Midweek Rant #11: “You’re Welcome”

April 30, 2009

I’d like to preface this rant by admitting to my overuse of the phrase “thank you” and all its derivations.  I’m the sort of guy that will rescue a child out of a burning building and then thank the mother.  This being said…

I don’t like the phrase “you’re welcome”.  I don’t like when people say it to me.  It makes me wish I hadn’t said “thank you”.

I know very little of the phrase.  I do know that the French and Spanish versions are “de rien” and “de nada”, which amounts to “of nothing”.  In other words you are saying that it is no big deal.  In English, however, the phrase we learn is “you’re welcome”.  Most people in America opt to adapt to the aforementioned French/Spanish sensibility of brushing off the gratitude.  “No prob Bob” is perhaps my favorite adaptation.

Sometimes when I hear the phrase “you’re welcome” I can forgive the person saying it to me as I realize from their accent that English is a second language.  Fresh off the boat from Italy, Raphael is unaware he is being a douche bag because that’s what the English textbook told him to say in such a situation.

But then there are people that are just douche bags. 

I know what you’re thinking.  What’s the big deal, Jesse?  After all, we enjoy feeling welcome, so much to the point that the word is printed on doormats.  Are doormats now douche bags?

I applaud your perception, dedicated reader, but I must retort.  You see, the part of the phrase “you’re welcome” that makes my skin crawl is not “welcome”, but rather it is “you’re”.  There is nothing in the French or Spanish version that points out the other person.  The English version, however, makes it clear that the other person has gained something, or at least benefited in some way.  It acknowledges the transaction.

That’s right, I said transaction.  “De nada” is charity.  “You’re welcome” is barter.

I was first made aware of this when my brother was getting his MBA.  He was taking a course in Negotiation, and told me about the importance of the phrase “you’re welcome” in the work force.  The basic idea was that the phrase “you’re welcome” made it clear that you weren’t just doing this stuff for your health.  Saying “no problem” makes it seem like you’re just happy to be there and expect nothing in return.  “You’re welcome” acknowledges the favor and thus the debt, whatever that may be.

I hear this phrase in all sorts of places, but as of late there is a specific occurrence that is making my skin crawl.  Where I work, we give out bathroom keys.  A patron will take it, use the bathroom, and then (hopefully) return with the key.  Many times I will say “thank you” to them, simply for returning the key.  As I said before, I have a habit of saying “thank you” too much, a flaw that has only been exacerbated by the past six years of working in the customer service industry.



I’m welcome to…receive the bathroom key back?

Thanks, buddy, I can’t tell you how much I owe you for that one.  I turn to my coworker:



So there it is.  To clarify, I don’t think the phrase “you’re welcome” should never be used, I only think it should be used when appropriate.  To illustrate, here’s a great example of a “thank you” in which I think a “you’re welcome” is in store:

To my dedicated readers, thank you for tuning in every week and taking the time to read my ridiculously long and reliably ridiculous blog entries.

Having acknowledged the transaction that just occurred, I’m searching online for some well-deserved gift baskets…