Lessons in Phone Etiquette

(Editor’s Note:  This was originally a series of posts on Facebook, one lesson at a time, after each incident happened.  It has been edited together for your enjoyment and additional complaining has been added.)

Phones.  Everyone, it would seem, has one.  People have phones who don’t have cars.  People have phones who don’t have homes.  It seems that every single person you run into has some sort of device for communicating with people who are not within shouting distance.  You would think that such a proliferation would result in proper usage but alas, as many folks who own phones have no CLUE how to use them.

Complaining?  Yes.  I am.  See I have spent a good deal of time on the phone.  More than most.  I get a lot of phone calls.  And not only do I talk on the phone as part of my current job (now in our 14th year of phone answering!) but I have actually answered the phone more than most at my previous place of employment as  part of the great activity known as Customer Service.  Heck at one time I even called people for a living!  So I think I am qualified to say that the average person has no clue how to use a phone properly and with respect for other people.  So as a primer for those who need it (and you know who you are) and for those who don’t (actually you probably do) but would like to pass it on to their friends who need it, I have compiled a few Lessons in Phone Etiquette just for you.

Lessons in Phone Etiquette #1:  How to not get people to hang up on you.

If you, as a caller, really would like to talk to me, and do not want me to immediately hang up on you, do not call me, say “Hello” and then say “Hold on a second” and proceed to have a conversation with someone else for 5 minutes while I wait (im)patiently for you to finish that conversation. If you are talking to someone else, have some manners and don’t make a phone call to someone else.  In the McDonald’s drive thru or while in line at the bank or whatever.  Don’t, dude.  Finish what you are doing and THEN call someone. It’s called common courtesy, and our country, nay the world, is severely lacking in it these days. A lot of the world’s problems, and individuals as well, could be solved by remembering your manners.

Lessons in Phone Etiquette #2- Pay a Little Bit of Attention please.

When you make a phone call to someone, listen to them. I answer my phone with “Michael Driver” almost every time I answer it. Yes it’s stupid but I am giving you my name so you know who you are talking to. It’s the whole manners thing again.

Now, how many times a day do I hear this: “is this Michael Driver?” At least once a day.
[ring ring]
I answer: “Michael Driver”
They say “Is this Michael Driver?” or they say “Who is this?” or “Can I speak to Michael please?”

We use to answer the phone at Crunchy Music Stuff with “Crunchy Music- Open til 8” and people would immediately ask “Hey what time do you close?”

You paid for the phone and your paying for the minutes each month. Let’s make that phone call shorter by paying attention, shall we?

 Lessons in phone etiquette #3- Leave your phone number.

I’m calling these lessons so that you don’t think I’m just complaining about stupidity. I’m trying to educate as well as entertain. This lesson is all about leaving a message. I know this seems like a gimme but you’d be surprised how many people have no idea how to do this. It’s simple, really. Leave your phone number.

Leave your phone number.

I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten a 5 minute message with someone’s life story, telling me all about how somebody’s got this going on with that and their son is moving to this thing and they got the gout or some other medical affliction and they need a place to do their thing with their nephew and niece who’ve got to move in with them cause of their stuff and whatever and they want me to call them back AS SOON AS I CAN! But they spent so much time telling me all their details they forgot the most important one. Their phone number. Sometimes Caller ID doesn’t work, or your phone number is blocked or whatever. ALWAYS leave your phone number. Sometimes I can go back thru my phone log and match the time you called with the time of the message but that takes time and what if I can’t figure it out? I might be taking my eyes off the road to do this, endangering lives. Heck, leave it twice. Especially if you talk fast (guilty as charged).

And of course, I know since I didn’t call you back you’re grumbling to your friends about how I didn’t return your phone call and how I must suck. Forgetting that you didn’t bother to leave it for me.

Telling me who you are helps, but telling me your phone number is essential.

 

Lessons in Phone Etiquette #4- How to leave a Message

How many times do I get a message to this effect:

“yes this is so and so I am calling about the home you have for rent on such and such road. I would like to know how old the house is, how many window shades it has, and where the main shut off for the water heater is because my son, see, he had a water heater blow up on his wife’s sisters robot and it caused all sorts of rusty water to leak from his under carriage and when he took the robot in for repair, the repairman told him that his cousin had a place there close to yours where the deck was falling off and since they don’t make decks like they used to I would love a fully installed diamond deck so that it does not rot off when I use my hypersonic blaster to deep fry my turkey I got from Pakistan cause they got the best turkeys with golden wing spans and electric boogaloo boots and them boots are worth a ton of cash if you wanted to sell them on the black market where you can get so much stuff and my father in law got a full scale replica of the USS Tuscon made out of Pez and that pez was so tasty we ate the whole thing and now I have to get my colon blown out when my doctor told me about it and he says his car has more than 1 engine and if he wants to fly he totally can with his streamlined jet pack he got on ebay. So gimme a call back and let me know.”

Ok lookit. I know you got a life story. It’s probably pretty good.  Heck it may be the basis of a lifetime movie next year. That’s awesome.

Shut up already.

If you have questions, sure, I would love to hear them. But take into consideration other people’s time- other people are just as busy as you are and we don’t need to hear the basis of your questions. We just need the questions. Or whatever. Also take into consideration that most folks are checking their messages by calling on their phone so if we have to listen to a 10 minute diatribe about your life, we’re using our valuable cel phone minutes. Don’t be selfish.  Your life story is not interesting to anyone except you.  If I ask for your life story, then by all means give it to me.  Otherwise, as the saying goes, “just the facts, ma’am.”

Messages should be short and sweet so when I am calling in to get said message, it has what you want and how to get in touch with you. So when I have the time and am not swamped with stupidity I can call you back and focus on you and your needs. “Hi this is so and so and I am calling about such and such. I have some questions about it. My number is blah blah blah. Thanks!” That’s all we need really.

Lessons in Phone Etiquette #5- Whom Should You Trust? No One.

Many many times I get messages with very very important information in them. Time Sensitive, important information.

“Hey this is Blabba Blah with So and So and you need to be at Such and Such at EXACTLY 4.38pm Thursday to meet the Plumber/HVAC Tech/Home Inspector/Pterydactyl/Robot Wrangler/WhatHaveYou and whatever you do, do NOT forget to bring a box of #3 NOT #2 pencils sharpened to a point and they MUST be purple! It is absolutely ESSENTIAL that they be purple or the vampire will explode into shiny particles and we will NOT have any crescent wrenches! DO NOT FORGET!”

Ok so what if I delete this message by mistake? Often I am driving down the road at 60 miles an hour in a 35 late to an appointment and I have not only got to keep my eyes on the road but I have big ol fingers. Beep!  Oooops. Gone. Or the message somehow doesn’t get delivered. Server crash somewhere or computer glitch. Now not only do I forget the purple pencils but the Vampire will explode! OH THE HORROR!

Do not trust a collection of magnetic particles on some hard drive somewhere with your valuable information. Don’t do it. Remember, messages should be short and sweet (see Lesson #4) and just mention how urgent it is. I will call you back when I have a pen in my hand or some way to record/remember/write down/type/scrawl the important info. I keep an Emergency Analog Recording Device (EARD) (i.e. a little notebook) to write stuff down just in case.

PS- remember when you had roommates and phones without caller ID and voicemail? And you would answer the phone “Hello?” and the person would just start rattling off details about your roommate and what he was supposed to do (see above) and didn’t even ask if you would take a message? If this situation ever comes up, and you’re on the receiving end, just yell “Oh my god! There’s a COP RUNNING THRU MY YARD WITH A GUN!” and drop the phone. That’ll teach em. If you are the person who wants to leave a message, the conversation should go like this: “hello?” “yes is roomie there?” “No he’s not here right now.” “Oh ok. Can I leave a message for him/her?” This way, the person nice enough to answer the phone can actually grab a pen and paper. Perhaps their hands are full of cookie dough or they just got out of the shower and they’re standing there dripping. Common courtesy again. And your message should be “Tell them to call me at blahblahblah-blahblahblahblah it’s very important.” Don’t trust a roommate to get the details. If you rattle off a looooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnngggggggg ass message, trust me. The person will leave a note for Roomie that says “Call Doofus- he said it’s important.” So that’s all YOU need to tell them.

Lessons in Phone Etiquette #6- More Message Stupidity

Ok so you need to speak to me. Apparently it’s urgent. So you call me but you get my voice mail. So instead of leaving a message like a normal person, you hang up and call me right back. Again you get my voice mail. Angrily you hang up and call me again. Third time, you get voice mail. Your problem is extremely urgent, and you have to talk to me RIGHT NOW so you call again. Voice mail. Again. Voice mail. Finally you call one last time and leave a message. “I need to talk to you RIGHT NOW! Call me!”

This is what is happening on my end.

I’m with a client. We’re about to make an offer a home. It is probably the most important monetary decision they will make in their lifetime. This is huge to them. Maybe it’s their first time buying a home. They’re nervous and have a lot of questions. And I am holding their hand trying to make sure they understand the stack of contracts I have laid in front of them. And then my phone rings because I forgot to put it on vibrate. I send it to voice mail. Then put it on vibrate and go back to focusing on them. Then the phone buzzes cause you HAVE to get in touch with me. I send it to voice mail. Then I excuse myself and go to my office from the conference room and put the phone on my desk so it can buzz away. Knowing that tho my wife might call with an emergency, you are TOO STUPID and RUDE to leave a message or TEXT me. And I go back to my clients to Focus on their needs. Because YOU would want me to do the same for YOU if you were sitting in front of me.

Or maybe, just maybe, you’re calling while I am attempting to talk to my wife or hang with my child. Or maybe I JUST NEED A BREAK for 5 minutes. Having to go to voice mail won’t kill you- I will check it when I get a second. I also get a text message of your voice mail, so I can glance down and see what the fuss is all about. But if you call 5 or 6 times, I will not only continue to send you to voice mail, I will be less likely to not be rude. I may just get angry and very well answer the phone “THIS BETTER BE FREAKING GOOD!” or “YOU BETTER BE ON FIRE, JERK!” I’m not dodging your call- I may very well be having a life.

And of course, your problem is probably not that you are on fire or have a massive water leak or you’re lying in a ditch with a bullet wound. You just want to know if a property is still available to rent or some such nonsense. Is it really important enough for you to not leave a voice mail message or send a text? The world does not revolve around you- try being a little less selfish and a little more concerned about other people.

In reality I’m usually too busy twirling my Snidely Whiplash and rolling around on a huge pile of cash to answer the phone.

Lessons in Phone Etiquette #7- when to call.

So you suddenly remember you need to call someone and tell them something important. Perhaps it is something about a meeting tomorrow. Maybe it is a bit of juicy gossip and it’s burning your brain. OHHHHH this is such good stuff! I HAVE TO TELL THIS PERSON! I MUST CALL THEM!

So you call them. Without thinking about what time of day it is. Perhaps it is 11pm and that person is asleep. Or watching a movie. Or even reading a book. Or spending time with a loved one. Whatever they are doing, you are about to interrupt what that is by calling them. AT ELEVEN AT NIGHT!

What the hell is wrong with you? Seriously? It’s 11pm. Don’t call. At best if you know that person’s sleep schedule sure. If they’ve called you at 11pm (for something besides a booty call) then sure go right ahead. But if you call me at 11pm you had better be bleeding/on fire/covered in zombie guts/my mom. Cause my mom has no sense of time since she retired and she’ll literally call at like 10.30 having just eaten dinner. Whereas my father usually calls around 6 am.

I know what your argument is, and I’m going to step on your argument’s neck right now. “If you don’t want people calling after certain hours turn your phone off.” Listen. Very. Carefully. The world does not revolve around you.

Yes, I said it. The world does not turn on your schedule. Just because my phone is on doesn’t give you the right to call it. Think about it carefully- it is not only disrespectful to the person you are calling but downright rude. Maybe the person you are calling forgot to turn off their phone and fell asleep watching New Girl after a very hard day and was having a wonderful dream about cupcakes and fluffy kitties and then your rude ass calls thinking you could just leave a message cause their phone is off.

Dude, common courtesy dictates 8am to 9pm at the earliest and latest. You don’t know how many phone calls I get after 9 for people calling for more information about a house for rent. Seriously? “Oh I thought I would get voicemail.” YOU DIDN’T THINK AT ALL!

Unless it is established that it is ok to call someone late in the evening or early in the morning, have some respect for your fellow traveler thru life and don’t call them at a ridiculous hour. And that goes for texting too. It’s unprofessional, disrespectful and downright rude.

Some final thoughts on Phone Etiquette-

1) If I call you and I get the “I’m sorry, but the person you have called has a voice mailbox that has not been set up yet” message, you can be dang sure I am hanging up.  And I am NOT going to continue to call you. Maybe your friends can call back 20 more times until they get you on the phone but I have a life. Take 2 minutes and set up your voice mail.

2) I know people who don’t leave messages. Seriously. Don’t think for a second that I have time to scroll thru all of my missed calls to see who I need to call back. I get a whole metric _____ Ton of calls during the day and I call back the people who leave messages.

3) There are folks who actually think “it’s too late to call so I will just text him! Surely that isn’t as inconvenient or intrusive as calling!” and those people are wrong. If it’s too late to call, it’s too late to text. If I was 20 and heading out to the club, sure. Knock yourself out. But consider your audience for a second before you send that text that could jolt someone out of a really great dream about turquoise house cats.

Thanks for tuning in.  Perhaps some folks have learned something about how to use a phone.  Perhaps you can pass on this info to some folks who are clueless and really need it.  Perhaps one day, working as a team, we can make a difference in the lives of millions, nay billions, of phone owners around the world.

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