Thursday, March 13, 2008

"I can help the following customer"

Can that be right? Shouldn't it be, "I can help the next customer"?

Almost every customer service person in New York uses the word "following" to give the heads-up to the next person in line at the bank, deli, or Duane Reade. Every time I hear it, it grates on my nerves. Is it because I'm not used to that particular use of the word "following," or is it indeed wrong?

Though sometimes my posts don't reflect it, I do have a pretty good command of English grammar usage. Can someone let me know if I'm just being petty and that "I can help the following customer" is completely oakie-dokie? Or not.

13 comments:

jcb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jcb said...

That'd be OK if the entire statement was: "I can help the following customer: the lady in the red print dress."

Will there be a visit to Atlanta where you, like, lunch with old TBS pals? (That family and churchifying stuff is overrated, you know.) Ah, the heck with it. I'm going to Michigan for a week, just to refamiliarize myself with the cold.

MaryB said...

Yeah, that's what I'm thinking. There needs to be some specification of who the following customer to be helped might be. I figured it was just a Yankee thang. :-)

Hm. I'm on High Wedding Alert until October, but next time I venture South I'll let you know! (It'll probably be August or so.) Good luck with the cold stuff in Michigan.

Winston said...

Dumb. Use of "following" like that is just dumb. You are correct that "next" would be far more preferable and less dumber... well, you know what I mean.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps they view people like cattle. They follow one another along in a narrowing chute until they reach the head gate whereupon they are caught and unable to move. At that point, they get "treated." Let out a big MOOOO "next" time you're in this situation and observe the response.

MaryB said...

Yes, Winston. Weirdly dumb.

Mooooooo!

Anonymous said...

I'll admit I hadn't heard of that particular use of "following". My newest "fingernails on the blackboard" phrase is; when you thank someone for a service and they respond with, "NO PROBLEM". When did the refined and courteous, "YOU'RE WELCOME" get replaced with this rude "NO PROBLEM" crap??? Say, HUH???
Bro.

MaryB said...

Well, Bro, all I can say is "there goes the neighborhood!" No prob.

jomoore said...

I would have thought that the following customer is not the next one, but the one after that. Because the next one is now first and isn't following anyone. They're followed (if there's someone behind them), but not following. Except for the person that preceded them. Who's not there any more.

Yeah - it makes no sense. As jcb said, there's a colon hanging in the air there, and that's not right...

(I maybe shouldn't have written that last sentence...)

Joy Des Jardins said...

Nope...don't agree with 'following' in that context either Mary. 'Next' is appropriate.

MaryB said...

OK, so the verdict is in. I have all y'all's permission to correct all the WaMu and Duane Reade employees who ask to help the following customer. Unless they say "the following customer, Short PJs."

Liz said...

It's hard though, isn't it? Noticing things like that? It can put me off comletely what someone is saying.

Anonymous said...

Although it is totally incorrect and I have told salespeople in stores, they are being instructed to use this horrible phrase. I agree with the "no problem" comment, and often remark, of coure it's no problem - it's your job and I thanked you as a courtesy!
Other misuse that is spreading- myself to mean "me" and yourself instead of "you"