I was raised to follow certain immutable rules of telephone etiquette. When you answered the phone, you identified yourself. If the caller wanted to speak to someone else, you used phrases like “May I ask who’s calling?” and covered the mouthpiece when you called for your sister to come to the phone. And you never, ever, just hung up on anyone, because that was the height of rudeness.
Do different rules of polite behavior apply to telephone solicitation calls?
When Kish and I got rid of our land-line phone years ago — one of the best decisions we ever made, incidentally — we ended the scourge of solicitation calls at home, but I still get them at work. And, I still apply the same rules of telephone etiquette to those irritating sales calls. I just can’t help it, because the old training is too engrained. I’ve gotten better, because I can at least bring myself to hang up on the recorded calls about google advertising. But when a live person calls, I struggle to find a courteous way to tell them I’m not interested and end the conversation. I also feel sorry for telephone solicitors because it’s got to be one of the worst jobs ever, so I try to at least listen to the appeal and then politely decline.
Last week I answered the phone and there was a pause before the other person got on the line. I got a sinking feeling, because that happens on calls from boiler rooms where solicitors are calling several numbers at once and will get on the line only when someone answers. Sure enough, it was a woman who was trying to get us to go to New York to listen to a time-share presentation and who called me “Robert” in every sentence. I don’t like being called Robert, so that put my teeth to grinding. Even worse, all of my attempts to speed up the pitch — “I’m sorry, but I’m very busy. What is it you want?” — were ignored, and the woman kept asking annoying, personal questions like “where do you like to go when you travel?” When she finally got to the point and I said no, thanks, she responded: “What’s holding you back, Robert?”
Arrgh! My blood pressure rose, and I said “Sorry, not interested” and ended the call. I felt guilty for hanging up — but I also was mad at myself for not hanging up when the caller first ignored my appeal for her to get to the point. So I ask again: does etiquette permit you to hang up on a telephone solicitor? If so, when?