Why The World is NOT Full of Guys

...please use the correct words

Respect. We all want it, need it and deserve it. But when we use words that have “no meaning” we carelessly speak with disrespect to our customers. Why do we continually refer to “everyone” as a guy?

the world is not full of guys

Over the course of my training career I have constantly said “words have meaning”. We must speak with clear intent, understanding that our words bring life to all situations. Click To Tweet

With a few sincerely-meant words we can easily take a dissatisfied customer and turn them around, providing we use appropriate actions to match. Just as easily, we can take a content customer and, using a few seemingly innocent words, show disrespect, imply a lower status and diminish their worth.

Here’s an example that I bet most of you have encountered…

A family of 4; father, mother and 2 teenage daughters, enters one of the thousands of themed restaurants that dot America. They are greeted at the door with “Hi guys, welcome to …………..”.

A few more steps inside they reach the host/hostess stand where they again are greeted in a similar manner; “Hi guys, table for 4?”

Next, they are directed to their table and promptly greeted by their server; “Hi guys, can I get you something to drink?”

In total there have been 3 staff interactions with this customer family and within 2 minutes called “guys” 3 times. The only “guy” there is the father. Why have these greetings become so sexist?

Maybe sexist is a harsh term, how about demeaning or at least inappropriate?

Or does it come down to today’s use of slang has permeated society so much that we are unaware of how some may take offense to certain words.

In the customer service industry, and I dare say conversations in general, there is no reason to refer to a customer by his/her age, sex, marital status, religion, height, weight, etc.

We would NEVER say this to a customer upon entering our door; “Hi Fatso, welcome to …………” or “Good afternoon Big Nose, how can I help you today?” (my apologies for offending anyone reading this – just trying to get a point across).

Of course that’s outright mean and demeaning. I agree. But the world is not full of “guys” so why do so many refer to everyone as a “guy”?

Watch most of today’s television shows, what do you hear? An assault on our language. You don’t’ hear the words please, may I, you’re welcome or other pleasantries of years past. We hear slang, and terms not suitable for the industry I love, customer service.

As part of my training I coach others to refrain from using the word “ladies” or “ma’am” to remove the potential stigma(s) attached to it.

Sure, referring to a middle age woman as ma’am may be respectful and somewhat appropriate but do so to a group of 20’somethings. You’ll get an uneasy glare from some and possibly make the others feel older than they wish. There is no need for this.

Our job is to never make our customers feel uncomfortable.

Customers must feel welcome and receive a warm show of appreciation, that's our goal. Click To Tweet It’s so easy to do.

Just greet them with a sincere “Good afternoon, welcome to …………….., how may I help you?”

Then what about “Hi girls”? When spoken to a group of 8 year olds enjoying a birthday party, that may be fine but to the same table of 20’somethings? Are we to assume each is a “girl”?

Today’s hairstyles, clothing and sexual identification make it a minefield I am unwilling to cross. So why bother? Must we refer to a customer by a label which may not be appropriate? I say no.

Just as it is easier to remember the truth, versus a lie, it is easier to speak to/with a customer when we do not succumb to the cute phases that may be in style today.

As a customer we deserve a fair price, quality merchandise and respect. Anything less than that is unacceptable…even in a room full of “guys”.


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Copyright © 2018 Steve DiGioia

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11 thoughts on “Why The World is NOT Full of Guys

  1. I am in the South now for 25 years where the phrase “y’all” is the common way to address folks. Those who are transplanted Yankees, grew up saying “you guys” in the same spirit. It does not indicate a gynecological exam finding all present to be male but Southerners find it to be offensive while the equally casual “y’all” is not. It is difficult to reverse years of a commonly used phrase and “y’all” sounds ridiculous if it does not roll naturally off the tongue. In fine dining settings, I agree that a more formal greeting is desired. Welcome! What beverages are you folks interested in? has been my suggested phrase for those who are trying to wean themselves off of a lifetime of “guys”. Simply Welcome- what beverages might I interest you in? is also acceptable. We are a school with a student dining room and if I had a dollar for every comment regarding that “guys” phrase, I could retire now. We have veterans, students living in their cars, those changing careers from now shuttered industrial jobs and so, it is certainly a retraining to learn a more formal language than was common in former job situations. We are asking for a complete upgrade in communication required in the military, factory, or those who have been out of the workforce. Our society is less formal as texts with shorthand has become more common than phone call or emails and tweets require shorthand. We all want to be treated with dignity and respect. We certainly wish to believe that our trade is welcomed in any business.

    • Hi Diane,

      I too would have retired with the “you guys” money…
      I wonder, if McDonalds, et al, can quickly train their employees to say “do you want fried with that?” or other common upselling phrases, we sure should be able to train-away “you guys/hi guys”. It just takes time and a willingness to continually enforce it. But yes, it is an issue after a lifetime of use.

      The fine dining mindset is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, what a shame. What do we need to do to bring it back?

  2. Steve, I am in agreement with you, Aki and Bill when this issue of grouping everyone. Not only do I find “guys” and “gals” somewhat distasteful in a public setting, I really don’t like using the word “kids” – unless I am speaking about goats! These terms have become the normal colloquialisms in today’s society and yes, Aki, I agree that television ads, shows, and all do tend to make adults – moreso men!- look like total fools! I know I am NOT a fool, so I do not want to be represented as one. Respect should be shown to each and every person – even if they are not deserving of such. My mother raised me to have and show respect to anyone I met and when I became knowledgeable enough to make distinctions on my own as to who was and was not deserving of my respect, then I made those decisions accordingly – and still do. Even if a customer or a Guest is misbehaving, it doesn’t mean that I should demean myself by acting that way, too! To me, this shows disrespect for them, myself , and whatever position I am employed in at the time. Can’t we all just learn to be nice? Of course. “learn seems to be the operative word here, since we need to be taught by parents, guardians, peers, and others how to act – and if we learn improperly, we will act improperly.
    Lastly, I do wish the people responsible for television shows, newspaper ads, and all would stop the distasteful ads and GROW UP!

  3. Hi Steve,

    Like Bill, I couldn’t agree more! I am 60-years old with two young kids, and even in South Africa I get the same greeting at restaurants, retailers, hotels, garages, even when I have to take the kids to hospital. There is a lack of respect in this informality, and I don’t like it because it is also inevitably indicative of shoddy service and poor experiences.

    I watched one of the Disney channels for kids and teenagers for the first time recently, and what struck me about most of the programs involving precocious young actors was that in just about every episode adults are represented as utter morons who just don’t get it. It gives children and young adults permission, therefore, to transfer the same attitudes into real life.

    Can you imagine walking into a Ritz Carlton hotel, or into the Harrods store in London, or to attend a graduation ceremony at a prestigious university, and getting that same informality? Never!

    Thanks for this and other great posts.

    • Hi Aki,

      Overall customer service is ruined by informality. today, everybody wants to be “our friend”. We don’t speak in once-respectful terms. We downplay each interaction.

      What was once considered “normal” is now outdated and, may I say, abhorrent. I believe it stems in part from the political correctness forced upon us and yes, the television and social media we consume like a vulture.

      I hope the days of Ritz Carlton, et al, are nor passed us. At least there are still some of us, and you, that appreciate the “proper” spoken word. Thanks much!

  4. Steve,
    I couldn’t agree with you more. I also tell our team that such words as “guys” and “girls” should not be used backstage referring to associates either. For example a housekeeping manager, referring to room attendants would say, “The girls are in their last rooms so we will be finished on time today.” Unless the hotel is violating child labor laws, no girls work there. Also included on the Forbidden Words list is “bodies.” I need two more bodies to work the banquet this weekend.” Bodies are dead people. We certainly don’t want zombies taking care of our guests. To me, The Ritz-Carlton got it very right for all of us in hospitality, “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”

    • What we do, and say, in private always comes out in public. Our words must be appropriate and customer friendly at all times. I’ve heard the “bodies” used many times too. Thanks Bill.

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