When I was young and I said bad words, my mother threatened to wash my mouth out with soap. To be honest, I remember saying a few bad words in my time, but I don't remember ever actually receiving the often-threatened punishment.

Even today I have been known to say an occasional bad word - especially when driving the I-15 "luge" - but so far no one has heard me.There are some "bad words" that I hear occasionally from clerks and salespeople I encounter in some of the businesses I patronize. They're not profane or vulgar, but sometimes I think business owners should consider applying a little soap to the mouths of their employees who use these words and expressions just the same.

"Sorry, I just work here." What is that supposed to mean? I know you work here. That's why I expect you to provide a little service, and perhaps even a little courtesy. I have never said "I just work here" to anyone. I wouldn't have the courage.

"Sorry, that's not my job." I'm not here to discuss your job description. I'm here because I need something, and you're here to address that need. Whatever your job description is, my guess is your boss would rank taking care of me - the customer - pretty high, regardless of your specific duties and responsibilities. If you can't help me, please find someone who can.

"Sorry, no exceptions." I ran into this one just the other day. I went to my "favorite" dry cleaning establishment, where they had a sign announcing that because of equipment problems, "we will not be able to clean or launder any clothes after Tuesday of next week. Sorry, no exceptions." Talk about an unfriendly customer message! You can bet if I was running that business and knew four days in advance that I was going to have my equipment repaired, I would work out a cooperative deal with another dry cleaner to utilize their equipment rather than let my customers down, even if my crew and I had to work all night. My customers wouldn't even know I was having equipment problems.

I would have no exceptions, all right: no exceptions to the fine quality work for which my business is known. It takes a lot of nerve in my book to tell loyal customers that there will be no service next week - no exceptions.

"Sorry"? I'll bet.

"Sorry, it's against our policy." Well, who created the policy? Get them up here so we can talk. Let's change the policy. The story is told of a poorly dressed banking customer, who would normally park in the bank parking lot when he shopped downtown. The regular security guard would validate his parking ticket so he wouldn't have to pay for parking, but a new security guard refused to do so. The customer asked a teller for a parking validation, but the teller said, "Sorry, it is against our policy." Then the customer asked the bank manager, who said, "Sorry, but I need to support our employees who have already told you no. That's our policy." The next day the customer closed his account at the bank, withdrawing more than $1 million. The irony is that the banking parking lot didn't even have many cars in it. I wonder why? "Sorry, there is nothing I can do." Well, why not? Could it be that you're just not willing to try? Why would your employer hire someone who can "do nothing?" My guess is there is always something that can be done by employees who care about their work - and their customers.

You'll notice that there is a similarity to all these "bad word" phases.

They all start out with a word that is supposed to make you feel better when they tell you "no": sorry. Well, I'm sorry too. Sorry that you don't know how to treat a customer. Sorry that I won't be back into your store. Sorry when you loose your business to a national company that knows how to treat their customers. Sorry when you are all laid off.

And I'm sorry that your mothers never taught you not to say bad words - especially to your customers. Break out the soap!