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Call Waiting

I work for a company that involves maybe 1-2 legal calls per day. Lawyers calling to ensure their clients are up to date in order to sell their property.

Usually the lawyer, or legal clerk, calls and has the requisite information ready to give me so I can look up the person they are inquiring about and let me answer their questions.

So today I have a receptionist call me and say, after I answered, “I was asked to get you on the line, one moment I will put you through…”  She then transfers me to the lawyer who is going to do the asking.  Instead though, I sit on hold for 3 minutes with music playing. This lawyer was calling me in order to confirm information, but yet I was put on hold and had to wait for them to decide to pick up in order for them to ask me questions. I have a busy job, as do they, why if you are calling me do I have to wait for you?

At the 3 minute mark I hung up to get back to my duties, I figure if its important enough they will call again and maybe not make me wait to ask me their questions.

Was I wrong or right?

I understand attorneys are busy but everyone else is as well.   It’s not the receptionist’s fault, she’s simply doing what she has been asked to do.   It’s presumptuous to think a person should be at one’s beck and call when telephoning others and then require them to wait until it is most convenient to final release them from “hold hell” to get the information he/she needs.  So, go right ahead and continue to hang up after 3 minutes and do your job serving others.    I do the exact same thing and I am even quicker to hang up if I’m put on call waiting in the middle of a conversation and they do not get back to me within 20-30 seconds.   I figure those seconds are plenty of time to tell the second caller that he/she is preoccupied and they will get back asap.   Any longer and my conversation has been usurped by someone else’s.   I’ve got too much work to do, not enough time to do it to be bothered waiting for someone to decide our conversation is important.


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  • Eva June 19, 2014, 3:42 am

    Agreed. It happens to me as well and it is rather annoying.

    Alternately the receptionist or secretary can put me through, but the actual caller doesn’t have the required Information at hand I need in order to actually help. Although that happens even if i am not called second hand so to speak.

    Callers: Please be prepared and don’t waste my time. You are not my only client and those who follow you are c0mplaining to ME, because they had to wait. Thank you.

  • Miriam June 19, 2014, 4:11 am

    I worked as a temp telephonist for over ten years, and have frequently been the only person answering the phones [one memorable company had nearly 5,000 lines; thankfully, most people gave out their direct line number!], and I would agree *totally* with Admin – especially when I could get into trouble for not answering other calls in the meantime…

    One memorable exception was working the “Russia desk” for an energy brokers in the late 1980s [when Russia was still part of the Soviet Union]: we would be instructed to keep calling the Russian national operator (yes, such things used to exist), who would try to connect us to the company we were trying to reach, and if we got through to that company, we would hang on for dear life. *If* we got through, we would have the company’s operator trying to find the intended recipient of the call, whilst one of our colleagues would find the calling party our end [paging the whole building, repeatedly, if necessary], who would then sit by their phone just in case we managed to connect with whom they needed to talk.

    I struggled to get my head around this whole “waiting on the line is more important than answering calls” thing, but the sense of achievement when I once connected a call was amazing! When I left, there was still one call [being handed off from operator to operator as people had lunch/left for the day] being attempted that had gone on for over six weeks. The only variance was a daily call to the person our end to check they still wanted it [and hadn’t gone on holiday].

    I’m quite sure it’s *totally* different now, but the OP’s dilemma brought back an amazing memory which I hope you don’t mind me sharing.

  • JO June 19, 2014, 5:20 am

    One more example of today’s ever so prevalent it’s-all-about-me-you-only-exist-to-serve-me-and-mine attitude. The lawyer shouldn’t have called (or had someone else call you) if he wasn’t able to talk just then.

  • AngePange June 19, 2014, 5:49 am

    This is a favourite trick of attorneys – I know because I worked in the field at one stage. It is essentially a lawyer’s way of saying “I am more important than you and my time holds more value than yours”. It is disrespectful!

  • Alli June 19, 2014, 6:21 am

    This once happened to me when I worked for a judge. An attorney’s secretary/whoever called me, and then put me on hold. The judge told me that when that happens, just hang up.

    Honestly, any time someone calls YOU and then immediately wants you to hold, it’s incredibly rude. When you call someone, you should have your information prepped. Obviously, sometimes people will ask unexpected questions, but being unprepared for a call is massively unprofessional.

  • lnelson1218 June 19, 2014, 7:30 am

    I too am currently in a temp position where I am answering the phones and several calls can come in right after the other.
    Personally I would rather be on the phone talking to you while you are trying to find your employee ID number than being kept waiting in a situation similar to OP’s.
    We have all no doubt had the situation of being in a queue trying to reach a customer service rep at a store, phone company, etc. I did once have a telemarketer call me (automated calling most likely) then put me on hold to wait for “next available rep. I hung up.

    • Miss Raven June 19, 2014, 1:59 pm

      I came here to post about this! Telemarketers who call and when you pick up, you’re immediately put on hold to wait for the “next available representative”. Let me get this straight. You are calling ME. COLD-calling me. To try to sell me something. And for this privilege, you want me to wait until you’re ready?? How completely BONKERS.

      • AD June 29, 2014, 4:24 pm

        This is currently a thing I’m dealing with. We have telemarketers and bill collectors calling us steadily and telling us to “hold for the next available representative”. At this point, we’ve begun simply letting calls from numbers we don’t know go to the answering machine and checking it in the latter half of the day to see if we’ve missed anything important. We have yet to actually do so.

        • NostalgicGal October 3, 2014, 9:22 pm

          Mr. Number

          It’s a website and you can use it to check fraudsters, phishers and spam. If you get a dubious call you can report it. I have found it very valuable as I’m getting many random calls like this lately; and most of them are massive spam operations. If I don’t recognize that number I won’t pick it up, and before I call back, I run it through Mr. Number. And a number of them are doing autodialer as I will get them going to my voicemail and getting nothing, or the beep beep beep of them recording (and checking the area code, it’s not assigned…).

  • Cat June 19, 2014, 8:03 am

    You are very patient to wait three minutes. If you don’t have time to talk to me, I am perfectly happy to have you call back when you are not so busy.

    In the days of long distance charges, a lady would call our business, say, “Oh, there’s my doorbell. You’ll have to call me back.” I would reply, “I have no idea as to how long your company will be staying. It would be better if you call me when you are free to schedule an appointment.”
    She didn’t want to pay for making a long distance phone call. We did not have an 800 number and we, too, had to pay those charges.

  • babs June 19, 2014, 8:10 am

    OP, you did nothing wrong, and I think you had more patience than I would have had. But I wouldn’t completely give the receptionist a pass. This happened to me a lot over the years when I would get someone on the phone for my boss (head of a large organization) and then someone would waltz past me into his office, or he would disappear or make (or take) another call. It was always nerve-wracking to me. I would never let someone hang on without going back into the call and ask if they minded holding, or would they prefer I call them back.

  • Shannon June 19, 2014, 8:12 am

    I’ve been doing admin work for over a decade now. I used to have a boss who would always say, “Can you get soandso on the line for me?” Then I’d do it, and I could hear my boss futzing around his office, leaving the person I’d just called for him on hold as a power play. Needless to say, that boss has since gone out of business.

    I can see having an assistant ring through for you if the call involves being on hold for a significant amount of time, or going through multiple layers of gatekeepers. For example, I’ve called support hotlines for bosses and then patched them through when the technician came on the line. But overall, it’s an obnoxious affectation and I wish executives would heal their cranial-rectal inversions and knock it off.

    • The TARDIS June 20, 2014, 1:16 pm

      “I wish executives would heal their cranial-rectal inversions and knock it off.”

      That is hysterical and I hope I can steal it and use it at work.

      Having said that, I totally agree with the rest of your statement.

  • JeanLouiseFinch June 19, 2014, 8:30 am

    I agree with Admin – as an attorney, I would not do this to anyone and would not expect anyone else to put up with this. If the receptionist calls you back, explain to her that you are very busy and that your policy is to wait only 1 minute on hold after which, you will hang up.

  • Kay L June 19, 2014, 10:13 am

    I think you would be fine not waiting more than about 20 seconds. After all, the receptionist that called you said “One moment…”

    They are the ones who need the information. They can call back. And if you hang up enough, I bet they won’t keep doing this. Because, again, aren’t they the ones who need something from you?

    • Stacey Frith-Smith June 21, 2014, 5:55 pm

      Agreed. A brief pause to connect should suffice. They will indeed call back, at which point they can decide whether or not they would like to try a more courteous approach. Even if the attorney in question is the one mandating that you “hold” as an affectation, your choice to release the call after a brief pause shows respect for other callers as it frees up your phone line for those who are prepared to speak with you and are also in need of information.

  • Annie B June 19, 2014, 10:24 am

    As an attorney who has a legal assistant, I’m horrified to read this submission.

    If I were calling to verify information with an office, I would either 1) give my assistant the information and trust them to make the call; or 2) call the office with the information myself. From experience, I can tell you that when in similar situations, I actually employ Option #2 more often than not. I see no need to make the secretary the middleman in this type of situation, nor do I see the need to make another office wait for me when I’m the one seeking information from them.

    • June First June 19, 2014, 12:44 pm

      This comment makes me happy. That is all. 🙂

    • JO June 19, 2014, 4:49 pm

      I get the impression the lawyer in question wanted to emphasize how much more important they were than OP…”oh, you’re a receptionist? Well I HAVE a receptionist!” pretty stupid thing, considering the lawyer was the one who needed something.

  • Ashley June 19, 2014, 10:36 am

    So she patched you through just to make you wait. Ugh. That’s rude. I mean, I can see it being okay if she put you through to the lawyer, and the lawyer started to talk to you and then suddenly had something come up, then ASKED if he could put you on hold before doing so…but to patch you through knowing you’d have to wait? That’s awful.

    • Calliope June 19, 2014, 1:10 pm

      It sounds like you’re blaming the receptionist here, instead of the lawyer. If the lawyer wasn’t ready for a call, she shouldn’t have had the receptionist initiate one.

  • NostalgicGal June 19, 2014, 10:56 am

    I’ve done phones for a long time, everything from receptionist to phone bank to even a telemarketer (3 weeks, what a learning experience)

    Calling a doctor office or something similar I have gotten through then immediately being put on hold for a few minutes. The person had the courtesy to acknowledge you called but they have 1-3 calls they are juggling and a person in front of them; yes, you will be on hold, and they will get to you in a few; I’ve done this on the answering end and I understand. Same for the utility company; once in awhile they are short on reps. Call queue at one place where the phone line was open 19 hours a day… for the first and last hour and a half there was one person there. Yes call hold time could be bad, just because there were four calls and one person to deal with it.

    The ones I hate are autodialer banks that call you, connect then tell you that this call is important and you have to wait for the next live rep. Hang up. That call isn’t that important if they are using an autodialer. Trust me. It’s a boiler room.

    Classic was late 90’s, I was called by some place local (big city) that wanted to sell me printer toner. They coldcalled me. I was sitting doing a system ‘virgin install’ (aka loading OS and everything to make a computer run) which was a lot of wait then feed another disk; so I talked nicely to them for a bit then tried to terminate call. Must have been the first warm body that day they’d had not hang up in their ear. They put their ‘manager’ on to try to hardsell me a six pack of cartridges and deliver them, and I finally tell the guy that no, their prices weren’t competitive, I had never heard the brand, and no I didn’t want the product. He started screaming at ME because I didn’t have anything better to do than waste THEIR time? I told him I *was* working, what I was doing and hey dude, quit chewing ME out, as YOU CALLED ME. I didn’t call your company, your rep called me. I’ve been trying to say no for about an hour now more politely than just hanging up. If anything you wasted MY time. He hung up on me.

    OP, I wouldn’t give them three minutes, you are being polite. Execs and others that think that putting a call through then making sure the person has to hold; are just wasting time and they are NOT that important. Nobody is.

  • Josie June 19, 2014, 11:04 am

    I used to have a boss that not only did this constantly, but would also make people who came to our office for an appointment with him wait in the tiny waiting room while he chatted (non-business talk) on the phone. He was also late to drive to every single appointment he ever had at someone else’s place and have the secretary call to say he was on his way (and I don’t mean 10-15 minutes, I’m talking 1 hour or longer). He only had about 1-2 people who complained; the rest of his customers just expected it.

    • InTheEther June 19, 2014, 2:45 pm

      This I just don’t get. I get the idea that power games are meant to intimidate the other person, and prove how important you are. The thing with me is that I’d just assume that the guy is incompetent or an idiot rather than recognizing any of this stuff as power plays. May just be me that I’m quicker to jump to stupidity or ineptitude as a conclusion rather than juvenile mind games (though on second thought, that still puts them under the stupid umbrella). I’d just assume that this boss was just glaringly incompetent and didn’t know how to manage his time and likely his business.

      With the OP’s example my 1st thought would be ‘What idiot calls and isn’t ready to talk about what he called about?’ before hanging up and waiting for him to get his stuff together like a big boy.

    • Lady Anne June 26, 2014, 6:11 pm

      I used to work for a company – no longer in business – where one of the bosses would not only make the person wait for an appointment SHE had set up, but would sometimes leave the building and have somebody cooling their heels for an hour or more. Rude, rude, rude!

  • JKC June 19, 2014, 11:19 am

    Something similar happened to me once. As a professor, I sometimes hire student workers through the financial aid department to assist me with routine tasks. One fall, after I had the FA office put out the ad for a new worker, I received a phone message from an administrator’s secretary to let me know that the administrator’s nephew wanted the job and that I should call him back ASAP on his cell phone. Mind you, I had never met or had any interaction with this young man before. I decided that if he honestly wanted to work for me, he could summon the spine to come ask me for the job himself (without the name-dropping) like everyone else does. I never called him, and wound up hiring someone else.

  • David June 19, 2014, 11:54 am

    You were well within etiquette to hang up when you did and honestly didn’t need to wait 3 minutes. As the admin states, no more than 30 seconds, after all, they called you. If they need the information, they can call you back and pay attention to the call.

  • RAK June 19, 2014, 12:24 pm

    We have a customer who drives us crazy. He calls on his cell and invariably in the middle of the conversation he will be talking/shouting at the people working with him. He doesn’t even bother to say hold on, or excuse me or anything-Just carries on two conversations at once and sometimes you can’t even tell if he’s talking to you or someone else. Not to mention that you have to repeat yourself 5 times because he stopped listening to you to talk to the other person.

    • Brit June 20, 2014, 3:34 am

      This sounds like when parents ring people then spend the entire time talking to their children. If you’re not free to speak to someone, don’t call them! You can’t even talk to my sister when she calls, it’s just “So how are – no, no, not that one! Put it down! – I thought I’d give you a – no, sweetie, you can’t have one yet, go and see what’s on TV – so anyway -,” until I wonder why she bothered. It’s rude.

      • Sim June 20, 2014, 1:19 pm

        I actually rather like it when my aunt calls with my cousins around. There’s a 20-odd year age gap between me and them, so it makes for some hilarious conversations. My personal favourites are “Don’t lick that!” (the 4yo had been trying to lick the phone while she was talking into it) and “Get your head out of the toilet!” (I’m guessing toilet training wasn’t going too well). Mind you, as soon as they start mucking around she says “I’ll have to call you back” and gets off the phone quite quickly.

  • Northlight June 19, 2014, 12:26 pm

    My only comment would be please be patient if you call a vet clinic, speak to someone and then get put on hold for a few minutes. Odds are that if you’re holding, mid conversation, and I don’t get right back to you it’s because someone is crying or crashing. I’ll be signalling to the back to give me a hand but I’m not going to put someone booking an emergency euthanasia on hold to get back to a vaccine appointment call. Similarly, I’m going to get that emergency hit by car dealt with before getting back to the phone to answer someone’s flea meds questions.

    It’s not that you are unimportant it’s just that you’re taking a back seat to emergencies and deaths. If something terrible happens one day you’ll appreciate my priorities. It’s stressful and inconvenient to wait but it’s cruel for me to put a sobbing person who needs to say goodbye to a good friend on hold.

    • NostalgicGal June 19, 2014, 5:49 pm

      If I call the vet, I understand if life gets in the way and I get cut off. All whoever is answering has to say is I have an emergency, please call back; and I will get off the line. I HAVE had to call to find a Sunday late night place open to do an emergency euthanasia; in that case it is a 30 second phone call to ascertain they were open. If I call the small town clinic or hospital and I also heard sirens or the flight-for-life chopper; I won’t get an answer or better get off fast. That much is understood.

      The bad one was waking up one morning with appendicitis and trying to call work for someone to cover my 5pm shift, after thirty odd rings someone answered and they put the phone down. I hung up after several minutes and finally someone hung that end up and I called again. I did so again; and before the person could put the phone down said ‘don’t you dare put this down, I’m on my way to the ER for appendicitis, you better tell someone I am not going to be in tonight’ then hung up. I made it to the ER, had surgery; next week during the employee meeting heads rolled over that phone call (I was there). They could get so busy that that could happen; but no more putting the phone down after ‘I have to put you on hold’, they HAD to spend a few seconds at least finding out what the issue was (hours, etc).

  • K June 19, 2014, 12:27 pm

    Oh my word, I temped for six weeks at a law firm and was often asked to get people on the phone for a particular attorney who enjoyed phone games as a power play. Multiple times, I informed him someone was on the line, then watched him pull a Tootsie Roll Pop from the dish on his desk, unwrap it, eat the whole thing, and then pick up the call (with me splicing through every so often, of course, to make sure the caller was still on the line and offer apologies for the inconvenience, etc.). That attorney was a primo jerk, but I had to pay my rent and had no other job prospects! I think his justification was that if the client waited for him, the time wasn’t billable; if he had to wait for the client, though, a three-minute wait would cost ten dollars. But just because his time cost more money per hour doesn’t mean he deserves more respect than his clients!

  • Gamer Girl June 19, 2014, 12:53 pm

    I used to work for an attorney as a legal secretary. We had really self-important opposing counsel attorney who did this all the time with telephone appointments. He’d have his secretary call and say “Calling for Mr. [Big Shot’s] appointment with Mr. [My Boss]. Please hold.” And I’d have to sit there on the phone waiting, because it was an appointment, and I couldn’t do anything else. One time, I had to sit on hold for close to 7 minutes waiting! I know it took that long because I had started timing the hold-times as something to do. The only thing that made that bearable was I had it on speaker phone.

    After this had become a habit, I was finally given permission to hang up after couple of minutes. I only had to do that once before the “make them wait” tactic was stopped.

  • Rebecca June 19, 2014, 1:09 pm

    The person who does the calling is the one who needs to hold. Another pet peeve of mine is answering the phone to hear a recorded voice say, “Please hold…” for a telemarketer!!! Are they serious? They called ME, and I’m not holding.

    • Margaret June 19, 2014, 5:04 pm

      Shoot, at least half the probably telemarketing calls I get are duds. As in, if you do answer, there is nothing but silence. I’ve heard that they do this to determine when is the best time to call when someone will actually answer. It’s at the point where I almost never answer the phone if I don’t recognize the phone number already, and virtually never if it is a 1-800 number.

      • NostalgicGal June 20, 2014, 8:46 pm

        The telemarketer boiler room, the autodialer calls four numbers at once. On the average one will answer within 1-2 rings; the other three will not even go through. Older systems, the dialer would hang up the other 3 lines. Then they got so that if #2 through 4, if someone did pick up it would note that and put that number to the top for that time slot tomorrow and maybe hit it again in another 5-15 min. The new systems will take calls 2-4 that connect and drop them into call waiting and you get the ‘wait for the next available representative’. And they log if they got a live response so the system can call you back in a few or at that time tomorrow.

        We had financed some electronics a few decades ago, the DNC list had become active, but; if the place could prove a ‘working relationship’ with you they could call. The finance credit line was owned by a notorious financier that was known for their tactics and were one of the reasons there were laws enacted about calling hours of the day (my parents had dealt with them and we had no phone from my age 5 to 15 because of them calling my dad at 3:30 in the morning and harassing him) soooo…. since we were customers of their daughter company the parent company decided to call us-‘to offer us other finance services’. From 8 am to 9 pm, about every fifteen minutes. No way could we seem to be the first pickup on the salvo. This was before caller ID… so. We kept getting called and called and called, and talked to phone company about changing numbers and the police about trace put on our phone for the harassment; on fourth day late afternoon we connected. On schedule, and here it was THEM. We explained about the harassment and that if we got one more call we were turning in for about 200 rounds at $1000/fine per round possible. They did some mumbling, it was possible what we’d gone through, and we never EVER heard from them again.

        A new twist is that the telemarketers hire people to work from home, so they can call out using THAT phone number. If you get a ‘origination’ phone number and try to look it up you will get some place strange out in the boonies or in a really small town; and it may actually belong to the telemarketer and their employee uses it. So you get a lot of non 800 or 877 numbers anymore.

  • Angel June 19, 2014, 1:19 pm

    Ugh, I can’t stand this practice. I would say you are perfectly within your rights to hang up after 1 minute. 3 minutes is rather generous! Very rude on behalf of the caller to do that.

  • Wild Irish Rose June 19, 2014, 2:48 pm

    I am a legal secretary. Never once has any of my attorneys asked me to do this. I’ve many times been asked to call people and convey or request information, but in the 25+ years I’ve been in the legal field, never has an attorney asked me to get someone on the line and then leave them hanging.

    I did have an attorney ask me to call a judge and lie for him after he had missed an important hearing. I did it, but I told the attorney I would never do it again–I had put the hearing on his calendar and had reminded of it, and STILL he forgot. I told him I’d never lie for him again so he’d better not ask, and he never did.

  • Harley Granny June 19, 2014, 3:17 pm

    Three minutes is about 2.5 minutes I would have held. I’m just as busy as any one else.

    I won’t even return pre-recorded messages left on my voice mail.

  • Margaret June 19, 2014, 4:49 pm

    The ONLY time that I would consider this acceptable (annoying, but acceptable) is if the receptionist or assistant called to get the person on the line, then put them on hold to transfer the call to the person who wanted to speak to them and that person came on the line almost immediately. I can see that if the person is truly busy and needs to maximize every minute, and I suppose if it were someone who was going to be billing me for time spent on the call, I’d just as soon not pay for the time it takes to dial and wait. However, that person needs to be doing something where he/she is available for the call as soon as it is connected.

  • Marbles June 19, 2014, 6:46 pm

    I’ve had that happen to me. I hang up pretty much immediately. If you call me and then put me on hold, you’re clearly playing a game. I don’t appreciate having my time wasted that way.

  • Moralia June 19, 2014, 11:05 pm

    I used to spend a fair amount of time in a Judge’s office and his secretary was very good at her job…when people would try that tactic, she’d give the, 30 seconds and hang up. When they called back incensed, she’d tell them she was terribly sorry, but “…you know how these old phone systems are!”. Ever so sweetly, and put them through to the judge. He knew what was up and backed her 100%. 🙂

    I learned a lot about dealing with difficult clients from watching her.

    • Tracy W June 20, 2014, 6:02 am

      What sort of idiot tries to play power games with a judge, or even worse a judge’s secretary?

      You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, You don’t spit into the wind, You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger, And you don’t mess around with judges’ secretaries.

      • NostalgicGal June 20, 2014, 8:47 pm

        The secretary, office manager, or receptionist, has a lot of power. Don’t mess with them. 🙂

  • JWH June 20, 2014, 5:15 am

    From the attorney’s side, it’s likely that he asked his receptionist to call and fully intended to speak with you, but was pulled away by another matter and didn’t get a chance to get back to his phone. That said, there’s nothing wrong with you hanging up while you’re on hold.

  • Enna June 21, 2014, 8:27 am

    Admin is spot on here. I am a recpetionist and sometimes the doctor has asked me to call a person or a consultant and then put the call though, then the doctor would not answer. This would annoy me as I had work to do myself and it would also make the surgery look bad. What I started doing is giving the doctor the number so the doctor can call at the doctor’s connivenace. I think lawyers should be able to use a telephone – why can’t they pick it up and dial the number? It acutally wastes more time and money getting someone else to do it and make the thrid person wait for ages.

  • SV June 22, 2014, 10:08 am

    I work in a busy veterinary practice. If someone calls me and then answers call waiting while I am on the line, I give them to the fast count of 20 to get back to me. That’s plenty of time to check and make sure it’s not an emergency and then say, ” I can’t talk. I’ll call you back. ” Then I hang up. I have lots to do and assuming I should wait while someone doesn’t prioritize talking to me is insulting.