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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Phone Etiquette in Vermont

Ever since I've moved to this town, I've noticed that virtually all except those I've conveyed the following sentiment to who call me on the phone employ the most miserable phone etiquette I've encountered in the many states and provinces I'ved lived in.

When I was a child, I lived on the Upper West Side in a communal situation that had three women (including my mother) under 30.  It being NYC and Ma Bell being the only game in town, it was standard practice for women to only give their first initial and last name when listed in the phone book.

In every other place in the land, when I received an unsolicited call (and especially when it was in fact solicited), it is common practice to announce (i) who is calling, (ii) who they are representing (if applicable), (iii) the nature of the call, and then ask if that person is available.  Typically, the receiver--if the intended recipient--would respond with "speaking" or "this is s/he".  You learn this if you ever worked in a phone bank or was an assistant to a major publishing house (Oxford University Press a lifetime ago).  The recipient is placed at ease, knowing who they're talking to, and everything should go as swimmingly as possible after that.

From Town Hall to the hospital to just about everyone in this state, the first thing out of someone's mouth is "Is this Holland Mills"?  (This came up today, but having realized I published my number on this site twice, I simply asked who was calling before self-identifying.)  However--especially if the tone is hostile, as was the case a year ago with the wife a Very Special Member of the Selectboard called--I typically retort quite bruisingly that the caller needs to learn phone etiquette.  I may or may not hang up depending on my mood.

I do not understand the mentality of someone calling a number and demanding information up front without giving some first.  It's at best self-centered behavior. 

(I admit there are a small number of exceptions; I ordered a supplement from a women's health center, and had something of a stand-off as the nature of their business can be quite sensitive so they want to know they're speaking to the person involved.  I can't think of another exception.)

Please, if you recognize this behavior in yourself, kindly fix it.

Thanks for reading.


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Brutish savages

Yes, Vermonters, please change your impudent, barn-bred local behavior to meet other people's expectations of etiquette.



"your impudent, barn-bred local behavior"...

This made me smile. Thanks.


I guess I'm still not a Vermonter after 10+ years

more than 1/5th of my life here.

Thanks for attributing so many things I never said, implied or presumed in my post, Maus. That's a ratio that will be hard to break.

And many thanks for not addressing the core argument I present, particularly as it covers the U.S. and Canada. You call me that way, I call you out. Way of the world. I'ld expect nothing less from you.

You may now continue to "bam-bred" (apologies for not researching the term first, but you seem anxious to get to it). Sorry for the interruption.


it's good

that those that made calls featuring nothing but heavy breathing and persistence in calling have their defenders.

What a wonderful world we live in.


has it right except

Actually Mills has it quite right except for the Vermont implication. Manners, etiquette and such things, which essentially amount to simple expressions of respect, have little use in American culture anywhere in the country. Vermont is unexpceptional. (It may be the same everywhere in the world. I'm not much of a traveller). To be sure, I don't hold myself up as an example of how it ought to be. I may not be as bad as the worst offenders but only in these last few years have I been making any effort at all to be polite.
I'd like to add, however, that even worse than what Mills describes above is cell phone behavior. It seems that once a person puts a cell phone in their pocket it takes precedence over anyone and everything. It appears to be the norm now that if a cellphone should ring on the person with whom one may be speaking they will stop in mid-sentence and turn their attention away. I very rarely even hear a person bother to excuse themselves. On the occasional incident that I may point out rudeness the answer is always that they are expecting an important call.
Extending this out further….it will not be long before one can literally enslave another by taking away their iphone. With all knowledge in the cloud and little in a persons head they are helpless without that connection. The inability to be comfortable in face-to-face situations will make it very easy to be dominated.


nope, I had it right without your exception

This is something that bothered me immediately upon returning to Vermont.

The behavior is not prevalent in Western Massachusetts, nor Ontario, British Columbia, the Albany area, the Manhattan area, the Boston area, the New Orleans area, the Orange County area, ad nauseum. I stated that plainly in my initial post.

You want to rant about cellphones, make your own op-ed piece. I've experienced what you tangent on and sympathize, but that was not my point.


I lived in Boston for 40

I lived in Boston for 40 years before moving to Vermont and I can assure you that the same kind of phone behavior (or lack thereof) is very prevalent in all areas of Massachusetts. My telephone dealings since moving here 7 years ago have been - for the most part- polite, articulate and professional. Of course there are always a few exceptions but generally I found much more of the behavior you talk about in your initial post when I lived in Massachusetts. Rudeness and unprofessional behavior exists everywhere, unfortunately.


I lived/put in career-service in Watertown MA for 6 years

from August 1992-February 1998. All that time I worked as a work-at-home IT consultant, meeting once a month over lunch for paychecks and check-in, plus the usually flurries of requirements meetings with and deliveries to the actual client. All of the calls--which were landline--fit the protocol I laid out. No junior-developer-of-a-potential-client called me up and demanded to know if I was so-and-so as their opening line.

Which just goes to show that one's life experiences are statistically insignificant.

Rudeness and unprofessional behavior exists everywhere, unfortunately. I second that emotion.


Ahh, phones...

If I was working, I was always told to answer somewhat like, "Hello, Jean's ice Cream Shoppe, Chris speaking, how may I help you?" If I initiated the call, it was to go something like "Hi, this is Chris from Jean's Ice Cream Shoppe, is John Smith there?" If asked, I'd explain that I was calling about the special order of Rocky Road, or whatever.

If I don't recognize a name or number and it is on personal time, I'll let the machine get it. That's what the machine is for.

When I do pick up and someone says "Is this Chris" and I don't know them, I might respond "who's calling?"

If someone calls and asks for me via a badly mispronounced name, I assume they don't know me and might say that the person they are looking for is not at this number.

I don't really like the phone much. You can't see the body language of who you are talking with. I really dislike talking to people calling via cell phone. They are almost always distracted and the call frequently breaks up. I have no idea if they are paying any attention at all to what I'm saying, and often can't understand them. There's also no need for one when everyone else has them.

I don't see the phone ringing as any obligation on my part to interact with it. It's my choice as to whether pick it up when it rings, or wait until later to deal with the call.

That said, running the web business and iBrattleboro means using the phone for business and answering questions from people that might know of me but I don't know them (yet). So, I break my rules sometimes and gamble that a local 802 number probably is work-related.



cgrotke wrote> "I'd explain that I was calling about the special order of Rocky Road..."

That particular courtesy was discarded a few years back. If the person you were calling was planning a surprise birthday party, you could be spoiling the surprise. I would guess that this "not too much information" approach started with video stores calling a customer, getting Mrs. Smith, and and leaving a message for Mr. Smith that he was late in returning "Big Breasted Bad Bimbos Bop Beautifully" (or something similar, although perhaps a little more explicit).





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