I have noticed people taking extreme liberties with the word “convenience” lately, and since I fancy myself something of a wordsmith, I thought I should use my influence to smarten up these no-talk-gooders.
At Wal-Mart, I viewed this sign: “For your convenience, cigarettes are sold only at register #19.”
I ask you, how does selling cigarettes at only one register make things more convenient for me, the average customer? It benefits me in no way whatsoever. And if I were actually buying cigarettes, it would be the very opposite of convenient — inconvenient, that would be — to make me stand in one specific line. What if register #19 has the longest line in the entire store, full of dumpy women stuffed into their belly shirts buying baby formula while accompanied by three filthy barefoot children? Then I, as a cigarette purchaser, have been inconvenienced beyond all reason, if I am indeed forced into register #19’s line!
My other example comes from a call I made to T-Mobile, my cell phone provider. I was interested in changing my plan so that when a call drops mid-sentence in perfectly normal weather in a wide open space, Catherine Zeta-Jones receives a powerful electric shock. While on hold, I heard this recorded message: “Due to heavy call volume, we are experiencing unusually long hold times. As a reminder, T-Mobile representatives are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so you may call at your convenience.”
Well, see, the thing is, it was actually convenient for me to call right NOW. That’s actually why I called when I did, because it was convenient for me. I didn’t wait until I had company coming over and a roast in the oven; I called at a time when I had a few minutes to talk without any foreseeable interruptions. Suggesting I call back when the call volume is not so heavy is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but please refrain from suggesting it would be more convenient for ME to do so, when it is actually you, Mr. T-Mobile, who under that scenario would enjoy greater convenience.