By Harvey Mackay

Some time ago the owner of a small but profitable business wrote columnist Ann Landers about his practice of giving annual bonuses to his employees. The amounts were based on time served and salary levels.

He had been doing it for 16 years and in all that time only two employees had ever said “thank you.” Neither were still with the company. One passes away, and the other took early retirement.

The owner vowed that he wasn’t going to give any more bonuses, and if anyone complained, the response would be “There will be no bonuses this year because not one of our current employees has taken the time and trouble to say ‘thank you.’”

In her answer, Ann Landers segued from that letter to the tons of letters she receives from others, parents and grandparents particularly, who want to know what do do about gifts that are not acknowledged. What happened? Did the poor thing lose the power of speech or the use of their writing hand? Did they fall off the ends of the earth? Was the gift lost in the mail?

How many times have we sent a birthday check and not heard a word back, the only evidence that the gift was received found among the pile of canceled checks returned from the bank?

How many times have you given a larger than normal tip without any recognition? Waiters and waitresses should realize a larger tip is a signal that a customer enjoyed the experience and wants to return, particularly if their generosity is acknowledged. Diners even have been known to ask for a favorite waitperson’s station.

If you’re a salesperson or own a company and have recently received a larger than expected order from a customer, what have you done to make that customer know how you feel about it? It’s great to take your spouse out to dinner to celebrate your great sales ability, but what about the guy or gal who gave you the order?

A thank you is just good manners. A prompt thank you is easy to say, a lot easier to say than “Gee, I forgot to tell you how much I appreciated your order,” or “How’ve you been after all this time?”

In New York City, the police are enforcing the qualityof-life laws and Mayor Giuliani is even calling for New York City’s cabdrivers and waiters to improve their manners, pointing out that rudeness is not a great civic selling point. It seems to be working. Crime is down. Tourism is up. New York City is on a roll.

Many companies wait until the holidays to say thank you. There’s nothing the matter with that, but why wait? It’s a lot more personal and responsive to seize the day and say the magic words the moment it’s appropriate. And forget the stuff with your corporate logo on it as a thank you. It’s fine as advertising. For yourself. But it isn’t a gift.

The best gifts I have ever received have no monetary value but what I call momento value. They are the letters I receive from people who have used tips or advice I’ve given in speeches, columns or books to get jobs, bonuses or unexpected orders. When a 72-year-old woman wrote to thank me for helping her make a dynamic splash in her chosen field, I was on cloud nine for days. And what an upper it was to hear from a man in prison that he’d begun to turn his life around thanks to the inspiration he’d received from one of my books.

One area of thank-you territory that many of us neglect is our formative years. They don’t call them “formative” for nothing. Have you ever said thanks to the teachers and coaches that lifted you up, dusted you off and set you straight when you were trying to figure out what growing up was all about? Though it may have been decades, you would be surprised how many of them remember us and remain our cheerleaders throughout our life. Believe me, a note or even a phone call from you would be well received.

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