"Your desk telephone renders such an intimate, personal service that to share it means to destroy something of its usefulness."
advice, telephones, manuals, retronaut
Ugh, without reading the article, this just reminds me how my firm just spent hundredes of thousands on hiring a consulting firm to help us improve our client standards. One of their big, fancy, *expensive* conclusions? Calls must be answered in three rings. Duh-DOY. You could have given me a bonus of $50 and I could have given you the saaaaaame results.
I was interested by the advice to say "Good-bye" upon the end of a call. On Mad Men they're often not saying goodbye at the end of a phone call which I really love and find stylish and would love to adopt. So I assumed goodbye was a more recent thing.
Semirelatedly, "Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator" is a great movie about a switchboard operator.
@Ellie TV/movie characters almost never say "goodbye" at the end of phone conversations (it's one of those things that, once you're aware of it, you start noticing every time you watch something). since the conversation is just for the viewers' benefit, there's no reason to waste valuable screentime on "well, that's it--talk to you later. have a good weekend!" "yeah, you too" etc. so I suspect that's prally the reason, not stylish 1960s-ish trends.
but once you realize how ubiquitous this is, it becomes kind of hilarious to envision a world in which you can say "I'm not going to the party & that's that," hang up on the person," & not have them call back all, "uh...were you done talking? I think we got disconnected."
@Ellie It's extremely rare for an actor "on the phone" in a scene to say goodbye. I found that out a few years ago and now keep by eyes open for it, and I'm not sure I've ever heard it on television.
@nonvolleyball Comment twins!
@nonvolleyball Yes! I started noticing it with Dexter, and then couldn't stop noticing it in every show I watched after that.
I wonder if it's the kind of thing that will make future people thing "so people from the 2000s never said goodbye on phones? Interesting, times were so different then..."
@SarahP It comes off as awkward and hilarious when they do, though. You're just sitting there watching them prattle. "Good-bye!" "Yes, good-bye. See you later. Maybe call me later." "Okay, if I have time. 'bye."
@nonvolleyball The first time I noticed a character not saying goodbye, it was Emperor Palpatine on the communicator. I spent years thinking it must be so badass to be so powerful you didn't even need to use manners before realizing it was a widespread tv/movie phenomenon.
@Springtime for Voldemort (formerly papayalily) ha, and if there was ever an argument for phone etiquette, "don't be like Palpatine" is certainly compelling.
I think there is a supercut somewhere of people not saying goodbye on the phone. But I was working at work all day and now haven't the energy to find it for you guys. Life!
@wharrgarbl I agree - this is the exception to the rule. When it's a comedy and they're trying to create a moment of hilarious awkwardness, THEN they can't get off the phone without saying "Bye!" like 10 times.
Teddy Roosevelt is so befuddled by that phone book.
I have to share a phone at my office and I fucking hate it, particularly because my officemate now seems to think I'm his secretary. If I'm in the out of the room and he sees that the caller ID is someone for me, he usually just screams for me who it is without picking up. Meanwhile his wife calls several times a week because his cell is never on and I'm the one who has to answer and hand him the phone. Just pick up the damn phone, dude. All of them.
@KatnotCat You do not have to answer and hand him the phone! I mean, unless the phone is just in front of you and not him. You can just not pick up if you know it's not for you. Power!
@Lily Rowan I often do, but there are like 3 voicemails from his wife from times I did that and he did nothing. I shall steel myself in the future though.
@KatnotCat Yeah, that's on him.
"She's a busy girl"
@New Hoarder Hah, beat me to it. I was just about to come in here and leave that same comment...
@Scandyhoovian She's a third-grader with a lot of extracurriculars so don't f*** around with her time.
The mention of a "party line" makes me smile. Pillow Talk!
I like the "Those Who Call in Error" card. Golden Rule, y'all.
@New Hoarder Yes! I'd even be happy if we could all agree to at least grunt "Wrong number" before hanging up. The last time I called a wrong number, the lady answering the phone just hung up without a word. Since she hadn't said anything, I called back. She hung up again. (This went on for awhile) (I do not feel guilty)
@New Hoarder I wanted one that goes the other way. You wouldn't believe how many people call my workplace in error and then are rude to the innocent person who answers the phone. Including the guy who called twice trying to reach an entirely different company (that isn't even related to our field) and then berated my coworker for being a "rude New Yorker" because she couldn't connect him to a company she didn't work for.
@bitchycrosstownexpress YES. I am sick of being berated for YOUR mistake!
@TheLetterL I used to get a lot of wrong numbers on one of my old landlines because it was one digit off from the Target, and I always appreciated when people would give me the courtesy of apologizing for dialing the wrong number.
Now I get a lot of wrong numbers on my cell phone because three of the last four digits are zeroes, so it's probably close to some business numbers. I stopped answering unknown numbers because I got so many hangups, but I still get lots of hangup voicemails.
@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) I definitely get very apologetic when I realize I've called a wrong number, even if the person is kind of a jerk about it.
Re-reading what I wrote above, I want to be clear I kept calling out of confusion, not malicious intent. On the other hand, another time I realized I had misdialed a number and ended the call. I thought I ended it before the first ring. It apparently went through, because I got a verrrrry nasty call back a few minutes later from a stranger that opened along the lines of "Did you want something? Somebody called me from this number." To hell with him, I thought, and assured the man that no one had been trying to call him.
@bitchycrosstownexpress Seriously! The correct response to "Sorry, wrong number" is not to repeat who you were trying to call a couple more times, only louder. I am not hiding a limo rental company from you, and saying "LIMO RENTALS" three times will not make it appear. Limo rental companies are not Beetlejuice. Hang up and go away.
(This comment may reveal the kind of wrong numbers I've been getting lately. WHY? MYSTERY LIMO COMPANY, CHECK YOUR ADS.)
@Elsajeni Maybe they thought they were talking to Siri.
One time when someone misdialed me and I told them I wasn't Target, they accused me of lying.
@bitchycrosstownexpress I once had an old couple keep calling my phone - we're talking 10 calls in one day - and refused to believe that no matter how many times they called this number, no matter how many times I explained that there was no Marco at this number, they could not eventually talk to Marco if they didn't just keep trying. The best part was when they tried to explain to me that maybe this WAS actually my number, but as we all know it's so common for hackers to just hack into people's phones and use other people's phone numbers for their own personal use, so that was what was probably going on here and eventually Marco the Hacker would eventually pick up.
(It eventually turned out they had confused a 3 with a 7).
@Springtime for Voldemort (formerly papayalily) That's ridiculous! Maybe you should have just started yelling, "POLO!" in response to everything they said.
@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) OMG, I totally should have!
@Springtime for Voldemort (formerly papayalily) I really want to make up lyrics to "Springtime for Voldemort" but sadly, I don't know enough about Harry Potter to do so. I'll just pretend I did and it was funny! Oh, I'm so hilarious.
@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) I've actually been trying to do that myself, and totally failed. So far I've got "Springtime, for Voldemort, and... The Wizarding World? and, The Death Eaters? WW/DE are happy and gay?? Winter for Muggles and Muggle-borns... Don't be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Death Eater Party." Voldy doesn't really have any kind of Homeland the same way Hitler does, and linguistically, his "master race" and homeboys don't sound quite as smooth and lyrical. So, it's an ongoing process. But I got Harry, A History yesterday, so hopefully I'll get some inspiration from fandom.
@Springtime for Voldemort (formerly papayalily) I'll help you out whenever I get around to watching the movies and/or reading the books. ;)
This one is cute! http://www.retronaut.co/2012/02/how-to-make-friends-by-telephone-c-1940s/ "How often you meet folks whose voices delight you!"
"In one year there were 12,121 cases of receiver left off the hook in one city." Well this is definitely the strangest statistic I've read in a while.
@MissHalfway I hope they're still keeping track of these atrocious infractions.
@MissHalfway Statistics on the butt-dialings and dropping-your-phone-in-the-toilets of an earlier time.
Courtesy is the oil that lubricates the wheels of business.
@Veronica Mars is smarter than me That was my favorite line, too.
Guys, a little old lady named Mimi has been dialing the wrong number and leaving messages on my answering machine for a Doreen. Last week, she asked Doreen to bring her deodorant and toothpaste. Yesterday, she called and was offering congrats and good luck to someone in Doreen's family. She repeated her call back number three times. I was home when she called and the caller ID showed it was a hospice care in Coney Island. Her voice was so sweet and tiny, I was debating calling her back to tell her she wasn't reaching Doreen. Problem was solved when she called again that evening and I told her she had the wrong number. Sigh... anyone want to go visit Mimi at Coney Island Hospice with some toothpaste? :(
@maevemealone That is just...so damn sad. Oh my god.
@Nocs Agreed. Oh man.
@maevemealone That's the saddest. She probably doesn't remember Doreen's number.
Doreen might even be dead.
Man, I really shouldn't have lived in the same house as my Grandfather growing up because I know way too much about what getting old is like.
@TARDIStime Yeah... the whole thing has been twisting my heart into knots. I figured the first call was Mimi checking into the hospice. It seems she has some contact with Doreen in between calls since she's responding to news or visits. Her voice just kills me, a tiny little New York accent, and that struggle to hang up the phone again. I still think about maybe visiting her, she seems so nice. And hospice... blurgh.
@maevemealone Maybe call the hospice switchboard and let reception know about it? Then the next time Doreen comes in they can let her know that these calls are coming to someone who is not her.
I'm sure Doreen would actually love to get these calls herself if she's still having contact with Mimi in between calls as seems to be the case here.
My little heart, it breaks! I hope it's at least a nice hospice (they are out there!), that was not like my grandfather's.
Concentrate while telephoning? Dang it, I had grown accustomed to having a cigar in the corner of my mouth while telephoning people at work.
my pet peeves with the phone are related: when i call a business, and the person answering says "hello?", or if they don't tell me their name. i should not feel stupid for confirming i've dialed the right number and not recognising your voice. "Hi, this is _company_, _name_ speaking" is all I ask.
Which bring me to memories of being a kid and having to answer the phone like that at home. "hi, B residence, this is Karen". Ugh, Daaaaad.
@karenb I don't give my name when I answer the phone at work, just because my first name combined with the company name makes quite a tongue twister. I figure it's more important that they know they called the right company.
Erm, silly question - if you press 0 do you still get an operator? Does that job still exist? Am I dating myself?
@sprayfaint You do at the university I work at. I think you have to go through a menu before you get a person though (but you can get a person eventually through the menu).
My aunt says that when you call those lines where a computer interprets your voice commands, if you say "Help" enough times it will give you a person. I've done this at least once before and it worked. (I despise those systems mainly because I have a really difficult to understand phone voice so have to repeat everything eight thousand times.)
@sprayfaint a lot of automated menus take you to customer service if you press zero or yell "customer service!" or "REPRESENTATIVE!!" enough times. this is true of insurance companies, at least.
@fuck fuck fuck Also if you yell "fuck fuck fuck" as it turns out.
@fuck fuck fuck I hate it when my bank keeps trying to get me to say stuff like "balances" or "make a transfer", and then when I just say "representative" over and over, says "I'm sorry, I'm afraid I didn't catch that". It's a cycle we repeat for 5 minutes before the robotguy finally gives up and sends me to the representative I asked for in the first place.
I also request that people ask, "is it a good time to talk?" if they're calling my desk with more than a quick question. Sometimes I can't afford to hear the long version of how your weekend was, as much as I'd probably rather talk to you than do my work or pay attention to whoever is standing at my desk!
For some reason, phone calls for other people in the organisation I work for always come to my office (default when people aren't entering the extension number, or just something gone wrong somewhere?) and my manager and I are constantly having to transfer calls elsewhere. It is extremely irritating. Especially when nobody knows the surname of the person they want to speak to, as we have quite a few shared first names among the staff. I feel for the switchboard operator.
@Verity You just described my day-to-day life at work.
Thanks for sharing this so interesting post! I really want to be thankful for the way you have putted it here
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