May 13, 2010

"Yeah, it's Joe."

Let's talk about how we answer the phone. Yes? Join me, won't you?

The title of this post is what prompted me to write it in the first place. I was sitting in my cube at work when I heard someone bustle past, on his way to the elevator. His cell phone rang (a bit too loudly for an office environment, I thought, but that's another blog post), he pressed the appropriate button and said: "Yeah, it's Joe."

Um. What?

I'm sorry -- when did a polite "Hello?" go out of fashion?

When I was growing up, our parents made us answer the phone thusly: "Hello, Mast's residence?" It quickly conveyed both a polite greeting and confirmation of who you had reached. And since our home phone number appeared next to the number for my parents' pharmacy in the phone book, it let potential customers know they'd dialed the wrong number. And, it didn't sound as though you'd possibly reached a seedy bar, unlike any greeting that begins with the word "Yeah."

I recently spoke to a co-worker about this. Her parents had taken it even further than mine: They were required to answer, "Hello, this is the {last name} residence. This is {first name} speaking. Who may I say is calling?"

Possibly a bit overboard, but still: I'd rather wait patiently for the 30 seconds it takes to say that than be greeted with, "Yeah, it's Joe."

Even just "Hello" is better than that. Growing up, my best friend P's mom had the absolute best "Hello?" greeting. I wish there was a way to adequately describe it in words. She's very soft-spoken, and the "Hello" was almost a whisper. And it was very gentle, almost as if she were saying hello to a tiny baby.

I blame Caller ID, largely, for the abandonment of traditional phone greetings. If I see who's calling and it's someone I know, I can simply answer with, "Hi, Mom! How's it going?" or "What's up??" or, as was the case this weekend, "You are an ass." (The latter was after my brother played a mean trick on me. He knows he's an ass.)

Perhaps if "Joe" had known his caller, "Yeah, it's Joe" would possibly be an acceptable greeting. But, based on the conversation that followed (which I also eavesdropped on, of course), he didn't. Another friend of mine routinely answers his phone by saying, "What?" whether he knows the person or not.

Why the loss of basic politeness? Is it because we don't really talk on the phone much anymore (except for work and when dealing with telemarketers), choosing instead to text and e-mail and Facebook and Twitter where actual greetings are unnecessary? And, if so, is that a bad thing or a good thing?

I have no idea. But if someone ever greets my call with "Yeah, it's Joe," the last thing Joe will hear is a big fat CLICK before I lose his number.

5 backtalk:

Wendy said...

My mom had the BEST phone voice. It was all sticky sweet. We used to poke fun because she would be yelling at one of us one minute, then the phone would ring and she'd turn on the sweet.

I blame caller ID for this lack of politeness. I don't have caller ID on my office phone, and I answer the phone so much more nicely.

I've been having an issue of people not saying goodbye to me on the phone. I want a goodbye, I need a goodbye! Or at least a quick "c-ya!" before the phone slaps shut. Sad face for me.

Metacognitive Musings said...

Yep, I blame caller ID. Not only has it changed the way people answered the phone but it's changed the way people identify themselves. I have had people act annoyed if I didn't know it was them on the other side of the line.

Sarah W said...

LOL... "What?"... that's hilarious! I would hate it if I were on the other end of the line, but man, that's funny.

If the number is one I don't recognize, I say "Hello, this is Sarah," otherwise, I do like you do... "Hey Mom" or "This is your seeeester" (to my brother).

And really, what is with the no goodbye hangups? This is a recent phenomenon I think... and I don't like it. Just something to say "OK, we're done talking" is necessary.

Dri said...

I stick with a simple, "Hello" on my cell phone. Even if it's my hubby.

At work, "Good morning/afternoon, this is Andrea. Can I help you?" (Generally the people calling me are candidates wanting to schedule interviews for jobs.)

And, yes, PLEASE say goodbye to me. But don't drag it out. "Thanks for calling. We'll talk later. Okay. Have a good day. Yup. Goodbye. Bye." A simple "bye" or "see you later" will suffice.

Amber said...

When I was in 7th or 8th grade, our English teacher went around the room asking the proper way to refer to yourself on the phone:

Yes, this is she/he.
Yes, this is her/him.

The teacher kept going up and down the rows so everyone got confused, thinking neither of those was right.

Finally, a boy said, "I'm not here". Cracked us up!

That's all I got.

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