When I was growing up "OK" or "okay" meant good or great. Chevrolet dealers used the term OK for its used lots (the sign is pictured above) and a popular self-help book was entitled "I'm OK, You're OK." This old laxative commercial from the 60s used "OK" as something positive.
At some point, within the past few years, "OK/okay" has become a dirty word with the service industry. Servers in restaurants, tellers in banks and salespeople in grocery and department stores seem to be offended if when they ask "How are you doing?" you answer "OK/okay." They want to force you to upgrade your mood or condition. This seems to happen more with large national chains. The worst offender is Chilis. I love the food and the service - except when they scold you for saying the food or my life at the moment is "Just okay?!?!" I'm sorry, when I say "OK/okay," it means "great," "terrific" or "wonderful." It is not an insult. Target is also bad about doing this.
The stupidity of this was driven home to me a few nights ago. I went to Hy-Vee to buy my groceries. As I was walking in, a Hy-Vee employee was walking out to the parking lot.
"How are you tonight, sir?" he said.
"OK," I answered, because I was feeling good and content with life at that moment.
"JUST OK?!?!" he snapped.
What did this little dweeb want me to say? "OMG! I AM MARVELOUS! I AM IN ECSTASY! I AM ABOUT TO PEE MY PANTS IN EXCITEMENT BECAUSE I'M GOING IN TO HY-VEE TO BUY STUFF TO EAT!!!" or would he want me to say, "To tell you the truth, my life is Hell. My wife left me, I have terminal cancer and I was just fired from my job. Thanks for wanting me to fake joy." Since this is a pet peeve of mine, I snapped back, "Yes, just okay!"
Later, I'm in the check-out line when this employee walks up with a grey-haired lady and two cucumbers (or two zucchini, not really sure) and says to the guy checking me out, "We are going to have to give these to that lady for the lower price because blah, blah, blah. Now I have to go back out to clean up that mess in the parking lot because blah, blah, blah."
I pay and take my grocery bags to my car. The guy walks past me on his way back into the store and he says to me, "I hope your life improves before you come back to our store." WTF?!?! Apparently, my typical easy-going nonchalant attitude upset Grumpy Gus, who was about to have a meltdown over a messy parking lot and the price of produce, so he was going to punish me for not being happier than he was. If he was in such a fowl mood, would he want me to come in to Hy-Vee dancing and singing like the guy in the pink suit at the end of Groove Tube?
In the 70s, the trend in customer service was to say "Have a nice day." It became so associated with that decade that Rhino records in the 90s released a compilation of kitschy singles from the 70s entitled "Have a Nice Day." As time wore on, a common complaint became that when a supermarket checker, fast-food worker or bank teller said to a customer, "Have a nice day" they may not know the circumstances of the customer's life at that moment: such as saying the phrase to a person who just lost a spouse. That could defiantly be said for saying "Just OK?!?!" to a customer. It is kind of like the employee is secretly saying, "I don't care if your child has leukemia or you had to file for bankruptcy, the corporate office demands that I force you to be overly happy! So help me, Pharrell Williams!" At least, "have a nice day" sounded pleasant. Asking "just OK?!?!" has a rude arrogance to it.
Think of it this way, you are happy when a doctor or EMT says you or a loved one is "OK/okay," so why should a business expect a customer to be more than "OK/okay."
Of course, my opinions are why I am considered the Super Villain of the Ozarks!!! Mwu-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!