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In customer support software, issue tracking systems and the like, I frequently see a state titled awaiting customer to signify no action is required until the person (customer) who raised the issue has responded.

Is this use of the word await incorrect, should it be waiting for customer?

My reason for asking is because I found a description of the difference between wait and await where it says the object of sentence is not a person and normally inanimate:

The verb 'await' must have an object - for example, 'I am awaiting your answer'. And the object of 'await' is normally inanimate, not a person, and often abstract.

Customers are people, so why use await?

Unfortunately the example given has confused me further:

I am awaiting your answer

In this case your must mean a person, not an inanimate object.

I'm guessing the use of awaiting customer is just a convenient short phrase to put in the software, but is it correct?

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"Awaiting customer" is perfectly correct as such. However, await implies waiting for someone who is not yet there. In the setup you describe, the customer is already there, and indeed he was the one to raise the issue in the first place. So you awaiting his reaction, but no longer himself.

Even so, it is not entirely wrong as we can easily argue that the customer raised the issue and then left, and now you're awaiting him back. It works. Still, if you just said "awaiting reaction", it would work without the need for us to come up with additional reasoning like this.

Lastly, the argument presented elsewhere on this page that "customer" could be a simple ellipsis of "customer reaction" does not hold water, as the head noun of that phrase is reaction, and you don't elide the head of a phrase and keep the modifier with nothing to attach to. You can shorten "hat rack" to just "rack", but you can't shorten it to just "hat".

  • I strongly disagree. I am involved in customer support and a shorthand of "awaiting customer"(s) reaction/response is completely feasible. We are not awaiting the customer to return after he left, but awaiting a response to our request for elaboration. – mplungjan Aug 28 '14 at 20:31
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    I work in customer support, too. Have been for twenty years. That has nothing to do with anything here, which is why my argument is not an appeal to authority, but a generic observation about how the language works. When you are buying a hat rack, you are not buying a hat. When you are building a race car, you are not building a race. Simple as that. But that's a side note anyway, my answer quite clearly says that "awaiting customer" is "perfectly correct" and "works". You strongly disagree that it's perfectly correct and works, because it's completely feasible. Not sure I'm following. – RegDwigнt Aug 29 '14 at 8:49
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(We are) awaiting (a) customer (response).

is just shorter than the equally fragmented sentence

(We are) waiting for (the) customer (to get back to us).

Both mean exactly the same and neither are complete sentences

Customer response is the object so it is inanimate.

  • Downvoters really need to comment! – mplungjan Aug 28 '14 at 12:04
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Usually (necessarily?) await is used in reference to an event, not a person.

One could say,

Awaiting a customer's arrival → event

but

Waiting for a customer (to come) → person

maybe not

Awaiting a customer → person X

await

verb
[with object]
1 Wait for (an event):
The trout fishing event was eagerly awaited, there was a large entry for Senior and Junior events.

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