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What are we having tonight?

You’ve heard the same things from some perky server at a restaurant you frequent, haven’t you?

“How are we doing this evening?”

“Would we like to hear about the specials?”

“Will we be having dessert tonight?”

This seems to be the convention in the restaurant business. You hear it all the time, whether you’re lunching at the local diner, taking the kids out to a family restaurant, or splurging on dinner at a fancy-pants steakhouse.

Clearly some hospitality industry consultants are teaching servers to talk that way. I’m guessing they believe it will help them bond with diners who will then order more food, spend more money, and leave a larger tip.

Here’s the thing:

I don’t know anybody who relishes being on the receiving end of that forced, phony patter. It feels like fake intimacy; to me it always sounds patronizing. Like a parent telling an errant child, “Can we pick up our toys now?” “We don’t hit our little brother, do we?”

Could be that I’m old and crotchety and overreacting to normal business lingo. I’ve been doing some informal research though, and I’m finding that even people much closer in age to the servers don’t like that “we” routine any better than I do.

What are we having tonight? I don’t know about you, but I’d be happy to tell you what I’m ordering. If you’ll stop calling me, we.

The restaurants aren’t alone in this.

I’ve been car-shopping lately. Yes, I appreciate your sympathy. The auto showroom experience is a rough one in so many ways.

Among them? The sales rep started the moment he’d introduced himself.

“Which vehicle are we thinking about?”

“What color do we like?”

“Will we be trading in an existing vehicle?”

I actually said to him, “Look, you and I are not a we.” And, because I’m always curious about the way people communicate, I wondered where he got the idea that his customers all want to be “we” with him.

From a consultant, naturally. The experts in the auto business come in and teach people to talk to car-shoppers like that. It’s supposed to build rapport and make us more eager to buy, and maybe even to upgrade to pricier models.

Of course, it was easy for my salesman to adopt that communication quirk and make it a habit. He’s only been selling cars for five months.

Before that? He was a waiter.

You might love being addressed as “we” … maybe it really does give you the warm, fuzzy feeling the consultants promise. Fill us in here, will you? And by “us” I mean you, and me, and our friends who read the blog.