Monday, April 23, 2007

Phone Etiquette

I've been mulling over this rant for nearly a month now. People need to learn some phone etiquette! And with the widespread use of cell phones now, the problem is worse than ever.

Let me start with regular phone behavior. When you are calling a business say who you are. Don't assume they'll recognize your voice. Maybe they do, maybe they don't, but if you are calling to find out what's on hold for you or when something you ordered is coming in, you might want to make sure they know who the heck you are. The store probably has more than just you as as customer. It always makes me nuts when people call and say something like, "Hi. What do you guys have on hold for me." Or, "Hi. I was told to give you a call." It is hard to help with these answers when I have no idea who you are. Good phone manners include introducing yourself when you call someone. If you are calling your family it might be different - they probably know your voice and saying who you are isn't necessary. But we don't have caller ID on the phones here at the store, so unless you have a distinctive voice or give me some kind of clue as to who you are, I probably have no idea who is calling. Is it so hard to say, "Hi, it's Stan?" It just drives me nuts when people call the store and assume I should know who they are.

Then there's the cell phones!! OMG!!! What is with people and these damned things?

Fellow comic blogger Heidi posted about cell phone abuse at the convention and gym recently on her blog, and I agreed with everything she said and then some.

You would not believe how many people I see drive up - on the cell phone. They park and get out of the car, still on the phone. Then they walk into the store, STILL on the phone. They wander around, looking at things here and there, but still on the phone. Maybe they flip through back issues or look at the comic book racks - but it seems like they're only paying any of it half of their full attention at most - because they're also ON THE PHONE. Then if they pick something out they bring it up and are still on the phone. I ring up the sale and try to tell them how much it is without interrupting their call. Then they struggle to get money out to pay for the purchase while keeping the phone on the side of their skull. Then they leave with the purchase and can't even say goodbye because they're still on the phone. They get back into the car and sit there for a few minutes, still on the phone. Eventually they drive away while continuing that same phone conversation.

Yes - this has happened!! It's rude to me as the store operator, because I feel like coming to the store is interrupting this important phone call. It's rude to other shoppers because they're being forced to hear one half of a conversation they couldn't care less about, and they feel like they can't talk to other people in the store because they don't want to disturb that phone conversation.

And you would not believe some of the conversations! I had a guy discussing some RPG scenarios they played with one of the characters being a nymphomaniac. I've had people talk about bad dates, about someone cheating on someone else... things that really aren't any of my business. And even if I try to ignore them, most of these one-sided conversations are loud, because we all seem to feel like we've got to shout into those dang things.

If you get a call while in the store, that's one thing. Or, if you are picking up something for someone else while you're here and want to make sure they didn't find it somewhere else, or to clarify what they are looking for - I guess I'll let that go too. Most polite people will answer their phone and step outside, coming back in once they're finished. Or, he or she will make the call and be quick about getting back off of it and into making a purchase.

But then there are those people that just make everyone else feel like they shouldn't be bothering them while they're on the phone - even though he or she was the one who walked into that business in the first place. Why not finish the call outside or tell the person you're going to run into the store quick to make a purchase and then call them back? I, for one, do not like talking on the phone in a store, and when I'm shopping I don't like listening to someone else on the phone. HOW did this kind of social behavior become acceptable?

You know, there was a time when we couldn't call and text each other every time we had a tidbit to share. We had to go home or to a pay phone and make a phone call to someone who also had to be home to answer it. It's TRUE! I SWEAR! I had my first cellular phone after I graduated from college - and we called them "car phones" because they were big bulky things that had to be plugged into the car's cigarette lighter for the power to work. They were for emergency use only! Now people call each other to say, "I'm bored. How about you?" or things even LESS important than that. The charges used to be around $.15 per minute plus a $30 monthly fee, with no "free nights and weekends" or "unlimited text messages" or "five friends free."

And conversations used to be private. I'd call my high school friends and close the door - I didn't want my sister or parents listening in. Now it's like people either want to be heard, or just don't care if anyone hears.

People can't leave them in the car either, even if they're not talking on them. God forbid we'd miss a phone call - I mean, it could be important, and not able to wait that 5 minutes I'll be inside the store. And really, I can't risk turning the phone to vibrate. My hip might mysteriously loose feeling and I'd miss the call. I MUST have that crazy ring on! After all, I paid extra to download that snappy tune anyway, people should WANT to hear it, so I'll make sure it's loud.

Sure, they're convenient. Sure, they're inexpensive - people are switching from land-line phones to cell phones all the time. Yes, it's nice to be able to get someone on the phone while they're not at home rather than having to wait until they finally get home. But do we have to be so discourteous about it?

Now, I'm not one of those people who want the government to ban the use of cell phones in the car. The government should mind it's own stinking business and not tell me what I can and can't do while inside the confines of my own vehicle. But, we should all have the good sense to realize that when you are focusing on a phone call and only using one hand to steer because the other is holding the phone, and you can't really turn your head fully while on the dang thing, that we are asking for someone to smack into our vehicles.

If you haven't melted your brain from the dangerous cell phone waves - then use that brain of yours and put the stinking cell phone down.

Cartoon taken from this link. Check it out - it's part of a larger strip.


James Meeley said...

HOW did this kind of social behavior become acceptable?

Oh, that's an easy one, lisa. It's when people like you stopped speaking up when people engaged in it. Now, they have come to just expect everyone to kow-tow to what they do and if someone should object, then they are seen as the problem.

Personally, I say you shouldn't "walk on eggshells" of those types. If they come into the shop, start a conversation with one of the other customers yourself. When they go to make their purchase, make sure to talk loud enough that you KNOW they heard you over the phone call. Or if they are really being annoying to you with their phone call, go up to them and tell them to take it outside and come back in when they are done.

The main reason people engage in such unacceptable behavior, is because we indulging them in it and don't speak up. We allow them to think they can do it. It's called "enabling" and it's not just for people with a drinking or drug abuse problem. ALL kinds of behaviors that are ill-mannered arise from us doing that. The only way to combat it, is to make it known to those who do so that it IS unacceptable.

Now, I'm not suggesting you go out of your way to be rude or anything, but simply take your stance and stand firm with it. Heck, maybe even post some signs in your shop that says "no talking on cell phones in the store." Who knows, you might start a trend. I recently saw a story on 20/20 about a business owner who asked a customer to not return, because she didn't keep her kids under control in his restraunt. While she didn't like it and made a small stink, he got letters and comments of praise from many others, who were happy someone was willing to take the stand on behalf of people who just wanted to eat a meal in peace.

Cell phone abuse in a retail store is really not any different. i'm sure the offenders will complain to you about it, but you can stay strong knowing that many more of your customers will probably appreciate you keeping the environment of your shop a please that is friendly for all people, not just cell phone abusers.

I don't know if any of this will help you in your feelings or choices in how to handle the matter, but I thought you'd appreciate the viewpoint of someone who knows where you are coming from.

Anonymous said...

AMEN!!! (Although, I disagree about the government banning cell phone use in vehicles. I think they should do it. There have been studies which show that the amount of distraction a driver deals with when talking on the phone is roughly equal to being legally intoxicated. Not necessarily because of the physical aspects of talking on the phone, but because of the mental aspects of being engrossed in a telephone conversation, while trying to manipulate a moving vehicle. Also, my views on government and politics generally are vastly different than yours or craig's, I believe, and we really shouldn't get into a whole political argument.) I agree with you, and Love your store!!! Alan V.

Lisa said...

James. You know, you are right. People accepting this behavior is part of why it continues. But I think we've all put up with it when we really should have spoken up. Be it at the gym or the post office or the comic book store. But I do think that the next time someone is particlularly obnoxious in the store while on the cell phone I'm going to go over and have a conversation.

Lisa said...

Yeah - we don't agree with each other on politics, but I like you anyway.