My friend Margaret sent me an amusing sentence from an email she had received from a car rental company. Here is the sentence, from which I have eliminated the company’s name to maintain its good reputation:
Our car rental company values you as a customer, and we look forward to servicing you again in the future.
Margaret, who is always striving to improve the world’s business communication, included these remarks in her response to the car rental company:
One small suggestion I’d make is in the wording of your email. I would prefer to have you say "We look forward to serving you again in the future."
Your company serves customers, and it services its cars. To service is to provide some maintenance. It is also defined as "Copulation with a female. –Used of male animals" in Webster’s II New Riverside University Dictionary. I know that you did not intend that meaning. And I will not let that little slip prevent me from choosing your company the next time we need to rent a car.
My dictionary generally agrees with Margaret’s, although it adds these two definitions for the verb service:
To provide services to.
Slang. To have sex with.
We know the car rental company meant "to provide services to," but the slang use of service makes serve a much clearer choice.
Served or serviced? If you are in the car rental business, why not heed Margaret’s advice and play it safe: service cars and serve customers.