Saturday, 24 March 2007

Penultimate sorry to keep you waiting

Penultimate is one of those curious words. A long word that to my mind doesn't give any clues as to what it means: "next to last". That for the last ten or twenty years whenever I have heard penultimate being used it was usually hand in hand with a sentence or two that also explained what it meant. Which rather defies the whole point of having a word that substitutes for a phrase even if that word has exactly the same number of letters as the phrase has and yet the phrase says what it means!

Anyway, my online bank has a new login procedure which I needed to jump through yesterday before hitting the shops with my plastic. Once I'd completed the setup I logged out just to log back in and test it. Bold as brass it asked me for my third, fifth and penultimate characters of my password. No kidding. Penultimate.

How do the young, those who have never heard it, and those for whom English is not a second language cope? I don't like the idea of dumbing down the language but to use such an inaccessible word is not good.

Sorry to keep you waiting
Marks and Spencer food hall is a rare treat for me. Something to do with those divine red and black gums at the tills may have something to do with it along with the overall high prices. This week I was in there twice. The first time at the checkout I only stood in line maybe a minute but I thought it rather sweet of the checkout person to apologise to me saying "I am sorry to keep you waiting". Perhaps she had said it to the person in front but I was too busy tussling with a bag of red and black gums and my will power.

Yesterday, I was in another M&S foodhall. After an even shorter wait I was greeted with the same phrase "I am sorry to keep you waiting". So unnecessary. So superficial. I expect to have to wait in line for a short period. I don't expect to be served immediately I walk up to the tills. So to apologise for keeping me waiting sticks out like a sore thumb. Those people at the checkouts are obviously trained to say it, and probably have to say it, so I don't blame them.

Years ago I did my young person's stint at McDonalds in London. Just at the time they brought in staff having to say "Have a nice day". I hated it. I argued with the managers as I reckoned there are times when I would say it and mean it and other times when a nice smile (and I can smile!) with a "thank you" would do. Passing the grade and getting the gold star for the service area required a "Have a nice day" said to every customer. I managed to fudge it and to pass and continued to do what I thought was appropriate. (I wouldn't make a good military person as I'd want to do things my way!)

At least in the US South West, when I have heard "Have a nice day" said, it is said with all sincerity and is charming. Nowhere else that I have been does this work. Especially not here in the UK. It is just not our way.

So I think it foolish that M&S have rammed a forced saying down the throats of their staff. It is one way to guarantee when it is genuinely said that it will mean sod all.

Original Comments:

Steg said...

I have a problem with M&S. Specifically the fact that the security guards in the local store make no attempt to hide the fact that they consider me a shoplifting risk. I find it immensely rude that they'll follow me around the store quite openly and stand and watch me through the checkout and out of the store.
Needless to say, I don't go in there much.

Saturday, March 24, 2007 9:08:00 AM

Britmum said...

I don't agree that they say it in all sincerety here. I think that they just say it out of habit. Some do say with meaning but in general it is something they just say. Like when you walk into a shop they say Hello. That used to really intimidate me. I don't know why but it made me feel uncomfortable. Now I just say hello back with a smile I might add. lol

Plus the manners in America are absolutely appaling and its hard teaching the boys when none of their friends mind their P and Q's.

Anyway bloody brilliant post Doris.

Take care xx

Saturday, March 24, 2007 4:20:00 PM

Cheryl said...

doh, where's your rss feed gone?

I dont have any trouble with M&S. It would be a day trip to get to one so I havent been there for years.

I loathe the American 'meet n greet' style of small shops where you cant get in the door without being leered at by a shop assistant who, with her false, fixed grin, looks like she is just waiting for you to get both feet in so she can lock the door behind you....

Saturday, March 24, 2007 10:23:00 PM

Chandira said...

LOL.. Oh, you'd love the US. They pounce on you in every shop you go in, and ask if they can help you. I hate it. I still do. I feel like they think I might shoplift or something.
But you know what's worse is now when I go back to England I think how rude the shop assistants are to ignore me when I need help, I guess you can't win. There's got to be a balance somwhere, about 500 miles above the Atlantic. :-)
And yes, I want to ask the US assistants if they really do give a flying f*** how my day is, or if they are really zombies. ;-)

Saturday, March 24, 2007 10:30:00 PM

Jo said...

It's a difficult one isn't it, because for every bright and customer orientated employee (I'm thinking a lithe and gorgeous young Doris serving me my Chicken Mcnuggets and large fries with a lovely smile!) there are going to be five others who grunt at you and wish they were somewhere else. So wooden as it often seems in some shops, boy does it show up if you go somewhere where they don't train their people to say/do particular things. I've had this over the weekend when I needed to buy some photographic equipment and the shop I was in was run by lobotimised 16 year olds.

I love M&S by the way (but that's cos I love Per Una and they don't bat an eyelid when I want to try stuff on! Then, as I'm there as Jo, why should they I guess?)

Sunday, March 25, 2007 6:41:00 PM

Doris said...

Steg Gosh Steg ..... that sounds awful.

Britmum Manners everywhere are deteriorating!

Cheryl "doh, where's your rss feed gone?" I'm in stealth mode LOL! I switched it off last year and don't desire to switch it on. If anyone sees my post they see it but I don't care to have it fed through the lines to anyone. Not that I can see who is visiting anyway as I also pulled the stat counter too! Maybe I am still a tad bizarre ;-)

Chandira Awww, I have come across some charming and seemingly genuine US shop assistants. But I am being generous as there are more rude or couldn't care less ones. I don't like this whole TV intro stuff either where each say "how are you" - who cares? Who can wait for an answer except for "fine". Grrr.

Jo The amount of free food I got through in my days at McDs - this was when they didn't limit the amount - ensured that I was neither lithe nor gorgeous. I think I'm like a good wine improving with age ;-)

Monday, March 26, 2007 9:22:00 AM

Badaunt said...

I don't know if you'd enjoy Japan very much. Every store you walk into you get greeted by YELLS of welcome. Well, unless it's a high class department store, in which case you are greeted by a politer version.

When I first came here I happened to go into a restaurant where they were doing a staff training exercise in yelling. When I walked in the entire staff (about 6 or 8 of them) were standing in line and they all shouted a welcome in unison at me. I almost ran straight back out. It was terrifying.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 3:57:00 PM

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