Nothing Up My Sleeve

Jon Gallagher

The Missing Magic Word


A few years ago, the Zephyr ran a story about clerks and cashiers who didn’t bother to use the amgic words that we all learned in Kindergarten – “Thank you.”  The results were surprising; more than half of those recorded failed to thank their customers for making a purchase.

Although I haven’t gone to the trouble of recording every single response I’ve gotten lately, I have made a few fascinating observations.  I’ve also kept track of one place of business in particular and will share those results with you.

“Thank you” is being used less and less, and in the case of younger workers (those under 21 or so), many times not at all.

Instead, two phrases are creeping into the vernacular, evidently taking the place of “thank you.”  Both come shamefully short of a satisfactory way to express gratitude for a customer’s business.

“Have a good one” seems to be the most popular.  Every time I hear this phrase, I want to climb across the counter, grab the clerk by the lapels, and headbutt them back into a more traditional verbiage of expressing appreciation.

First of all, what am I supposed to have a good one of (grammar teachers feel free to express your disgust at me ending a sentence in a preposition)?  A cupcake?  Perhaps something a little more substantial like a steak?  If it’s nighttime, maybe they’re inviting me, or commanding me, to have a good dream.  I don’t know.

Maybe they’re suggesting that I should have a good rest of the day.  Or a good evening.  Well, then tell me to have a good day, dammit!   Don’t leave me hanging as to what “one” refers to (there he goes with the preposition at the end again).

And while I’m at it, at the risk of sounding like Andy Rooney, what if I don’t want to have a good whatever it is? 

“Have a good one,” no matter how sincerely delivered, does NOT take the place of even a less than enthusiastic “thank you.”

“There you go” is the second phrase that gets my blood to boiling.  I’ve heard this uttered by grocery store cashiers, fast food workers, waitresses, and pizza delivery guys.  “There you go” is not offensive in and of itself, but unless it is followed immediately by the words “thank you,” then it’s akin to slapping the customer in the face right before planting a boot on their rump.  It’s almost like the person concluding the transaction is just trying to get rid of the paying customer. 

Don’t think it’s a slap in the face?  Suppose you walk up to someone and compliment them on what they’re wearing.  You say, “That’s a really nice outfit!”

They reply, “There you go!”

I’d be willing to bet you never compliment that egotistical moron again.   I’m willing to bet that the thought of grabbing them by the lapels and  headbutting them into a more appropriate rejoinder may cross your mind.

I promise that if you see me on the street and tell me that this was a good column, I won’t say “there you go.”  I won’t demand that you have a good one. 

I’ll probably just say “thanks.”

When I lived in the Galesburg area, I really don’t recall having a problem hearing the words “thank you.”  It seems like since I moved to Elmwood and started doing most of my purchasing in the Peoria market is when this all started.  Or at least, it was when I started to notice it more and more. 

In Peoria, “thank you” is definitely on the endangered species list. 

Point in fact.  For more than three years, I ate breakfast at a Peoria McDonald’s Restaurant two to three times a week.  Being a creature of habit (and a boring one at that), I got the same order each morning:  hotcakes, no sausage, no syrup, extra butter, and a small Coke (I’d be willing to bet that if I walked into the Knoxville McDonald’s right now during breakfast hours, they’d STILL be able to have my order waiting for me without having to ask). 

Granted, no one at McDonald’s is going to be able to retire because of me, but I did spend a little over three bucks each time I visited the Peoria location.    Do the math.  Three bucks twice a week (we’ll be conservative here), is a little over $900.  You’d think that kind of coin would elicit a little gratitude.

Yeah right.  Think again.

After not being told thank you for quite some time, I started keeping track.  I went from April 24, 2006 till August 17, 2007 without being thanked even one time for buying my breakfast there.

Here are the results of what I heard:

“Have a good one” – 52 times

“There you go.  Have a good one.” – 40 times

“There you go.” – 32 times

“Yep.” (In response to me saying “thank you” for handing me my food) – 13 times

No response because the cashier was too busy talking to another co-worker, sometimes about inappropriate subject such as getting drunk or even having sex – 11 times.

No response at all – 24 times.


That’s 172 visits.  I spent a total of $605.49 during that period.  There had been quite a few times prior to April 24, 2006 that I had not been thanked; that’s the date I became so frustrated that I started keeping track.  Sometimes the cashier was a teenager; sometimes it was a member of their management staff. 

Finally, on August 18, 2007, a manager at the restaurant finally said “Thank you” as I took my food. 

I stopped dead in my tracks and told the manager about what had happened over my previous 172 visits.  She seemed like she didn’t care.  It was at that point that I started either driving six miles south to Farmington to visit their McDonald’s (where being told “Thank you” is required), or I just go to Hardee’s instead.

A week went by.  I got to thinking about my research and the figures.  I thought maybe someone at the corporate level might be interested in how their Peoria customers were being treated.

So, I called an 800 number listed on the side of my Coke cup.  The person on the other end listened patiently, took down all my information, and told me that someone from the Peoria franchise would be in contact with me within the week.

I still haven’t heard from anyone at McDonald’s, locally or otherwise.

It really didn’t surprise me.

It also didn’t surprise me when the person on the other end of the 800 line failed to thank me for my phone call.

She told me to “have a good one.”