Social Question

NerdyKeith's avatar

Do you appreciate it when a sales person / waiter refers to you as sir or madam?

Asked by NerdyKeith (5464points) March 19th, 2016
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

38 Answers

ibstubro's avatar

It’s pretty much under my radar unless they seem to be smarmy about it. If I need help, I want help, short and sweet as I can get it.

I seldom visit the types of places where “sir” is really expected.

canidmajor's avatar

Don’t care, unless, as @ibstubro says, it’s smarmily done.

jca's avatar

I don’t care either way but I don’t think of myself as a ma’am.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It just confuses me.

marinelife's avatar

Not really.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

Yes. It’s courteous.

Jak's avatar


Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

It surprised me when it first started happening—I mean beyond service personnel, such as waiters and waitresses who are often told to say it. When it’s genuine, it surprised me and I really didn’t know what to make of it. I just figured it was the grey at my temples.

Soon after that started happening, I went to work on a psych crisis unit and had three former high school football players as my aides. They all wanted to check out medicine as an option, so we trained them in safe take-downs, and gave them the courses for CNA certification, etc. They were the best young crew I ever had. Very conscientious toward the patients.

The morning my supervisor mustered them for me, they were lined up in rank and as they introduced themselves they addressed me as “sir.” I thought, Christ, what is this? But they were sincere about the work and understood the importance of it. Big, sharp kids. As to medicine, they were clean slates. It was a tough, dangerous job with some tough calls that required experienced leadership in order to do properly. Morale with these guys was of prime importance to get them to do this job. And their morale depended in a large part on my behaviour as their leader.

I realized quickly that these kids were right off the football field and used to addressing their coach, their leadership, in this way. It was a willingness to be led responsibly. And, although initially freely given, that willingness can be rescinded if respect for their leadership is lost through incompetence. It’s valuable. They understood chain of command and that worked for me.

Today, I am used to being addressed as sir, from waiters, vendors, sometimes even paying guests aboard my vessel, and younger Coast Guardsmen—simply because of my grey beard and skipper’s qualifications, but I know how fragile that respect is, how dependent it is upon my competence and behaviour. I would never demand to be called sir. You can’t ask for something like that. Being addressed as sir sets the structure of the relationship, simplifies things for both parties and everyone knows where they stand by general agreement. It is a status that I appreciate and am very careful not to abuse.

The equivalent in my world is “Ma’am.” I know female skippers who take umbrage if they are addressed otherwise. I understand this. The idea that a woman can work as hard and take the same responsibilities for lives and vessels and not get the same respect, would grate on me too. This all new stuff in the world. It means something different to them, something larger. I can understand that.

ucme's avatar

I insist that our house staff address me as Lord Emperor of the manor, they love it so.

cookieman's avatar

I refer to people as sir and ma’am all the time, so I’m used to it. That being said, I don’t expect it in return.

When I am referred to as sir, I just think they are being professional and polite. Doesn’t fit in all venues though.

Pachy's avatar

Couldn’t care less about that but I DO appreciate when they look me in the eye smile.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I don’t like being called “Ma’am” or “Miss”. When part of a group, I don’t like being called “Ladies”. All of these terms seem culturally loaded to me, and immediately get my back up. I don’t mind “Madame”, which is what I get most often, probably because I know there is not a presumption of age or status when the French use it. It’s inherently less offensive. So, what the hell are people supposed to call me in English? I tend to cut people some slack, just because all of the choices are terrible. But I would generally prefer that they not call me anything if it can be avoided.

What I truly hate is having my name used by people in customer service, which usually happens when they read it off of a loyalty card. You don’t know me, we haven’t been introduced, so using my name is downright rude. Pretending to be my friend does not make me feel friendly towards you, and it is not going to make me want to shop in your store. Stop that.

canidmajor's avatar

@dappled_leaves: my legal name is very different from my regular name-in-use, so it always cracks me up a bit when they do that.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@canidmajor Haha. I have a friend who signed up for a loyalty card with a superhero name, so he cracks up every time he buys groceries.

chyna's avatar

I prefer ma’am over hun or sugar.

Jeruba's avatar

I prefer a little formal courtesy, as long as it’s not facetious. I hate it when they call my friend and me “ladies.”

I did think it was cute once when a waiter who was barely twenty called me “hon” (and we weren’t in a diner; it was a rather nice Asian restaurant affiliated with a hotel). I was more than twice his age. But that was exceptional for some reason. Normally that would earn a waiter a glare.

JLeslie's avatar

It used to bother me, but I became used to it living in the south. It’s still a little uncomfortable for me, especially when spoken with a Southern Accent. Although, Miss Firstname is way more unnerving to me. I do understand that it’s just meant to be respectful, so I just go ahead and appreciate the effort and the difference in cultures. Kind of like when I receive a gift and appreciating the thought, even when the gift is nothing I would ever use.

@Jeruba I used to use ladies quite a bit. Why does that bother you? How do you perceive that form of address?

Jeruba's avatar

@JLeslie, I was afraid someone was going to ask that. It’s hard to say. It’s a visceral reaction.

When I dine out with my husband, the waiter doesn’t seem to feel compelled to say “Good evening, lady and gentleman,” which would sound silly. When they say “folks,” I try to overlook it. They really don’t have to say anything by way of direct address; “good evening” will do. But “ladies” makes me bristle as much as “girls” used to. If I were dining alone, which I have done many times, especially when traveling on business, I would not expect to be greeted with “Good evening, lady.” Would you?

I think maybe it’s because it’s completely unnecessary to remark on the fact that my friend and I are both women. It sounds condescending no matter how it’s delivered. We’re just people. And paying customers. Let’s keep it businesslike and not base our interaction on the necessity of first recognizing our sex.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba I actually can completely understand. It’s the same for me with the Miss Firstname and ma’am. It’s just very uncomfortable. Partly because I wasn’t raised using it, and it sounds like the black mammy being obedient to the white master to me. I was raised that to formally address someone you used Mr./Mrs./Miss/Ms. Last name. If we didn’t know their name we typically just used nothing, or sometimes used Miss or Sir to get someone’s attention, but never in responding to someone.

To me there is a huge difference in me saying to, “ma’am, did you drop this?” Than you asking me a question, and I respond, “yes ma’am,” as a show of obedience. Typically, for the item dropped I would just say, “excuse me, did you drop this?”

I’ve learned a lot of women really don’t like the term girls, but I use it in certain circumstances. I think it’s very NY. I understand why it bothers women though, so I try to be careful not to use it when writing or talking to women I don’t know well.

NerdyKeith's avatar

Actually its quite common in Ireland to be referred to as “my dear”; its considered as less formal however and is directed at men and women.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

To all my Jelly pals: Henceforth, please call me “Your Loveliness.” I don’t think I’m being unreasonable or demanding too much from you.

@JLeslie For what it’s worth, I’m very fond of Miss [First name] and Mr. [First name]. The custom is a nice compromise between being too formal and assuming too much familiarity. I’d never heard anyone referred to as Miss/Mr. until I moved to Virginia; now, I use both all the time. I spend a great deal of time visiting my Mom at her skilled nursing facility, and that’s how I’m most comfortable addressing her peers.

tinyfaery's avatar

I hate when I’m called ma’am or madam. I’m too young to be called that.

Seek's avatar

I’ll correct people using “Miss” to Ma’am, because I’m married, but otherwise I don’t care.

I only bristle when called “honey”, “sweetie”, or “darling”.

Which is completely hypocritical of me, because I call other people that all the time.

I think it’s from being conditioned to view certain people (er, men) as a potential threat until proven otherwise, and I know full well I am no threat to anyone, and those terms are very… Demeaning in a way, if you follow me.

Yep, I’m a hypocrite.

JLeslie's avatar

@Love_my_doggie Many many people feel exactly as you do. In the end I’m happy to call someone as they wish to be called. In the South I found they did not abide by that. They stuck to what they were taught, and they weren’t taught to ask people what they prefer to be called from what I observed. I don’t want to be called Miss J. I often said, “please call me just J,” and they didn’t do it.

dxs's avatar


Okay, I don’t get offended or anything, it’s just a pet peeve. I, in turn, never refer to people as sir or ma’am. For better or for worse.

jca's avatar

@Jeruba: When you’re in a work situation, does it bother you if you’re with another woman and someone calls the two of you “ladies?” I ask because at work, if I come upon several women and I don’t know them that familiarly, I’ll say “Hello, ladies.” I asked a question about it on Fluther once.

augustlan's avatar

When I first started being called ma’am, I didn’t realize I was being addressed. At least half the time, I’d look around for someone who seemed like a “ma’am,” haha.

I don’t really mind being addressed in any friendly manner (even “hon”), but it has to feel like something you’d genuinely say, not like a sales pitch or a pick-up line. Ew.

Jeruba's avatar

@jca, yes, it does bother me, although I never comment on it. I guess I missed your old question the first time around, but I’ve answered it now. (Maybe I didn’t answer it then because it began with “Ladies.”)

What do you say when you approach a mixed group? It seems to me that whatever greeting is appropriate for a group of women and men ought to do for a group of women; why go out of one’s way to recognize the apparent sex of the group and tailor a remark accordingly?

I do use “guys” familiarly sometimes, a custom that goes back to childhood and has always seemed to me to be unisex. “Hi, guys” or “Come on, guys” was a perfectly clear, useful, and acceptable way to address a group of little girls. Sometimes even now it just slips out, without regard to the age or sex of the group; for example, “Thanks, guys” to a group of parents whose ages span four decades.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba I use “guys” also, but in the South I found people didn’t like it. Too informal I guess for them? They seemed to associate with the Jersey “yous guys” or something? Or, maybe they found it offensive to call a female a guy? I’m not sure.

Maybe a Southerner here can comment on it.

I wouldn’t likely call a group of women, who I don’t know, who are older than me, “guys.” My peers yes, and people who are younger.

ibstubro's avatar

You crazy kids!

disquisitive's avatar

I can take it or leave it. It isn’t necessary unless they are very young. We say yes sir and yes ma’am to our elders and our juniors say yes sir and yes ma’am to us. Not every single time but occasionally that show of respect is expected.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie and @Jeruba: If it’s ladies and men in the group and I’m friendly/familiar with them, I’ll say “guys.” If it’s ladies and men in the group and I don’t know them, I’ll just use the greeting, for example “hello” or “thank you,” or I may say “everyone.” For example, “thank you, everyone.” Usually “guys” will suffice at work because we’re a pretty casual group.

DominicY's avatar

Sure, I like it. It seems respectful. I especially liked it when I was a teenager and people would refer to me as “sir”. Made me feel grownup.

jca's avatar

I just wrote on the other thread that I returned from lunch today and there’s a cop and a security guard at the front desk in my building. A woman who walked in behind me said “hello, gentlemen.”

JLeslie's avatar

I used to say that too, “Hello gentleman.” I keep saying I used to, because I’m mostly referring to when I worked in a store environment.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: please see my other question.

ibstubro's avatar

I literally will say “kids” before I’ll say “guys” to an informal group of males and females. “Guys” is just inviting trouble.
“Y’all” and “Y’alls” works well, too, this close to the South.

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