Thanks for Nothing

Andy Borowitz is a humorist (a comedian; someone who tries to be funny). His website is filled with fake (invented; not real) news stories that are, depending on your political views, supposed to be funny (similar to The Onion).  In a recent article, Borowitz wrote that he often gets emails from people asking him for favors (something you do for someone else to help them). He always replies to these emails, even when the answer is “no.” After sending the email, he waits and typically gets…nothing. The person he emailed never writes back to say “thank you.”

Borowitz suggests that even if you are not really a polite person, you should at least try to be polite, even when it is “fake politeness.”  To be polite means to be nice, to communicate in a way that is not mean or rude.  Saying “thank you” when someone does something for you is usually considered polite.

I agree with Borowitz. I have often received emails from people I know (family members, friends, people I used to work with) asking me for information or for favors.  I usually give them the information or at least reply to their email in some way, but I almost never hear anything from them again.  Imagine walking up to someone, asking her a question, and then after she answers it, walking away without saying a word. Yet that is exactly what happens on email all the time.  I mean, how long does it take to type “Okay, thanks!”?

I know that many people think email is an informal way of communicating, and they perhaps don’t want to send the other person emails they consider unnecessary. But in my view (opinion), “thank you” is never unnecessary.

Let me be clear that the situation is generally NOT true for listeners of ESL Podcast! I almost always get a “thank you” back when people email me and I am able to help them, so please don’t interpret this as a complaint about you, our dear listeners!  I’m referring (talking about) other people…you know who you are.

~ Jeff

Photo from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, New Orleans. Wikipedia CC

This entry was posted in Life in the United States, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Thanks for Nothing

  1. Alvaro Barbosa da Silva says:

    I totally agree! People tend to be less polite day after day mainly in big cities or in the crowd. In opposite you can find nicer folks on small towns. At least here in Brazil it happens this way.

  2. Gina says:

    Dear Jeff,

    I totally agree with you. I have a few friends who often ask me for information (usually lecture notes). Two of them never writes back once they receive my response with the files. Very often, I don’t feel like giving them the information they want.

    However, I always wonder if I should email back to some people such as my professors or a podcast host after I ask questions and received the response. The professors say that they get tons of emails and it’s time consuming to open every single email. So, I try not to email back to them in order to be polite even if I want to say, “thank you.”

    I know my two paragraphs are kind of contradictory to each other!

  3. roberto says:

    You are right, Jeff. A fine word for a person who has helped you will satisfy him.
    But, nowadays we live the life frenetic and we dont think about persons who help us.
    As you say Jeff, “thank you” is never unnecessary.
    Why dont we include in our dictionary more often words like hello, thanks, Good bye, you are welcome..?
    As Alvaro says, small towns can be more humans than big cities but we must care of relationships. It is sure it will be good for all.
    I am sure that Gatufo and other like him (I deliberately use him instead it) are more polite than a lot of humans, right Emiliano?

    A great topic, Jeff. Thanks

  4. Frederico says:

    If I write THANKS IN ADVANCE, is it necessary to reply THANKS later? What is your opinion?

  5. Eduardo says:

    It has caught on in our society and this is something that really pisses me off but I can deal with that, professor Jeff, and I try not to pay with the same attitude. I confess I’m not that polite guy. Many times I’m rude but I recognize the favors received from generous friends or unknown people in general from Internet, cyber friends.

  6. Hilario says:

    Dear Jeff and rest of esl forum,

    In my view, email communication maybe is something that we haven´t still assimilated -but which should we do it yet as something being equally personal that a face-to-face, same as approaching someone else and asking them about any question and thanking them after. Merely as on illustrating example which Jeff has been describing in the episode.

    No afterwards thanking required.

    Best for all of you

  7. elcomandant says:

    After I read what Jeff said in his post I completely agree, as everybody does, I guess. There is a thing I’d like to qualify. I’m speaking about what Jef said: “… to be polite, even when it is “fake politeness. …””. In my view it doesn’t exist such thing. That is to say, it just exists “to be politeness” or “not to be politeness”. I’ll put an example. Suppose that your mather-in-low is the worst of the worst and she is living in your home for two months. You can’t wait tomorrow to come because she comes back her home. Instead of that, she decides staying with you for a couple of months more and logically gives you this news. At that moment you are feeling very bad and you would want to desappear. You hate her more than never, however she tells you “Oh Jeff, I almost forget. I bought the newspaper you like. Enjoy it son”.

    What would you do, Jeff? You have two options. You can be polite or not. If you choose don’t be polite, you would ignore her (or even you could kill her if you had had a bad day). On the other hand, if you decide to be polite, you would say to her, “Oh great. Thank you mama. I’m going to read it right now”. Even it could be possible that you kiss her in the cheek. Don’t you think so?.

    By the way, Thank you Jeff and Lucy for help us to improve our English Language.

  8. Betty says:

    Hi Jeff, thank you so much for such a timely topic, it has reminded me about so many emails that I should have replied but had not done so.

    I would like to borrow a corner of this blog to tell everyone in the world that I am very sorry if you are waiting for a reply from me and it has not arrived, please treat this message as an apology and an acknowledgement of receiving all your correspondence, and a big THANK YOU to you all.

    Ah, I feel better now that I have done all my replies.

    By the way, I am very grateful for the prompt responses that gives us. It does save us a lot of time thinking whether they have noticed our emails or suggestions etc.

    It is not easy for a company to keep their pledges to show their care to their customers, but has been good at it.

    Congratulation to you all at Team!

  9. Matheus Leme says:

    I think saying “thank you” is a way of being human, being friendly to the others. No matter what’s going on, you should always say thanks to someone even though when the person says no for a request of you. I must say, I thank people more than I should… and I feel great.

  10. Matheus Leme says:

    now about on the internet, my view is: Wherever you are, you must be polite to the others, even if you don’t know a cyber person. If we don’t respect each of us, who will do it instead? By the way, Thank you very Much Jeff and Lucy and eslpod team

  11. Peter says:

    You are very tactful. I like it.
    everybody should be a diplomat.
    People to whom you directed your massage may not hear the massage loud and clear as we did.
    Poor social manners always cause sensitivity. No worries Jeff. We will rise to the occasion:)
    Please keep in mind that The world as we kbow it acts differently out of this ivery tower of us.

  12. Peter says:

    A word of advice,
    Take them to the task my man; I always do
    Don’t let them get away with that.

  13. kuong do says:

    This is the first time I have not found comments of Emiliano. Such a big surpirse!

  14. emiliano says:

    Yes Roberto, you are right and a big Thank You in the name of Gatufo, as he doesn´t know yet how to use the pc. to say that, but may be in future
    as he is always listening to Jeff and watching what I am doing every moment he has the opportunity.
    I thint that Happy and Gatufo would be good friends and they could talk in English listening so much as they did.


  15. khaalid says:

    dear: jeff
    hi everone. as you say people always tend to be unpolite when asking you qeustion. i my self one them.
    i once asked a question. they quickly answered my question.after that i didn’t say “thannk you”.I’ve made up in my mind to say so. Dr lucy and jef touche`

  16. emiliano says:

    Just a big surprise, to me it´s really difficult to imagine a person nicer than you Jeff and it´s incredible that you don´t receive a mail in return
    from the people you have replied giving some kind of information or telling them that their request was difficult of resolving and so forth.
    Yes, it´s really incredible as to me Jeff, Lucy and ESL are one of the nicer sites in the web, and you Jeff in particular have to be the nicer
    pal I could imaging.
    Any problem I could have with the suscription or about any request I may ask for has been solverd inmediately with great politeness and
    good forms by ESL team, Jeff or Lucy.
    Again Thanks for your good efforts and teaching.
    I have been a lucky person about this matter, in fact I couldn´t remember something similar as not been good treated when giving replies
    to the notes.
    But may be I use to have mails with friends or people I knew from long.
    Also I use to mail asking for some information, complaing about some problem with items I have bought or similar questions, and I always
    have good treatment an enough information.
    Always I return a thank you or your information has been very useful, thanks Sirs.
    Even famous people or writers has been so kind as to reply some of my notes, the last of them has been Ken Follet.

    Learning English I have seen that this language is politer than Castilian, but I refer to the Castilian we speak in Castilla, Spain.
    The Spanish that is spoken in South America is nicer and politer that the language we use in Spain, specially in Castilla.
    We are more hard, directly, sharp, few thanks or please. Not so many let me, may I have, could I have, do you mind?, it should be nice if,
    I would like to, ……and so on.
    English is a nice language, the same as Spanish in South America, always please at the end of the phrase or a thank you.
    Now I have the big surprise, English language could be nicer and politer but the way of acting people is the same
    everywhere, good or bad educated it doesn´t matter which language may they speak.
    I can´t imagine that form of not giving thanks in return when you have asked about something or you have received a reply to
    your request.
    It´s possible that one of my works at the Bank was resolving problems and asking about solutions with other Correspondents when
    there were difficulties with documentary credits, loans, documentary remitances, checks and so forth.
    Relationship among clients and Bank Correspondents were always very polites and educated, so I am acustomed to this kind
    of treatment between letters or mails.
    Yes, it seems to me I am from an old genertion already but I can´t conceive unpolite treatment in mails or letters.
    Talking with me it is just different, sometimes I could be sharp, hard and quite direct but also soft and kind if I like the person in front
    of me.
    Even if I like this person I can´t use so many thanks, please, let me, may I have and so foth when talking in Spanish, if it is in
    English….that is another question and I try to imitate english people so nice and polite using their own language.

    THANK YOU SO MUCH JEFF, a nice and controversial subject, I think it´s really interesting.


  17. emiliano says:

    To people who are coming to Spain from the North or from English influential lands the first time they are here spaniards may seems like not
    nice or polite persons. We talk aloud, directly, we don´t use so many thanks or please and have fast manners to say nearly everything.
    Too much gestures and too much looks directly to the eyes, yes I know that.

    But through the blood of every spaniard runs two great cultures, Arabs and Jews, they were living in Spain for hundred of years and
    these two great civilizations have a thing in common: HOSPITALITY.
    Spaniards receive through hundred of years this rule that there is in the religion and culture of both civilizations, even roots of our ancestors
    came from them.
    Every spaniard has blood, roots and customs from Arabs and Jews, that´s for sure.
    My parents coming from Burgos, strong hard austere and cold land in the center of Spain were so.
    Serious, not so much thanks or please, but hospitality with foreigners and guests were their rule at home.
    I have seen always the same, good manners and kindeness with the visitors in their way of acting.

    So, we could be hard, not so polite speaking, even rude at the sight of visitors from outside, but we all spaniards have something in
    common: Hospitality and good feelings with our guests or foreigners that´s a rule always despite fake appearances.
    This kind of common hospitality is evident once the foreigner is living here for some time, so the fact is that Spain has millions of
    visitors every year and some of them once they get the point of our character fixed their resident for ever some place of the country.

    Sorry, I am proud of our ancestors and even about our strong hospitality character.
    Thanks a million Jeff, coming from Irish roots I´m sure you´ll be always nice and tender with visitors, I know that from people who
    have been in Ireland.



  18. Peter says:

    Eslpod you are doing all sorts of linguistic miracles at the Englishhub. Do this last miracle and be done with it. Usher me to the direction in which I could loose this accent of mine nice and easy. It has been a burden ever since I remember,and has been weighing me down since the beginning.
    A huge draw back that go to sleep with you at night ,and chase you down even in your dreams.
    Eslpod ,add this to the out-reach progaram of yours that I am in sore need.



  19. Peter says:

    Jeff is Irish,but he is nothing like them.
    I mean ,there is this mall close to my place, it is an open air mall called plaza. Almost every week I meet up with my Irish friends there in a Irish pub located at the kitty-corner of the plaza.
    It is not the point, the point is they all Irish gals and guys a larg group. I hang out with them quite often. Nice people, as Emiliano said very friendly. I found them happy camper to some extent. The thing is, still I have problem understanding them. They speak this strong dialect totally differen with Jeff way of talking.
    Perhaps , because Jeff born and raised in USA
    But , they are as much funny.
    Although , I can’t understand most of the jokes they fashion, another word,fabricat.

  20. Betty says:

    Guess what? Every second someone in the world is waiting to read Emiliano’s story. Every time Emiliano is a little bit late in submitting his message for us to read, someone will look for him. I always look forward to reading his articles as well.

    Thank you, Emiliano, for sharing your knowledge with us, I have learned so much about Spain in such a short time. Your hospitality explains why so many English people wanting to move to Spain after they retire is correct.

    I have learned good English through my education, I actually do not know bad English. I would not want to learn bad English anyway. Good English is a very polite language, always ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.

    It is true that some people seem to be very rude, they ask for direction or things like that, as soon as they get the answer, they simply walk away without saying thanks. I will see these ‘rude’ people as having problem, some ‘Psychological Disorders’ as described in our ‘14th January 2011 ESL Podcast 651 – Psychological Disorders’. They could be in such a hurry that they will have to turn round immediately and head for their destination. In any case, let’s forgive these absent minded people, just teach our children not to behave like that.

    Different culture could display different politeness. Hong Kong is such a fast pace society that some people simply will not stop and think whether this is rude or that is polite. They are good people, but just no time to be polite.

    After living in England for such a long time, it was a cultural shock for me to be back to Hong Kong. Now I go to more civilised places to do my shopping, and I switch off when I see some rude people, simply ignore them, life is too short to be angry.

  21. Valerie says:

    Maybe someone’ll not agree with me, but if the answer is “no” it’s not necessary to write back to say “thank you”. It’s silly to wait “thank you” if you didn’t do something for the person.
    Though I think it depends on the situation, type of the favor and the way how the person say this “no” (I mean his voice, intonation etc.) You all write so right things, but imagine if you ask for something really important and you know that this person can do it but he/she says “no” with an arrogant, humiliating facial expression. I don’t think you still would want to be polite and say “thank you”
    I just wanted to say that there are so many different situations and it’s impossible to say how you will act at the particular situation.

  22. emiliano says:

    Peter, lots of spaniards go to Ireland to learn English, in fact lot of children. Irish speaks quite a good English but also their own
    language that it´s gaélico or gaeilge in Irish language.
    Some of them may have a strong accent but it depends of the place they were born.
    Spaniards like to go to Ireland as their people are really friendly and very nice with us.

    Dublin is the city where spanish children use to go to learn a good English, the city is really nice and chipper that London.

    There are also a lot of Irish famous writers that sometime people thinks they are born in Britain.

    Mentioning the most famous think in:

    Oscar Wilde
    James Joyce
    Jonathan Swift
    Bram Stoker
    Samuel Beckett
    Bernard Shaw
    and so on…

    Irlanda has 6,2 millions of inhabitants only……… Madrid population area.

    It´s culture is bigger than countries with much more population.
    Yes, I think Jeff is proud about his ancestors feeling also as a good usa citizen
    born in Minnesota.

    All the best for you Peter.


  23. Nele says:

    Hi at all,
    it is a difference, to whom i write an email, to friends, family or in my job.
    In my job i get emails only with short questioins for informations. I replay with a short answer. That´s all. No replay with thank you and for me that is ok, the job is done. It is a very quick and short form of communication.
    In difference when I email with friends and family. It´s more a personal communications, and there are more the rules of “old school”. It´s nice to get a thank you, it´s nice to give a thank you.

    A good day – Nele

  24. emiliano says:

    When I was young, in my twenties, I met three Irish couples who were spending their Honey Moon in Benidorm, Alicante, Spain.
    With my hard face of ever, I started to speak English with them when we were in a pub drinking some beers.
    I was alone, spending also my holidays in Benidorm, this city has one of the nicer beaches of the Mediterranean sea.

    Well, once we started to talk the Irish couples take care of me for nearly 20 days.
    I was their translator for the Spanish and I went everyplace with them talking English the full day.
    To the pub, to dancing and to the beach.
    Yes, I always had a nice Irish recent married girl to dance with as I was alone and I was their spanish friend.

    Incredible good holidays in Benidorm, having friends and talking English without going out from my country.
    Also I could heped them because they didn´t speak a single word of spanish.

    After that we were in touch for a long time.
    They invited me to Ireland several times, but I can´t go because I met Cuca and have a lot of things to do together.

    Quite good memories about that time and these good Irish people.

    Irish like to go to the Mediterranean sea in October and November by their holidays.
    Their country is cold and wet, so having a bath in the sea at summer time is similar at having one in Alicante in November.

    When I was living in Alicante I met several of them and have a talk every moment I could.
    It was funny seeing them in the sea when no body were, and they always said to me that the wether in Torrevieja was
    splendid in November to be at the sea side or on the beach.

  25. rolf says:

    Unfortunately I also forget sometimes to thank someone in an email for a favour. But almost always when answering an email with “THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP” I receive a positive reaction some time later. This can be in the next personal meeting or by a reply mail saying “DON’T MENTION IT !” THANK YOU Jeff, for reminding me to be polite.


  26. Tania says:

    Hi! “Life is not so short but there is always time enough for curtesy.”

  27. Tania says:

    “Poetry is seeking the answer,
    Joy is in knowing there is an answer.”

    Only good news for you,


  28. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you for your admirable interpretation of the American patriotic song “God Bless America”. Now I’m humming this song instead of humming my Romanian anthem.

  29. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you for the new series with the American Presidents.

  30. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you for the good movies you suggest us to watch them.

  31. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you for the poetry,…thank you for all,…thank you, thank you, thank you.

  32. Betty says:

    I think because English is the dominant language in Ireland, not many Irish people would discover this website and thus do not realise that we are talking about them.

    It is interesting to learn Emiliano’s story. I met some Irish people before as well. I had some fellow students who were Irish when I was studying in London last time. They were very different from the students born and raised in, say, London or southern part of England. They were friendlier and not as urbanised. Well, that’s my impression of Irish people many years ago, the new generation Irish must be different now.

  33. Barbara says:

    “Thank you Jeff & Lucy Tse”, I learn much more from this website, and always it is helpful.
    I hope I can write more, but now my writing ability is limit.
    Anyway I thank both of you very much.

  34. Betty says:

    I must admit I am so ignorant about Spanish customs. I read a news titled ‘Spanish pets head to church’ in the website today.

    It says: ‘Dogs, cats, hamsters and even pigs trooped into churches across Spain on Monday in search of blessing on Saint Anthony’s Day, for the patron saint of animals’.

    It also said: ‘The festival has been celebrated in Madrid since the 19th century with only a few breaks. It is also held in other parts of Spain such as in the Balearic Islands and Burgos’.


  35. Betty says:

    Thanks for Everything.

    I would like to say a big THANK YOU to Jeff & Lucy, for doing the English Café together for us again in today’s Programme.

    It is very kind of both of you.

    Emiliano is right, Lucy is doing more English Café for us.

    I just hope that Lucy is not sacrificing too much of her resting time in order to give us extra help to improve our English. Remember health comes first.

    I shall work harder to improve my English, so that I am not wasting your effort to help us.

  36. emiliano says:

    Hi Betty, in fact the celebration of S.Anton here in Madrid is dated since the XIII and the tradition said that the Saint could help the animals that
    may have pain or suffer any kind of illness. Blessing the animals, or the pets, and having Faith the Saint could cured the animals or they could
    have good health in future.

    Last year there were more than five thousand people with their pets, it´s a nice view always.
    San Anton has a lot of festivities in many Spanish cities and churches.
    People use to go of pilgrimage to an hermite where the Saint is venerated and they have feast and the lunch on the field in the open air.

    This Saint who was born in Egipt by the III century has been considered an animal protector in the religious tradiction along the years.

    It has been funny because yesterday morning I was telling Cuca that I could go with Gatufo to receive the blessing of the Saint, but a cat
    is not easy of carrying and it could be quite stressing for him.
    I was just joking as the cat has good health but it´s nice to see so many people carrying the little dogs, pigs, rabbits or some years ago
    donkeys and cows when the animals were in bad health and people have not money to pay the veterinary.

    We say here “La Fe mueve montañas” = “Faith moves mountains” and I think it could be true.

    All the best, Betty.

  37. emiliano says:

    Lucy, thank you so much it´s really a treasure for us to have you again in the English Cafés.
    I think we could not ask for anything more in the ESL as to have both Jeff and Lucy doing the job together.

    Betty, emiliano is a very intuitive chap as usually he knows what is going to happen, but also he could guest
    who is the killer in a thriller or who is coming home for the afternoon.
    His mother use to call him a wizard may be because he may guest a lot about future events or where a thing may be?
    Yest that´s true, but now Cuca always said it´s by chance despite I am not very sure about this matter.
    By chance?, so frequently?
    No, that´s not the reason, I think his mother was right and emiliano is like a wizard quite frequently.
    Be sure Betty, I am serious about this odd fine emiliano´s intuition ability that surprises very often even to me.

    This time was easy, Lucy is like heaven and there were a lot of posibilities she was going to say yes to our request.
    Yes, I think she is really very very nice and a the best teacher we may have.

    Thanks a million Lucy, it has been your kindness for good not emiliano´s wizard abilities.


  38. johnny says:

    Thanks lucy&jeff and anyone else here for bring us the wonderful daily English helpping me out from sorrowful initial English learning .
    Yes. absolutely , jeff is right .it is totaly necessary sence after others giving your a hand ,in particular when the one he or she is
    in a predicament at that time.

    Thanks a million jeff and lucy and all the teacher and friends here . it has been your warm heart to let me acquire continuously english development .

Comments are closed.