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NYT Complaint Box | Misnomers Run Amok

Updated: Jul 3, 2019

BY LAURIE GRAFF SEPTEMBER 24, 2010 9:20 AM — The New York Times

“Can I help the next guest?”

It was a straightforward question. One I’d expect to hear from a bartender if I were at a wedding, or from a concierge at a hotel. My mother might even ask that at the table, when cutting slices of her chocolate pudding pie. So when I was shopping for clothes at Daffy’s and the girl behind the counter said, “Can I help the next guest?” I had no idea she was talking to me. Since when is a guest someone waiting in line for 10 minutes to pay for a crop sweater? If I’m a guest, then who is a customer? I mean, whatever happened to “Next”?

Corporate-speak has been spoken now for quite some time. People in that world readily identify as being part of a team that will hit a home run and create a win-win situation for all on board. And I always imagine it was decided there, at some team meeting, that a great motivator for consumers would be to make them feel as if they were getting extra-special attention by speaking to them as if they had received tony invitations to spend their money.

O.K. Is there an A-list? Because for my dollar, I need a little more.

My guest status at Bed Bath & Beyond allowed me to lift all my heavy items from the cart onto the checkout counter alone, before hauling them out to the street. And the last time I was a guest at Starbucks, I got to chase down my drink, bus my own table and wrestle my poppy-seed bagel with a plastic knife before eating it off the brown paper bag it came in.

Strangely enough, when I did feel a little like a guest — while eating dinner out, the bill far in the future — I was not treated like one. Under the assumption that my friend and I were sharing a leisurely meal, I put down my fork for a minute — you know, just to take a sip of water. Before I even had the chance to swallow, the server was suddenly there, ready to swoop the dish out from under me while asking, “Are you still working on that?”

Let’s understand: I was not working on anything. I had left the office. Completed my errands, finished my shopping. I was relaxing. Dining. I was practically a guest. Except every five minutes the server popped up to ask if I was still working. But the server was confused. He was working. I was eating.

Maybe that’s the problem. Stuck inside those conference rooms, people are crashing and burning. In making up language, they are creating metaphors whose reality exists only in the confines of their team. Maybe it’s time they stop, step outside and, like the best of hosts, get the names right.


Laurie Graff lives on the Upper West Side. Her most recent novel is “The Shiksa Syndrome” (Broadway Books, Random House, 2009).


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3 days ago

Наразі неймовірно важливо завжди бути в інформаційному просторі, це надає неаби які можливості, тим паче, що зараз події відбуваються та змінюються так швидко, що потрібно завжди слідкувати за змінами ситуації. З цього приводу треба використовувати якісний новинний портал, котрий зможе надати якісну та актуальну інформацію про події. Мені відверто пощастило, що я використовую, котрий надає мені всю необхідну інформацію про всі події на різноманітні тематики. Нещодавно прочитав дуже цікаву статтю про знижки на квитки «Укрзалізниці», а також про дізнався багато нового для себе стосовно різних сфер життєдіяльності. Це мене дуже радує, бо саме завдяки цьому новинному порталу, я почав дізнаватися по справжньому важливу для себе інформацію, а також почав відкривати нові теми. Таким чином, завдяки його роботі, я…

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