So, I know this topic is just cliched, old JUNK. But I'm still thinking about the Ma'am thing. I just can't imagine why anyone working in the service industry should call one single woman under, say, 87, Ma'am. Just go with Miss. Miss won't offend anyone. It will certainly compliment lots of women.
Now that I'm 38-about-to-turn-39, I get called Ma'am a lot. It doesn't piss me off to the point that I'm sputtering under my breath and settling curses on sales associates, but it does irk me. Not so much the part about being old, but that Ma'am is supposed to be a term of respect, but to me, I might as well be called an old lizard. We all think of ourselves as still youngish and hippish. Right? C'mon. Just a little.
I, having grown up in a resort town and having held many jobs as a cashier, clerk, hostess, etc., used to accost women with the dreaded appellation dozens of times a day. No supervisor ever pulled me aside and instructed me on when to employ "Ma'am". I learned it from listening to my more experienced cohorts.
All the Ma'am junkies need to be de-programmed. Perhaps an online course targeted at anyone who will be waiting on women? Perhaps you could just point them to this blog.
If you want a decent tip, if you want me not to glower at you as I hand you my money, angry spittle seeping from between my lips, call me Miss.