Mr. Telephone Man: The new phone etiquette

Hello! Today, we’d like to discuss telephone etiquette. Who actually calls anyone these days, right? Which is why we feel a little refresher course is in order.

No calls after 10 p.m.

Recently, a reader told us the harrowing tale of 1:30 a.m. call from a hammered merrymaking friend. During the work week. No, it was not, as she worried, an emergency, which we both agreed is the only time adult humans should call one another at 1:30 a.m. Otherwise, consider the “cutoff” 10 p.m. for the childfree and 9 p.m. for parents, unless you literally just left that person after cocktails, dancing or some other event or you’ve been told specifically by the other party that calling later is A-OK. (Enjoy this clip from “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” where Larry thinks the “cutoff” is 10:30 p.m. and he gets a lesson from Julia Louis-Dreyfus).

This morning, we received a lovely text message at approximately 7 a.m. (CST) from a much-loved family member in the Eastern timezone, where — if you don’t want to do the math — it was around 8 a.m. Normally, we’d be against any form of communication at this hour, but we’ll give him a hall pass, because he knows what time the Re-find gang gets movin’ in the  mornin’. Typically, one should refrain from calling until after 9 p.m. in the timezone of the other party.

Please note that the same rules apply for texting, because many people keep cell phones near the bed for reasons we can’t fathom, other than perhaps they don’t own an alarm clock.

Additional things to note:

When you call, ask “Is this a good time?”

If you are the caller, it is up to you to end the call in a timely fashion. The recipient is at your mercy, don’t make it awkward for him or her.

Try “setting an appointment” first, so that you can ensure that it’s a good time to chat and that the person isn’t caught off guard, because quite frankly, the telephone is an interruption, no matter how cute the ringtone.

Speaking of ringtones, go with the least annoying type and keep it on a low volume. Don’t be “that person.”

Speaking of “that person” don’t have private conversations in public, where others can overhear; don’t talk loud, you aren’t that important, even if you are that important; don’t talk or text or FB or anything involving your phone at the dinner table or when you are supposed to be socializing with the people in front of you.

And breathe.

If you want to read more about phone culture, read this fun story from the New York Times, “Don’t call me, I won’t call you.”

What’s your biggest phone etiquette pet peeve?

On that note, have a great day! We’ll call you later.


Speak up about speakerphones

Yesterday a reader posted the following on the Re-find Facebook page:

“Please post some proper speakerphone etiquette. I would always like to be asked for my permission before someone (who obviously cannot give me their full attention) puts me on speaker.”

The quick response we gave is that one should always let the other party know when they are on speakerphone, especially if others are in the room.

To expand on that a bit, if you are in the middle of another task, rather than put the other party on speakerphone, ask if you can call them back when you are able to give them your full attention. This will make them feel more appreciated during the later conversation and will allow you to focus on the task at hand. Just don’t forget to call back.

In our experience, most people don’t like to be on speakerphone at all, so avoid it when possible, unless you are including someone else in the room on the call — with the knowledge and permission of the person on the other end of the line, as mentioned.

Another occasion that gets the Re-find speakerphone hall pass is if you or the other party uses hearing aids, because the hearing device can produce feedback when it’s against a phone. This one is close to our hearts, because the speakerphone option has allowed us to have much better — and quieter — conversations with dear old Dad.

Finally, if you need to go hands-free in order to perform a task that must be completed during the phone conversation, you may ask, “Is it OK if I put you on speakerphone for a minute, so you can walk me through the process of defusing the bomb?”

So, to recap, 99 percent of the time, it’s better to forgo the awkward speakerphone business and just tell your friend, parent, the guy from Verizon offering you an upgraded plan, child, neighbor or whomever, that you will call them back in a minute, after you’ve finished changing that diaper; strength training; tweeting; watering the plants at the office; driving; or whatever it is that you do instead of listening intently to the person on the other end of the iPhone. 

When you are done with your chores, pour yourself a lovely glass of wine or coffee, sit down in a comfortable chair and return the call — no speaker phone required. Doesn’t that sound a lot more pleasant?



No phone zone

At Re-find, we love our cell phones. Like most people, we don’t leave home without it and we are often either chatting or texting.

That said, there s a time and a place for phone use. We recommend declaring certain areas phone free zones. For example, the theater, the dining table and the car if you are driving.

The first and second are simple courtesy, the third is a safety issue. Too many accidents are happening these days because of chatting or texting while driving. There is no conversation or text worth hurting yourself or someone else.

Let’s all take the Oprah No Phone Zone pledge to make the car a phone free zone.