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Just Be Nice 38

Just Be Nice

We had just finished a lovely Valentine’s Day meal, celebrating the day after Valentine’s Day since we can never get a table at a decent restaurant on Valentine’s Day, and our server brought the bill. I placed my credit card on top of the bill accompanied by a two-for-one coupon. The server said, “Hrrrumph, you have a coupon? Well, I’ll have to go back and redo the bill. Hrrrumph.”

Before I go on, let me explain the background of the coupon in question. As a fundraiser, our local hospice sells booklets of coupons. The coupons are for restaurants in the area and are typically valid Sunday through Thursday when the restaurants are not as busy. Each coupon entitles you to one free entree when you purchase a second entree of equal (or more) value. Of course, if you buy a second entree of lesser value, then that’s the one you get for free. If there’s one thing these folks know, it’s algebraic coupon equations.

Now just so you know, there is no requirement to inform the server that you plan to use a coupon. You simply give it to them when you pay for your meal. It’s not like they will give you worse service or smaller portions because you’re using a coupon. It would be quite a scandal if a restaurant owner said, “They’re using those stinking hospice coupons. Make sure you give them terrible service, less food, and then spit in their water.”

I’m pretty sure that doesn’t happen.

But there is an interesting twist when it comes to tipping. Apparently, in previous years, customers were tipping the servers based on the discounted price of their bill rather than the original price. So the coupon company adjusted their tipping policy and now, the restaurants automatically add a 20% gratuity based on the pre-discounted price of each bill. That way, the servers don’t get slighted.

And finally, just to be clear, the servers don’t have to do any additional work when someone uses a coupon. They hit a button on the cash register that says “hospice coupon” and it automatically deducts the discount, adds the 20% pre-discount gratuity, and calculates the final bill.

So, I’m not exactly sure why our Day-After-Valentine’s-Day server was so annoyed at having to process the coupon since it really took no more effort than a regular bill. But clearly, her gruff response suggested that there was something problematic about it.

As I considered my response to her hrrrumphing, I figured I had a couple of options. First, I could have “accidentally” knocked my water glass off the table. I decided that was not the best approach as it would have made me look like a toddler protesting his parents’ discipline. Second, I could have confronted the server when she got back and asked her why she had a burr under her saddle. Honestly though, I really didn’t want to get into an altercation on an otherwise wonderful Not-Exactly-Valentine’s-Day evening. Lastly, I could have said, “Thank you” as pleasantly as possible without showing any of the sarcasm that was already building up inside me.

The waitress returned, in a much better mood, and appeared genuinely grateful when she said, “Thank you very much. Have a wonderful evening.”

I took my hand off the water glass, thanked her kindly, and left without incident.

But the interaction bugged me. There was no need for her coupon attitude and as I thought about it later, I realized that this may be the new norm. We live in a world bursting out of its seams with disrespect. Most people can’t resist flaunting their indignant attitudes on social media. The news services are always trying to expose somebody for something they did sometime to someone. Many politicians, corporate executives, entertainers, and athletes act as if they are above the rules of respect and courtesy. We seem to have forgotten what we learned in kindergarten about how to treat our neighbor.

My friend and colleague Larry Winget once referred to all of the books, seminars, and classes on the topic of customer service and said, “How’s this for a novel approach to customer service—just be nice!”

I love it.

Just be nice.

I was raised in the south. And one of the great benefits of growing up in a rural part of the country is that many people encouraged me to be nice. They called it maynnnuhs (or “manners” for those of you in the rest of the country). My parents, my teachers, my scout leaders, and others routinely reminded me about the importance of being nice to others. Here are a few things they emphasized:

Say please. This simple word is often neglected, especially when we’re being served by someone else. You’ll hear, “I’ll have a glass of water”, “Could you hand me the salt?”, or “I’d like to check out of my hotel room early.” But you don’t always hear “please.”

Just because someone is in a role where they are providing a service for us does not mean that we should treat them with less respect than anyone else. The word “please” suggests humility rather than a demanding arrogance. Plus, it’s just a nice thing to do.

Say thank you. One of the new ways that service staff respond to “thank you” is to say, “of course.” I like that much better than “no problem” but it almost feels like they’re rejecting our “thank you.” However, I still believe those two words are a powerful sign of gratitude regardless of whether the thankee feels they need to be thanked. And sometimes, when you see the surprise in someone’s eyes because they didn’t expect it, it feels great. And again, it’s a nice thing to do.

Open the door. Chivalry may be an outdated term but I don’t think chivalrous gestures should be. Chivalry refers to the behavior of medieval knights that included courtesy, generosity, and valor. My parents were not knights but they taught me to open the door whenever someone was walking into a building behind me—whether it’s a man, woman, or child. This principle even applies when letting someone in before you allows them to get in line ahead of you. Opening the door is chivalrous and a respectful thing to do. Oh, and it’s also nice.

Show interest. In a world full of human beings, we must live, work, and interact with other people on a regular basis. And just as we appreciate it when someone shows interest in us, we should also show interest in others. Sincerely asking people how they are and inquiring about their life shows that we care. In a world full of negativity, care can be in short supply. And of course, it’s also nice.

Whether you’re talking about customer service or a simple interaction with a server on Valentine’s Day (or the day after when you can actually get a table), being nice is a good policy. It’s a positive and effective way to connect with other humans. And don’t you think we could all use more of that?


  • Penny says:

    My husband’s company is located in the Czech Republic and after providing travel expenses and accommodations in his country for the annual Christmas party, his and his wife’s response to “thank you” was “my pleasure”. I was kind of taken aback at first but then realized how special he made everyone feel by coming to his party. I don’t know if it is country-specific, but I do notice that customer service has taken a noticeable nose dive and as a paying customer I am often not acknowledged due to either a cell phone conversation or just a lack of consideration. A sincere please or thank you seems so easy and can really make a person’s day; but possessing a negative and often sarcastic attitude, seems more prevalent when seeking service at many businesses today.

  • I love this! People have seemingly forgotten their manners and general every day courtesies. In the last year+, I have taken to saying “my pleasure” when someone thanks me for anything, and I hope it makes the recipient feel appreciated. It’s much easier to be nice, than to be surly, I think.

  • Susan says:

    Thank you Ron! And by the way…. although I might get punched one of these days, when the meat slicer at the deli counter starts getting rude customers, (who didn’t want to wait a minute for their order, and she’s working as fast as she can) and they start to say rude things to her…. I often, ask them to be nice….. and then I try to work on making them a little less, well, not nice. Doesn’t always work, but it often does and sometimes helps the person who’s having a bad day…. have a better day!

  • Ann says:

    Amen to that! A little kindness goes a long way!

  • Tarsia Palmer says:

    In my great-grandmother’s voice, “Manners will get you where money cannot”…

  • Judy says:

    I agree more people need to be respectful. We need to teach the next generation that also but it also starts at home as parents to teach our kids this as adults.

  • Shirley says:

    Yes, we need a lot more of ” nice”. I work at a large hospital with very large parking lots. When I arrive about 7:30am, to try to get a close parking place………I may have waited 10 minutes for someone to leave, then another person, who just arrived, pulls right into the empty space, while I’m trying to pull up to it, There is NO NICE in that.
    Thank you for reminding me to ‘be nice’.

  • Sue Harrington says:

    Thank you so much for the reminder that I can make each person’s day a bit nicer by being nice :)

  • Linda M Brown says:


  • PAR - Person Against Rudeness...LOL says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Manners have gone to the dark side and people are extremely rude and unkind to one another. We shouldn’t need reminders to do the right thing, but some people either have not been taught or do need a reminder. Thank you for the lesson Ron!!!

  • Reema says:

    Thank you again for a good round of chuckles!!

    Commenting on “saying thank you,” why not give a simple “you’re welcome”? Many people use the phrases “no problem” and “of course,” and it does seem to undermine the appreciate gesture. I wonder if using these alternate phrases makes one feel more humbled than actually saying “you’re welcome.” Sometimes “you’re welcome” may seem to warrant that a “thank you” was necessary in the first place. Hmm…

  • Jere O'Brien says:

    Great article !

    Thank you for taking the time to make us all more cognizant of the small but impactful daily niceties and gestures of compassion that we all need in our lives…. I like many of your other respondents try daily to communicate in my words and actions in a thoughtful and respectful manner even when the situation is less than pleasant. I’ve been quick to respond or to judge in the past the lack of customer service or disrespect BUT having the luxury of being married to an incredibly gifted and loving bride ( 28 years ) I’ve learned by her example a very valuable lesson. I’ve learned to STOP for a moment and think of what could be happening in that other person’s life that is causing them to act this way. What tragedy or difficult news or family issue could they be dealing with but still have to be at work !

    Just pausing for a moment and trying to register that thought before I respond has altered my response and view in Oh so many incidences. It’s taken me years of conditioning and my lovely brides influence to create a different lens to view these moments but I’m thankful and appreciative to repackage my thinking…. Food for thought !

  • JERE SWINSON says:


  • Paula B says:

    My husband and I do find that young folks have replaced “You’re welcome” with “No problem”. Where did that come from? I teach my grandkids a little jingle I learned in 2nd grade, when I performed in a play on manners: “There are two little magic words that can open any door with ease. One little word is thanks and the other little word is please.” I love the idea of a “Just Be Nice” campaign!

  • Martha B says:

    Civility is the oft missing element in today’s society that encompasses Please, Thank you, Your Welcome, and courtesy – basically respect for others. Also having been raised in rural Virginia, Sir and Ma’am were expected words of respect, along with Yes Please and No Thank You. My non southern-raised husband reminds me that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar (though I really don’t care for the flies, you catch my drift) or kill them (of course, not literally) with kindness – your kindness often kills another’s sharp edge.
    Thank you

  • Martha Suss says:

    Love this. Thank you. I always taught my children that people will forgive you of a lot IF you have good manners. It has
    worked well in their lives and mine. And just being nice…a timely piece.

  • Hamelmal Shiferaw says:

    Thank you. I enjoyed it very much.

  • jeannette says:

    I loved this article!! I was sitting with my mother in law as i read it – and she was saying how society has changed. How we have lost respect for others etc. She is 90, i am 60 – but we have noticed the same thing. We should start a campaign for people to be nice to each other…….Thanks for this…… shared on facebook but wanted to share on linked in… but the link doesnt work.. Thought you’d want to know. Keep them coming Ron!!

  • Neel Rich says:

    Thank you Thank you, Thank you. Nice is Nice. If we all do a little better at being nice it will add up to a “lot of nice” which the world needs more of. Great advice, or maybe it should be an admonition! Neel

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