The Customer’s Just

Frequently customers will preface the first item of their order with the word “just”, as if their order contained only that item, as in “I’ll just have a small coffee,” but then after a pause they will append additional items to that order leaving me to wonder what they’d meant by saying “just”?

Example: I’ll just have a small coffee … A-aand an everything bagel with cream cheese.

Asking several of the customers why they did this, the most persuasive answer I received was that we often use  softening words in our everyday discourse (“I think”, “in my opinion”, “if you could just … maybe.. not do that?”), of which this ‘just’ was simply another example, causing our order to seem less onerous and commanding than it otherwise might.

Another idea is that, while I don’t have specific figures on this, it does seem to me likely that people will tend to use “just” before making a simple order (I’ll just have a small coffee, I’ll just have a plain bagel with butter) and the “just” distinguishes it from more complicated orders.

Though a counter-argument to that view is that the just is only used before the mention of the first item in an order of simple items. Nobody says, or it’s said very infrequently, “I’ll just have a small coffee…. and then just a bottle of water.”

A final category is that people legitimately change their mind after making their initial order. I was surprised in particular that perhaps fifty percent of the Lady customers I asked about this, as opposed to zero percent of the men, cited as the most likely reason for the ‘just’ a sudden breakdown of will power. They’d intended to get just a small herbal tea but having suddenly “suffered a breakdown”, they were going to get an oatmeal raisin cookie as well.

%d bloggers like this: