"Can you tell me where simple politeness has gone?" wrote 48-year-old former grocery store owner Colette Gagnon.
She was referring directly to customer service, but it was really a commentary on the decline, if not outright collapse, of civility in general.
And that was enough to unleash other readers and their pent-up feelings.
"I too have mourned the death of civility," wrote River Heights resident Lucy Couture.
She referenced robotic checkout clerks who tell her to "have a good day" at nine o'clock at night. And 17-year-olds calling her "Lucy" instead of "Mrs. Couture."
"I took such pleasure in reading your article, knowing that I wasn't the only person feeling the way I do about 'please' and 'thank you' and what I always considered as must-dos." But the customers, alas, aren't always so mannerly themselves.
"At my last job selling lottery tickets," wrote Shawn Chislett, "the vast majority of people asked for their tickets using the phrase, "Gimme a 6/49" and "Gimme one of those."
Then she had her own question:
"Why is the level of manners expected from a clerk not reciprocated by the customer?"
Wrote 25-year-old Ash Lernout:
"I've had money thrown at me, credit cards, bills, coins, you name it. I've had customers comment on my appearance, my clothes, my height, weight, everything you can think of."
Another reader, Shelley Boychuk, had the answer to correcting the problem.
It starts at home.
"I am the proud mother of an eight-year-old son, who knows very well the meaning of RESPECT."
Her son Evan, she said, "will balance his toys in his teeth to hold open the door for someone."
"He is the child that always has a please or thank-you for you. He is the individual who puts great thought into what others would like, how they will feel, and in general just respects everyone around him no matter who they are, how old they are or what type of lifestyle they live.
"I taught him very early on that you need not LIKE everyone you meet, but no matter what, you must RESPECT them.
"The point being, Mr. Sinclair: Learning how to respect others and being polite should not have to be taught by employers or teachers, but rather by the PARENTS!"
Meanwhile, way down in Arizona, vacationing Diane and Bryan Crowley read the column online.
Diane wrote to say how "amazed" she is by how polite everyone in the Phoenix service industry is.
"Every time we've made a purchase or been in a restaurant we are treated with respect and politeness. It certainly makes for an enjoyable environment. The result is a very good feeling about yourself and those with whom you come into contact. It's too bad there's no way to bottle the attitude and bring it home."
I'm guessing that Bob Beckingham of Lockport is with Diane on that.
"At the conclusion of most retail transactions," Bob wrote, "I thank the clerk, usually when the receipts are handed to me. More often than not, their response is, 'You are welcome.' Seems to me that they have this backwards. They have not thanked me for being a customer in their store, which I think is quite inappropriate."
Well, I'm sure Bob will be pleased to know what happened to me on Tuesday, the day the column appeared. I was paying for a few groceries at Vic's Fruit Market and the young woman behind the counter handed me the change.
"Thank you," I said.
"Thank you," she replied.
I was so shocked -- and overjoyed -- I went straight to owner Scott Schriemer to tell him.
I gushed and the cashier blushed.
So now, finally I can tell where simple politeness has been hiding.
Meet 20-year-old Stephanie Hill.
Our customer service Poster Girl for Simple Politeness.