Friday, August 28, 2009

Please say "Please"

Well, this is an interesting incident that happened when I was doing my master's in UK. Personally, for me it is probably the smallest incident that has had a lasting effect, in my life, at least until this moment.

The year was 2003 and it was a cold February/March day (not sure exactly which month). While I was doing my master's I was also doing part-time work with a catering company. The job was to work in 4-6 hr shifts mostly during weekends and sometimes on weekdays. As a student you know how tough life can be and how you try to save every penny that you can and when you can. So most of the time I used to walk from the hostel to my work place (about 30 mins) instead of spending ~3 pounds for the bus fare. (Hey, Of course 3 pounds was big money when I was a student...!!!)

Anyway, on this particular day I was on a 6 hr shift, I believe from 12 noon - 6pm. My roommate had asked me to get some milk on my way back which I gladly agreed to do. So on this cold winter day after finishing a 6 hr shift, I started walking back towards the hostel totally tired and just wanting to hit the bed and relax.

I had almost forgotten to buy milk until I was near my place and saw the grocery shop. So I went inside picked up couple of milk cans and went to the cashier.

She billed them and asked me "Do you want me to put them in plastic bags". I said "Yeah".

She gave me a wierd look, that I can still remember, without actually putting the milk cans into the plastic bags. I had no inkling of what was going thru her head neither did I have the energy to think. After a few seconds, she said "Say please". Then it struck me that I missed the magic word. So I corrected myself and said "Yes, Please".

By now she had put the milk cans into plastic bags and gave them to me. I took them but noticed that she actually did not let go the bags. Again, I had no inkling as to what she was trying to convey now. Before I could ask her for that she said "Say thank you". It was like "You missed it again". So I then said "Thank You" and was on my way out of the store walking towards the hostel.

As I was walking, I was thinking about what just happened and was wondering if I was wrong or was the cashier expecting me to request for what she should be giving (plastic bags) to me and also expect me to acknowledge for doing so. It looked to me like such a small incident and why did she ask me to explicitly say "Please" and "Thank You". Anyway, given my state of mind I did not heed much attention to this and just went about doing my tasks for rest of the day. But the incident was for sure sitting somewhere at the back of my head.

As days went by, every time I have to request anything from anybody or acknowledge anybody for anything this incident would immediately glow in my head like a flash light and I make sure to say "Please" or "Thank You". What I noticed every time when I said these magic words was the smile that the other person would have on his/her face no matter how small or big was my request. Slowly, I made it a practice to use these magic words as much as I could.

The point I wanted to make here is, having been brought up in a middle class indian culture what in UK or even in most other parts of the world would have been considered as a basic courtesy looked to me like something that the cashier was asking for too much until I slowly realized the importance of these magic words.

Back in India, generally not many would use these magic words but would just assume that people would do things for them. First time when I used these magic words with my wife she was also surprised and said “Why do you say ‘Please’ and 'Thank You’ to your wife”. Probably she assumed that it is the duty of the wife to serve the husband and the wife should not be expecting a request or acknowledgement for the same.

I could throw a different light on to this behavior by stating that probably because India was ruled by other countries for a long time and people generally tend to have the master-slave mindset. But I do not want to get into that angle and leave it to the reader's discretion.

Furthermore, now that I have moved to the US I see quiet a few indians using these magic words more often than not. I am pretty sure most of them if not all of them had the kind of experience that I had in UK. This is good. But I still do not see most of the other asian community people not using these magic words that often. Hopefully, things will change for good.

To summarize, by human psychology everybody feels happy to be requested to do something than be ordered. On the same lines, would appreciate a kind acknowledgement for the work done rather than just say "OK". So please use "Please" and "Thank You" as much as you can and you will be surprised to see that people will be happy to help you more than ever.



  1. Please, Thank You. They are so important!

  2. yeah we use to forget little things that can do wonders for us..very nice post

  3. There was once in my life that I had this idea that I should say Thank you nor Please to a person whose job is to do things that is expected of them. But my habit did npot change me, I stay on being a person who says Thank you and Please hehhehe and indeed people will reply with you with a smile heheh

  4. Great story - thank you! These two words are mantras for me. "Please" because you always have a better chance of getting what you want when you extend positive energy. "Thank You" because gratitude is the absolute key to a happy life. Please keep writing. :-)

  5. Thank You for the wonderful Blog and Please keep writing...

  6. Nodami, Charlene and Anupama Thank You for your comments and Please keep following my blog.

  7. Bravo! This article really made me smile! I grew up in the South (Oklahoma), and we Southerners are known for courtesy. I cannot tell you how proud I was when my children were so tiny, and would say, "Please" and "Thank You", although I never told them to. I realized that I had instilled it in them, simply by using polite words with them. Simple things like that can really make one's heart swell with pride!

    On another note, I have travelled... I lived in New Orleans for a year, in my twenties. Living in Oklahoma all my life, stepping off the plane in New Orleans was like entering an entirely different world! I was stunned at the rudeness at fast food restaurants, convenience stores, etc. I guess it's all in how and where we were raised, our "cultural norm", for the most part.

    I, also, had a recent stay in California. Oh, that place broke my heart! Had my car stolen the first month, then a short time later, my wallet was stolen, along with a string of other horrid incidents. Driving back across country, I was never so pleased to see the Oklahoma state line, just knowing I was, "back where people are friendly"!!!

    I hope this doesn't offend others. I know others, in other areas, are probably just used to certain behaviors and actions, and probably think we Southerners are "weird"...

    Your article just really said a lot to me, and I appreciate the smile it put on my face!

  8. Hi
    I agree with you on the importance of saying these magic words. In the long past, I was in the habit of saying thank you, but for whatever reason stopped. I was reminded how important these words can be a few years ago when I was on the one left feeling unappreciated. So, now I keep reminding myself to thank anyone who helps or provides me with a service, even the cashier taking my money. :-)

  9. Alicia - Nice to know that my article had put a smile on your face. I now live in CA and I totally agree with you that a lot of immigrants really do not use these magic words and it is probably due to their culture back at home. I just hope that over time they will realize the importance of these magic words.

  10. youare right i also feel the same f the two magical words
    I give a credit for this to my school principal, for she use to say to us daily, to imprint these words in your mind


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