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A Funeral Dirge For Phone Etiquette

Is phone etiquette lost on everyone these days? I am not exaggerating when I say that half the time when I answer the phone at my office, I get hung up on! No one even bothers to say, “Sorry, wrong number” beforehand. Just *click*. And then there are the people who actually intend to call me on my cell phone–and don’t leave a voicemail when I fail to pick up! To me that says, “Oh, I just wanted to chat, but I guess you’re busy.” Is it wrong of me to not call them back until my convenience? After all, it can’t have been too important if they didn’t leave a message. Yet my mom will call back in 20 minutes and say, “Didn’t you see my call?” It also bothers me when people send me a text message that says, “Call me.” Is it too much to ask for a little detail so I know if I need to leave my meeting for an emergency?

And then there are the telemarketers. Unfortunately, they’re not limited to land lines these days. Usually for a typical sales call I’ll say I’m not interested. If they keep talking instead of gracefully exiting the conversation, I say, “I’m not interested. Goodbye.,” and hang up. I feel rude every time, but what am I to do? Sit on the phone for hours while someone tries to sell me something I don’t want? Well, they’re not even the worst of it! I keep getting these calls from an automated system that say, “Lower your interest rates! Press one to speak to a consultant.” There is not an option to press two and be removed. I’m so sick of these calls (every-other day, at this point) that today I pressed one. A man answered and said, “So I understand you’re interested in lowering your interest rates!” And I said, “No, actually I’m interested in being removed from your call list.” Instead of removing me right away, he said, “Well, first, let’s see if you’re eligible for this!” I said, “I don’t need your services, I just want these calls to stop.” He said, “I’m sure you could use the service! I actually aim to be an executive account director so I know more about this than some other representatives you may have talked to.” (At this point, I’m only still on the line because he hasn’t removed me from the danged list yet!) He kept on and on about how it won’t hurt to find out if I’m eligible, how it will help me, how he could see by my Experian report that I’m eligible. I finally said, “Tell you what, why don’t you give me your contact information, and I’ll call you back when I am interested.” His response? “Good luck with that! Enjoy having high interest rates,” and he hung up before I could say, “Let me speak to your supervisor.” Very professional, Mr. Executive Aspirations! Unfortunately, as the call was automated in the first place, I never was able to call back and speak to that supervisor. And I doubt he removed me from the list, either. I find it extremely rude (aside from being a bad business practice) that this company offers you no real option of removing your number from their list–either press one and talk to a pushy sales-person who won’t remove you from the list, anyway, or get another call from us tomorrow! *sigh*   0713-11

{ 110 comments… add one }
  • Kitty_ev July 14, 2011, 3:35 pm

    Just a point:
    “And then there are the people who actually intend to call me on my cell phone–and don’t leave a voicemail when I fail to pick up! To me that says, “Oh, I just wanted to chat, but I guess you’re busy.””

    This is EXACTLY what I mean when I call but don’t leave a voicemail message. It’s not a passive-aggressive thing, it’s just that I’ve not called for any particular reason and I don’t really want to be called back because I’m free to chat *now* but most likely won’t be when the person I’ve called is free. Also I know people are still charged for accessing their voicemail, so I don’t really want to leave a message that imparts no useful information and that they’ll have to pay to listen to. If it’s something important, of course I’ll leave a message, but if it isn’t then I won’t.

    We had a real problem a few years ago with wrong-number callers. One of the local banks had centralised its call system so that instead of calling the bank directly one had to call a centralised number and then be put through to the desired branch. This also meant that the phone number went from a local-rate number to a premium-rate number. The number that had previously belonged to the branch was reassigned and ended up at my then-boyfriend’s house. I can’t even count the number of calls we got from bank patrons. We started keeping the number they had to call by the phone so that we could give it out to callers. Some of them were very pleasant and sorry to have disturbed us at a private number and grateful for our assistance with the correct number. One of them, and I’ll never forget this, was really rude.

    Me: Hello?
    Caller: That bank?
    Me: I’m sorry this is a private residence. I’ve got the number for *click*

    A few seconds passed. The phone rang again.

    Me: Hello?
    Caller: That bank?
    Me: I’m sorry, this is still the wrong number. I’ve got the right one here *click*

    We went through this a few more times. I would have stopped answering the phone, but I was trying to work and I got the distinct impression this person was going to continue trying or die in the attempt. Finally,

    Me: Hello? (wearily)
    Caller: That bank?
    Me: No. This is a private number. The bank changed their number.
    Caller: (angrily) I’m trying to call t’bank!
    Me: I know. As I keep saying, they’ve changed their number. This is our home number now. I’ve got their new number here.
    Caller: But I’ve got this number for the bank! I used it before!
    Me: Well, it *was* their number but they changed it about a year ago. I’ve got the new one here, do you want it? (affirmative grunt. I gave out the new number.)
    Caller: I ain’t paying for that! I want t’bank!
    Me: Look, that’s their new number. It’s the only one I have for them. This is not their number any more. Stop calling this number- it’s NOT the bank.

    At this point I hung up. The person proceeded to call a further 4 times. I ended up unplugging the phone. I’m still not sure how they thought repeatedly calling a residential line would get them through to the bank.

  • SillyMe July 14, 2011, 3:50 pm

    @Jenn – that reminds me of a story about my Dad my Mom once told me about telemarketers calling their house. As a former telephone pollster/fundraiser myself – and I know I’m dodging a few e-tomatoes here but it was college and I didn’t care enough to hassle anyone – and customer service rep (folks called in, we didn’t call out), I know these people are evaluated on calls per hour and dollars per hour. So, as the story goes, good ole’ boy Dad sat on the phone very patiently answering all their questions to great detail. Then, he had some questions of his own. Actually, he had alot, because he was just so interested and wanted to know so much. Finally, when he knew enough (after about fifteen minutes to half an hour), he would sweetly inform the person on the other end of the phone he wasn’t interested after all. Did I mention Dad was retired and had an interesting sense of humor?

  • Lilybell July 14, 2011, 4:16 pm

    I think some of these are more pet peeves than rude behavior. I actually prefer that someone not leave me a voice mail if they call. I will call back when I see their missed call. I don’t care if someone hangs up if they called a wrong number -most of the time they probably realize it right away and hang up quickly just as you answered – they probably think they hung up in time. I do think it’s a bit much to expect more detail than “call me” in a text. If it’s an emergency, they’ll let you know. These are just different phone styles, and I don’t think it’s rude just because someone has a different phone style than you.

    But I agree with everything written about telemarketers. I don’t answer my phone unless I recognize the number and I never answer 800 calls. They will leave a message if it’s important (like once when I had a fraudulent charge on my card). If they don’t leave a message you can be certain it was a sales call. I hate phones in general and will do just about anything to avoid chatting with anyone, regardless of how much I love them (except my parents! I love talking to them).

  • Princess Buttercup July 14, 2011, 4:34 pm

    My husband used to get some of these telemarketer calls to his cell phone (which is on the do not call list). He tried ignoring them, he tried nicely and eventually rudely saying no thank you, not interested, he tried asking to be removed from their calling list. Even went to sternly saying his number was on the do not call list and he would never be interested in their service and to never call him again.
    It didn’t stop.
    Finally I would take the phone when they called (often for the fourth time that day) and play make believe. AKA I played lawyer. No I’m not one but get stern and threaten legal action and people take notice. I would state that I was Mr. X’s legal representative and that he has requested multiple times to be removed from your calling list. Yet you continue calling, often multiple times a day. This is now harassment and if the harassment doesn’t stop immediately, legal steps will be taken.
    They never call again. And this has worked multiple times.

  • Angeldrac July 14, 2011, 4:44 pm

    I am a nurse and spend half my week doing “phone triage” which involves calling families that have new babies to see how they are going.  Over the years these are some of the phone etiquette sins I have come across:
    (by the way, I always start the conversation politely with  “Hello, my name is X, calling from X Community Nursing. May I please speak to [baby’s mother]?”):
    – People that answer their phones, finish their current conversation for 30 seconds, then actually say “hello” to me
    – People that answer their phones with “yeah?” or “go ahead” or “what?”
    – People that simply state “she’s not here” and hang up
    -People that just shout “wrong number” and hang up, without letting me actually check the number I have called
    – People that have their fax machine attached to their phone, or refuse to answer an “unknown number” so that it’s impossible to contact them (they ARE told to expect our call once they leave hospital, so they know someone is supposed to be calling them) – then they complain that we haven’t contacted them
    – Relatives that refuse to put me on to the mother – not because she’s sleeping or breastfeeding or anything reasonable, but just they don’t want to – hello? There’s a health professional trying to contact your loved one – do as you’re told!
    -people that answer the phone and talk away in their own language and don’t pass the phone on the other person I can hear in the background

    We even had one charmer (a baby’s father) who said “she’s upstairs, and I’ve just come down here and I’m not going back up!” and hung up.

  • Ashley July 14, 2011, 4:46 pm

    Oh my god this topic was MADE for me. On my cell phone, if I don’t know the number, I don’t answer. Anyone important is programed in there, so if your name doesn’t pop up, and you don’t leave me a message, I am not calling you back. At work though, I have to answer EVERYTHING. Lately, there is this one place that keeps calling from various numbers, all of them cell phones. It calls up to three times a day, and there is NO WAY to get taken off the list because it is ALL completely automated.

  • Angeldrac July 14, 2011, 4:52 pm

    Oh, and one more:
    – people that call back and just say “I got a miss call from this number…?”.
    Well, my telepathic powers are a bit slow today, so how about you introduce yourself properly, maybe tell me when you got this missed call and then I might have some information to go off and be able to help you, hey? (This goes for phones to my work AND personal numbers)

  • madame-mim July 14, 2011, 5:55 pm

    Telecommunications are changing so quickly and becoming so varied that it’s hard to see how a cohesive etiquette for their use emerges at all! Often it seems like the etiquette is constantly transforming in parallel with the way people are using technology, giving rise to differing preferences at both personal and generational levels.

    I think that, if there is a golden rule amid the ever-increasing, ever-multiplying uses of social media and ever-smarter phones, it’s this: talk about your mutual preferences and expectations with the people you contact on a regular basis, and then tailor your strategy for reaching each of them accordingly. That way, there’s no confusion about what your mom intended by not leaving a voice mail, nor what your friend intended with a “call me” text, nor why so-and-so didn’t show up to an event you posted on facebook. Conversely, with any luck others will respect your relationship with the technology at *your* disposal and how *you* prefer to be contacted.

    I would also argue that the onus is on the person who initiates contact to use the call-ee’s preferred means of communication whenever possible, since the call or text has the potential to disrupt the recipient’s day.

  • Lizza July 14, 2011, 6:37 pm

    What about the lack of etiquette from those who just don’t listen to your messages? Not when your message is just hey, wanted to chat, call me back, but something more detailed and specific (as in, calling a coworker and asking them if they could switch shifts with you on such and such a date)? And they call you back and say, “What did you call me for?” Didn’t you listen to my message? “No.” ARGH! It’s so frustrating to me!

    The worst was when I lived with my friend and I’d get home before her and notice we needed cat food/toilet paper/etc., or another friend would call and make/cancel plans with us, so I’d call and leave her a message. And she’d always come home, sans whatever I asked for (I didn’t have a cell phone, so if she got home first and we needed something she’d just call me at work quick) or confused about me asking what she thought about said plans. “I left you a voicemail!” “I know, I deleted it.”

  • Zhoen July 14, 2011, 7:16 pm

    LW really needs to calm down. This is not rudeness so much as people doing what you personally don’t like. Talk with the people who call you and let them know your preferences and why, and listen to their preferences, and why. A lot of people go tongue tied at talking into a recording device of any kind. If I know the person I’m calling has caller ID, they’ll see I called and will call back when they are ready. I’ll only leave a message if I actually have a message more than that I called. Seabasser is right on.

    A lot of VOIP and cell phone services will block numbers, keep on top of those, along with the Do Not Call List, and the promotional calls will dwindle to near nothing.

    Really, LW, calmly thinking this through, asserting yourself, & solving the problem, will make your life so much better.

  • InNM July 14, 2011, 7:27 pm

    The OP’s problem reminded me of a call I got a few weeks ago. I was visiting my mother in the Caribbean and had borrowed her phone for a few days. My phone rings and I don’t recognise the number, so I use my polite greeting.
    “Good day.”
    “Aye, girl, where is your husband?”

    Aside from the fact that I am not married (but in a relationship), my boyfriend/husband would not even be in this country. So I answered him as such.

    “My husband? Why he’s in New Mexico, of course!” I responded

    There is a few seconds of stunned silence before the caller responds with, “Girl, stop playing. Let me talk to your husband.”
    “I already told you, my husband is in New Mexico.”
    “But I just talk to him a little while ago.”
    “Did you call New Mexico?”
    “No. I just saw him.”
    “Then it couldn’t be my husband you spoke to, because my husband is in New Mexico.”
    “Are you sure?”
    “Sir, you have the wrong number.”
    “But this is the number he gave me.”
    “Sir, you have the wrong number.”
    “Are yo-”
    “Sir, you have the wrong number.” *click*

    He calls back 5 minutes later. I just rejected the call.

    If he had said, “Hello, this is and I’m calling for .” I would have told him simply that he had the wrong number, and we would not have wasted all that time.

  • Amy July 14, 2011, 7:48 pm

    Where are you living? In the US, you can put cell numbers on the national do not call list; it takes 31 days to go fully into effect, but I went from about a dozen sales calls in a day to none, ever. And if you are on the NDNC registry and they call anyway, you can report them and they can be fined. It is very satisfying, and due to a law that went into effect in 2008, your registration will no longer expire after a few years.

    You might also see about blocking specific phone numbers via your service provider. When a telemarketer calls, you can at least make sure they can’t call again from that number.

  • Amy July 14, 2011, 7:56 pm

    I had a problem for a while with sales call son my cell, and they were outrageous. One telemarketer had a habit of calling at random odd times every day, the same lady, sometimes very early or very late. I refused and asked to be taken off her list every day, and she always “Of course, dear. God bless the rest of your day and I’ll talK to you tomorrow!” And she did, until about 20 days after I put my cell number on the National Do Not Call registry. It takes 31 days to go fully into effect, but I went from about a dozen sales calls in a day to none, ever. And if you are on the NDNC registry and a telemarketer calls anyway, you can report them tot he NDNC website and the telemarketer can be fined. It is very satisfying, and due to a law that went into effect in 2008, your registration will no longer expire after a few years.
    You might also see about blocking specific phone numbers via your service provider. When a telemarketer calls, you can at least make sure they can’t call again from that number.

  • jen a. July 14, 2011, 8:22 pm


    Your story reminds me of a similar experience some family friends of mine have had. Their home number if very similar to the front desk number of a nursing home. There’s an elderly lady living in the home who suffers from a bit of senility and always calls my friends’ house thinking it’s the front desk. My friends called up the nursing home to let them know, and they wrote down the correct number for her, but she keeps calling. I think she might have memorized the number isn’t able to learn the new one. Anyways, now they just call the nursing home after she calls to let them know that she needs a new blanket, wants the television turned down, etc, etc. Not an etiquette violation by any means, but your story kind of reminded me of it:)

    On another note – I read about the registry. I’ll be putting my number on there ASAP.

  • A July 14, 2011, 8:38 pm

    I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Somedays I miss telemarketers because they can be so entertaining! I’ll never forget a time my dad told me about when a telemarketer kept calling for me at my dad’s house. I had move away from home at that point but they didn’t get the point and eventually my dad said that I had died! The lady was so flustered but stopped calling. Yea, that stuff is sort of mean but I guess my family has a prankster streak. 😛 These days I usually only get telemarketing calls at work and I’m not on my “game” since I’m trying to be professional. 🙁

  • many bells down July 14, 2011, 8:47 pm

    The DNC has not worked well for me. I still get the calls.

    There’s a woman that owns a house across town from me that has the same last name and first initial as me. Her number is unlisted, and mine is listed by last name and first initial. I think in the past 5 years (as long as I’ve had this number) every contractor within 50 miles has called offering to do renovations on the home this other lady owns.

    What really gets my goat, though, is when they call and ask to speak with “Mrs. Bellsdown”. I will ask if they’re calling for “Many” or “Michelle”. When they tell me Michelle, and I tell them they have the wrong number, some of them refuse to believe me. They’ll insist they just spoke to her or that this was the number they were given. If I ask where they got the number, they claim it was the title company information – which is a lie; I’ve spoken to the title company, and there is no phone number listed for the address they’re calling about.

    At this point I’m incredibly glad I do not own a home; there is not a single contractor in the entire county I would believe is trustworthy.

  • Etta Kett July 14, 2011, 10:20 pm

    This is my biggest peeve. It’s gotten dreadful over the years to answer even a business phone, especially for calls for co-workers. (I had one who used the office phone as her personal phone, yes she had a cell, but she didn’t want to “waste her minutes.” She would leave the work number everywhere as her main referral, yet always left by 2pm.) Usually people just blurt out the name of the person they want to talk to in a question. “Linda???” is not a greeting, and I don’t care how much she and I sound alike on the phone. Of course, you have to tell the person twice that Linda is not there, because right after you say she isn’t they respond, “she isn’t?” “No she isn’t.” and then…. silence followed by an eventual dialtone. No, thanks, no nothing. Grrrr…

    And if you are making a business call, please identify yourself first. It’s just basic business courtesy. I’m especially talking to those cold calling salespeople who start with a casually drawn out, “So how are -you- doing today?” when I’m going crazy in my office trying to take care of my clients…

  • OP July 14, 2011, 11:19 pm

    @Just Laura – I am registered on the Do Not Call list. This person insisted that they are not restricted by this list. Ha! I already filed a report against them – BTW, per FTC regulations (via donotcall.org), even if you’re not on the do not call list, companies are forbidden to use an automated system to call cell phones.

    @AMC (and many others) – I sometimes have to answer calls from unfamiliar numbers: my father travels often for work, so when he’s out of town, I answer. I also answer them when my kids aren’t with me, when I’ve recently been to the doctor/filled a prescription, etc., and when the area code is the same as my MIL’s or my best friend in the Marines.

    @ J’s Mama – next time that collection agency calls for your relative, tell them this is not their number and that any further attempts to contact them at this number will be considered harassment. That usually clears up that.

    @alli_wan and Suzy– I knew the whole thing was fake, that he was probably going to take my credit card numbers “to see if I’m eligible”, then try to run up charges via a satellite line. Why else would they require at least $1000 available credit? I’m not stupid, just annoyed. I actually was able to trace this number (through many outlets) to a mobile home in Springfield, TN.

    @Zhoen (and many others) – it would be stupid for me to expect anyone to remember my call preferences, as well of the preferences of everyone they know. This is why I wish we’d held onto the phone etiquette rules of the pre-cell phone days (rules which were still around less than 20 years ago).

  • OP July 14, 2011, 11:28 pm

    I have to say, I love some of the stories about wrong numbers at my office…
    The owner of my company has a PhD. NOT a medical doctor, right?
    And, yet, people will see “Dr.” and call trying to get an appointment for this or that, telling me all sorts of medical jargon that I (thankfully) do not understand, despite my desperately saying, “Sir? Sir?! SIR! This is NOT a medical office. Dr. ________ is not an M.D.” Thankfully, no one has ever gotten to the point of divulging disgusting medical details that are none of my business.
    But I have to wonder–where on earth did they get the number to our office and think it was some sort of clinic? Especially after I answer, “Name of Company that is OBVIOUSLY not Medical, this is Me, how can I help you?” I am left to the conclusion that these people are so self-absorbed that they failed to listen to my salutation.

  • slythwolf July 15, 2011, 12:31 am

    What I hate the most are the calls from other people’s bill collectors with the automated number system. Press 1 is you are the person they’re calling, press 2 if that person isn’t home, press 3 if you need to summon them to the phone. No option for a wrong number. Eventually I get fed up and press 1–and the person on the other end doesn’t even know who the system was calling in the first place. “Blahblahblah Collections, how may I direct your call?” YOU called ME.

    Then when I explain they tell me they’re sorry for the inconvenience and they’ll make a note in the file that the number is wrong.

    They invariably call back the next day.

    It’s almost enough to make me begin to suspect that my husband has incurred a large amount of debt under a series of increasingly improbable female names.

  • spyderqueen July 15, 2011, 1:49 am

    For me and most people I know, if we don’t leave a message it’s because we were just calling to chat and know you’ll see our name/number on the caller ID, but if we leave a message it’s because we have a specific question or concern in mind. It’s not a bad system really. BUT if we leave a message, we would appreciate it if you listened to it before calling us back.

    For unsolicited calls:
    I’m nice to wrong numbers. Even when I kept getting called by the former number’s old clients (former owner of the number was a drug dealer given the calls I would get looking for him). I’m even nice to the drunk wrong numbers that call at 3 in the morning, though I swear about it the next day to friends.

    For charities and churches I will always be polite unless treated rudely. Many churches in my area do festivals and meetings to attract new members and cold call numbers in the area to let people know (this is not covered by the DNC list), but I find a simple “Thank you, but I’m not looking for a new congregation” to handle those easily (they don’t need to know my actual religious standing so there’s no point getting into it).

    If a survey sounds interesting, I’ll do it. Which meant I got to do a Family Feud survey once. Neat. Otherwise I tell them I don’t have the time/am not interested.

    But, because I’m on the DNC, I have NO TOLERANCE for sales calls. Most of the ones I still get are automated with no real option to speak to a real person right off and I just hang up. However, I have, on quite a few different occasions no less, been called by scammers and they get the full floodgates of my fury (No, you wouldn’t have a record of my car’s registration on file. BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE A F&^$ING CAR. CALL HERE AGAIN AND I WILL TAKE LEGAL ACTION!). Politeness has it’s place, but it’s not for dealing with people trying to rip you off.

  • The Elf July 15, 2011, 6:53 am

    To add about the Do Not Call list: charities and political organizations can still call you no matter what. I hate cold calls from charities. I give to charities, but I pick which ones and when and how much. Pushing me really just makes me less likely to give. I even prefer the political calls! They come in less often, for one, and also I have such low expectations for political behavior that they can’t possibly fail to meet them. I think better of charities, so cold calling me at dinner and pushing me to donate really bothers me.

    Going on the Do Not Call list stopped about half of unwanted calls. The other half are from charities, political organizations, businesses I use (like my credit card company that always has yet another offer), and wrong numbers. The wrong number ones don’t bother me – everyone makes that mistake – except for the ones from collection agencies who are CONVINCED that either I am Katrina or know Katrina. If I ever meet Katrina, I’d be tempted to slap her silly on general principle. (I wouldn’t, but the temptation would be there.)

  • Kate708 July 15, 2011, 7:10 am

    I’m not sure who your carrier is, but I know many of the major ones give you the option to block all incoming calls from numbers not in your address book. Obviously this could pose other problems from people you know trying to get in touch with you in an emergency situation or something, but if the telemarketing is so frequent it might be worth a look.

  • Enna July 15, 2011, 8:49 am

    My Mum got a sales call the other day that came up as “out of area” on the phone display. The person was trying to get her to switch mobile phones or something and she said “no thanks, not interested” and hung up. The person rang again and I answered it. It was the same caller, he didn’t sound to confident, “do you want to change yor phone and sim card?” and I said “No. You are wasting your time.” and hung up – heard a quick “thank you” before I did.

    Another time, someone called up about changing energy supplies, asking for my Mum, so I called “there’s a sales person on the phone wanting to talk about energy” to mum, she smiled and the lady was trying to convince her she WASN’T a sales person which was funny. As Mum is a panio teacher our number is in the phone book so we do get calls often about time shares with the spiel “you have entered a competition and won a holiday/completed a survey or questioniare.” One time Mum said no, when she found out it was timeshare and hung up – he calld back instantly and she canceld the call so it went to voicemail.

    The next time someone called about a “you’ve won a holiday which is acutally a timeshare” and asked for Mum, I said she couldn’t come to the phone, he went on and I checked with Mum. 1) we had NOT entered a competition, he said we had the liar! 2) I repeated this to him and then hung up. Next time I’m going to ask for name, business address and contact number and write in and complain, but also point out that some Christans and members of other faiths follow very strick no gambling rules, a “telephne number draw” without the bill payer;s consent could lead to the compnay being sued.

    As for not leaving voicemail, that implies that it is not imortant. Me and my bf do that all the time. If it was imporant we would leave messages, since it isn’t important why leave a mesage when the receiver could be charge for retriving it? It also saves space for important messages too. People get the wrong number should say sorry.

  • Enna July 15, 2011, 8:53 am

    As for charities who call people, if someone is a regular donor I think that is different then cold calling. I think if you are allready on a charity’s list due to donating and you gave your telephone number that is “warm calling” and the charity calls up about a certian campaign they are raising funds for. With “warm calling” I thnk those who give their phone numbers may have a closer link with the charity and won’t mind so much about being kept in the loop.

  • AS July 15, 2011, 9:26 am

    OP, the Dr. story reminded me of something that happened to my father – not on phone though. My dad is a Ph.D. too, and when we moved into our new apartment, one of our neighbours who was very fond of dad included the Dr. in front of his name in the name chart. Once, a gentleman came and rang the bell, and when we opened the door, started telling the medical condition of his son. Apparently, his son was very ill, they were new to the town, and there was no medical center open given that it was a Sunday; so understandably, he was paranoid. My parents invited him in, calmed him down and told him that my father was a Ph.D. doctor, and not an MD. The gentleman was very embarassed, and started apologising profusely. My parents offered to call up a friend of theirs who was a doctor, and the friend told this gentleman to come meet him immediately, and I guess he got some help.

    I wish there was some way of differentiating between Ph.D. and MD(and MD/Ph.D.) doctorates. It would prevent a lot of misunderstandings. It is unfortunate when someone needs a doctor for an emmergency, but reach a Ph.D. doctor. This is the reason, my father never liked adding his title outside his academic circle.

  • Calli Arcale July 15, 2011, 10:22 am

    About the Do Not Call Registry, and requesting people not call again, there are some severe limitations that you need to be aware of. DO sign up for the registry, and DO tell them not to call again, but here’s what you need to keep in mind:

    * The Do Not Call Registry (in the US) only applies to commercial entities. It does not apply to nonprofits, lobbying groups, religious groups, political action committees, politicians’ offices, government offices, etc. In my experience, charities have become the worst offender; the rise of the do-not-call lists means that the telemarketing firms that contract out have lost some of their business from commercial organizations, but they know they are unrestrained from charitable work, so they’ve greatly increased their work for those agencies. What’s worse, they usually demand such high fees that the charity seldom sees much of the donations — and sometimes winds up owing the telemarketing firm. You will still be called by these people, and not all of them are on-the-level, or are representing a sound-alike charity. There are also outright scams which pretend to be charities in order to avoid being reported and fined but which actually have nothing to do with any charity.

    * Unsolicited calls to cell phones are supposed to be forbidden anyway, on the basis that most people do not have unlimited calling plans and may be forced to incur unwanted fees because of the unsolicited calls. They may call anyway, but you should advise them that they’ve called a cell phone and you do not wish the calls to continue.

    * You can always request they never call you again. They are supposed to honor this request, and they *are* supposed to provide a means for you to get off of their calling list. But they aren’t required to make it easy, and some are so brazen they will actually try to charge a fee. (No, that fee is not reasonable, and probably could be fought in court, but they’re banking on people figuring there’s no point fighting it that far.) In practice, this is under the honor system, and a lot of them will “accidentally” call you again. It’s not that they want to waste time calling people who aren’t going to give; they just aren’t bothering to actually keep track.

    * All of the above is void if they have an established business relationship with you, even a tenuous one, because then they technically have a valid reason to be calling you. Banks are particularly notorious for providing advertising service to third parties. They’re not sharing your data, they’re not selling a phone list — because they’re actually doing the telemarketing themselves, on behalf of these third parties! “Since you have a credit card in such excellent standing, we’ve decided to offer you this great new deal on fire insurance! It’s completely free for the trial period! If you don’t like it, just cancel it; otherwise, we’ll take care of the payments for you directly from your account, with no fuss and no worry about late fees.” Similarly, they’ve taken to subsidizing their mailings by stuffing all sorts of third-party offers into them.

  • Xtina July 15, 2011, 12:55 pm

    From what I’ve read on this post, there does seem to be a generational gap in how people view leaving messages and calling people back–the younger folks see it as perfectly normal not to leave messages and fully expect to just call or text people back without knowing what they wanted–in fact, most seem to be annoyed when someone leaves them a message for them to retrieve. I guess the older folks fall under a generalized rule of “you’re calling for a reason” and thus a caller would leave word as such, and not doing so would constitute an annoyance or worry.

    Just an observation–interesting stuff. Me personally, it does really annoy me when someone says they didn’t listen to my message. Those who know me know I won’t bother to leave a message unless it’s something specific and/or important (and likewise, I won’t call you back if I see you called but you didn’t ask me to call back), and I’m very succint in my messages so as to waste as little of the listener’s time as possible. Of course I know that not everyone knows that, haha–but please, give my message a chance before you decide that you’re too busy to listen to it! You’ll know exactly what I called for if you listen, thus saving us both time. Sorry, just had to vent. 🙂

  • Xtina July 15, 2011, 12:56 pm

    whoops, sorry–spelling error in my previous post–“succinct”. D’oh!

  • Toya July 15, 2011, 1:37 pm

    This rant has to of been written by someone my mom’s age because it all seems a little dated.

    #1 – I don’t leave a voicemail unless it’s regarding something that can wait for who knows how long. If I need to talk to that asap, I will call over and over again until the pick up. If I check my phone and someone has tried repeatedly in a short amount of time, I know that that person has something important. If they leave a voicemail, I may not listen to it until weeks later.

    #2 – See nothing wrong with texting “call me”. It’s a lot better than leaving a voicemail. I’m always quicker to respond to a text than any other form. It lets me know that the call will be important on some level but not some much that I have to drop what I’m doing to talk with that person.

    #3 – I hate people that respond to dialing a wrong number with “who dis?” Uhhhhh… You called me. It’s even more frustrating when the same person keeps calling you back over and over again wanting someone that doesn’t exist. Cheryl wasn’t available at this number the 1st 5 times, what makes you think she would be here on the 6th?

    #4 – Regarding telemarketers, I don’t have a problem with them. Course I like to reverse prank call them. I figure they ruined 30 minutes of my life which I will never get back. Why not have some fun so it’s not a complete loss. And they can’t get mad with me because they’re the ones who call me.

  • JediKaiti July 15, 2011, 2:55 pm

    quoting ellesee: “or I pretend not to be the person they are calling–when asked what’s the best time to call back, I reply with “oh, about 2 in the morning when she comes back from work.””

    You could also say “I don’t know, it’s up to the parole board, but not for at least ____ months.”

    More seriously, long ago I worked as a telemarketer, trying to sell long-distance service. We were instructed to not accept less than 3 “no”s from a possible customer, unless they were irate, and if they said not to call back, we had a “remove” button to click on the computer screen. I assume it marked their record in the database, or some such.

    I remember one time I was assigned to a list of people who had recently moved into a new home. One number, however, went to a little old lady in the middle of Ohio who’d lived in that house for more years than I’d been alive. She was the FRIENDLIEST person I talked to that summer, just chatting away (I guess she must have been a bit lonely)… “Oh no, dear, I don’t want to switch my phone service, but you should come visit sometime, it’s just gorgeous up here!”

    After that summer I switched to strictly inbound telemarketing – usually taking phone orders for things people wanted to buy from a TV commercial. It was much better.

  • Cat July 15, 2011, 4:34 pm

    If you have a Ph.D., don’t put Dr. in front of your name. Put Ph.D. behind your last name (John Smith, Ph.D.) and people won’t confuse you for an M.D.( medical doctor or monkey doctor, as Granny used to say).

    I stop telemarketers by telling them I am the babysitter and will be happy to take a message for the homeowner when they get back home. No one wants to talk to the babysitter and that ends that.

    Other folks I don’t know how to deal with properly. I had a representative from the Democratic Party call me to make sure I was voting in the up-coming election. I said I was. She asked if I was voting a straight Democratic ticket and I said no, that I do not approve of abortion so I would vote for another party affiliation if that was an issue for that particular office. She told me I ust wanted a nation of useless bastards. As the fourth bastard my mother bore, I was offended. I have not voted for a Democrat since that phone call. I am certain that they do not want the vote of a useless bastard since they went to the trouble of calling me and telling me.

  • --Lia July 16, 2011, 4:44 am

    Cat– Are you sure that call was from an official representative of the party? It sounds more like a crank call, maybe even a call from someone supporting the other side. (In other words, the caller actually is in favor of X, so they call pretending to be in favor of Y, but they’re purposely rude and horrible because they’re hoping you’ll end up wanting nothing to do with Y and will go to X instead.) I’ve heard of calls urging the votership to get out and vote. Usually they go down a list of people they have reason to think will vote for the candidates they want. I have never heard of someone legitimate arguing the way that caller did. I’ve never even heard of a representative of a party or candidate asking how you were voting. Official pollers do that, but they’re careful to ask the questions in neutral terms. They note your answer and move on to the next question. They do not try to sway your opinion. I’d go back to voting the way you did for the reasons that are important to you and not let my mind be changed by one call from someone who sounds like the equivalent of a criminal mischief maker, the sort of person who sprays graffiti on your property and blames someone else.

  • Enna July 16, 2011, 5:20 am

    For those poeple who are cold called by charites I would say write down the name of the caller, the charity, and the businesses. Normally charites and the telebusinesses who call donors ethically do the “warm calling”. If you are getting cold calls the charity may not be investing as much of its funds into its causes as it should. It’s one thing getting post for a charity as it’s easier to donate or ignore at your conivience.

    As for not leaving voicemail, if I call someone just for a chat and they don’t answer I’d assume that they are busy. It’s one thing if its a free voicemail on a landline but with mobiles the caller doesn’t always know if the voicemail service is free. One firend said to me he doesn’t actually check his mobile voicemail as he gets charged for it, he’d just text all call the person back so he doesn’t waste money.

  • OP July 16, 2011, 10:15 am

    Dear Toya,

    I’m 23. I was just raised with traditional phone manners that didn’t magically disappear 8 years ago when I got a cell phone.

  • Alexis July 16, 2011, 10:56 am

    I don’t know where you’re from, but in the US we have a national Do Not Call list. I put all of our phone numbers on it. If I STILL get the odd telemarketing call I have a few stock ways of dealing with it. 1)Passive Aggressive- ‘Sure, I’d love to hear about it!’ Then set the phone down, walk away, and let them talk. Similarly, you can ask them to ‘hold on a minute’ then set the phone down and walk away.
    2)Purely Evil-Pretend to be mentally deranged, but not SO mentally deranged that they can tell right away. Just keep talking, and talking and talking and talking…….
    3)Direct- Without engaging them in ANY conversation tell them to take our names off their list and never to call our house again.
    4)Whatever they’re selling or offering, my spouse/sibling/best friend is already in the business.
    5)Whatever they’re selling, I cannot use-carpeting? I have asthma. Siding? I live in brick house/condo/log cabin. Magazines? I work in a library and get them for free. Lawn care service? Sorry, severe allergies.
    6) Disarming-‘Sorry, I have cancer, and can’t think about this stuff right now.’ (I started using this when I really did have cancer and it was so effective I never stopped.)
    7)Technically honest-‘No one by that name lives here.’ This works well because my husband and I both have clearly ethnic last names that are seemingly unpronounceable outside of the northeast. Anyone who can’t pronounce our names doesn’t know us anyway and shouldn’t be calling.
    8)Fast and to the point-Just hang up the phone, without even saying a word. They are counting on your desire to feel like you must be ‘polite’. You’re not being rude, they are, by disturbing you.
    9)Following my own rules-This one is for ‘charities’ which invariably spend most of the donations on administrative costs. ‘I never give money over the phone.’ Click.

  • Dear! July 16, 2011, 5:39 pm

    I agree that people who hang up without a word in the event of a wrong number of rude and it drives me up the wall, especially if I put another person on hold to answer their call. As for not leaving a voicemail driving you mad, I thinkit is an issue of being just a bit anal. I dont leave voicemail messages, nor do I like to text for personal relationships. (Odd, I know for a 24 year old.) For professional contacts, I prefer an email but do leave voicemail messages if required. If the call is super important or I am relaying some form of important info, I dont want to leave leave a voicemail. If I just wanted to chat, why waste your time by making you sit through a voicemail. You were obviously too busy to answer to begin with. And, the “call me” text is ually only done when a person doesn’t know if you are in a setting where it would be appropriate for them to call you. ei. at work. These are not issues of etiquette; they just go against your personal preferences and can also be seen as being polite.

    One of my personal pet peeves happens when I make business calls. I work in a caribbean country, and have an accent. When a person answers the phone, I usually start by saying “Good Afternoon, may I speak to so & so, or if I know the person and recognize their voice, I start by saying “Good afternoon, how are you today?” With my US clients, or even coworkers who work in the US branch of our office and are familiar with the accent, they almost always answer with a quick and snarky or very weary “Who is this?” One client even got an attitude and said “what is it with you people not saying who you are right away?” Even if you think there is a chance I might be a telemarketer, when on the job, act professional. In my department I usually deal with people looking to get rooms comped or are requesting something free or a tour of the area I work in, and most of the time they contact me first and I am just returning their call. With this type of attitude I am more inclined to say no if I have any reason to instead of going out of my way to accomodate their request. However, apart from the attitude, this also falls into the realm of preferences. I also didn’t mean to highlight the US in a negative light, but it seems the greeting I give comes from the European way so they have a similar way of doing things.

    A few of my other pet peeves that fall under bad etiquette are:
    1. Talking to another person, in person, when you are on the phone with me.
    2. People who talk on their cell phone when cashing out their items and ignore the cashier or act as if they are being bothered
    3. People who put you on hold, in a business setting, but dont actually press the hold button and you can hear them in the background
    4. People who dont tell you they are putting you on hold before they do so
    5. People who speak loudly on their phones in public settings
    6. Movie talkers
    7. People who answer the phone and dont bother to turn down the volume on their tv or radio and just continue to shout into your ear over and over

  • Cat July 16, 2011, 5:48 pm

    For Lia, yes, it was a true representative. She called back and tried to apologize. Don’t take her mistake out on the party and all that. She was speaking for herself and should not have given her opinion. ..yak, yak, yak. Bottom line is that the party line is prochoice. Fine, but it’s my life they are talking about. It’s easy to say that it’s the woman’s body and all that, but my life, not hers, to take away. I am sorry that Mom was a democratic drawbridge, going down for all and sundry but that’s not my fault. No one has the right to say that I don’t have the right to live.

  • C.J. July 17, 2011, 12:41 am

    I’ve had my cell number since I was FIFTEEN. Somehow, in the past few years, a girl named Jeannine who owes an agency an undisclosed sum of money has given them my number as her own. I’ve told them multiple times that I am not who they’re looking for, and they dubiously ask, “So you don’t know Jeannine? You aren’t her daughter?” And I say, “Nope. I literally know no Jeannine.” And when I don’t answer, they don’t leave a voicemail. I don’t mind when my friends call and just leave their name in my call log, but it’s pretty silly for a business to forgo leaving a voicemail. If they took the time to listen to my message, they’d hear that this is my number. Since I’ve firmly told them repeatedly that I AM NOT JEANNINE, I don’t know what else to do. All I know is it’s very annoying to clear my home in three steps to answer my phone only to see a toll-free number, especially when I avoid debts.

  • --Lia July 17, 2011, 11:31 am

    Cat– Please accept my apology. I’m afraid I’ve upset you.
    All of us (who live in countries with freedom of speech) have the right to express whatever political opinions we want. We do NOT have the right to call people in their homes to argue with them on their own time. The woman who did that to you was guilty of a grave etiquette error. All of us (in countries with free elections) have the right to vote for whomever we choose based on whatever issues are important to us. I hope you will continue to do that. That’s all I was trying to say in my earlier post.

  • amyg July 17, 2011, 5:04 pm

    Sorry, Dear! but in the U.S. it’s considered unprofessional not to immediately identify yourself when you’re calling a place of business. I understand that you have your extremely polite-sounding way of doing business (it sounds lovely, actually), but Americans like to cut to the chase immediately. And in many cases, people who are pressed for time want to make sure that whoever’s calling has a legitimate reason to do so. Not identifying yourself right away is an oft-used trick of cold callers.

  • Jillybean July 17, 2011, 6:16 pm

    OP – just one small note about the etiquette of the “pre-cell phone days” – are you speaking of pre-caller ID, pre-answering machine, pre-call waiting? Phone etiquette is as fluid as phone technology. In the old days there was no way to know you had missed a call. If you happened to hear the phone ringing as you entered your house, you had no idea who that caller had been if you didn’t reach the phone in time. If a person called you and you weren’t home it rang until the person gave up. They called back later. Same if they got a busy signal. Many people still operate under that philosophy. My husband’s father never leaves messages. If we don’t pick up the phone (for whatever reason) we are unavailable to him and he tries back later. The only difference now is you can see who called you, leaving you the option of calling them back or waiting for them to find another convenient time to call you. To me, anything that allows for choice is a good thing.

  • IzzyforRealz July 17, 2011, 8:46 pm

    I really hate when people call me but don’t leave a message, even if it is “0h hey, just wanted to chat, call me when you have a chance.” If there’s no message then I’m not sure what’s going on, and I tend to treat it like an emergency (especially if the person calls multiple times). I get very frustrated when I rush to call someone back and they’re looking for a casual chat.

  • Gianna July 18, 2011, 6:39 am

    I have learned to just lay the phone down and walk away from it, letting the person talk to the air. It is a highly effective way to get removed from people’s lists and I only get maybe 1 or 2 calls a month since I started doing this. Saying “No thank you” and hanging up does NOT work like laying the phone down does. I have had people in the past hang up on me when I start to say “please take me off your calling list”. I will now do what is most effective for myself and that is laying the phone down without a word and walking away.

    I’m not being rude or mean in doing this. These people have no problem interrupting my private time at home to earn their living and I will deal with these calls in the most expedient, effective manner for myself. My house, my rules, and one rule is that telemarketers calls are not to be tolerated.

  • delislice July 18, 2011, 7:11 am

    I agree with amyg. The only people who call me and don’t identify themselves are close friends and family members whose voices I recognize over the phone … and telemarketers. And none of my friends and family members begin a conversation with, “Hello, how are you today?”

    Any time I get a greeting like that, I reply, “How am I? I am not interested.” Click.

  • The Elf July 18, 2011, 7:29 am

    JediKatti “We were instructed to not accept less than 3 “no”s from a possible customer, unless they were irate”

    This fascinates me. The quickest way to make me irate, and thus never ever buy from the company, is to not take my “no” for a sincere “no”. Way to shoot yourself in the foot. This is why I hate telemarketing. I really do maintain a list of companies that have pissed me off, and I really won’t patronize them. For instance, Verizon is currently on my blackball list because of their poor customer service. I know virtually all phone/internet/cable companies have poor customer service, and certainly my current provider is no great shakes, but Verizon has so completely failed in multiple ways over a period of a year that I cannot in good conscience ever use them again. When they call – and they do – I remind them that they lost me as a customer forever. When they don’t take my “no” the first time, my blackballing is validated. I know FIOS is technologically superior to my current cable, but I just can’t.

    Dear! Re: US business calls. I fully expect the caller to identify himself within the first few words. I also answer with my name, and in prior jobs, with the company name plus my own name. If the caller does not do so, I ask their name straight away. I wouldn’t be snarky about it, but I would be puzzled that they didn’t supply the information.

  • many bells down July 18, 2011, 10:39 am

    JediKatti “We were instructed to not accept less than 3 “no”s from a possible customer, unless they were irate”

    This is why I will often hang up on a telemarketing spiel without a word. It may be rude, but I’m not interested in arguing or repeating my “No thank you” over and over. And as someone else mentioned, telling them I want to be removed from their list or mentioning I’m on the DNC often means they hang up in the middle of my sentence anyway.

  • Natalie July 18, 2011, 12:36 pm

    “I am registered on the Do Not Call list. This person insisted that they are not restricted by this list.”

    In a sense, they may be telling the truth because they are just a scammer, not a legitimate telemarketer. The DNC functionally doesn’t apply to them because they’re not afraid of it – they won’t give out their company name and they are using spoofed caller ID numbers, so there’s no way to track them down.

  • --E July 18, 2011, 3:12 pm

    I never feel rude hanging up on telemarketers.

    1. It’s my phone bill and my time. I am not obligated to spend either on anyone.

    2. They know good and well that some large percent of the people they call are not interested in speaking to them. They’re not expecting the same level of politeness one gives to a desired call.

    3. If you really must feel sympathy for them, consider that remaining on the line when you have no intention of buying what they’re selling is a waste of their time, too.

    “No thank you.” *click* really is the best approach for all involved.

    Caller ID isn’t a bad thing, either. If I don’t know who the caller is, I don’t answer. Or I answer and immediately hang up (don’t even give the call time to connect) to make it stop ringing.

    When I call someone and get their voicemail, if I was calling just to chat I say so. “Oh, hi, I just wanted to chat, but looks like you’re not around. No biggie. Talk to you later!” Anyone who I’m close enough to for random chatting will understand they’re not required to call back until it’s convenient for them.

  • OP July 18, 2011, 3:21 pm

    The phone etiquette I referred to is as follows:

    When you answer your personal phone, you say, “Hello?” not “What?”
    If you call a wrong number, say “Sorry, wrong number,” before you hang up.
    If there is an opportunity to leave a message, you leave a message.

    I realize, back in the days before answering machines, if no one answered you couldn’t leave a message. But if someone *did* answer, they would write one down. Answering machines were created for a reason–as a stand-in for the person who couldn’t answer to take a message.
    Caller ID was created so you know who is calling beforehand–not so lazy people can assume everyone has caller ID, so they don’t have to leave a message. And caller ID that identifies the owner/origin of a number only works on landlines. If someone calls my cell phone from a number not in my contacts, they do not get a returned call if they did not leave a message.
    And, by the way, my voicemail does say, “You’ve reached [my first and last name]. I can’t get to my phone right now, so PLEASE LEAVE A MESSAGE.” So for everyone saying, “Maybe they’re not leaving a message because they don’t want you to be charged to retrieve it.” or “You should tell them your preferences.” My recorded message states my preference as a reminder for everyone.

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