I am not sure when it started, but I remember being surprised and delighted at first. I think I was at a restaurant ordering lunch, and I chose what seemed to be a basic cheeseburger with coleslaw on the side instead of fries.
“Perfect!” the young server proclaimed with a beaming smile.
Perfect? I asked myself as I smiled back. My choice was “perfect?” It’s just a cheeseburger, right? Or…maybe the burger part comes from a grass-fed Angus cow that was never given a drop of growth hormone or antibiotic. Maybe the cheddar comes from some high-end cheese maker in Wisconsin or Vermont. Maybe this burger is a local favorite and tourists are just unaware of how perfect it is. Ooooh! What if the bun is made of sourdough? Yum!
That was the beginning. From then on, it seemed that almost every time I ordered food at a restaurant, inquired about an air filter at a hardware store, chose new all-season tires, selected a local craft beer, or thanked someone for being helpful, three words kept surfacing: “perfect!” “absolutely!” and “of course!
For example: “I think I’ll have a glass of Riesling, please.”
Absolutely? With an exclamation mark? What happened to “okay” or “sure” or “alright?”
Or this: “Thanks for adding lemon to my water.”
Response: “Of course!”
Of course? Why not say “Sure” or “No problem?”
Here’s what I think happened. Restaurants and the retail industry in general decided that customers needed to feel more welcomed and “special.” If done right, that would lead to more five-star online ratings, generous tips, and repeat customers. Complimentary capitalism at its best.
Staff were trained to enhance their customer service vocabulary, and for a while, consumers like me smiled, felt kind of special, and likely tipped a bit more.
Then it took off. From McDonald’s drive-thru windows to five-star dining establishments…from department stores to specialty craft shops to big box stores…our requests and inquiries were routinely met with responses like “Perfect!” “Absolutely!” and/or “Of course!” They still are and it’s getting stale.
After a recent doctor’s appointment, I had to schedule a follow-up visit.
“So, are we seeing you again soon?” I was asked.
“I need to schedule an appointment for early February.”
“Of course! What day of the week is best for you?”
“I’m retired, so my schedule is quite open.”
“Perfect! Do you prefer early morning or a bit later…in the afternoon sometime?”
“Probably any time after 9 a.m. would work. I like time for morning coffee.”
“Absolutely! How about 9:30 on Thursday, February 3rd?”
“Sure. That works.”
Yeah…that’s me. Absolutely perfect in my choices of food, wine, beer, air filters, tires, and now dates for doctor appointments.
It’s probably just me being a Boomer, but after a few years of hearing words like “perfect,” “absolutely,” and “of course” used with exclamation marks everywhere, I just grit my teeth now, probably much like my parents and grandparents did when they had to listen to everything being “groovy” and “far out.”
Let’s move on, especially from the overuse of “perfect” and “absolutely.” When used so often with so little genuine meaning or sincerity, they now feel cliché and trite.
The simplicity of these words feels good. They make me feel special enough.