"He's talking 'bout 'Please and Thank you'
They're called the magic words
If you want nice things to happen
They're the words that should be heard."
Yep, that's the refrain from one of Barney the Purple Dinosaur's signature songs. And for those of us who were exposed to this immensely popular PBS series while raising our children in the '90s, the words and catchy melody remain forever etched in our memory.
But how about the Millennials themselves - those impressionable munchkins sitting Indian style while glued to the TV day after day, absorbing life lessons from Barney and his friends. Now that they are grown and having children of their own, all of Barney's good intentions to teach them proper manners appear to have gone by the wayside.
You don't have to take my word for it. On your next shopping excursion, count how many times you hear a "Thank you" roll off the lips of a 20-something. Odds are the final tally will be zero. Whether working a store checkout, waiting tables or pumping gas, the phrase is simply not in the Millennials' vocabulary. To their way of thinking, it is outdated, old-fashioned and above all, not cool.
I bristle when I hear "Have a good one!" in place of a traditional "Thank you." Another lame substitute is "Have a good day!" Ditto for "Here you go." Excuse me, but I just spent some of my hard-earned money in your establishment and I want to be thanked for my patronage. Nothing is more awkward and brusque than having your change handed to you in dead silence with no eye contact from the cashier.
Let's place equal blame on the store's management for such unacceptable customer service. If I owned a business, I would impose a three-strikes-and-out rule. In other words, if I caught an employee not thanking a total of three customers for their purchase, his/her next stop would be the unemployment line.
My daughter Roxie was 17 when she began her first part-time job at One Stop Food Mart. I remember offering this bit of advice on her first day of work: "When you give the customer his change, look him in the eye, smile and say 'Thank you' - and Ginger will give you more hours." Not surprisingly, she rolled her eyes. But later in the day while ordering a sub over the phone, I heard a familiar voice in the background as Roxie sent her customer off with a pleasant "Thank you."
Earlier this year while applying for graduate school internships, Roxie asked me to proofread her cover letter to a minor league baseball team's ticket sales manager. I didn't find any errors, but suggested "if you add that you believe in sending each and every customer on his way with a warm smile and a 'thank you' instead of 'have a good one,' I guarantee you will get an interview." She took my advice and a mere half hour after the email was sent, the manager was calling her. Proof positive that the Baby Boomers (who are doing the lion's share of the hiring these days) are eagerly seeking that elusive "Thank you" from their pool of job applicants.
A while back, I took to heart a lesson from the most astute and successful businessman I know. The seasoned entrepreneur explained his simple philosophy to me in these words: "I may not always produce, but I am always polite."
Music to Barney's ears, for sure.
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