When I was at school, I held several jobs in catering. Working in a café and being a waiter in a restaurant required customer service skills, but I never really knew what I was letting myself in for when I took these jobs on. Yes, they were hard work, yes they were stressful and no, the pay wasn’t great, but that’s not what I’m getting at here – I’m talking about the customer service bug.
Let me explain.
When you offer your friend a drink when they come over to visit, how would you make this offer?
“Do you want a drink” is probably your answer, or if you were being polite maybe you would say
“Would you like a drink?”
What’s wrong with those? Nobody would take offence to these questions, and I wouldn’t hesitate to say these things to a stranger. However, somehow when you are serving a customer these statements become
“Any beverages for yourself at all, sir?”
I cannot even begin to say what is wrong with this statement. First there’s the irritating turn of phrase ‘at all’. Why is that there? Where does that come from? I hear it so often when I am being served in places. ‘Would you like a bag at all’ is the favourite. It makes me cringe, but I’ve caught myself dropping this line on more than one occasion, and I wouldn’t dream of doing it normally.
Additionally, where the hell is the verb in all of this?! An utterance is not a sentence unless it has a verb in it, and I’m sorry but there just isn’t one there. Why insult the customer with a question that, grammatically, isn’t even a sentence?
The reflexive pronoun is used when the subject and object of the verb are the same, for example ‘myself’ in the phrase ‘I wash myself’. Firstly, as I already said, there isn’t even a verb there to make a reflexive pronoun necessary, and secondly, it’s still wrong. ‘You’ would do just fine.
So, think about this. I understand, I really do. I have done it myself time and time again. We need to immunise ourselves (reflexive pronoun used correctly) against the customer service bug and speak to our clients properly. Next time someone asks me if there will be ‘any beverages for yourself at all’ I will actually break down and cry in front of them.