“No Problem” is a Problem

By Makenzi Jordan Rodriguez

I was inspired by Landis’ founder, David Landis, as I was hunting for writing inspiration from LCI’s past.  After many clicks to “older posts” on our website, I finally found it: I Worry When You Say, “No Worries!”

It brought me back to 2015 when I worked as a sales associate at Nordstrom and was helping a customer.  She said, “Thank you,” to which I replied, “No problem.”  Before I could blink, she said, “Why do people say that? They say, ‘no problem?’ and not, ‘you’re welcome’ when someone says, ‘thank you.’ It shouldn’t be a problem to help a customer!”

This humiliating-at-the-time interaction with her obliterated no problem from my vocabulary in point two seconds, and I’m relieved to say it hasn’t returned. I respected this woman’s perspective, though it was years later when I truly understood what she meant. I could hear my mother in my ear when I was a kid, “when someone says ‘sorry’ for hurting you, don’t say ‘it’s ok,’ say, ‘thank you’ because you’re accepting their apology, not them hurting you.” Ok, so it’s a little different, but linguistics matter, nonetheless!  And in this case, “no problem” is suitable in a situation where someone is apologizing to you for a mistake they made, not for hurting you (i.e., “my apologies,” to which the response would be “no problem” or “it’s ok”). You get the gist.

What was the problem in the first place?

Years after this awakening, I was on a road trip and made a desperate stop at a fast-food chain (which I will not name) to 1. use the restroom and 2. EAT. I thanked the person who took my order. “My pleasure,” they replied. Then, I heard the person ordering next to me say, “thank you,” and “my pleasure” followed. “Genius!” I thought. This place instilled in their employees to express “my pleasure,” which made me feel warm and fuzzy inside as if they genuinely enjoyed my presence. This response was SO much better than, “you’re welcome”! Noted.

As a relationship builder and fastidious customer service guru, I want to know all the ways in which I can be more gracious and foster relationships with others. My career in public relations echoes the importance of speaking sincerely and properly. While saying “no problem” is not grammatically flawed, it implies that the person you are speaking to has caused an inconvenience. Are our clients an inconvenience? Never. As with grammar, your etiquette reflects your image: good or bad, you are in control of it.

Whether you are in communications or working in the fast-food industry, I encourage you to trade “no problem” and “no worries” for the more positive and friendly “my pleasure.”  I promise you; it feels good to say it and adds a heightened sense of gratitude to whom you say it.   

Photo courtesy of Pixabay