Confused Lady

I Don’t (k)NO(w)

What do you have to do to get a straight answer these days? Oh, the politicians are bad enough, but when was the last time you needed help from a retail clerk? 

Just for fun, go into a big box hardware store and ask one of the employees, “Do you carry elephants?” The employee will surely look at you with curious eyes, and repeat, “Elephants?” Nod affirmatively, and the employee will begin to answer with the correct response, which is no, and then remember that they are prohibited from saying no to a customer!

Smoke may begin to wisp from their ears as a response is formulated, and eventually something along the lines of, “You may want to check with the zoo” may be mumbled out. If it wasn’t sad it would be funny.

Sign "NO"

Not saying no to customers, as part of ‘good customer service’ has become more and more prevalent over the past ten-or-so years. Since company after company has imitatively adopted this policy, it has become nearly ubiquitous. As an extension of this ‘no to saying no’ policy, companies from Your Concierge Connection to Disney now also prohibit employees from saying I don’t know to customers and clients.

Instead of no, employees are expected to offer a positive suggestion and instead of I don’t know, employees are expected to create a response along the lines of, “Let me find out for you” or “Let me ask Dan about that”. The gist of this – and it seems like the logic of someone that took Psych 101 and didn’t bother with the reading or the lectures – is that never having a negative word uttered to you constitutes a positive customer experience. There aren’t enough BBs in a shell to create as many holes as there are in that logic.

Nothing is more frustrating than asking the same question over and over and getting non-answers; just look at how little collective hair the WH Press Corps has left. And forgive me for saying it out loud, but with the exception of the retirees who are working to keep active and are likely to be more qualified to run the store than the people running it, with minimum wage jobs you get minimum wage education and minimum wage intelligence. Hey Lowes! We know they don’t know. Don’t you? It’s OK – we just want a straight answer.

When asking, “Do you know where the buffet is?”, the response, “I don’t know, but I will find out for you” provides better customer service than, “Let me find out for you” because:

  1. it is honest, and
  2. it lacks the underlying irritation caused by not getting your question answered


Whoever is writing these employee handbooks seems concerned about feelings, but does not account for actual feelings. They are trying to bully you into having a positive experience. “We did everything right and didn’t say anything wrong, so we want you to go online and take your time to do our manager’s job and rate my performance as very good – because you had a positive experience … Right?”

These policies are among the stupidest ever. “No, we don’t carry elephants, and I don’t know where you might find one” is a reasonable answer. “I don’t know how to get to the Nook & Cranny Bookstore from here, but there are lots of ways to figure it out” is a reasonable answer.

Why harness these hard-working employees with the task of dreaming up ways to not answer questions while irritating customers with non-answers and no help? Someone needs to take Psych 101 again.



–  REENO  –

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A graduate of Portland State University, Steve Kloser is the author of “Beginning Band - A Guide to Success” and “Let's Make Music - Classroom Recorder Course”.
He is also an accomplished teacher, conductor and composer, having penned numerous pieces including: La Vida and Fly With Me.
Teacher, web developer, Packers fan and proud American, Reeno's usually slanted outlook often presents an unlikely perspective on issues old and new. Reeno currently lives in Portland, OR.
Read more at or follow Reeno on Twitter at

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