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Thursday, February 7, 2013

"No problem"

We say "thank you" many times a day. When we were growing up, we were taught that the proper response was "you're welcome." But it seems nowadays for anyone under the age of 30, the latter phrase has been replaced by "no problem."

"Thank you." "No problem."

That's sad.

"You're welcome" is so warm and embracing. "You are welcome to what I have done for you. Welcome: It is well that you have come. I regard you as my guest-friend, in a tradition that extends all the way back to ancient times." Whereas "no problem" takes the spirit of kindness and cooperation completely out of the equation. "By thanking me, you are suggesting that there was a problem. Well, you're wrong about that. There is no problem."

It's just awful.

You job-seekers out there, take some free advice from an old guy: When the prospective employer says "thank you," don't say "no problem." Say "you're welcome."

Some day you'll look back and thank us for this advice. You're welcome.

Comments (28)

Get Bill M to prevail on his friends to film you reading that in a cluttered office at the desk ... Call it Andy Rooney, Live on the Willamette!

Da Nada.

I agree that "no problem" is not pleasing to the ear. I was taught and teach that "you are welcome" is the better response. Some other languages, however, follow the "no problem" line of thought. "De rien" and "de nada" are the French and Spanish terms for "you are welcome." Both meaning "of (it's) nothing."

But if someone cannot be civil and speak genteel English with elan and brio, then I doubt they can speak French, Spanish, or Italian either.


I am so glad you wrote this. My staff and I have been talking about it for some time. It is very irritating to have a "thank you" receive a response of "no problem".

I too have been seeing it more and more, especially with younger service personnel.

"No problem". I should hope not. It is your job, after all. It shouldn't be a problem.

I say "thank you" out of courtesy. If the best I can get is a "no problem" I see no point in saying thank you.

Ja, German speakers also say "no problem" with "kein problem". That said, we're talking about speaking English, not those other languages.

Like Jack said, "you're welcome" is much warmer and socially disarming.

Is it OK if we meet and I say Goodbye (short for God Bless You)?

I agree that "No problem" is not the answer to Thank You, but if you asked will it be a problem to do something for me, I still think that "No problem" would be an appropriate response.

"No problem" has been a problem for me as well. And methinks most--if not all--of your readers say "thank you" and "you're welcome."

I have also noticed a trend among millennials of saying "of course," instead of "you're welcome." That response is a bit jarring in its implication that the original thank you was hopelessly obvious and unncessary. Or is that simply channeling a "mais bien sur"?

Thanks for the post!

My pet peeve is when a cashier dumps the change & bills into my hand and ends the transaction with a curt "There ya go!"

When I respond with "Thank-you," the typical response is "Ah, it's nothin'."

Beginning in high school, my first job was as a cashier in a large-chain grocery store. (I won't mention Safeway.) It was the best job in our small eastern Oregon town for a teenager in the late 1960s at an astounding wage of $1.35/hour. Of course, I had to pay union dues, too.

Clear memories of the time bring recollection that it was drilled into us to always, always, a-l-w-a-y-s say "Thank-you" to all customers, no matter the dollar amount of the sale --- since our employment depended on their ongoing patronage!

Another example: recently when I asked a Fred Meyer clerk if they had a certain product in stock. He responded, "Well, if you can't find it, we probably haven't got it." Ahem.

Alas, it seems as if my long-surpressed Inner-Geezer is starting to show...

Ja, German speakers also say "no problem" with "kein problem".

True. However, polite German speakers say "Bitte" or "Bitte shön" (please/you're welcome) when thanked, as we keep reminding our German-speaking children.


The other thing I notice is in the media (radio and TV), at the end of an interview, the host will say "Thank you," and more often than not the guest will reply "Thank you." A "You're welcome" would be a little classier there, also.

Our language is so rich and the art of conversation a disappearing art. Words are important and should be carefully chosen.

For instance, as a seller I never describe an item as "cheap" even is it is a very good deal. We don't sell cheap merchandise. We sell occasionally affordable or inexpensive items.

Look out how you use proud words.
When you let proud words go, it is not easy to call them back.
They wear long boots, hard boots; they walk off proud; they can't hear you calling--
Look out how you use proud words.

- Carl Sandburg

It is like fingernails on a blackboard (do schools have these any more?) to hear people misuse the word "less". It is used for everything with no regard for when one should use "fewer" instead. Bad grammar announces that one is uneducated no matter how many degrees he or she might have. Today's teachers may not be able to diagram a sentence, so there may be a reason for this.

The other day I held a door open for a young lady. She seemed suprised.

Please pass the Geritol. Thank you.


De nada.

I heard Garrison Keillor make the same observation a few years ago, and realized I was old when I agreed with him. (Of course, tuning in to him is proof enough.)

I'm in my mid-30's, and I don't think "No problem!" is rude, although several older people have told me it is to them.

To me, it's a cheery way of saying "I didn't mind at all!" Or an ironic way of saying "We both know I'm getting paid to do this, but I seriously don't mind and actually enjoyed helping you."

Or even "Helping you was not a problem. It didn't hurt even a little bit" with a wink and a nod.

But I bet I'm an outlier on that one.

I didn't realize that the "no problem" comment had rubbed off on me until I realized one day how often I said it. I broke myself of that habit right there and then, because it's about as vapid as "like" between every word. Now, my particular vagary is when people tell me that they're sorry for an inconvenience, when it's obviously not their fault or even remotely under their control, to tell them "There's nothing to apologize for." I've been on the other side of the register for more years than I care to remember, and it's the opportunity to let them know that I'm not going to blow up on them just because I'm inconvenienced at the moment. In the end, everybody's happy.

I think we are also mixing up our responses to SORRY and THANK YOU.

When someone says, "sorry about that", you say, "no problem.".

These days we use sorry so much that when somebody says, "thank you", we automatically pull out of our brains, "no problem."

You're Welcome.

Get off my lawn!

TacoDave, I guess I'm with you. "You're welcome" may be nice but not completely sincere, since I may have helped you with something, but frankly, "you're welcome" to help yourself in the future. "No problem" means to me I didn't mind helping you, and may be willing to do so again. The one that used to bother me was, "no worries." That is, until I started to use it without really thinking. Whatever. "It's all good, man."

TacoD, I'm in a similar frame. I use both phrases, but may have to reconsider my feelings against those of the other party. If I perform some relatively minor task -- or one I should as part of my job or just civil decency -- I'll respond with a "No problem!" to set the other person at ease that they have not imposed on me or interrupted my activities. If I have to make a major effort or go the extra mile, when thanked I will return a sincere, "You're very welcome" to recognize their appreciation.
Perhaps Jack is correct -- it should be less about me.

Jack, thank you for posting this. I never thought of it this way.

"No worries" is for people who like soccer and want to sound Euro.

So...I too detest the "no problem response".
Of course it's "no problem, it's your job!"
I like the cruise ship response to "thank you", which is, "my pleasure".

Harry Shearer has bits in which he alternates thank-you responses between "My problem" and "No pleasure."

My wife and I were at Bunk Bar for lunch today and it was a nice surprise to hear our server say "You're welcome" after we thanked him. There is still hope!


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