There are two consecutive doors that lead into the entrance of the Ministry. I always question the appropriate etiquette when passing through these doors with other people.
There is one set of swinging glass doors, followed immediately by another set of glass doors that are only about 15 feet away. (I’m not sure what the logic is of having these double doors – maybe it’s to help for climate control or to prevent stuff from being blown in by the wind. I’ll have to look into the common sense of it all when I get some free time, because it’s damn annoying having to open two doors to get in and out everyday). Anyway, the doors are really heavy, and it’s kind of difficult to open them. So when someone is in front of me, and they hold the door until I can put my own hand on it, I always say thank you. Not a big, loud “THANK YOU!”, like they just did me the biggest favor in the world, but a simple, quiet “thanks”. I don’t expect them to say “You’re absolutely welcome” or anything like that – that type of exchange would begin to constitute a conversation, and I don’t really like people all that much, so I’m happy to steer clear of that. But sometimes they say “sure” or “no problem” or something, which is fine.
So if I say “thanks,” then I sure as hell expect others to say “thanks” when I hold the door for them. It irks me so much when I stop my walk and hold open this heavy-ass door for them for a second, only to not get a thank you. It makes me feel like such a fool and a sucker. If I don’t get a thank you on the first door, then I let the second door swing back on them, and they can deal with it themselves. Sometimes I think I hear them mumble a thank you, but I’m not really sure. When that happens, I only have 15 feet (or about 2.5 seconds) to make a decision how to handle the second door. In those circumstances, I usually hold it open again, to err on the side of caution. But if I sense a bad attitude, I might just let them deal with the second door on their own.
The double doors are so heavy and such a hassle that I time my walk based on the proximity of people around me. If I’m headed for the doors, and there is someone close behind me, I will often speed up my walk a bit to create enough space in between us so that I’m out of the range that would obligate me to hold the door open for them. Conversely, I will speed up my walk, if I see someone in front of me, so that I can quickly catch the open door behind them and not create one of those awkward moments where you are well behind the person, but they think you are in the range that obligates them to hold the door, then you see them standing there with the door open for seconds and seconds, and you have to make that mini-jog move to get to the door quickly, then you DO have to give them a big “THANK YOU!”, which is all just exhausting, so I try to avoid it. If I’m behind someone, and I think I’m on the border of the range of obligation, I will slow down big time (sometimes I even come to a full stop) in order to create a ton of space between me and the person in front of me, so that there is no doubt that they should NOT hold the door for me. I’d rather stand there and let them walk way ahead of me, rather than feel like I owe them something because they played doorman.
But getting back to the etiquette question and saying thank you – do you need to say “thank you” twice (once for each of the two doors that are held)? I go back and forth on this. If I say thank you on the first door that is held for me, and I feel like it’s heard and respected, then I might not say thanks again for the second door, which is only two seconds later. I feel it’s a little repetitive and unnecessary. They get the picture – I’m grateful – I didn't suddenly become ungrateful in the two seconds in between doors.
If I’m the one holding the doors, I definitely care if I hear a thank you on the first door, but I’m not expecting it (or needing it) on the second door. In fact, if I do get a thank you on the second door, it starts to be too much, and now I feel obligated to them to give them a big “you’re welcome” and all that crap.
It’s like when the guy around you sneezes, and you say “god bless you”, and then they sneeze right away again. You want to say “god bless you again”, but then you’re wondering if they have a third sneeze in them, and how much longer will this all go on. If you say the second “god bless you”, then you are committed, and I think you have to stick out the god bless yous or at least fain interest as they go on their sneeze run. I try to split the two strategies and give one initial “god bless you,” followed by a “god bless you, AGAIN!” and if there is a third sneeze, I usually say, “oh my!” and I get the hell out of there (for health reasons and because I have better things to do than to religiously preside over the guy’s allergies).
So, as for the doors, I think the proper etiquette is to say thanks for the first door held, but it is entirely optional for the second door. As for the door holder, it is entirely their option whether they say “you’re welcome” for the thank you(s) they receive, or they can say nothing at all. It is appropriate for the door holder to save up their welcomes and roll it all into one “you’re welcome” after the second door, but it is NOT appropriate for the person who is having the doors held open for them to save their “thank you” for one big one at the end. I never get to hear that anyway, as by that time, I’m letting the second door swing back on them. That is my common sense ruling on the matter.