looking up or making eye contact with you, says, as if on cue:
I'm particularly struck by Greene's reference to the atrocious "you need to" construction. Ack, how this bothers me. You can bet I'll be authoring a post on this subject in the near future.
Here's another illogical and (in my opinion) inappropriate response to 'Thank you' that I would like to run up the proverbial flagpole: Sure. Check out the following fictional exchange:
Marge in Accounting: Henry, thank you so much for fixing my computer. I don't know what I'd do without you!
Henry in IT: Sure.
Again, let's analyze the 'sure' response for a moment. Could Marge in Accounting conceivably be left wondering if Henry, with his 'sure' response, doubts her sincerity of gratitude? Exactly what is Henry 'sure' (or 'certain,' to substitute a synonym) of, anyhow? That Marge believes that Henry actually fixed her computer? What?
Readers, I hereby commit that, one day at a time, I shall do my best to avoid responding to expressions of gratitude with inappropriate and potentially insulting non-sequiturs such as 'no problem' or 'sure.'
Truly, working in the information technology field is, in practice, much like working in retail. Accordingly, I find the principles contained in Dave's "So You're Getting Started In Retail" Page to be relevant to our discussion. Viz.:
Correct responses to "Thank you" include:
* "You're welcome."
* "My pleasure."
* "Glad to help you."
* "Thank you."
The response "No problem" is never correct.
I myself use "You're welcome," "My pleasure," "I'm grateful to have been of service," and "You're very welcome" most often. What do you use?
Enjoy your day.
UPDATE: Last night Sue and I went out to to dinner with a couple friends at PF Changs in downtown Nashville. Interestingly, every single staff member with whom we interacted responded to our "Thank yous" with "No problem." Our server put a fascinating twist on the situation by responding to one of my "Thank yous" with "It's all good." Otherwise, the service and food were wonderful as always, and our server deserved every bit of his 20 percent tip.