At the tone, please mind your manners


If you would like to make a call, please hang up and go find two tin cans and some string. With this you’d have as good a chance of any of making a real connection.

Here at the start of the 21st century we have spent over 100 years with access to the telephone. Yet, since that fateful day Alexander Graham Bell barked, “Watson, come here, I need you!” through the first telephone line, our phone manners seem to have scarcely improved.

Patience please. Should you leave a message requesting a return call, please refrain from calling again repeatedly until that happens. If you do call back and happen to get me live and in person (I know, but sometimes it is just unavoidable), do not indignantly blurt out: “Didn’t you get my message?”

Yes, I probably did, but – unbelievable as it may seem – I cannot always drop everything and sprint to the telephone to return calls immediately. Patience is a virtue. Let’s all practice being virtuous today.

If and when I do return your telephone call it is not necessary (or prudent) for you question, “Where were you?” or “Why didn’t you answer the phone?”

If you are not my mother or my spouse, you do not need to know. Come to think of it, even if you are my mother or my spouse, you do not need to know. Perhaps where I have been was either terribly mundane or terrifically exciting. You are going to feel either terrifically bored or green with envy – why torture yourself?

Manners matter. If you should receive a wrong number call, please, I beg of you in the name of all things good and sacred, do not use your caller identification or *69 feature to return the call and demand, “Who is this?”

Mistaking technology for trespass is a common error these days. Take care not to mistake the Caller I.D. box or *69 for a crown and throne yourself.

It is, after all, still just a telephone and we are all still just people with a randomly assigned number.

Sometimes fat fingered folks like me, your beloved granny, and every person in the Kent, Ohio, area who ever wanted the bowling alley and called my mother’s house instead, will misdial. Have mercy.

Customer disservice. Finally, it is never, not ever, not even once, acceptable for a business to have a recorded voice that says, “We’re sorry, due to heavy call volume, all our representatives are busy helping other customers; please try again later.”

I’m no CEO (and I have the minuscule bank balance to prove it) but here’s a clue: If you have heavy call volume during certain time periods, HIRE MORE PEOPLE to work during those periods.

And look, I came to that solution without even a human resources degree to my name. Imagine what the smart business types could come up with if only they’d try?

Meanwhile, sending callers through endless waiting and various commands to enter a 76 digit account number, home telephone number, and date of birth followed by the pound key is most definitely NOT customer service. Customer disservice, maybe.

Call now. This should conclude today’s lesson in Telephone Etiquette 101. There will be a quiz. If you have any comments please feel free to call.

Simply press star, pound key, enter your social security number backwards (omitting the third and seventh digits), and wait for the beep.

Unfortunately, due to heavy call volume we will be unable to take your call at this time. Unless, of course, you are selling replacements windows and septic tank treatments. In which case you sit right there and the next available representative will be with you shortly. Your approximate wait time is six days past never.

Otherwise, your call is very important to us. Thank you and good-bye!

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt has developed an allergy to the pound key. She welcomes reader feedback c/o P.O. Box 38, Salem, Ohio 44460 or


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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.