Call me an old codger, but my folks drilled into our heads that we said “please” to ask for something and “thank you” when we received it.
Our family ran a small garbage business in Walkerville, Mont. I once asked my father, “Who says, ‘Please, may I pick up your garbage?’ and ‘Thank you for paying the dollar a month to pick up your trash.'”
He said, “You do – and you’d better not forget it!”
My folks also insisted that we treat elders with courtesy and respect, even though Aunt Louise would insist on giving us a big smooch every time she visited. For a 10-year-old, getting a smacker on the cheek from an 80-year-old lady was not cool, but it was part of the family custom and my parents insisted we respect her and her ways.
When I grew up, people expected common courtesy and respect – period, no excuses. I wonder if that is true today.
Recently, I stood in line at a national chain store behind an older man dressed in scruffy work clothes who was unshaven, slow-moving and hard of hearing. He just needed 26 yard bricks and finally had to go find a clerk to check out. Check him out she did.
She was obviously irritated because he had managed to find her in the first place. During the check-out process she treated him like dirt. The poor fellow couldn’t hear very well and she repeated answers with a tone so cutting and sharp I’m surprised the poor guy didn’t bleed to death before he left the store.
When he asked where to pick up the bricks, she ignored him and started processing my order. The guy wandered out to the parking lot and I lost track of him. No one deserves that treatment.
I had my jeans and work shirt on as well, so I wasn’t exactly dressed to go to the Academy Awards banquet. The clerk treated me somewhat better because I hadn’t found her hiding place and I was more responsive than the other guy – I can still hear. I really needed the item I was buying and it was nearly time for the store to close; otherwise I would have walked out and taken my business elsewhere. Needless to say, in the future, I will.
Neither one of us got a “please” or “thank you” – just a receipt for payment and a truck load of rudeness.
Not saying “please” and “thank you” reflects on the employer as well. It is a common courtesy that seems to be an endangered species these days. And not treating elders with respect, regardless of how they are dressed, is just plain disrespectful and inhumane.
Good manners and politeness are values that are squarely the responsibility of parents. If employers don’t insist upon them, they shouldn’t be in business. It is about time for parents and supervisors to brush up on those common courtesies and reprogram their children and employees accordingly.
Don Brunell is the president of the Association of Washington Business.