Friday, August 8, 2014

Americans: We Let You Know When You're Doing A Great Job Exclamation Point! (And When You're Not)

Whenever I accompish something of significant achievement in the realm of personal admin (personal admin = domestic duties, social event planning, etc.) - like, say, successfully organizing dinner plans with friends we haven't seen for a while or pairing up all of John's errant socks because I feel damn sorry for him - John will give me two thumbs up, put on a horrific faux American accent and go, "Great jawb." It's so hideous, but I know what he's getting at: whereas Brits like to exclaim "Well done!" at deserving accomplishments, we Americans prefer the emphatic, "Great job!"

You're a six-month old who just learned to roll onto your tummy? Great job!

You're a retiree who won at bingo three nights in a row? Great job!

You passed your driving test after failing three times? Great job!

You get the idea.

I still haven't given up on using, "Great job!" I remember when I was working my first summer job as a high school student in the Men's department of a now defunct, low-budget department store. I freaking hated that job. You know what American return policies are like (you can basically return anything with a full refund, like, any time). I once found myself dutifully placing returned men's underwear onto hangers for the clearance rack. That was one of my lowest points. That, and another time when a man asked me (when trying to make conversation at the till) if I was planning on taking my kids to Disneyland (I was 17). Or that time when a customer said to me, "I don't know how us Americans get so big," while pointing to a size 44 pair of shorts. "If only we were more like you Asians," he mused. "And ate a diet of rice, instead of junk." I was speechless but said, "Thank you?" I didn't want to disappoint him by pointing out the rising rate of diabetes amongst East Asians due to a rice-concentrated diet or the other, obvious flaw in his statement (hint: I am American ...).

But I digress.

I remember a man coming up to me one day - an elderly gentleman with his wife - after I had dealt with a particularly difficult customer ("What do you mean you won't take my 6 coupons that have expired, rendering my final total for $46 worth of clothes to 6 cents?!! You fucking bitch!!" - not in those exact words, but something like that) and saying, "Hey there! You know what? You're doing a great job." He smiled and said it with such sincerety that it just blew that horrible customer service experience right out of my mind. Poof! Bad customer gone, good customer in.

So today, I was at the post office next to my office, which is not the best example of sparkling customer service. But on this occasion, I got the lovely cashier who is always exceptionally nice and friendly. So, I took a deep breath, and after grabbing my receipt, I said, "Can I just say ... you're the nicest person working in this post office. Thank you. I think that every time I come to your desk. You're so genuinely friendly and I know that everyone really appreciates it, so ... I just wanted to let you know."

I cringed inside even as I was saying the words, but remembered how awesome that nice grandpa's encouragement at the department store made me feel - even as I hung still-warm men's briefs onto hangers.

I recounted the story to John, who said, "It makes me blush hearing you say it, but I'm glad you do it."

So yes, I will. I will continue to let you know when you're doing a "great job" (I will also let you know when you're not, but that'll be the subject of an entirely different post).


  1. We are really bad with compliments in England. But when I stuidied in America I could never tell if people were being genuine or fake. Call it English cynicism. Bet you made her day though!

    1. Hi Mel - thanks for reading and commenting! I know what you mean - sometimes it can come across as insincere. I think a balance of both is never a bad thing :)

  2. I actually, say well done more often than good job. I guess good job always seems condescending or patronizing to me.

    1. Yes, "well done" is probably always the safest bet!

    2. I don't think anyone would ever point to me as an example of a typical American, though.

    3. Nor am I, Steven! Not sure what I am these days.

  3. Just before I came back to the UK I was in a play directed by an American. I could. not. cope.
    After every run through she'd be so fake in all her "good job!!!!" and so on that by the time she got to her list of things we need to improve on, we were already tired. She also used to say good job to her 2 year old as well which was really weird for me.

    I think it's lovely to say nice things to people out of the blue. I often tell unknown women that I love their outfits or bag or something like that. I think the world is a much nicer place when we're just nice and honest with each other, to counter-act the bitchiness our world contains!

    1. Charlotte, that sounds so annoying/aggravating to me! If we ever meet, I will demonstrate my tone of voice and non-patronizing facial expression so you can witness my sincere use of the expression! Haha ...

      It's lovely that you hand out compliments to strangers - it always makes my day on the (very, in this city) rare occasion that someone does it to me!


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