The death of manners

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Good manners are dead — or so near it that we should have a wake while there are still a few of us old fossils left who remember them.

Gone — virtually disappeared,in just a couple of generations.

When people ask for your money, does anyone say, “please”?

When you hand it to them, do they say “thank you”?

“That’ll be $1.65 please, sir” has become “Your total is one sixty five.”

“Thank you, Ma’am” has become “There you go!” or “Have a nice day.”

I don’t know about you, but likely I’ll have a nice day whether or not I have your permission. You could have a positive effect on my day, though, if I get a “please” and a “thank you.”

What kind of mindless stuff is, “have a nice day,” anyway?

For all you know, I’m going to a funeral, and just need the coffee to wash down me nerve pills.

The next generation

It’s even worse with the youngsters — but I don’t blame them. Manners are taught at home.

I remember when I was about six, an old neighbour lady came to visit. She opened up her handkerchief and doled out a pink peppermint to each of us kids. The others said thank you, however, having a weak stomach and a twisted mind (or perhaps the other way around) all I could do was wonder; did she wipe her nose on the way over?

When she left my dad said — as he cuffed my ear — “next time you forget to say thank you, I’ll be after giving you a licking you won’t be thanking me for either!”

Americans have this image of Canadians as ultra-polite. This is not so much a compliment as it is an indictment on how bad it has gotten over there. They don’t so much ask for the money as demand it.

The loss of politeness has not evenly spread across our country either. It’s spotty.

Some places, like a rural area I visit in New Brunswick, lean too far the other way.

If you offer someone as little as a cup of tea, likely as not they’ll say, “No thanks, thank you very much — but thank you for asking.” Three thanks in one sentence! But you better not offer them a case of beer for changing your flat tire, or they’ll beat you with their Bible.

If a province, or a region or even a small town would work on manners instead of paying consultants a bundle to create “a brand” for them, the effect could be dramatic.

Corporate decision?

At a donut place where I buy my morning coffee they have completely stopped saying please and thank you. I don’t blame the staff.

No doubt a company van crammed with efficiency guys from head office, bearing a bumper sticker that reads “Accountants Just Want to Have Fun,” visited a few locations and calculated the seconds they could save on each order.

After doing the math they found that each location could save one second by not saying please and 1.3 seconds by not saying thank you — on each order!

“Wow, we could put through seven more orders each day in every location!” And you know how tough it is on these coffee and donut places trying to make a living! No markup to speak of and all those benefits and big salaries to pay.

Why, they can hardly afford the expense of picking up the litter in their lot. I don’t know how they do it, at all, at all.   

It’s nothing short of a miracle that they don’t go bankrupt.

So, that’s it then. It’s all over. Manners are on their deathbed. No hope of recovery.

I might as well get out the guitar and write a dirge for their demise.

No good to be sorry, because we have all contributed to killing them.

Some of us by having poor manners. Some by accepting bad manners.

Some by not teaching our kids.

Companies? By not insisting that all employees say please and thank you each time, and every time.

Oh — and thank you so much for reading this.

However, if you just skimmed through it, well then, there you go. And have a nice day.                                                                                 

Laurie Blackwood Pike writes from Placentia.

Geographic location: New Brunswick, Placentia

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Recent comments

  • Kyle
    January 08, 2014 - 21:23

    I echo the sentiment that younger people are, for the most part, indeed much more polite than those 50+ right now. I see it every day around St. John's, the people yelling and snipping at people in, say Tim Hortons, for things completely out of their control are always older people. Time for them to loosen up.

  • Ed Power
    January 02, 2014 - 17:26

    It would appear that our favourite Maven of Marketing, "a business man", has emerged from his mother's basement to lecture us once again on the life and business lessons he's learned from his latest reading of "Atlas Shrugged". Our very own John Galt tells us that he directs the plebes and peons in his employ not to exercise the same standards of common courtesy that he claims to have instilled his children. Understandable, I suppose, when the only customers who frequent his "business enterprises" are his Action Figures and Teddy Bears on the opposite side of the Monopoly board. Although it is possible, I suppose, that his mom lets him play the online edition of Monopoly when he has his homework completed. Still, his juvenile fascination with Ayn Rand does make for amusing reading on the Telegram website. (I wonder, is Wild Rose one of his regular playmates....?)

    • a business man
      January 03, 2014 - 10:09

      Clearly, you have resorted to insulting me because you cannot refute the logic of my post. Since you put such effort in directing several insults towards me, it is plainly obvious that you tried but could not find a way to refute my logic. But no worries, I know it is tough; my logic is sound. Anyway, all I am saying is that there is no sense in saying 'thank you' when it does not translate to more profitability. So yes, I tell, no I order my employees NOT to say thank you because I have determined that it does not result in more money in my pocket. Plain and simple. But I also said that this is for one specific company. In my fast food restaurant, I have fired people for NOT saing thank you becuase saying thank you to customers IS important in situations where there is lots of competition. Bottom line, saying thank you is something we should teach our children, but it is something we should consider skipping where there is not a guaranteed financial benefit.

    • Ed Power
      January 03, 2014 - 19:56

      Clearly, "a business man", I am stunned by the hypocrisy - and hubris, most especially the hubris - in your tiresome post(s). The proof of these "qualities" is revealed by the fact that while you brag excessively (hubris) about your business acumen, how little you pay your people, how little respect that you have for your employees and customers (no thank you for your business required) and through your oft-stated disregard for your fellow citizens, you fail to provide the names of your various entrepreneurial enterprises to the public so that we - the Telegram readers and your (God help them) customers - may judge for ourselves the quality of the goods and/or services you claim to provide. (Hypocrisy) The fact that you comment anonymously demonstrates clearly that you lack the courage of what you claim are your convictions. It also renders any argument or comment you post irrelevant. Digital diarrhea, to be precise. Unlike you, I don't hide behind a pseudonym. Perhaps if you were to do the same, your comments would garner some respect, even if it is a grudging respect. As you don't, then your comments are greeted with the respect that they deserve. Didn't they teach you about honesty and integrity in whatever business/law/management school you attended? Then again, judging from the examples of Enron, AIG, Goldman Sachs, Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and all the other criminal corporations that have graced the nightly news, honesty and integrity in the business curriculum are as extinct as the Dodo...

  • a business man
    January 02, 2014 - 13:21

    Personally, I raised my kids to have manners. They always say please and thank you, and are passing their manners on to their own children. Accordingly, I am proud. That said, as a business owner, I tell my employees NOT to say thank you to our customers. I have adopted such a policy because I know my product is unique which means the customer will come back no matter what, and because cutting out the thank you can make me a few more dollars. Also, since I am a lawyer with a good job, I honestly, don't care about the company, the employees or the customers. The company could close yesterday and I wouldn't care. The customers could stop buying (not likely) and I would not care. In short, I have made a calculated risk to cut out the thank you's in pursuit of increasing profits. That said, I would not recommend this for every business. I own fast food chain, and I encourage saying thank you as much as possible because the customers DO have alternatives, so I must retain them. So there you have it....manners cost money, and sometimes you can get away without manners. I suggest abandoning manners if it saves money, and adopting manners if you feel it will lead to profits. BUT don't use manners unless there is a financial benefit.

    • Tony Rockel
      January 03, 2014 - 12:48

      "Business man" is clearly a troll who loves to get a rise out of his readers. Or maybe he is a subversive who uses satire to waken us to the evils of unbridled capitalism.

  • Beulah
    January 01, 2014 - 12:40

    I would agree with CD that some of our young people are truly courteous (and a delight to be around), and conversely, some of the older crowd can be downright obnoxious. But use of manners, in general, has indeed taken a beating over the past few decades. People who don't approve of rudeness (such as myself) tend to be viewed as uptight individuals who expect others to bow and scrape. Fact is, we'd all be a lot better off if we tried to be respectful of each other - and not just on a superficial level, but the use of pleases and thank-you's might be a good place to start. One example of manners that I personally mourn the loss of is that of men removing their hats when indoors. The majority of young men no longer seem to realize that it's just plain disrespectful for a man to leave on his hat when indoors. I've even seen young men wearing caps in church! Where were the parents when these boys were growing up? We, as a species, have two choices: We either turn the tide of "me, me, me" and start to teach our small children about respect for others as well as set the example for them - and then EXPECT them to behave accordingly OR we continue down the insensitive path we're on and end up annihilating ourselves. Here's a quote from Albert Einstein: "A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive." I believe that quote is relevant to our discussion here of manners. If we don't have enough sense to treat each other with respect and courtesy on an individual, one-on-one basis, we're not going to know how to do it in terms of how we run our government and social institutions either.

  • mike fleming
    January 01, 2014 - 09:19

    My main comment is “ For goodness sake, ease up and stop picking on your fellow man” The problem is not the people who wish you a good day but the ones who provide you with a miserable one. Is really the best you can do for a New Years greeting ?

  • Will Cole
    January 01, 2014 - 00:04

    "Americans have this image of Canadians as ultra-polite. This is not so much a compliment as it is an indictment on how bad it has gotten over there." On the contrary, any Americans I've met were for the most part are the most mannerly and affable individuals I've ever encountered. Many of the locals are far less mannerly and couth than the Americans I know, I can assure you.

  • Cashin Delaney
    December 31, 2013 - 10:11

    Old fossils are not always the purveyors of social graces, some of the most me-me-me (socially-moronic) people I know are over 60 and believe that I exist to serve their 2nd childhood only. Some of the most socially graceful people I interact with on a daily basis are under 25. The above letter is just as meaningless as declaring that only women, or only Anglicans display manners. Only the aged have manners? 'No Problem!' has become standard response to Thank You, at the drive thru. As for ensuring that out our Fossilized readers don't get too full of it, and own their fair share of modern social ineptness and selfishness - YOU ARE ALL WELCOME! Any other myths about human fossils that need to be cleared up would be NO PROBLEM!

  • Colin Burke
    December 31, 2013 - 09:29

    Just for fun, I'd like to know how Ms. Pike feels about "sexism"; I've a notion that you can teach kids not to be sexist or raise children with good manners but not both; my favourite author by far, who anticipated The Lord of the Rings in a science fiction yarn of fewer than thirty pages, set in the reign of Charles II of England, wrote once (at least) that he had never known a really polite man who was not either obeying women or fascinating them.

    • Laurie Blackwood Pike
      December 31, 2013 - 11:11

      Hi Colin--just a clarification--I am Mr. not Ms., but you can call me Laurie or Grandpa, if you prefer. Thanks. Happy New Year.

  • ed duke
    December 31, 2013 - 06:32

    true very true. I can't say any other words but I think you hit the nail on the head when you talk about manners.

    • Bernard
      July 30, 2014 - 22:02

      Interesting that a piece on the lack of manners should evoke such ill-mannered comments. I think they prove his original point.