How do you feel about the phrase "no problem"?

Ok, I rigged the poll.

This was one of the “rules” posted by the guy at the NY Times about how his waitstaff will work at his restaurant. I don’t want to discuss that…there are plenty of fora for that. I want to discuss this rule. What’s wrong with that phrase? Apparently, it’s better to say, “My pleasure.”

I guess “My pleasure” implies that you are thrilled right down to your puckering belly button to do the grunt work someone asks you to do. “No problem” implies it IS a problem, but you are such a sainted asshole that you deem it ok just this once to make an exception.

My opinion? What matters is body language, facial expression, and tone of voice.

It’s like when someone calls me “sir” in a forum. They don’t mean “sir.” They mean “you fucking bastard.” Sure, it looks polite on paper. But it isn’t.

I used to work a retail job in a small neighborhood shop, and the one and only time I was reported to my manager was for using this phrase. I had helped an older woman pick something out, and when she thanked me I uttered the apparently dreaded “No problem!”. She went off in a huff and reported my ‘rude behaviour’ to the boss.

Fortunately he laughed it off (after she left, of course), but I still don’t get what’s wrong with this phrase? It’s not like I said it sarcastically or anything!

Like I said in the original thread:

For me, ‘no problem’ is no problem. Under most circumstances, it’s pretty much true. It’s certainly not sarcastic, or more than politely insincere.

‘My pleasure’ is usually also no problem…I do, though, have a problem with anyone who expects me to think that ‘my pleasure’ is sincere, rather than a simple polite fiction.

In the case of restaurant servers, specifically - except under very bizarre circumstances, doing what I ask - getting me another drink, doing a substitution on my meal, whatever - is not going to be a problem, but it’s sure not going to be the server’s PLEASURE. So, the writer’s got the sincerity level backwards.

You left out the simple option, “You’re welcome,” and you also didn’t specify whether this is in a server/customer interaction or just between acquaintances. Also, is it in response to a request, or to the “Thank you” that follows the fulfillment of said request? IMHO, all of these things make a difference.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with “No problem” uttered sincerely, but I think that in a server/customer situation, “You’re welcome” (in response to “Thank you”) is more appropriate. I don’t talk to my clients the same way I talk to my friends; I’m more respectful because the clients pay my bills. So I don’t greet clients on the phone with “Sup, dawg?” but rather “Hello, Jane, how are you?” and I say “You’re welcome” or even the dreaded “My pleasure” instead of “No problem” when they thank me for services rendered.

Oh, totally. Great (and funny!) points. Which is what I wanted to discuss.

I meant it in situations where “you’re welcome” wouldn’t work.

“Could I have another slice of lemon in my water?”

“You’re welcome.”

And “my pleasure” doesn’t work, either. I just don’t like that phrase in these situations. “My pleasure” works when someone jacks me off.

I also think “Yes, of course” works, but that’s probably seen as condescending. Naturally, a simple “yes” will work, but what I’m talking about is someone being colloquial and friendly–but in a situation of customer service. In a fancy 1,000 star restaurant, ok, don’t say the phrase that shall not be named. But many people in the thread thought that it was inappropriate all the time.

Perhaps “no problem” is less formal than some would like (I have no issue with it, either as utterer or utteree), but raising a stink about it denotes ingratitude–and that is definitely the baser offense.

People are just too uptight! “No problem”, is no problem!

My dad is irrationally upset by it, which is funny because usually he’s not that kind of guy. But every time a waiter says “no problem” he’s all “gah! wtf?” and we have to calm him down.

ETA - I’ve noticed that at work (I’m a librarian) I tend to say “Sure!”, which probably annoys some people. I didn’t realize I was doing it, and I probably do it to avoid saying the wrong thing to a question, like when the server says 'Enjoy your dinner!" and you automatically say “You too!”

Doesn’t bother me in the least.

It’s bound to be a little awkward if it’s taken literally, since the whole exchange is an exchange of manners, not pure sensibility.

“Could I have another slice of lemon in my water?” That’s not a question that itself is meant to be taken literally. “Well, yes, ma’am, you could, but until you actually ask for one, you won’t.” …Now that would be wrong.

If spoken with courtesy - or at least what sounds like courtesy - “no problem” is no problem.

De nada.

I like the cut of your jib, sir!

I work in a customer service position, and I’m not fond of the “No problem” construct. Instead, I tend to use “Absolutely” as a reply to most client requests. Most of our hotel guests speak English, either as a first or second language, and if they have a different primary language it tends to be either French or Spanish. For French, Spanish, or English-speaking clients, it doesn’t take much mental translation to figure out the word “Absolutely.” (I’m the very embodiment of US liguistic skills, with all of my French coming from my vague memories of high school classes, and all of my Spanish learned from Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer. I’m pretty proficient in Southern American English, though!)

For whatever reason, I find “No problem” to be a bit too informal. even though I don’t mind telling my Spanish-speaking guests “De nada.” Otherwise, I just use the useful phrases “You’re welcome” or “It’s my pleasure.”

For the record, though, I do hail from the southern US, where it’s usual to treat strangers with a bit of formality. All of my guests are addressed by Mr. or Mrs./Ms./Miss; and I use “ma’am” and “sir” frequently.

I think you’re right about this. When I’m interacting with people on a business level, I’m more concerned with their intent and their attitude rather than the actual words that come out of their mouths. Getting stuck on words, or even worse, getting pissed off about them, doesn’t accomplish much.

My pleasure sounds sexual. You should complain to the guy that the waitstaff is coming on to you.:wink:

if it is at a restaurant then instead of saying ‘no problem’ they should say ‘piece of cake’, it might also increase dessert sales.

“Can I get a refill for my tea?”

“Sure” (OK)
“Coming right up” (OK)
“Absolutley” (OK)
“No Problem” (hmmmm, I’m glad it’s not a problem for you to refill a tea glass; if it were I’d suggest another line of work)

I can’t really explain it, but “no problem” doesn’t sit real well with me. This goes for everyday conversation, not only for waitstaff interactions. I’m not going to get in a huff or anything, and some times I may not even notice the usage. And my above quote is something I’d never actually say.

I think what’s annoying is that it is used so much. It peppers conversations much like “like” does these days. “I was, like, going to the store and then this guy, like, said…”

When every question (whether it implies a potential problem or not) in a verbal interaction is answered with “no problem,” well, as I said, it annoys me although I can’t really explain why.

It’s different if the situation really is potentially difficult (“Can you bring your truck over and haul off a couple cords of wood on Saturday.” “Sure, that won’t be a problem”). But getting extra napkins?

I think those poll choices are hilarious. But I have always thought people that object to the term are funny. Hey, the man said it is no problem. What the hell does it matter to you if it could be a problem somehow, in some other circumstance (parrallel universe…hahaaa!).

Seriously. It is not a problem. Accept it.

The interesting thing to my mind is that the phrase “no problem” has now gotten two idiomatic meanings going on. And folks above are talking past each other ignoring the distinction.

One usage is a replacement for “you’re welcome”. Using “no problem” there annoys me, but the usage clearly generational. Folks under about 25-ish simply don’t use “you’re welcome.”

The simple verbal dance of please, thank you, you’re welcome gets burned into all (well most) of us at age 4. It’s not something I want to change over the course of my life.

But here it is. The new dance is please, thank you, no problem. Whether I like it or not. Like all idioms, the meaning isn’t really in the words themselves. the idiomn as a whole contains the meaning, including intent & tone.
The other usage of “no problem” is as a response to a request. Utterly different situation. To me that response feels very informal, bordering on flippant, particularly for a trivial normally-expected request, like the restaurant examples most folks have given.

The better response depends of course on the situation & the expected formality or degree of social sparation between requestor & requestee.

All in all, I don’t like the fact it’s gaining traction in the world. But I’m stuck with it. On a scale of 1 to 10 of severe problems in our society it rates about a 0.000001 . But it isn’t zero and it appears I’m not alone in that assessment.

I guess I go a bit overboard “no problem at all - I’m happy to help!” Its less formal, but that is my intent, to be more friendly and approachable. (office employee, but I think I used it in retail years ago too. Can’t really remember.)

I wonder if people in Australia get het up over the Australian variant “no worries.”