I say “no problem” sometimes. It is my greatest ‘weakness’ during service. It’s something I work on constantly. I have a long list of alternatives, and I have asked everyone around me to point it out if they hear me say it. Today, a post was passed around regarding a certain service industry blogger who criticized what I perceive to be minute and outdated hospitality faux-paw like saying “no problem” or “you guys” when in an upscale dining/hospitality setting.
My response? A *genuine* eyeroll. I’m a native Upper East Sider with a whole lot of sass, I’ll be the first to admit it. Ironically, as I write this I’m reminded of my favorite customer – a LOUD, colorful, and quite successful businessman (and avid burgundy collector) who has no problem speaking in profanities, regardless of who may be an stone’s throw from his dinner table. My favorite thing about him? He is who he is, no matter the company that surrounds him.
Traditionally, criticism of one’s vocabulary is extraordinarily class-ist. But that’s another issue. Ultimately, where there is a laundry list of ACTUAL issues within the service industry to talk about cleaning up (alcoholism/substance abuse, front of house/back of house rifts, sexism, dealing with difficult customers, verbal harassment, bad attitudes, cleanliness, knowledge-shaming customers, the list is endless) we feel the need to “wash” the service industry’s “mouth” out with soap.
As a hospitality professional, life is service. I think every moment if you care about the guest’s experience while they’re in “your house” (see, that I believe in, as it for me at least as promoted ownership over my role and service execution) making their experience seamless, effortless, and comfortable is what comes first, at all costs. What it comes down to is that creating such strict verbal rules won’t account for an individual’s ability to embody alternative reactions or responses during service. If you say “my pleasure” or “absolutely” and sound like a disingenuous asshole, I’d prefer that you’d just said no problem, if that’s how you felt.
Whether it’s been staying at the Ritz Carlton Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico, lounging at the rooftop of SoHo House in NYC, or wide-eyed for dinner at Nobu WITH Drew Nierpont, my experiences have NEVER been “cheapened” by hearing “no problem.” Honestly, has yours?