Please Vs. Thank You
Saturday afternoon, I flew back into Orlando and into one of the messiest airport conditions I’ve ever witnessed. From the time the plane landed until my luggage came down the carousel, over 50 minutes had passed. Sixteen…count ’em, 16, flights were backed up due to the baggage problems. There were several hundred passengers standing around a carousel waiting for their baggage to come around…but that’s kinda hard when the carousel wasn’t even moving. Folks were getting irritated, and rightfully so. After standing around for more than half an hour, someone working for the airline came over the PA and said, “Folks, please be patient. We’ve got 16 flights worth of baggage backed up and we’re trying to get it straightened out.”Obviously, you cannot fully realize her tone without having been there to hear it, but it was nothing short of accusatory. Why? That one wword: please. Please be patient. Polite? Courteous? No, not so much. Saying “please be patient” accuses those of us standing around of NOT being patient. And maybe folks were NOT patient, but it wasn’t like they’d done anything wrong. The airline was the problem.
So, I tried to think if there was another way the airline employee could have worded it. Would this sound better? “Thank you for being patient. We apologize for your wait. We have had some technical problems and we’re working on getting your luggage as fast as possible.” Better? Yes, I think so. I never really thought the word “please” could be accusatory, but I guess I now know differently. When there’s a choice between please and thank you, choose thank you.