can I just grab…?

Standing in a queue for takeaway coffee, the person in front of me orders: “Can I just grab a large skinny flat white?”.

Dining with friends or colleagues, it is not unusual for at least one person to say “Can I grab the wagyu beef and a glass of shiraz?”.

This manner of ordering or requesting service rarely, if ever, is accompanied by a “please”.

Why do so many people trivialise their order or request in this way? Servers and shop assistants are here to serve us, in a shop, cafe or restaurant. The “just” implies that theirs is a small, easy to deliver request. Nothing big, complicated or time-consuming. The “grab” implies the server can quickly reach for said item with no effort, and the customer can grab it from them (itself a little rude) and be on their way.

Are these “just grabbers” trying to show they are no trouble, easy to satisfy, unimportant, taking up little time? Or do they have little respect for the person serving them? The lack of “please” further emphasises the latter to me.

What’s wrong with the traditional, polite “May I have…”?

It happens in reverse too, and that really winds me up. You browse through Borders, or Priceline, or an expensive clothes shop. You wander up to the counter with $250 worth of books, or $75 of toiletries, or $500 of new clothes. The assistant says “Just those today?”.

Am I not purchasing enough to please? Is the shop dissatisfied that I am spending “just” that amount? This has happened to me when purchasing multiple outfits, expensive computer equipment, ridiculous amounts of money in a single shop for Christmas presents. At times I have been standing there trying to decide whether I am being excessively indulgent in my purchase, then decide to go for it, only to be asked “Just those today?”.

Next time you are out and about, listen to how people communicate with each other when shopping or dining out, and ask whether we can find better ways to do so without trying to trivialise, disrespect or dismiss.

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