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Telephone Etiquette in Business Situations

Updated on September 27, 2014

Old Timey Phone

Also Known As: Calling For Your Customer

So it has been a while since I've created a Hub, for personal reasons. Not that I've been truly busy, taking care of things at home, picking up the mail, answering the phone... and that is what brings me here today to create this very Hub. Maybe this is something you've run into yourselves, maybe it hasn't due to the prevalence of cell phones now. Or maybe you are one of the affected, completely oblivious to this situation up until the moment you decided to read this very Hub. Don't worry, I'm coming to the point.

I'm currently living under the roof of my mother, who is near retirement age at this point in time. Living with my mother of an older generation comes with some few quirks you don't commonly see anymore. Things such as the idea that canned food is good until you open it, a holdover from her depression era father. And the idea that one simply has to have a landline, even though every member of the household owns, and uses, a cell phone. And quite a few businesses call on that landline, the number to which my mother has owned for well over ten years.

My Confusion Made Apparent

Now owning a landline that is separate from each person's cell phone comes with a few irritations, such as the idea that there is a whole extra phone number for sales people to call. And call they do indeed. Many of them call because they know this is the number associated with 'the house itself' and so call to offer services related to a house, such as home repairs and roof estimates. However they also often call for business reasons relating directly to my mother, after all she gives out that number rather more often than her personal cell phone. And when they do call her landline, and I happen to answer, they are very often confused. This is how it goes:

Business person: Hello Mrs. (mom's name).

Myself: Hello, sorry this isn't (mom's name).

Business person: Oh I'm sorry. (Hang up.)

Now for those of you who have only owned cell phones, and have never had to deal with a landline in your lives, I can tell you that this is quite odd to me. The first time it happened I just stared at the phone, completely mystified as to what had happened. And some of you are wondering why I was so confused. Let me break it down for you.

Hello, Operator?

A Landline Phone Belongs to All

So in the olden days there was one phone per house. When I was a child we had progressed to where some families might have two lines, if one was the business line of a doctor or lawyer or such, but that was rare. Most of the time the phone was shared by the family. So you wouldn't necessarily know just who was going to pick up the phone. I mean you might arrange to call at a specific time so that your girlfriend or boyfriend could pick up as soon as it begins to ring. If you were very lucky you might get to be on the phone without everyone in the family knowing you were on the phone, and possibly who you were talking to as well.

For anyone else calling you just got whoever decided to answer. So what if you wanted to speak to someone specific? Well, you asked for that person. It looked something like this:

Person Answering: Hello?

Person Calling: Hello, I'm trying to reach (so and so), is that person available?

Person Answering: Sure, just a moment. (Or whatever.)

No one would even think it odd that the specific person they were trying to reach was not the person who answered the phone. With the average American household size being slightly over two people the chances were good that you would not reach the intended person on the first try.

So I Guess What I'm Saying Is...

Gone are the days of calling up and asking to speak with the person on the phone. Now we are so used to reaching the person we are calling, because no one really shares cell phones. Our cell phones belong to the person now, not the house. And landlines are definitely a thing of the near past. According to surveys most young adults starting out do not even see the need to have a phone just for the house, and I do agree that one phone bill is quite enough really.


I still don't quite see why it is so difficult to just ask if the person you actually want to speak to is there or not, instead of just assuming you called the wrong number.

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