Resy is a fact of my life at this point. Most restaurants I go to use the service, even those at which you don’t typically need a reservation. But in a post-lockdown dining world I’ve found myself more reliant on reservations than ever, whether that’s because restaurants are keeping shorter hours or just because I like the security of knowing I won’t have to wait.
But something has bothered me about Resy’s interface since I started texting with it in early 2020. The day before a reservation, I inevitably get a text asking me to “reply ‘1’ to confirm your booking or ‘9’ to cancel.” And once I confirm, I, along with all Resy users, receive this cryptic response.
“Great, done. Thanks.”
Dread flits through me. Have I done something wrong? Have I somehow disappointed Resy by following their instructions? The curtness of the periods always catches me by surprise. I do not believe you, Resy, that it is “great” that I have confirmed my reservation. For the love of god, get an exclamation point, so I can stop worrying that you’re mad at me.
I know exclamation points in professional correspondence are contentious. Women have often been told to stop using them in work emails, lest they come off as over-emotional or “juvenile,” even though most of the time women are just trying to be friendly (or conversely, to avoid coming off as a bitch). The period, instead, is authoritative. It does not suggest enthusiasm in the hopes that you’ll play along. It just is.
However, these punctual associations have been changing as our communication methods evolve. In text messages, a period has come to imply not just the end of a sentence, but an abrupt, rude end of a conversation. In one study from 2016, participants were asked how they perceived various one sentence messages with periods at the end. According to QZ, “participants thought these text messages were more insincere than those that didn’t have a period. But when the researchers then tested the same messages in handwritten notes, they found that the use of a period didn’t influence how the messages were perceived.” A “Thanks.” is the kind of email you get when you’ve screwed up and made someone else’s life harder but they don’t want to outright criticize you. It’s not an actual note of thanks. At least, I don’t think it is.
Maybe a man just wrote the copy, and did not worry about coming off as rude. Or maybe a woman wrote it and was trying to avoid sounding unserious. And while Resy is not my friend, texting is a more casual form of communication than email. So yes, when I get a text that says “Great, done. Thanks.” I feel somehow scolded. I didn’t do anything to deserve a period.
That’s what always gets me about the exclamation point drama. It often still operates from the assumption that to be friendly is to be feminine, and to be feminine is to be somehow lesser. What a boring way to view the world. How hollow to think enthusiasm and reliability cannot exist together. I want to live in a world in which the default is friendliness. I do not think that makes me weak. And is there anything so wrong about wanting to be perceived as friendly, especially when you are a company that specializes in arranging hospitality?
So Resy, consider this a suggestion to add an exclamation point. And if the bot could also tell me I’m a good person and am making excellent life choices, that would be nice, too. Thanks!