I first heard it from a psych tech at the mental hospital. She thanked me in advance for my compliance with her demands. While it would have been nice if I would have seen what was going on then, such an offensive way to lead off is why I’m utterly offended at a statement most of you probably think is benign.
“It is benign, Ceej,” you say, “Since when was it offensive to thank someone?”
To thank someone for something they did for you? Never. To thank someone for something you want them to do for you? If they haven’t previously agreed to do it.
You probably first heard it on an automated telephone system with a giant company (which should immediately point out how legitimate it really is) when they thanked you in advance for your patience. They weren’t really thanking you for anything. They were demanding. Except demanding would have been nicer because there wouldn’t be a presumption that you would comply.
Comedian, Brian Regan, once said, according to his stand-up routine, in response to an airline who thanked him in advance for his patience, “I thank you in advance for free airfare to Hawaii.”
The audience laughed, of course, because he used the comedic device based on a logical argument of the same name, that follows the same basic premise, reductio ad absurdum. You may have seen me use this device frequently. He took the statement, “I thank you in advance,” completely intact and within its socially accepted use, to an extreme that points out its absurdity. If you accept that it’s offensive to thank a company in advance for a free product, then you also must accept that it’s offensive for them to thank you in advance for your compliance with whatever they’re dragging you through.
They could ask for your patience, using the word, “please.” But, politeness isn’t something companies are particularly good at. They could even demand it, using words to the effect of, “We didn’t bother to hire enough people to answer your phone call in a timely manner, so you’re going to have to be patient if you want to talk to anyone.” As rude as that is, at least they didn’t express that you owed them anything. “I thank you in advance,” is not only a demand, but a presumption that you will provide it because you owe it to the speaker.
Is it ever okay to thank someone in advance? Yes. It’s never not rude, but it’s okay to use in defence of an aggressive organisation or individual. Especially if they’ve made a habit out of thanking you in advance. Using directly in response to another thanks in advance is the best time to do it. For example:
“I thank you in advance for waiting until Monday for a technician to come out.”
“I thank you in advance for sending one out today.”
In that scenario, your response negated theirs. For if they decline your statement, they must also retract theirs. By rejecting your future thank you, they have rejected the authority of a thank you in advance and thus negated their own.
The idea is, of course, to spot such linguistic manipulations and not let people get away with that sort of thing. I can’t always do that for you, but I’ve shown you enough where you should be able to spot them on your own. I know you guys are smart enough to not let them get away with shit like this. So, come on. Show them that.