friends think I should bash an employer on Twitter, recruiters who text, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My friends think I should bash an employer on Twitter

I went abroad to get my master’s, finished, I’m doing also an internship abroad, and now I am looking for a job. I filled out an online application (taleo system) for a large multinational consumer goods corporation in my home country. I am a national of that country, so obviously I can work there.

However, I got an email a week ago that says that they can’t consider me because I am not allowed to work there. Obviously they misread all the fields (they explicitly ask things like country of birth, country of nationality, country of current residence, etc.) and must have thought that I require some sort of immigration sponsorship. I tried to reply, but their email does not accept replies. Getting through that corporate bureaucrazy is going to be really time-consuming. My concern is that this is a big red flag about their company; they don’t even read their applications! I don’t want to work in a place like that! God knows what will happen if I am hired! They do pay well though…

Some friends have suggested that I insist and get them to consider me and apologize; some say I should forget about it; some say I should just put it on Twitter and bash them, that this could help me get their attention or that of another good company that will value me. What should I do?

Don’t listen to your friends — none of them, from the sounds of it. Insist that they consider you? And insist they apologize? How exactly do your friends think that’s even possible to do? Or bash them on Twitter?! That will not go over well with other potential employers who look at your Twitter feed in the future, believe me.

Ignore your friends, who seem to want to keep you from gainful employment. If you’re still interested in working there (and this really shouldn’t deter you; employers are staffed by humans, who occasionally make mistakes), find an email contact for either the hiring manager or the HR department and email them to politely explain the misunderstanding. That’s really all you can do.

2. Recruiters who text me as their first contact

I have a question about weird recruiter contact methods, and if they’re as weird as they seem to me.

I’m a software engineer in a major city. People with my skills here are in super high demand right now, so I hear from recruiters all the time. That’s not surprising.

What is surprising is when they text me. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s happened a few times. It feels way too personal if I get something like “Hey Eric, I’m X, a recruiter with Y agency. We have a Z job with a company downtown. Interested?” in a text, even if I’ve talked to the recruiter before.

The last time a recruiter texted me, I replied with “I prefer discussing these things through email. If you email me the job description, I’ll look it over and let you know if it sounds like a good fit for me.” No response. Did I mishandle this, and is being texted by recruiters as weird as it sounds to me, or am I just old fashioned?

I think texting people in a business context when you you don’t know them is obnoxious, although clearly some people disagree. It’s totally reasonable, though, for you to respond with “It’s easier to reach me via email — would you send this to me at (email address)?”

I’m not surprised that resulted in silence when you tried it — people who are unprofessional in their first communication often aren’t professional enough to follow through with the next step when you ask them to.

But I’d just think of it this way: This will help you screen for recruiters who are willing to communicate in a way that works for you and who respect your preferences once you state them. (Not everyone has the luxury of being choosy in that regard, but it sounds like you do.)

3. Is it annoying not to get to the point when you call a company?

When calling a company (bank, utilities, store, etc.), my husband starts the call with “Hi, how are you?” when they answer. I told him that these phone reps are very busy, handle lots of calls, and would prefer that you just get to the point and forget the pleasantries. Besides that, you don’t really care how they are anyway. He says I’m wrong. What do you think?

I’m with you. Of course, there are probably some phone reps out there who genuinely appreciate these pleasantries — but I suspect that they’re in the minority. Still, though, I doubt that anyone is gnashing their teeth when your husband is nice to them, so I wouldn’t give him a hard time about it.

4. Student employee didn’t acknowledge the gift I gave him

I have a question about someone not thanking me for a gift. I manage two grad students who are new this year. I gave them each a holiday gift, a small gift of food. Each got a food I have seen them eat, because I wanted to be sensitive to allergies and what they like. I left the gifts on their desks the same day, with a card saying happy holidays and who it was from. They work in different spaces. One employee came to me right away and said thank you, and took the gift home with her. The other employee has clearly seen the gift, because it has been moved to another part of his desk and the card is gone. I have been in his office a handful of times since I left the gift, and I have seen it there. He has not said anything about it, including thank you. I also think it’s strange that he is just letting it it on his desk. If he didn’t like it, I understand it could be awkward for him, but still strange to leave it in his office. And I think that’s unlikely since I got him something I know he likes.

It’s been almost a month. Should I say anything? Maybe he feels awkward receiving a gift from me, and I don’t want to make it more awkward. I also think it’s good etiquette to say thank you for a gift, but I don’t know if it’s my place to say so. Maybe I shouldn’t give gifts? Am I overthinking it?

Probably, a bit. It’s natural to want some kind of acknowledgement for a gift, but … well, some people are not especially gracious, which I suspect is the case here. I would let it go.

5. Which state law governs when an employee works in a different state than the company is headquartered in?

The minimum wage in my state went up to $9 an hour as of January 1st, but I’m noticing remote job listings in other states are paying their state’s minimum wage (sometimes as low as $7-8 an hour). Do these jobs have to comply to the employee’s state’s minimum wage or do they have to comply with the minimum wage standards set in the state the company is located?

It’s governed by the laws of the state where the employee is working. So if you work in California but your employer is based in New York, they’ll need to comply with California’s laws on minimum wage, overtime, and so forth (where you’re concerned, that is — they wouldn’t need to do it for employees who are in New York).

Even more interestingly, this can apply to employees who are only temporarily in another state, so if you’re normally based in Wisconsin but you spend a week in California on a work trip, you’re subject to California’s labor laws while you’re there. That could mean, for example, that if you’re non-exempt, during that week you’d need to be paid overtime for all hours over eight that you work in a day (because California has a daily overtime threshold, in addition to the usual weekly one). In practice, employers rarely bother with that (and probably rarely even realize it), but it’s actually a thing they’re supposed to do.

{ 334 comments… read them below }

  1. MK*

    OP4, while this behavior is uncivil and maybe bordering on boorish, and it would be a good thing if someone explained to your report that common courtesy (like politely saying thank you for a gift, even if you hated it) is good for him professionally, there is absolutely no way to say “you should have thanked me for my gift” without coming across as a good yourself. Let it go.

    1. Josh S*

      Your employee didn’t eat the food? You already gave them the gift–your part is done, let it go.
      Your employee didn’t thank you? You already gave them the gift–your part is done, let it go.
      Your employee threw it on the ground and stomped on it? You already gave them the gift–your part is done, let it go.

      The joy is in the giving. Once that’s done, you have no say in any of it.

      Certainly, the recipient should show gratitude (your employee is at least being a mite rude by leaving it there)–but your part in things is done. If you want to continue giving gifts–do so, but do it regardless of whether you get the response you believe you ‘deserve’. If you want to put conditions on gift-giving–whether asking for thanks or demanding a certain response/action–you’ll find only disappointment.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, I’d leave it. Could be that he doesn’t actually like black licorice (or whatever you bought for him) and is unsure if he can say thanks without the lie being obvious.

        Let it go, enjoy the act of giving and picking out a gift. If you give things expecting a big show of gratitude, I agree you’re setting yourself up for disappointment when someone forgets or doesn’t have the “OMG, I love it!” response.*

        *On a tangent, this is why I cringe at public proposals. I’d hate to be in public and feel pressure to say “yes” in a very showy way. Those always feel like they’re more about the person proposing than the next stage in the relationship.

        1. Tsalmoth*

          Stephanie, have you read The Family Fang (it was one of Alison’s book recommendations from the end of the year)? There’s a performance art scene in the book built around the awkwardness of public proposals.

      2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

        Well – yes and no. In normal circumstances, yes, you give a gift and that’s that. But depending on OP’s relationship with the students, this might be something she should address. If OP is a normal manager, I would say that it’s a data point about the person and to bear it in mind, but not bring it up again unless it impacts work (eg being ungracious with clients) But if OP is a mentor, it might be appropriate for her to bring it up – not in a “you need to say thanks for my gift!” but more of a “I’ve noticed that sometimes you don’t acknowledge when somebody does something small for you, like brings you a cup of tea. You should know that in many places that’s going to come across as ungracious.”

        They shouldn’t link it back to their present, but depending on their role, this may be something that they should raise with the student at a later date.

        1. Claire (Scotland)*

          That’s fair, but the letter doesn’t mention this person being ungracious on other occasions so it may be that this is a one-off. If the OP is a mentor-type role and if the grad student does appear ungracious at other times, it might be a general point to raise with them. I don’t think there’s any reason to assume they are though.

      3. AnotherAlison*

        I guess it seems obvious that the recipient should thank the OP for the gift, but I do think the OP also made it a little awkward by leaving the gift on the employee’s desk. You know what I mean? If you can’t give me the gift face-to-face, don’t be upset when I don’t make a point of stopping by and saying thank you.

        If you scaled this scenario up for my place of work, I don’t think 40 of us would stop by my manager’s desk to thank her for a gift left on our desks.

        1. LQ*

          I agree it is weird. I have had coworkers leave gifts on my desk and not know who they are from (they’ve left them for everyone so it’s been sleuthable) but with no card or note, or worse a card I can’t read. Because then I’m supposed to know but can’t figure it out without going around and whispering to another coworker about who left this so that I can say thank you. And if you are stealth gifting does that mean you don’t want a thank you? Which is absolutely a thing. If I go in to say thank you are you going to be incredibly dismissive of it and then I’m going to feel bad about it? What if I get it wrong and say thank you to the wrong person, or I say thank you in front of the wrong person? What if I say thank you and it turns out it wasn’t from you and you didn’t get one of those things?

          I hate gifts.

          I have left gifts on my desk in the hopes that the leaver of the gift will come by and say “Oh did you like Thing?” so I could say Oh thank goodness I know how to handle this now “Yes, very much, thank you for Thing!”

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yeah, I get annoyed with myself when I start overthinking things, but when I look at this story, I find myself wondering if the card got shuffled into the wrong pile of papers, or if (especially since it was just break, and I don’t know how much a grad student would even have been in) possibly someone else borrowed their desk and shoved all their stuff aside. I wouldn’t be completely sure the recipient has even seen it, though OP may have seen the person at their desk and know better than I do.

          2. Green*

            I got a pair of fuzzy slippers on my desk at Christmas two months after I joined a company without a name on them. So I’m sure somebody somewhere is positive that I’m not very gracious.

          3. Elizabeth West*

            Someone left a bunch of us gifts right before Christmas–by asking, I figured out who it was so I could leave them a thank-you card. I’m glad the other employees knew, because I would have felt weird not thanking her and not knowing who it was. (It was cute socks, candy, and a red/green striped pen with tinsel on.)

        2. Nicole*

          Perhaps the gift giver felt awkward with a face to face gift giving situation. My boss left a gift on my desk this past Christmas and I thanked him via email. I figured he might have felt awkward giving the gift in person but I’m big on manners and there was no way I’d feel right not thanking him. I think it worked out nicely.

      4. Artemesia*

        As a professor supervising grad students one’s role is also that of a professional mentor. One of things that sometimes have to be taught are manners. I know of a promising young scholar pretty much raised by wolves who was schooled on how to behave at a professional social event. He reviewed step by step the kinds of greetings, discussions, and exits that are considered appropriate and polite and it made a difference in her professional arc. One is preparing a grad student for the professional world and part of that is finishing the job that their parents didn’t do. So while the OP does not need to provide feedback, it would be appropriate feedback for a grad students in ways that it might not be for a standard employee.

        1. neverjaunty*

          This is really not the kind of etiquette she should be teaching. “I gave you a gift and you owe me a thank you” is really not okay coming from a professional mentor.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Yes: I think it’s perfectly appropriate (and indeed, part of the role) for a work mentor to teach workplace etiquette and norms, but this is just everyday etiquette, which I find farther out of bounds. Teaching please and thank you is too… uncomfortably parental, to me.

    2. MommaTRex*

      I often forget to thank people. I want to say it’s often due to my ADHD, which I think many people would claim is a cop-out, but I really do forget: in fact, I’ll even forget if I actually thanked them or not. (Leading to a double thank-you, which isn’t bad.) My boss gave me a gift this year and I can’t tell how many times I thought about thanking her, but then I would get distracted before thanking her. I finally remembered once at the right time (when she was standing next to me and the conversation wasn’t about something more important) and I took a chance that I actually hadn’t thanked her yet.
      Please don’t assume that someone is ungrateful. They just might not have the right mechanisms in place for remembering.

    3. Elle*

      OP4 – I think you should let this go. Many people are uncomfortable with getting gifts. I’ve given out small gifts to co-workers over the years and have found about half say thank you and half say nothing – and not always the same people. Like others have said – I want to give the gift – I don’t really expect anything in return. However, I gave a co-worker who I mentored and helped get a couple of promotions, a really nice gift when she left the organization and never got a thank you. She sent a generic thank you card referencing the group gift she was given… so I did feel odd about that..

  2. BuildMeUp*

    #1 – Definitely don’t bash the company on Twitter!

    Your friends may be thinking about instances where people have had bad customer service from a company, tweeted about it, and had someone on the company’s Twitter reach out to them to resolve it. But applying for a job is different from getting bad customer service, and even if you weren’t “bashing” the company, I can’t see tweeting at them as coming off professionally enough to be worth it.

    Also, I think it’s possible that since it was an application system, the system itself might have flagged you as ineligible, and someone (or the system itself, automatically) sent the email without actually reading the application. I wouldn’t read too much into that as an indicator of how it would be to work there!

    1. AcademiaNut*

      The customer service angle sounds likely. They figure if they embarrass the company publicly, they’ll rush to make the complainer happy. They aren’t recognizing that the customer/business relationship is very different from potential employee/employer, and how this could affect other, totally unrelated, job application.

    2. Allison*

      Yes, this is most likely the reasoning, but OP’s friends need to realize that while the customer service reps monitoring the social media page want to make customers happy, companies don’t really have the same eagerness to please job applicants.

      1. Artemesia*

        Anyone suggesting that a business be made to apologize for not inviting an applicant to interview should not be listened to on anything else involving work. This is a great way to make the OP a pariah and people do get a reputation. I might not notice a weak applicant if I saw their name again — but if your name is paired with ‘you won’t believe the ding dong who applied the other day’ in stories told at the bar, you are in trouble.

        This is almost certainly a processing error e.g. if it comes internationally this is our response. The only possible winning play is to figure out how to make personal contact and correct the error. It doesn’t matter if they made a mistake, they have the thing you want and you don’t get it by being boorish.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I think it was probably the application system. It might have read the OP’s country of residence and shunted it automatically to the Nope pile. And the email was likely auto-generated as well. I’d follow Alison’s advice and try to find a contact in HR–it’s possible they may accept a resume outside the system, or maybe they have a workaround.

      OP, your friends are wrong! Don’t do this.

  3. INTP*

    #2: Sounds like a misguided attempt to be “innovative” and “modern” in recruiting.

    I remember a few years ago when I was in the field, recruiting blogs were claiming that millenials want to be recruited on Facebook. Um, no. We cringed when our parents first found us on Facebook, we certainly don’t want employers recruiting us there. (The bloggers were obviously not millenials.) These recruiters could just be lazy (though I don’t even get how typing a long and awkward message explaining who you are is faster than typing a message on a keyboard) or weird, but I think it’s also likely that someone told them that software engineers like to be texted rather than emailed or that emailing is outdated. (OTOH, if you’ve talked with the same recruiter several times, I don’t think it’s that weird if they text you about a new opening to see if you’re interested, as long as they are willing to follow up with an email when requested.)

    In any case, I think it’s fine to respond that you’d prefer to be emailed a job description. A recruiter who thinks you have a real shot at the job (rather than just adding you to a mass email/text or contacting you in hopes that you will refer other candidates) is not going to be turned off by that and lose their chance at a commission by refusing to forward you the job description.

    1. West Coast Reader*

      I’m reminded of the “Bring Your Parents to Work Day” that some Fortune 500 companies organized to “relate” to millenials…

      1. KWu*

        Oh, I worked somewhere that did Bring Your Parents to Work days and they were usually quite fun! My parents enjoyed seeing what “workplaces these days” were like and I liked meeting my coworkers’ parents too, either it explained a lot about where they came from or they were really different, so it was interesting either way.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        So… How old are these parents? Don’t they have their own jobs to go to? I’m a Gen-Xer, and my mother’s finally retiring this year. (But she will be doing consulting work part of the year.) She sure has heck never had the time or inclination to spend a day at my job.

        My father retired (layoffs forced him into it) a few years ago, but he picks up part time work here and there. And he has a wide range of other interests than following his kids around at their workday.

        I can’t imagine my parents wanting to spend a day with me at work. And I come from a very loving family. (Maybe clear boundaries have helped with that…?)

        1. Judy*

          I’m in my 40s and my parents are retired teachers. I don’t think they’d like to spend a day with me at work, but they certainly have come when there have been tours at work. Several of the companies I’ve worked for have had “friends and family” days for milestones. I distinctly remember one for the 50th anniversary of production at that plant and one for the 30 millionth teapot off the manufacturing line. There was also one for the 100th anniversary of the company. Employees could invite whomever they wanted, but they weren’t open to the public, the people had to be invited. Of course, they didn’t generally come up to the engineering offices, so they weren’t seeing my workspace, just the general interest “Here’s how we build the teapots that support your family.”

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            And this I could totally see, because it’s really more of a community-oriented event. I mean, I once worked with someone whose father was an executive at Celestial Seasonings. You can bet when she flew out to visit him, she was pretty excited about her tour of the factory. And when I worked for Disney, there were special tours you had to know someone to go on. But following a relative around all day while they do their job? Nope.

          2. Green*

            That’s not millennial-driven though. We have “Family Day” (and bring your child to work day, which is actually very well done) but it is a generic carnival worker appreciation day with a brief tour, not a helicopter parent accommodation day.

          3. Stephanie*

            Yeah, I work in a plant-like setting for one of the big delivery companies and we occasionally have family and friends tours, but that’s of the operations and like “Look! See all these things moving! This is what happens to your package!” A tour of an office would be odd.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Not a millennial, but I’ve had my parents drop by my workplaces on their way somewhere and bring me stuff, etc. and I showed them my work area. But that’s different than them sitting in my cube all day–they’d be bored silly.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          I kind of wish my mother could spend a day at my work. She’s never worked outside the home (she’s 76) and has no clue what I do all day.

        3. Anxa*

          Maybe it’s just my circle, but many of my peers’ (I’m a millennial) parents are long-term unemployed (probably for the rest of their lives).

      3. Tammy*

        My company encourages employees to bring friends and family for ad hoc “tours” – but that makes sense within the context of our particular corporate culture, and those friends and family don’t stay in the office to “observe their loved ones working”. It’s more of a “here’s our shiny pretty building, let me introduce you to my coworkers, ok time to leave” thing.

      4. BananaPants*

        I think we need to be careful not to lump all millennials into the same group, particularly since the tail end of that generation is still entering young adulthood now; the oldest millennials are in their early to mid 30s, have been in the workforce for some time, and many are parents themselves!

        I’m technically a millennial according to most definitions (born in ’81) and I’m a married mother of two, and for me an invitation to participate in such an event would be really tone-deaf. I’ve been an independent adult for well over a decade now and I don’t need or want Mommy and Daddy coming to my office to see where I work. Both of my parents are still working themselves.

      1. Funfetti*

        This is timely – I got two texts from a recruiter (or something like it) today! But I’m not searching, so I think it was bogus. With job hunts (much like dating) – remaining old school is the best day. I mean, there’s them “modern” old school of emails/phone calls which seems obsolete these days versus text and Skype, but if they’re serious – they will seriously pursue you.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          I wonder if this is some new “flood the zone” method where your number is in a group and they just text instead of email blast hoping/thinking that’s the way people prefer to be communicated to these days. And if someone replies but the position is no longer available or they have enough promising candidates, they don’t reply back to you (same as what happens with email sometimes)

      2. Green*

        I do prefer email over phone calls and working from home. That’s about it on the “millennials want” front.

    2. Miles*

      To me it sounds like an intrusive attempt to gain access to your Facebook profile. Sending someone a message lets them see your profile as though they are on your friends list, for one week as I recall (Though this may have changed as it hasn’t come up for me since high school).

      I don’t reply to cold calls via Facebook, but if I were to do so, I’d create a friends group just for that special snowflake that has no access to view anything on my profile (even public information) before I replied.

  4. Sy*

    #3 As a former phone rep, I appreciated when someone acknowledged I was a human being and didn’t just start ranting about their issue. Of course too much small talk/prying/etc was not cool but so many people treat phone support like dirt it’s nice to have someone say hello and ask how you are.

    1. Jeanne*

      You should always be polite to service professionals. But I think both ways are ok. The “How are you” can only be a pleasantry because the employee isn’t going to be honest. So saying it or just getting to “I need help with” is fine.

      1. Afiendishthingy*

        Agreed. When I worked at an inbound call center I appreciated the brief pleasantries but wasn’t bothered if someone just started with their question. Like Sy said, the most important thing was just being treated like a human.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I totally agree! One person treating you like a human can make a huge difference when you’ve been getting nothing but bad calls all day.

      2. Katie*

        Agreed! Both are fine… the only one that really wears on me is:

        “Yes, hi, how are you, I need….”

        Don’t ask me how I am and then don’t allow me to respond.

    2. Mookie*

      Right. Barring the purchase of something over the phone (which is usually an easier process, though not always) how the customer greets you, at what level their anger / confusion seems to be, and how they describe the problem they’re experiencing are all quite useful for gauging how to most efficiently interact with that customer, and a lot of this can be intuited based on the first few moments of a conversation. Some require hand-holding, some want explanations, some are going to expect you to manage their emotions, some will have a pathological need to interrupt you, some are never going to fully understand what you’re talking about, some will be scandalized when you put them on hold, and others are going to be patient and receptive. You need to be able to guess how long you have to offer and devise a solution before they become tetchy or frustrated. A brief greeting isn’t going to tell you all of these things, but it’s useful when trying to determine if someone’s going to take up a lot of your time.

    3. SystemsLady*

      I try to say something like “thanks for taking my call” right before my question – some reps will appreciate it, some won’t, but it’s not a question the latter have to answer.

      “Thank you and have a nice day” at the end is also something I try to say.

    4. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      I was coming to say the same thing. I began my career through call center work, and felt barked at all day by most callers. The occasional caller who would exchange a quick pleasantry, remember my name, and thank me for helping them? That person could make my entire *day*. Did Husband work in a call center in the past? My previous days in retail and CC work have instilled a deep drive in me to be polite to service employees because I’ve been there.

      Rock on, Husband. You keep being your polite self. There are some reps who will prefer getting straight to the point, but I’ll be willing to bet many enjoy the bright spot in the day.

      1. Chinook*

        “Did Husband work in a call center in the past? My previous days in retail and CC work have instilled a deep drive in me to be polite to service employees because I’ve been there.”

        It doesn’t just c0me from working in a call centre. Sometimes it is truly cultural. I remember training one girl from a small town to take over my position and hard her call up a giant call centre to return something. The call was polite but short, filled with just the requirements. She hung up the phone and just stared at it. I asked her if she felt like she had been rude. When she replied that that was it, I pointed out that we were now functioning as “big city folks” who respect that other people are busy instead of “small town folks” who show our respect by using small talk. It became part of code switching for me, just like changing my language to be more or less formal.

    5. S.I. Newhouse*

      Agree 100% with Sy. Although I didn’t have time to go into any details with them, when I had a heavily phone-based job I actually appreciated when callers asked me how I was.

      1. Kylynara*

        Adding my vote to liking the pleasantry when doing phone customer service. Assuming they don’t interrupt my 1-2 word answer. Even if they interrupt it’s a good indicator what the calls going to be like. If they do not interrupt it’s likely to be a fairly good call. What with them treating me like a human and not expecting me to put the info they need in their brain telepathically.

    6. The Butcher of Luverne*

      The last time I spoke to a CSR and asked them how they were, they replied, “Thanks — you’re the first person today who’s asked me how I am.”

    7. LBK*

      I guess I’m the outlier here – I’ve had a couple jobs that involved heavy amounts of inbound calls and I found drawn out pleasantries annoying. “Hi, how are you?” “Fine, thanks, how can I help you?” is acceptable but anything longer than that and I really just want you to get to the point. I appreciate being treated like a human instead of a robot, but let’s not pretend you’re just calling me up to see how I’m doing – there’s no illusions that you’re calling for a specific reason.

      There’s inevitably time for small talk while you’re waiting for a system to load or a search to run so I certainly don’t mind chatting then (and for people that would call a lot I actually enjoyed getting those little moments to catch up with them) but in general I’m of the same mind as the OP. I have an unending stream of calls to take and every second I spend making nice with you is a second someone else has to sit on hold.

      1. More Cake, Please*

        I’m with you–not because I had a bunch of other calls to answer, but because I usually have someone staring at me waiting for me to offload the call so I can return to helping them.

      2. kk*

        Yes, I am with you! When I was the receptionist at a tech firm I used to get soooo annoyed when someone started the conversation with “Hi, how are you?” I always just said “Fine thanks” and never asked anyone how they were doing as well because I wanted them to get to their point and not continue to BS. Maybe because answering the phone took me away from other work that I was so irritated?

        So maybe if you’re calling tech support or a call center, ask someone how they are doing. If you are calling a business to reach someone or a specific department or something like a retail store or restaurant – just get to the point please!

      3. DMented Kitty*

        I’m on your team, I really prefer to get to the point and am not usually the one to ask, “how are you” (although I do occasionally). Normally, when I call, I introduce myself and summarize why I’m calling – “hi, I’m DM, from – I would like to reassign a ticket, please?” (background is I’m from another tech support group and I normally reassign some tickets). Quick, straightforward, and efficient.

    8. finman*

      Two things I think matter here and the first may depend on the purpose of the call. But, if you are calling to try to gain resolution to an issue you have any good negotiator will tell you that building a rapport with someone is immensely important. You want them to be on your side (as much as they can be).

      Secondly, if you call with an issue and you get great customer service take the time to ask to speak to a manager and let them know. I can’t think of a time when I talked to a supervisor about a good/great call that they didn’t say something along the lines of “you don’t know how few people will take the time to acknowledge this”. Getting good feedback can sometimes help a rep get a bonus or raise.

    9. Ann Furthermore*

      I’ve never worked in a call center but I know it’s a thankless job. I always start with “Hi, how are you doing today?” and then get to the point of my call. I do it partly because they’re people just trying to do their jobs, and dealing with unhappy customers all day can’t be fun. And I do it partly for selfish reasons because if I’m the one person who’s been nice to them all day maybe they’ll be more motivated to help me.

      If I’m on hold for a long time, I usually follow up with, “Wow, if must be busy there today!” instead of ranting about how long I’ve had to wait. It’s not like they can do anything about and they’re probably doing the best they can.

      And when they can’t help me, or give me an answer I don’t like I always say, “Look, I understand you’re not the one who makes these rules, but this is extremely frustrating because of X. You might consider passing this feedback along to your management.” And if they have been able to help me, I say, “Hey, I really appreciate your help. Thank you very much!”

      Yeah you could say that this takes up more of their time, but it’s not like I’m keeping them on the phone for 20 minutes asking them to tell me their life stories. And I’ll always come down on the side of treating people with a little bit of courtesy and kindness.

    10. BananaPants*

      My husband worked as an inbound CSR for three years and some days he just appreciated when people didn’t start their call with a string of expletives! A simple, “How are you doing?”, waiting for a brief response, and then getting on with the question/reason for the call was totally fine.

      It bugged him when callers would quiz him about his location or outright demanded to know if he was an offshored Indian call center employee who’d had a dialect coach (!). Occasionally callers seemed lonely and just wanted someone to talk to, and while he was sympathetic to that, he had performance metrics that he HAD to meet – he couldn’t sit there for five minutes talking about the caller’s grandkids before getting around to the business at hand. That said, sometimes he had to input data and let the system churn or wait for a supervisor to come on the line, and he had no problem with some idle chat about the weather while they waited (he always told callers the reason for the delay).

      I always thank CSRs even when they’ve been fairly useless. It’s a thankless job and I am at least polite and civil, even if they can’t get an answer for me.

    11. Elizabeth West*

      Same here, as a receptionist. I usually just say, “Hi, I’m calling about X” or whatever because on the front desk, I never really had time for chit-chat. Just tell me nicely what you need and I’ll transfer you.

      With CSRs, I say How are you sometimes because we have a little more one-on-one time, and I know that job can really suck.

    12. One of the Sarahs*

      My first job out of uni was in a call centre, and I want to say thanks to OP #3’s husband, but it can make the person’s job a little harder. Now, if they want to be friendly during the part of the conversation where the phone rep is waiting for their computer systems to move through the pages, that’s fine!

      Oh, and the other time is at the end of the conversation, something like “thanks, you’ve been really helpful/friendly/made it easier” (if it’s true, of course) will make them happy, and score points if it’s the call a manager is secretly listening in on!

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        This is how I feel, too. Rather than going on and on about how awesome I am before I’ve even done anything (especially when they don’t actually know if what they’re going to ask me to do is possible or not), I would so much rather that the person be pleasant throughout the interaction and thank me afterwards— when I’ve actually been able to do something for them. Then it feels like a real compliment, and a real exchange.

  5. So Very Anonymous*

    Re OP #3: I think a lot depends on context. In my particular job, I get a lot of buttering up of the “make friends with the support staff and they’ll bend over backwards for you!” sort, which means a lot of overblown compliments and expectations that I can’t possibly live up to. I’d so much rather just be asked the question and not have to navigate all of that. But I can also understand how a bit of small talk humanizes the exchange.

    1. Ihmmy*

      agreed. I work reception amongst other duties. I personally hate the “How are you” query because I know they don’t care at all about how I’m doing, and it sucks up time I could spend on my non reception duties.

  6. PinkTeapots*

    Question #5 intrigued me. I live on the border of two states and recently accepted a job in the state in which I don’t live. I make well above minimum wage for both states, but will there be major differences for living and working in two separate states as opposed to living and working in the same state?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Depends on which states! Many states have labor laws that are more or less the same. But there can also be big differences. So it really depends on where you are. (Feel free to come back and say.)

        1. SystemsLady*

          Yeah, you’ll be fine. Every employer in the KC area is set up to handle that situation and even those who aren’t have a lot of precedent. It won’t be any different.

        2. MKT*

          Agreed. My co-worker lives in MO, works in KS, my husband lives in KS, works in MO and I work and live in KS.
          We’re all used to it :)
          Just as an FYI(as I’m the one who does payroll/withholdings) if you’re married and each of you work, Kansas state tax form, the K4 recommends that you file as single – it’s in the small print on the K4, but if you’ve worked in MO but not in KS, it’s weird. It’s the first section of the K4.

          As a second aside, you’re doing the crossing state lines for work the “right” way for KS and MO.
          KS has a lower income tax rate than MO and MO has a lower sales tax rate, so assuming you do most of your shopping in MO, you’ll spend a few percents lower on your purchases and your taxed income will be lower!

        3. Miles*

          Others I know who work in KS but live in MO had to pay both states’ income taxes. I don’t know if the double tax is reconciled with the return but I doubt it.

          That’s about the only difference I know about.

          1. Miles*

            I looked it up and you do get a tax credit to prevent double-taxing. They probably had a payroll dept that preferred to “play it safe” rather than “look it up”

      1. Stephanie*

        Depends if there’s reciprocity. There might be between KS and MO, since I imagine it’s really common in the Kansas City area to work in one state and live in another. When I worked in VA and lived in DC and MD, I didn’t have to file VA taxes, but those states all had reciprocity with each other.

        1. Afiendishthingy*

          Interesting, I didn’t realize some states had those reciprocity agreements. I live in New England and had to pay taxes for both the state I worked in and the state I live in.

          1. overeducated and underemployed*

            Me too. Last year was the worst – spent 9 months living in state 1, 6 of which I spent working in state 1 and 3 in state 2, then moved to state 2 and worked back in state 1 for the rest of the year (for 2 different employers). Taxes were a bit of a headache. 2015 was simpler, but now I’m commuting from state 2 to state 1 for two different temp jobs again!

            1. Kelly L.*

              Oh yeah. The first time I shelled out for someone else to do my taxes was the year I moved a lot. Didn’t want to risk screwing it up.

          2. Mpls*

            Yeah – a lot of bordering states will have reciprocity agreements on taxes. Though, sometimes they get revoked if one of the states doesn’t live up to the agreement. *cough*Wisconsin*cough*

          3. BananaPants*

            Yup, my husband worked in our state and the adjacent state in New England and we had to file in both states. The other state had a non-resident income tax form and we received a credit on our taxes for our state of residence for income taxes paid to the non-resident state.

            I’m SO glad that he now works in the same state where we reside.

        2. Person of Interest*

          Yep – I have lived in MD and worked in DC, and vice versa, and only paid taxes in my home state. And in places where this is common, employers are generally set up to process tax withholding appropriately based on which state you live in. Just make sure they give you the correct state’s forms when you are doing your hiring paperwork (this happened to me and my husband each once – they processed the paperwork with the wrong state and we had to sort it out at tax time).

        3. ThursdaysGeek*

          I haven’t experienced it, but I don’t think OR and WA have agreements like that. If you live in WA and work in OR, you’ll pay the OR income tax. (If you live in OR and buy stuff in WA, however, you can get the sales tax waived.)

    2. GG*

      Just in case more specifics are useful to anyone…

      I live in MA and work in RI. I have to file returns for both states. But on my MA return I get credit for all income tax paid to RI, and also a Disability tax RI charges that MA doesn’t. So while it’s more paperwork for me, I don’t pay any more out of pocket than if I were living and working in MA.

    3. Case of the Mondays*

      Correct me if I’m wrong but for things such as minimum wage (not taxes) I think all that matters is the state in which the employee works, not the state the employee lives. So, if you live in Mass but work in NH, NH’s minimum wage laws apply. You will likely still pay Mass income tax though.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        But you need to pay income tax on any interest on bank accounts or investments. Also, if you work in more than one state in the year or are filing jointly, it can affect things.

        When I worked in two different states in one year, it was simple. Neither one had a state income tax.

      2. Liana*

        I grew up in northern MA and I knew a couple people who worked in NH who got screwed during that way, since NH’s minimum wage was (at the time) significantly lower than MA, but they still had to pay MA income tax.

    4. neverjaunty*

      Although you don’t actually live ON the border, just near it.

      I would talk to a CPA where you love; they probably see this situation often and can advise you.

    5. Chinook*

      “but will there be major differences for living and working in two separate states as opposed to living and working in the same state?”

      In the Canadian context, it messes with payroll withholding taxes. Like the U.S., the law applies to where you are working but the income tax applies to where you live on Dec. 31st. So, when I lived in Quebec (high taxes) and worked in Ontario, I quickly learned to stash away extra for income tax because the Ontario tax rate was much lower and the employer never withheld enough.

  7. West Coast Reader*

    #3 – Yes, they’re busy, but they are not robots either.

    I recently read the book “Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life”. And the bottom line is that you should treat service workers as human beings, going the extra step to empathize to build a relationship, who would then be more inclined to help you when you ask for something extra, like a discount or a better seat on the plane.

    Of course, this sounds like there’s a hidden agenda behind treating people like they ought to be treated, but let’s not forget that good relationships are essential to getting things done.

    1. KH*

      No they’re not robots, but call center people are often under time and call quotas and expecting social niceties is inappropriate in that situation.

      Be polite, say please and thank you, treat them like human beings and not robots, but get to the point and don’t expect a social conversation either.

      1. Zillah*

        But does “Hi, how are you?” “Fine, thanks” really take up that much time? Sure, if you’re trying to talk about your college loans, the movie you saw the previous night, and how the new bestseller you got is, that’s inappropriate and takes up unnecessary time… But a simple “how are you” doesn’t seem to qualify there.

        1. Qwerty*

          When I worked customer service, I haaaated “Hi, how are you?” from customers. Just “Hi, I’m looking for…” was all I needed, followed by politeness while I was helping them. “How are you?” “Fine, thanks” may o my take two seconds, but when you’re answering the phone while staring down a line of in-person customers as well, every second counts.

          1. blackcat*

            I think this depends on the company/set up. At least a few places I call (notably, my credit cards), it seems like the staff are trained to ask questions like “how are you today?” particularly if their computer systems are slow and there’s going to be dead time in the phone call anyways. I do try to follow the staff person’s cues so I don’t take up more of their time then necessary. No matter what, if the person was successful at helping me, I do make a point of saying, clearly at the end of the call “I greatly appreciate your help today. Thank you for resolving my issue. I hope you have a good day.” I don’t really know how often “calls may be monitored” is true, but I want any evaluator to be able to check the boxes for “satisfied customer” even if I keep the person on the line a bit longer.

            Also, intriguingly, at least one of my credit card companies appears to have a work from home set up with their employees. Either that, or they have a dog and *cat* friendly office…. where you can’t hear the other staff but you do hear the occasional “meow” and “woof”

          2. Kelly L.*

            If the pleasantries get really long and drawn-out, I start to think the caller wants to sell something to me. 90% of the time when someone keeps going on and on with it–I don’t mean just “how are you” but “how are you, what’s your name, oh hi Kelly nice to chat with you today, are you having a good day today Kelly”–when they finally do get down to business, they’re something like a toner scammer. So I do get prickly if the pleasantries start to streeeeeeeetch on and on.

          3. plain_jane*

            I have never worked in a call center, but I can’t imagine asking a person at a call center how they are today, because they aren’t allowed to actually tell me. I follow their lead on small talk if they’re waiting on something from the computer, and I try to make sure to thank them for solving whatever thing I called about. If they couldn’t solve it, I thank them for looking into it and try to keep my voice warm.

          4. Kylynara*

            I think you are right, to a degree. In a call center I prefer the pleasantry. In a customer service situation like you describe, I do not. If the phone call is interrupting another task I would rather just get on with it.

          5. Elsajeni*

            Exactly what I was thinking — I haven’t worked in a call center, but when I answered phones at my retail job, I didn’t like taking time for pleasantries because I usually had a line of customers waiting and a million other things I could be doing that seemed more pressing. I can imagine that quick pleasantries are less of an issue in a call-center setting, where answering phones is the whole job, not an interruption — but keep ’em quick!

        2. Myrin*

          I feel like if it were just “Hi, how are you?” – “Fine, thanks. What can I help you with?”, it wouldn’t be much of a problem. I think the problem comes in when, like several commenters actually experienced (which, oh my god, I’m so glad I don’t work a job like that), the caller actually expects to be asked back how they are and/or gets angry if the answer doesn’t seem sufficient enough or whatever. The question has the potential to bring with it a whole rat’s tail of conversation that a simple getting-to-the-point doesn’t have.

          1. RVA Cat*

            I think a lot of this could be smoothed over by replacing “How are you?” with “Hi/Good morning/afternoon [rep’s name]” since it’s a pleasantry that doesn’t need a reply.

            1. bkanon*

              This is generally what I do. With a “thanks for your help” at the end. Only chitchat if there’s obvious downtime while the system resets or whatever. Had a nice convo about the rep’s plans to ski after work one time, because it took ten minutes for us to fix my Netflix.

              1. BananaPants*

                Yes, I do the same. If a computer system is taking forever and the CSR apologizes for it, I’ll chuckle and say something about the wonders of technology (or whatever) to let them know I’m not mad. During wait time/waiting for the system to update I’ve chatted with reps about the weather or another bland and unoffensive topic. But I’m very careful not to waste call time on pleasantries or idle chat because 1) it’s a waste of my time as a caller, and 2) they’re being tracked on call metrics and I don’t want to screw them over.

            2. AnonEMoose*

              This is usually what I do. “Hi, [NAME] – my name is and I’m calling about…”. Short, but polite and keeps it to the point. Or if I’ve called the place often enough to know what to provide up front, I’ll do something like “Hi, [Name] – my name is and I have my account number when you’re ready.”

              One time, I had to call the gas company because our clothes dryer wasn’t tumbling (we have a repair plan with them that covers stuff like this). We get through setting up the appointment, and the rep says to please make sure there’s no clothing in the dryer when the tech gets there. I paused (because this broke my brain a little), and said “I’m sorry you actually have to tell people that.”

              But mostly, I try to keep it polite, but to the point, because I know they’re busy, I’m busy, and this is business, not a social call. So I’ll use a pleasant tone, say please and thank you, and so on, and end with something like “Thanks for your help, have a good day!” It seems to work well enough.

        3. OriginalEmma*

          It’s not about how much time it takes up, to me, but about coaxing emotional labor out of someone where it’s not sincere and it is not necessary. Customer service employees are burdened with ensuring their customers leave an encounter satisfied, which already includes a significant amount of emotional labor. Having 50+ people ask me (when I was a call center worker) how I was, and having to answer in a fake but upbeat manner, was emotionally draining. (here’s a little article on the topic of customer service workers and emotional labor:

          1. LBK*

            Excellent point. There was definitely something more exhausting than enjoyable about having to answer the “how are you?” question to the last caller of your shift when realistically you just wanted to get the hell out of there – because even if they engage in the niceties of asking how you’re doing, the caller doesn’t want a genuine response. The whole interaction isn’t really any less fake than if they skipped the pleasantries. If you responded “Actually I’m doing horribly, this job sucks, my boyfriend just dumped me and my car died this morning” you’d probably get fired.

          2. Sitting Duck*

            Yes! I don’t work at a call center, but part of my job is answering the phone, and I despise the ‘How are you’ that almost every conversation starts with – it is emotionally draining for me – I actually dislike the ‘How are you?’ question in general life too – because at least 90% of the time the asker doesn’t really care, and isn’t looking for a real answer, they are just looking for a ‘fine’ and it bugs the beetles out of me!

            When someone calls me on the phone it really bugs me, because I am typically right in the middle of doing something and have to stop to answer the call, while I don’t mind answering their question, I am pretty busy and don’t have extra time for useless pleasantries. JMO

        4. Artemesia*

          Whenever I get a call — and if it isn’t a friend, it is someone asking for money or soliciting business, I find myself annoyed at ‘how are you’ type riffs. They don’t care. They are there to grab my wallet. I hate calls like this and I really hate time wasting drivel. I’d much rather have ‘I’m calling from X about Y’. Thus when I call to order on the phone, I start with something like ‘Thanks for taking my call. I need . . .’ or ‘Can you help me with X please.’ Being civil and pleasant doesn’t require social banter.

          1. The Butcher of Luverne*

            But if I’m calling a CSR, I’m not trying to grab anyone’s wallet. I’m trying to get someone to help me solve my issue.

            1. Kelly L.*

              But if you’re a telemarketer or a scammer, you’re not even calling a CSR on purpose–you’re calling random numbers hoping for a warm body, and you happened to get a CSR that time. You know what you’re calling about, but the person on the other end doesn’t, until you tell them. People at work get telemarketing calls too.

        5. Stranger than fiction*

          My thoughts exactly. And do you know what does waste time? When they ask you several different ways if that’s all you need at the end of the call: “is there anything else I can help you with?” Followed by “have I answered all your questions today?” Uh yeah I pretty much just said that. I know it’s just required scripts buy kind of silly.

      2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        Most call center reps have performance stats that are driven by social niceties, offering a how are you, calling the customer by name. The handling time that reps are under typically take this time into accounts. If the customer and the rep do not engage at a social level in someway, the rep is marked down in performance.

        The larger reputable ones, I should say. In small centers and telemarketing firms, there’s a whole different set of guidelines and those are typically not in favor of the employee.

        Another reason I am liking husband – he’s helping these employees get slightly higher performance ratings by simply being polite.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Yes! This can go into quality scores. And it can help the CSR show that they have some of the soft skills that might be needed in other, higher positions. We had time measures when I was a CSR, but since a lot of the job required doing research while on the phone, we were encouraged to know how to do polite chit-chat with a caller who might be (justifiably) upset. (This was health benefits for military members and families. The callers could be in a very stressful situation that might have nothing to do with their call.)

        2. Seven If You Count Bad John*

          It doesn’t work like that. The husband is the customer. The CSR doesn’t get scored on whether the husband says “how are you”, they get scored on whether *they* do the work of establishing the rapport (however that’s defined by the quality assurance in that center.)
          So if the husband just gets down to business, nothing bad happens to the CSR. But if he says “how are you” and expects a response, then yeah, he could be wasting a CSR’s call handle time. And it *does* matter–CSRs get all kinds of coaching on how to redirect overly small-talky customers, and CSRs who don’t or can’t disengage from those conversations *do* get penalized for it.

          Quit trying to make friends–just be civil and let them help you. (I should mention, I have been the QA person listening to the calls. Seriously, you’re not helping the rep.)

      3. F.*

        I don’t waste the call center rep’s time, but there is one social nicety I do try to do when it is warranted. I all-too-frequently have to call customer service at a certain very large payroll services provider which is notorious for very long wait times on hold, cutting callers off, and generally poor customer service. This past week, I had to make the dreaded call, but was pleasantly surprised to be connected to a rep in seven minutes. This rep had a little trouble with my issue, but did not cut me off and got help to resolve it quickly and professionally. At the end of the call when I got his name and case number for my records, I made a point of complimenting him by name on the service he provided. I know their calls are recorded, so I hope a supervisor hears it at some point. I will also give him good marks when I get the customer service survey.

        1. Ista*

          The survey is a great help, but if you really do get great service, I’ll echo whomever said previously, ask if there is someone you can tell that to immediately (supervisor or manager). Not only do they get the immediate gratification from hearing you ask, but it will definitely get to their manager then.

        2. Seven If You Count Bad John*

          You need to ask to speak with a supervisor, don’t just hope that call is monitored. If you really want to help out the agent.

  8. KH*

    I partially disagree with Alison on the answer OP#3 and her advice to “don’t give your husband a hard time about it”. Please do give your husband a hard time about it – show him my response even.

    For context, I have worked 3 phone heavy jobs: One as a reservationist at the central reservations line for a major hotel chain. One as a support person for a data company (think old days of dialup Internet). And one as a holiday job taking catalog orders for a locally based holiday food company (think Christmas and New Years hams and turkeys).

    IN all of those jobs my raises and my bonuses depended on how many calls I could handle satisfactorily in a shift. And sometimes there were consequences if I couldn’t handle a set number of calls. Because of that, there was nothing that made me angrier and more frustrated than a client who started off a call with “Well hello there, and how are you today, KH?” Usually when they started off the call that way, it meant they expected me to reply in kind “I’m fine Steve. And how are you? Really? What’s the weather where you are?” And then carry on some kind of conversation for minutes before they actually got to what they wanted. If I simply replied “I’m well thank you, how can I help you?” sometimes they’d get snippy or even lecture me on how I needed to slow down and take my time to “appreciate each customer”.

    Your husband’s attempt to be pleasant can actually be costing people money – and might even get them in trouble if they’re not able to channel the call back to business and meet whatever time constraints that the company has placed upon support calls. (For reference, the company that I currently work for, for example, has a 6 min resolution timeline – where if a CS rep can’t come to a resolution in 6 mins, the call has to be escalated.)

    If your husband wants to be pleasant and make the people he’s talking to feel appreciated, he will respect their time and have his issue/problem/order/request lined up in very simple, precise language and ready to go. Maybe listen carefully and catch their name if they mention it and use it back to them. So when the CS rep says “Thank you for calling General Teapots, this is Mary, how can I help you today?” His response can be “Hello Mary. What I need today is … ” And step right into it.

    Use please and thank you. Remain calm even if he’s annoyed because the CS rep really has very little control over most issues. There are ways to be a nice person and pleasant and recognize phone reps as human beings without spending the first 3 mins of the call on social pleasantries that aren’t appropriate and can actually be a bad thing for the rep.

    1. KWu*

      Yeah, I wanted to say this as well, also a former call center rep. Being pleasant but direct about your request is much appreciated because the rep doesn’t have to choose between keeping average call time metrics down and risking a customer giving a bad rating from trying to move things along. Remember their names, have chit chat only if there are unavoidable pauses from computer processing and such, and thank them by name at the end.

      1. Jackson*

        This sounds awful…..why would the business set things up where the rep is forced to choose beteween common politeness and losing money?

        1. Not me*

          Because they want to handle as many customers as possible. What do you mean by common politeness? If one person wants to talk for 30 minutes, is that polite to another person who’s waiting for help?

        2. plain_jane*

          Because the call center folks are paid by the hour. And you don’t want to be left on hold. And you don’t want to pay 2% extra for your services.

          If each call takes an average of 5 minutes (including the documentation afterwards and ignoring downtime for easy math), then a rep can do 12 calls an hour. If each call takes 6 minutes, a rep can do 10 calls an hour.

          So if your average call volume is 120 calls an hour, and then average call takes 5 minutes, then the company needs to have 10 people on staff. If the average call takes 6 minutes, then the call center needs to hire two more people. And it isn’t really two more people. Because every x number of people, there is also a new supervisor.

          This is why most companies make average handle time AND customer satisfaction scores part of the rep’s performance evaluation & compensation. Because the company knows the two things are in tension, and they want to have their cake & eat it too.

          1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

            Average call volume is typically is typically 60-120 calls per day, depending on industry and context. This factors in breaks, lunch, bathroom time, training time, and research.

            Also, call centers don’t staff as a straight line but based on expected volume for a period of time to avoid paying out too much overhead.

            Large call centers aren’t stacking the deck against the employee. They are factoring in employee needs. Unless you’ve managed call-center capacity, it’s difficult to understand that the work is structured and managed much differently than most service work.

        3. KH*

          Why do you think you can’t have “common politeness” without a time-wasting, meaningless opening question that isn’t going to be answered honestly anyway?

    2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      Interesting. My experience was completely different (Huge multi-national call center). Our handling time factored in some small-talk, and we were expected to converse while taking care of issues and treat the customer like a person, not a problem to solve.

      I didn’t agree with Alison’s advice because I would have loved to have someone ask how I was and let me breathe for a moment (and let’s face it, “how are you” is social theatre anyway since hardly anyone answers truthfully).

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I think it really does depend on context. I’ve had to call 911 and never asked the operator how they were. On the other hand, calling AAA can be like calling a concerned friend. I can see taking catalog orders as being more numbers focused.

        Then again, I’ve always been taught that it takes as much time to be polite as to be rude, and you generally get better results.

    3. Retail HR Guy*

      To be fair, though, those customers lecturing you were right that your companies weren’t practicing good customer service. I work at a place that works extremely hard to stand out in that area, and we would never dream of using call turnover as a metric because it encourages bad service. If it takes Great Aunt Mabel five minutes to get to her point then so be it.

      It is also extremely important to empower employees to be able to bring any issue where it needs to go. The front line person doesn’t have control over that? Fine, they can find out who does in order to escalate as needed and resolve things to the customer’s satisfaction. And if it isn’t possible to get the customer what they want, then the customer deserves an explanation from someone who can explain why, instead of just, “I dunno, those are the rules” from a frontline rep just trying to get the customer off the phone.

      And we would NEVER select someone to work a customer-facing role who became “angry and frustrated” just because a customer asks them how they are doing.

      Call center-style practices may have become the new norm, but let’s not pretend that it isn’t bad service.

      1. KH*

        I think you’re both missing the entire point and operating from a completely unrelated frame of reference.

        And really that’s all I’ll say about that.

    4. Frances*

      Thank you for this perspective! I’m a person who says “how are you” and I’ve noticed that sometimes I get no response – just silence prompting me to start talking about why I’m calling. It’s always annoyed me (though not to the level where I would complain about it), but now I can see that those reps are probably dealing with pressure to meet an incredibly high call volume.

    5. Stranger than fiction*

      That seems like more a flaw in the system though. I mean getting docked for being nice is weird, like others have mentioned a lot of companies account for a pleasantly or two. Th companies you worked for sound like real whip crackers.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Most call centres really are, though. They deliberately operate on high turnovers as staff burn out, and move on, and they tend to pay higher than retail etc, so they bank on always having enough applicants for jobs, so can keep staff working as hard as possible, hence the whole monitoring of bathroom breaks and exact timings of breaks, unfriendly shifts and so on.

      2. KH*

        Again, I don’t understand how if you don’t want to waste time or you’re on a tight schedule or you need to be efficient, you’re not “being nice” simply because you don’t want to spend the first few minutes of a call chitchatting.

        Being nice has NOTHING to do with whether or not you chitchat. I can be perfectly nice, friendly, have a smiling voice, call someone by name if they’ve given me their name, say please and thank you, and many other things and be NICE without wasting someone’s time.

        As far as companies being whip crackers, you can say that, sure. But remember that the next time you call into a switchboard or call center and are told by an automated voice “The estimated hold time for your call is 18 minutes.” You are also the customer/client who someone is trying to help and who is having to wait to accommodate someone else’s need to equate “chattiness” with “nice”.

      3. Seven If You Count Bad John*

        They don’t dock you for being nice. They dock you for wasting time. They also dock you for being too brusque.
        Example 1: “…and Mrs Lannister may I please get the correct spelling of your last name?”
        Example 2: “Spell that.”
        Example 3: “Oh, Lannister! What an INTERESTING name! and how is that spelled? That’s remarkable. I’ve never seen it spelled like that! Where does it originate? Oh, Casterly Rock? Is that where you’re from? I have ancestors from there too! But we’re mostly from Winterfell really. Sometimes we come up blonde, I have the CUTEST little blonde nephew and I’m just SO SURE it’s because he’s got Lannister blood. Are you blonde too? …oh, your order, oh yeah, let me track that for you..”

        Example 1 gets 100% for both courtesy and call control.
        Example 2 gets downchecked for being brusque.
        Example 3 gets downchecked for wasting time. Depending on what the call sounds like, they might also lose points on courtesy and empathy, if they’re disregarding the customer’s clear signals that they don’t care for all the nosy questions and just want to get on with things.
        Call Quality is mechanistic, but it’s not THAT mechanistic. Context matters.

        Also, There are two threads going on here–one is about INBOUND calls (which I used to monitor) and one is about OUTBOUND calls. The people who are complaining about having their time wasted are mainly victims of an outbound call script (Hi, may I speak with Cersei? Hi Cersei, this is Sansa from Winterfell Thermal Teapots how are you doing today? [Pause, wait for answer]…” The difference is that the inbound CSR is expected to be responsive to their customer. The outbound CSR is pushing a false intimacy (probably required to by the script, or it’s a sales technique they learned in the car dealership, or whatever) and as OriginalEmma said above, it’s coaxing emotional labor out of someone whom you’re already inconveniencing with your *unsolicited* sales call.

    6. mander*

      Back in the stone ages I worked in customer service call centre, and we’d actually get marked down for engaging in pleasantries because of the extra time it took. IIRC we were supposed to shoot for 3 minutes per call, which was wildly unrealistic because of the nature of the business (and its total disarray). As soon as the phones came on in the morning we’d have at least 100 people on hold immediately, and the phone never stopped ringing until the very last call. Most people had to wait well over an hour on hold to get through, so an extra minute here or there made a difference.

  9. Gary*

    #3. From the POV of a customer, I don’t like being asked “how are you” from cashiers and such, especially when it seems like they’re pausing for a response before they process the transaction. I know they’re told to say these things, but it still puts me in an awkward position because then I’m the one who comes across looking like a bad guy when all I want to do is pay for my teapot and leave.

    Part of the reason I’m like this is because I have Asperger’s Syndrome, which affects my ability to be social because I don’t always pick up on “normal” social cues. For example – when I started at my current employment, when I was introduced to the boss, he said “How are you?” and I responded by telling him I have diabetes. I did not know at the time that “how are you” is just an expression and not necessarily an actual expression of concern for one’s welfare.

    1. knitchic79*

      I have two boys who are on this spectrum. Teaching them this was/ is a challenge. I also have to work cashier shifts for small parts of my day. Honestly a “Fine thank you” is great. Don’t feel like you need to keep up the small talk. With all the talking we retail folk have to do in a day your cashier may appreciate the break. :) As long as you’re polite we really don’t mind if you’re quiet.

    2. Case of the Mondays*

      I’m sorry you had that experience with your boss but that story just made my day. I suffer from an invisible disability and I often fantasize about telling people the gory truth instead of a perky “I’m well. How are you?” Except in my daydream, I keep my smile and perkiness. I’d love to respond to a how are you with “if I get through this meeting without pooping my pants, great!”

    3. Monique*

      I’m from a country where “how are you?” at registers isn’t at all the norm. When I moved to Australia for a while I really had to get used to it. Then I realised their “how are you?” was our “good afternoon” – the words were different, it was technically a question, but it served the exact same purpose, and people simply wanted a “good thanks, you?” back, to which they could respond, “good, thanks” while scanning my groceries.

      I felt a lot more comfortable once I realised no one actually wanted their question answered – it was just code for, “hello there, I have noticed you and it’s now your turn at the register.”

    4. neverjaunty*

      Plenty of neurotypical people use societal niceties as an excuse to launch into conversation, so don’t feel bad about that. It’s just one of those social rituals that is less intuitive for you.

      1. miki*

        Yeah, How are you from a cashier at Potbelly’s when he could see that I am drenched (summer shower weather) to my underwear . My reply: I’m wet, thanks for asking.

    5. Seven If You Count Bad John*

      Asperger’s has nothing to do with it, I’m neurotypical and this drives me up the wall. “Hi, how are you today?” “I was fine before I got stalled at the register by someone whose manager thinks I need fake friends. Now I’m annoyed. And no I don’t want your loyalty card and no I don’t want to give a dollar to Charity.”

  10. Stephanie*

    #3: I’d follow their lead, but just defer to getting to the point of your call. I called Zappos yesterday and the CSR started off all chatty and asked how my evening was going and such and we made some small talk. But that being said, from what I’ve read about Zappos, the CSRs are trained to not follow a script and build rapport with the customers. Other call centers, I imagine not as much. I know there is also pressure to get calls resolved as quickly as possible and hit targets, so much more than a “Hi, how are you?” “Fine.” might actually not be appreciated.

    1. Blurgle*

      Zappos actually base bonuses on how long the call is, not how short. They want the CSR to take time.

      1. Stephanie*

        I can see that. After hearing (probably in this blog’s comment sections) from former/current CSRs about pressure to resolve calls quickly, I’ve been trained to get to the point. So it was a little weird when I’m like “I have an issue with this order” and they were asking about my weekend.

        1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

          That’s kind of tone deaf. “These shoes don’t fit and I need to return them” “oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I see you’re from Wisconsin, did you watch the game?”

        2. J dave*

          I used to be a CSR and the average call time hits you on a bonus in most places, so you try to hurry up. From the company’s side its because they want you off the phone and taking another time asap. They are making you more productive (more customers served with the same expense in labor), but from the customer’s side I get that some people like to chat or don’t like to be hurried around. People are also slower than others to grasp some concepts and ideas, so even though the problem was easy and quick, they took their time to get to the point or they didn’t understand that it was already solved. Measuring customer service is not easy, I can’t find a perfect angle to make everyone happy.

    2. Afiendishthingy*

      At the call center I worked at (hotel reservations) we got points for “making a connection.” I think “how are you doing today” counted; some coworkers took it to a weird place. One woman, if a caller told her they were bringing a pet, would ask follow up questions then tell the caller “well tell Mr. Peanut Butter that Sally and Socks say hello!” As in, tell your dog that the employee and her cat say hello. She was a strange person.

    3. Noah*

      I’m pretty sure the Hilton reservation people get this too. I try to do most of my bookings online, but every now and then have to call for something. I stay at hotels several times a month, and by habit it is usually a Hilton or Doubletree. Apparently there is a ton of information about me in their system because they always find some key tidbit to latch onto. I like when the air conditioner is my room is already turned down to 68 degrees and there is a cold Diet Coke in the fridge. I find it creepy when a phone rep mentions my favorite hockey team or asks if I’m going on this trip alone or if ex-boyfriend will be accompanying me.

  11. Stephanie*

    #5: Isn’t this why taxes for professional athletes or touring performers can be so complicated–because those shows/games on the road mean you performed work in that jurisdiction and need to file taxes there?

      1. Meg Murry*

        And city, if there is a separate city tax. My husband is a licensed contractor and technically he is supposed to file and pay taxes in each and every city he works in for the period of time (so if he works 3.5 days in municipality A he is supposed to pay X% of those days wages to that city, and then 2 days in municipality B he is supposed to pay Y%, etc). Luckily the cities don’t really crack down on this all that hard for small time contractors doing small jobs, but for athletes making mega-millions, you had better believe they will come after that money.

        Local municipality income taxes and school district income taxes (in addition to property taxes) are always things that surprise people when moving to our area. It’s not a ton of money, but that unexpected 1%-3% each can add up quickly, plus is a royal PITA come tax time – the local tax forms are almost more difficult than the state and federal, since they don’t play nicely with TurboTax.

        1. Hlyssande*

          Whoa, I’ve never heard of local muni/city income tax! Property tax yes, income no. Interesting.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            This is common in some more densely populated areas. It can affect where people decide to live in some parts of the country.

    1. BRR*

      I just saw Kathleen Madigan perform this weekend and she mentioned this exact thing. She had one show in a state and needed some paper work. My spouse went through this when he used to grade AP exams and would have to work in Utah for a week.

    2. AW*

      OMG, I never even thought of that.

      To all independent artists who do multi-state & international tours: bless your hearts.

  12. Stephanie*

    #2: Texting is great in many ways, but I agree this seems like not the best use of it. Something with nuance to it like a potential job needs a medium like email (or a phone conversation) where details can be fleshed out. Really long texts seem kind of contradictory to the point of texting.

    1. sam*

      Also, I know it’s less common these days, but as someone who does not text often and remains grandfathered into a really cheap limited text message plan ($5/200 messages/month), I get seriously annoyed when someone I don’t know sends me unsolocited texts.

      (And no, I’m not going to “upgrade” in order to pay $20/month to send/receive the same 15-20 messages on average I send now :) Plus, with things like imessage and FB messenger, 90% of the people I “message” with don’t actually text in the first place)

      1. Lore*

        I have the same plan! Yes, it’s true, I have gone over the limit on occasion (for example, last month, when I was making complicated travel arrangements with a group of friends), but that extra $7 once a year is still preferable to $15 extra dollars every month.

        1. sam*

          exactly – I would have to consistently text about 100x more than I do now, every month, for it to make sense to change. and as noted, almost everyone I know has an iphone, and iMessaging doesn’t count, which significantly cuts down on actual paid-for text messages. The person I “text” with most is my brother who lives overseas, and we use a variety of “costless” messaging apps (facebook, skype, etc.) depending on the mood.

          (I’m also still grandfathered into unlimited data – they can pry my “classic” iphone package out of my cold, dead hands.).

      2. AW*

        As someone who’s family & friends just said, “But it’s easier!” and kept right on texting me after I pointed out they were costing me money, I seriously feel you on this.

  13. Merry and Bright*

    #1 Something similar happened to me a while back. I emailed my CV/resume with a covering email as the advertisement asked. Some time later I got an interview invitation. After the interview itself I had to visit the HR office with my ID. Now, it was a UK company and the job was in London. I produced my passport (and birth certificate for good measure) which show I was born in the UK. Yet HR hummed and haahed and decided they could not proceed with my application because I did not have the correct visa. Why would I? I am a British national. But their checklist said “visa”, I didn’t have one and that was that.

    There is human error, silliness and red tape and sometimes it can be defeating. I agree though that after a reasonable and professional attempt to clear things up you probably need to let it go. Their error, their loss.

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      That one is really odd. Showing right to work is normal (and a real pain when you haven’t needed your passport in a couple of years and have to dedicate an afternoon to sleuthing for it) but I’ve never heard of requiring a visa specifically. Perhaps you should have applied for a visa and been able to show them a letter stating you don’t need one? *shrug*

      1. misspiggy*

        You wouldn’t get that from a UK embassy, as an overseas Brit applying for a job back home – you would get some exasperated looks though. That really was extraordinarily stupid on the part of HR. In Merry and Bright’s situation I think I would have emailed the hiring manager to tell them what had happened, if it appeared that other people working at that company weren’t quite as hidebound.

        1. Carlos*

          Hi, I’m the OP. This is my point: why are companies so closed and incompetent like this? Are they really so closed minded that they can’t even consider the slight possibility that they can work the paperwork later if the candidate is right? This is very disappointing. I don’t expect them to be experts in immigration law, but if a national of a country is asking for work in his own country, how can they even get it wrong? Excuse me all hiring managers, but, How can we be firm and demand our rights if we have to be all non-confrontational all the time because the hiring managers have all the cards? Hard decision indeed. This hurts applicants AND companies! They miss on great talent that has been exposed to foreign ideas and training, and applicant’s chance on a meaningful opportunity. Thank you for your comments!

    2. Carlos*

      Hi, I’m the OP. Nice anecdote, thanks for sharing! I guess the best thing is to just let it go. Errors do cost them.

      That reminded me of the “computer says no”. lol

  14. Tara R.*


    I really, really hope I have never inadvertantly done this to someone, but… it is entirely possible that I have. I don’t have social anxiety! I’m very chatty and talkative, and basically a textbook extravert. But there are just a few social interactions that give me anxiety, and thank yous are one. It’s literally just the starting the thank you out of nowhere– I really have to work myself up to starting a conversation about it, and I just feel so awkward about it. How do I balance gratititude with not being over the top? When is a good time to bring it up? Okay, just open your mouth and say ‘hey thanks for the chocolates, I appreciate it!’… no, mouth isn’t moving, now they’re walking away, damn it now it’s going to be even more awkward, continue until I finally manage to stammer it out and feel like the world’s most awkward human being.

    Anyway, this is probably just me and your intern is just being a teensy bit of a jerk, but… Maybe it’s not just me and he has a weird quirk? Benefit of the doubt!

    1. Artemesia*

      It is also rude to leave a gift sitting around like that if not in use. I made that mistake once. My boss gave me a box of fancy candies that I loath. I thanks him properly but he wandered into my office one day and the thing a month after Christmas was sitting unopened on my shelf. Awkward. I should have re-gifted it; opened it and put it by the coffee pot; taken it home — but not left it sitting around clearly unappreciated.

    2. Nicole*

      I can understand the awkward angle but what about emailing someone a thank you? I think since the gift wasn’t given in person an email is fine. I couldn’t NOT thank someone for a gift even if I hated it.

  15. Mookie*

    LW 1, if you don’t actually want the job, though it sounds like you might, you can politely tweet something about this, in an impersonal, helpful, heads-up you’ve-got-an-error in your system sort of way, but it’s not going to help you land the job nor is it likely to make them reconsider you. If your twitter account bears your real name, features a photo of you, or contains such specific information that it’d fairly easy to deduce your identity, you should definitely not tweet anything snarky. Future employers and interviewing managers will be able to find it, and you’ll look like a troublemaker, somebody laden with the grapes that are sour, someone willing to burn bridges to avenge a perceived slight. “Another good company” is emphatically not going to “value” you because you tweeted this company; that is a ridiculous suggestion. If anything, it’d make them leery to be in contact with someone willing to publicly criticize a potential employer.

    1. Carlos*

      OP here. Good insight, but don’t you think its too heavily biased in favor of the companies? what about an applicant’s right to work in his own country? how can he demand his rights without appearing confrontational? and most importantly perhaps, why are companies so closed to criticism that is constructive?

      “Hey look, this guy found a big glitch in the system. He appears to be a critical thinker, let’s meet with him and see how he can improve our processes elsewhere” would seem what a forward-thinking company should do, instead of “Hey look, this guy found a big glitch in the system. We don’t want anyone pointing out our errors! Blacklist him and make sure we don’t consider people who think they are smarter than us omnipotent HR people- How dare he! Such a troublemaker!”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s not what anyone is saying and almost seems like a deliberate misreading of what I and others have written here, which is: It’s fine to politely point out the error and ask for help. It’s not fine to be rude or snarky about it. What seems unfair about that?

        1. Carlos*

          First, thanks for posting the question and interacting! That’s why your site is so popular!! ;)

          On the issue, I apologize for the misunderstanding, I took the issue too far too fast. I agree that everyone is saying that privately and politely pointing out the error could help, not so much if done publicly. Twitter bashing is a bad idea. I get that.

          However, please consider the underlying issue here: it is unfair that an applicant is not even being considered because of a system glitch of some incompetent reviewer. Why should his capacities and/or candidacy be minimized only because he pointed this out, an error that could be decreasing the company’s productivity?

          To add on top of that, let’s keep in mind that the company’s refusal to consider an application on this error is a violation of human rights (right to work) and the country’s own laws & constitution. I’m not saying this is an argument I would use to be hired, but they do have a (legal) obligation. That’s a moral and legal ground on why its unfair (or unjust to use Rawl’s terms because there is no equality of opportunity). So, why does demanding consideration, independently of polite or not-polite manner used, overcome the entitlement to fair consideration? It’s like saying that your civil rights are not guaranteed because you did not say ‘please’.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Why should his capacities and/or candidacy be minimized only because he pointed this out, an error that could be decreasing the company’s productivity?

            But no one is saying that you’d be harmed by politely pointing out the error. We’re suggesting that you do so, because it may help.

            To add on top of that, let’s keep in mind that the company’s refusal to consider an application on this error is a violation of human rights (right to work) and the country’s own laws & constitution. I’m not saying this is an argument I would use to be hired, but they do have a (legal) obligation.

            In the U.S., this isn’t the case.

            1. Carlos*

              But no one is saying that you’d be harmed by politely pointing out the error. We’re suggesting that you do so, because it may help.

              Not harm, but it doesn’t help either. Mookie wrote: “…you can politely tweet something about this, in an impersonal, helpful, heads-up you’ve-got-an-error in your system sort of way, but it’s not going to help you land the job nor is it likely to make them reconsider you.”

              In the U.S., this isn’t the case.

              My problem has nothing to do with the US, however, I found out that in the U.S. it is (also) the case. In fact, there is an entire government agency called the “US Equal Employment Commission”, and in their webpage they even specifically state:

              Employers should not ask whether or not a job applicant is a United States citizen before making an offer of employment. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 12986 (IRCA) makes it illegal for employers to discriminate with respect to hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee, based on an individual’s citizenship or immigration status.

              So, yes. There is a legal and moral obligation to provide equality of opportunity in the United States as well, without regard of national origin or immigration status (they may not have to hire you, but they have to consider you).

              I understand that the visa sponsorship is expensive in time and money, but that doesn’t mean that companies can curb the (mostly moral) obligation to give everyone a fair chance, equal opportunity. Because there are cases where, like mine, they are completely out of line. How can you be sure that you are losing out on great talent because of an illegal practice in the system (of asking for national origin and immigration status)?

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                You’re interpreting that EEOC guidance incorrectly.

                It’s perfectly legal in the U.S. to ask if someone is authorized to work in the U.S. It’s not legal to ask if they’re a citizen, because that’s a different question (and that’s what that EEOC quote refers to). Visa sponsorship isn’t about citizenship but about legal work eligibility.

                There is no law in the U.S. that requires employers to sponsor visas or prohibits them from declining to consider applicants who would need visa sponsorship. There is no legal obligation in the U.S. to consider candidates who would need sponsorship.

                1. Carlos*

                  It’s perfectly legal in the U.S. to ask if someone is authorized to work in the U.S.

                  I’m sorry, but no, it is not. That same website says:

                  Because of potential claims of illegal discrimination, employment eligibility verification should be conducted after an offer to hire has been made.

                  Additionally, this is true:

                  There is no law in the U.S. that requires employers to sponsor visas…

                  but the last part, is not:

                  …or prohibits them from declining to consider applicants who would need visa sponsorship. There is no legal obligation in the U.S. to consider candidates who would need sponsorship.

                  That last part is false. You DO have to ‘consider’ an application of someone who would need sponsorship, because you wouldn’t know they need sponsorship or not since you cannot ask about their immigration status until after they are made an offer. Otherwise there is a case for discrimination, as noted by the EEOC. On the other side, you DO NOT have to ‘sponsor their visas’ or ‘hire’ them, because the candidate does not have legal authorization to work in the US, which is different.

                  For that last reason, they urge you to put this disclaimer in the job application:

                  “In compliance with federal law, all persons hired will be required to verify identity and eligibility to work in the United States and to complete the required employment eligibility verification document form upon hire.”

                  In other words, if you are screening candidates on the basis of their citizenship, nationality, residence, visa sponsorship need, national origin, or eligibility to work in the US, those are all discriminatory practices, and illegal.

                  And as you can see from my case, they also hurt the company’s productivity and the candidates that fall through the cracks.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  That’s not correct.

                  It’s perfectly legal in the U.S. to ask if applicants are legally authorized to work in the U.S. That’s not asking about their immigration status; it’s asking if they’re legally authorized to work — two different things. That question is a very common one on job applications, and it’s legal.

                  I think what’s confusing you here is that you’re lumping (1) citizenship, (2) immigration status, and (3) legal eligibility to work in the U.S. all together. Employers shouldn’t ask about #1 or #2, but it is legal to ask about #3.

                3. sam*

                  Not only that, but it’s actually a formal requirement of things H1-B visa applications for the potential employer to post/seek workers in the US to fill the post before they hire from overseas. For many companies, they treat this like a formality, but they have to show that they’ve made some effort to hire “domestically” (this can be citizens, green cards, people here on other types of visas, etc.), before an H1-B visa will be granted. I don’t know the rules for other work visas, but I have friends here on H1-Bs, and I’ve seen what they need to go through.

  16. Momiitz*

    For # 3, How about saying good morning/good afternoon instead of how are you. That’s what I usually do. It’s a nice and pleasant way to start a business interaction. And it’s quick so you can move on to the reason for the call.

    1. Windchime*

      This is what I do, too. I realize that they are under pressure to answer a lot of calls, so I just try to be really polite and patient (so, no complaining about the wait or being put on hold) and get the call over with. I always thank them for their assistance at the end. If the phone rep initiates chit-chat, then I will respond in a friendly manner but I honestly didn’t call to have a long, friendly chat about the weather — I called to get my X working again, or to understand the charges for Y.

  17. Irish Goodbye*

    I wish we could just stop saying “how are you” when it’s not a real question. The only real answer is “I’m fine, how are you?” it’s not like I can tell them how I actually am. To me this is the opposite of human interaction. It’s robotic. The callers don’t care about how I am, they just want to rent an apartment.

    1. Irish Goodbye*

      I just saw Momiitz’s reply and I think that’s a good idea. I’m going to start doing that.

      If I win the lottery (unlikely as I don’t play, but you never know) I’m going to keep my job for a while and when a caller asks me how I am I’m going to tell them exactly how I am.

    2. Felicia*

      We actually studied how meaningless saying “How are you?” is in a class I took called sociology of the everyday. Also when I studied Mandarin, my teacher told me that in the part of China where she’s from, it’s considered rude to ask strangers how they are unless they’re in super obvious distress, because you can’t possibly care that much. I liked that:) But I’m one who hates small talk, and hates those kinds of fake questions.

        1. Monique*

          Yup. When I spent some time in Australia “how are you” at registers made me really nervous for a while, until I realised it just meant “hello” most of the time! You’ll only get a “good afternoon” where I’m from!

      1. Velociraptor Attack*

        I like this a lot. I moved from a large metropolitan area (we’re taking top 10 in the nation) to what amounts to a large city in a state that has a population about a fifth of that metro area in the past 2 years for work. I’ve gotten some serious side eye when discussing with people here that think people in large cities are rude (not everyone, not a generalization) that I kind of prefer that. I know that no strangers really care about how I am and how my day is so getting asked that constantly here is frustrating.

        However, in a professional environment I had to adjust to societal norms where I am to avoid being viewed unfavorably.

    3. Allison*

      Right? Your answer to that pretty much has to be positive. Unless you’re in the hospital. I sometimes catch myself answering “how are you today?” with “I’m good,” when I’m in the emergency room with stomach pains, or in urgent care for a sinus infection. I’m obviously not “good”!

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        I hate when doctors ask me “how are you?” Because I’m all “well, social niceties require me to say ‘fine,’ but IF I WERE FINE I WOULD NOT BE HERE!”

        I’ve taken to saying, “well, I’m here..”

        1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

          I read a book somewhere back in the 20th century, about a doctor, a memoir of some kind, and it talked about how doctors have to get out of the habit of asking “how are you?” because of the social thing. People will automatically say “fine” and the doctor takes it literally and because he meant it literally and it screws up their communication because the patients don’t want to contradict the doctor.

    4. GG*

      This +10000!

      I can be feeling perfectly fine. But then a sales clerk or some random person asks, “How are you?” and it instantly puts me in a foul mood. I know people use it as a throw-away greeting. But I really hate that I’m then obligated to give the only socially acceptable answer of “fine”. If you don’t actually want to know the answer – the real answer – don’t ask!

    5. Lily in NYC*

      I feel like people take the phrase too literally when it’s really just used as a greeting.

      1. fposte*

        Right–it’s phatic communication. People aren’t really wishing that God be with you when they say goodbye, either.

    6. Owl*

      Whenever the “how are you” thing comes up, someone inevitably says this — that’s it’s meaningless. And I have to disagree.

      I do acknowledge that when the question is asked (especially among acquaintances or strangers), the asker isn’t really looking for an in-depth response. However, I think that there are a range of acceptable, not-too-personal responses that can spark a small-talk conversation if that’s what the other person wants to do, or can be ignored if THAT’S what the other person wants to do. For example, I might say “a little tired” or “getting over a cold, but much better now!” or “pretty great actually, I got good news this morning!” or something like that.

      I dunno. I guess it’s just a pet peeve of mind, that people think that “How are you?” is either meaningless or invasive — I think it can (and should) be right in the middle of those two things, a brief connection with a human being you don’t know well.

      1. Retail HR Guy*

        It also opens the door up just a little bit to allow the person to give an honest response if they want to and steer the conversation their way. It’s sort of like giving them the helm for a second–is there anything YOU want to talk about?

        Most of the time you’ll get a canned response, but every now and then you get a, “You know, I’d be a lot better if only…” or “Wonderful! I just found out I’m a grandma!”

        It shows respect for the other person to open the door this way, even if they decline to walk through it. In effect it says, “In case you want to talk about yourself I’m willing to listen”. And that’s why it’s a polite and meaningful thing to ask.

    7. Macedon*

      Part of why I always give an honest reply to “How are you?” — I figure at best it actually informs the person I’m speaking to, at worst they reconsider aiming pleasantries they don’t mean at me.

    8. INFJ*

      I personally like using “How’s it going?” at work, which is a bit more open ended and invites them to talk about something other than themselves: how busy it is today, how cold the office is, how excited they are about Indian food day at the caf., etc.

    9. LQ*

      I wish I could find a better way to say “How are you?” when I really mean it because otherwise I have to go into “I really care about you and am concerned for your wellbeing and would like to give you the opportunity to express your state of being or request something from me.” which is long and unweidly for most people, though I admit I do find myself saying something like that when I say “How are you?” and people automatically respond with “Fine you” which can be so automatic that people don’t even notice it.

  18. CrazyCatLady*

    #3 I don’t answer phones for a living but when I do have to occasionally answer them at work, I HATE when someone asks how I am today. I immediately assume it’s a sales call … And 9 times out of 10, I’m right. I’m a jerk and hate the phone so other people may not have such a bad reaction to “how are you?”.

    1. Allison*

      Yup, pretty much. When a random stranger asks who I am, I generally assume they want something from me.

    2. CM*

      That’s funny, I never realized that but you’re absolutely right. I’m normally pretty friendly, but the moment I hear “how are you” from an unknown caller, I become very cold and ask why they’re calling.

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        I become very cold, too! In a flat voice, I’m just like “fine” and then wait for them to say what idiotic thing they’re calling about.

    3. Kelly L.*

      Ha! I should have read all the way down the thread, because I just posted the same thing upthread. I even named the same percentage! :D

      1. Kelly L.*

        I used to get Mrs. Boyfriendsmispronouncedlastname a lot. As they were wrong on several counts–we weren’t married, I wasn’t going to take his name even if we did get married, and they didn’t know us well enough to know how to pronounce it–it was a dead giveaway.

        1. Artemesia*

          My last name is apparently hard for some people to pronounce correctly although this mystifies me as it contains a common word and is pronounced like that word — but at any rate, my kids always screened my calls back in the day by this. If someone called and asked for me mispronouncing my name, they assumed it was a cold call and told them I wasn’t here. We hyphenated our kids but not our own names but subscribed to many things with the hyphenated name/no Ms. or Mr. — so calls to that person also got rejected.

          when I was teaching they figured if the calls were from students, they would know my name and certainly any friends or relatives would.

      2. Naomi*

        Yeah, my mother still uses her maiden name and any mail for Mrs. DadsLastName is thrown away unopened.

        I used to get mail from a particular source that managed to get every part of my name wrong–they addressed me as Mrs. Niomi MisspelledLastName.

    4. Not me*

      Me, too, and it is almost always a sales call.

      When it isn’t a sales call, it’s one of those people who goes from friendly to screaming in 30 seconds flat.

  19. Myrin*

    I’m honestly baffled by the friends in #1.

    Bashing this company on Twitter might get you their attention alright but not for the reasons your friends seem to think. Why should the company see someone bashing them on Twitter and then think “Hmm, seems like it was a horrendous mistake to reject this person”? Same goes for other companies seeing any tweets like that. And the friends suggesting to get the company to consider the OP and apologise to her are probably thinking similarly to Alison but really, “insisting”? That’s not a good thing to do here as it is likely to leave just as bitter a taste in their mouths as Twitter ranting would.

    And for what it’s worth, I’m not sure some kind of automated rejection thing happened here because if anything, a program scanning the applications would read the fields with country of birth and nationality correctly. I feel it’s much more likely someone either didn’t read the thing carefully, like the OP suggests, or somehow confused fields or whatever.

    Like Alison said, if you’re still interested in applying with them getting into polite (!) and direct contact with a human will certainly be your best bet.

    1. Three Thousand*

      I like the explanation that the friends are probably stuck in a customer service mentality, since that’s probably the only type of interaction they’ve ever had with a large corporation, and are thinking of how hard companies will suck up to an angry customer on Twitter. They don’t realize that a job applicant is very much not a customer.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, that explanation resonated very much with me as well when other commenters mentioned it. Advice like that still shows some lack of common sense if you ask me. I have only ever interacted with large companies through their customer services, too, and yet have no problem imagining how a job applicant making a ruckus is different from a customer making a ruckus. (All that aside, I’m not much of a fan of bashing via social media in general. I’ve seen some people calmly and reasonably talk about a problem they had [like “I won’t be frequenting X anymore because the whole staff made racist remarks.”] but too often it’s just entitled people whining and throwing a tantrum because things didn’t go 100% their way.)

        1. Carlos*

          Sure, the Twitter bashing is too confrontational, but how to get the attention of a company if they dont even have a direct hr contact? They have no reply and no hr phone number published. Clearly they dont want to hear anything about candidates. Job market is really tight and I would like to get a chance anywhere, but being picky and finding a place with good culture is very hard. Our (so called millenial) expectations dont fit in this close minded world.

    2. Creag an Tuire*

      I suppose #1 just proves that there’s a millennial equivalent to “Gumption!” out there.

      1. Carlos*

        Op here. I probably am too young to understand what that means, and yes I would fall into the millenial category.
        However i dont like the entitlement of companies to make a mistake and not be open to any feedback, or to take any critical feedback negatively.

        1. Wheezy Weasel*

          Carlos, I’ve been reading your comments in this thread and I appreciate your responses, and I am reflecting back to some of my own feelings when I get into an issue like this…and that’s ‘what is your unfulfilled wish?’ From what I read, your unfulfilled wish is to let the company know they were wrong and get some acknowledgment. I understand that, and it’s double frustrating when their wrongness affects you personally in terms of time and effort of filling out the application. However, I think it’s a big, big step to interpret what is likely the fault of the original software designers of the applicant tracking system to be an intentional action of Big Company X. It’s more likely that this software package is a commercial, off the shelf implementation, meaning it’s designed to be sold in many markets with a lot of checkboxes on the back end to configure it according to the needs of the company who purchased it. For large enterprise software implementations, the company has the option of purchasing professional services from the seller to help them configure the software appropriately. That implementation also relies on their own team working to configure the software at the advice of the consultant. Many companies do not do this, either for cost reasons, timetable reasons, staff reasons, etc. The resulting product is never appropriately tested before implementation…meaning that no one has thought up how a ‘use case’ like yours would come up. Thus, it’s really likely a human has never even interacted with you at this company.

  20. Felicia*

    For #3 I am a phone rep who prefers if people would get to the point and skip the pleasantries, but also am not annoyed too much by the pleasantries beyond it not being my preference. It’s better than the people who yell or who are just plain rude, which I, and I’m sure other phone reps, get way too much

  21. Allison*

    #1, I’ve often sourced a great candidate for an open role only to have the recruiter say “Well they look great, but I worry they’ll require sponsorship . . .” and it’s like, if their profile says they need a visa then that’s one thing, but if either they haven’t specifically listed sponsorship requirements or their profile says they have a green card, or are a citizen, we should consider them a viable candidate.

    1. Carlos*

      Op here. I guess a capable person didnt read my application. On a sidenote, why employees shy from sponsorship? If the candidates from abroad are really better than the local ones, that proves they deserve to be sponsored according to most country’s laws (im sure about US). And for the record, I am from a ‘developing’ country , studying in a ‘developed’ one. The USA is not involed in all this but the company is US based. Big one.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Visa sponsorship is a lot of work and can be a lot of cost if the employer hasn’t already been set up to do it. For the reason, smaller employers and employers in fields where it’s not common often won’t want to do it. Plus, with some types of visas, the employer may need to attest that they can’t find qualified workers already in the U.S.

  22. insert pun here*

    I am both extremely polite and extremely anti-phone, so here’s the script I use for customer service people:
    Them: Thank you for calling Acme Corp, my name is Fred, how may I help you?
    Me: Hi, good morning, I’m hoping you can help me with…
    and at the end of the call:
    Them: Ok, anything else I can do for you? (or whatever their wrapping-up language is)
    Me: Nope, thank you for your help, have a great day.

    This communicates both “I am not a monstrously rude human being” and also “I am not going to waste your time” in the most efficient way possible.

    1. LSCO*

      This is almost word-for-word what I say too. It’s friendly but not overly so, and gets to the point.

      On the other side, as an ex-call centre worker, I hated it when customers would ask how I was. You don’t care, and it’s eating into my call time. It was particularly egregious given that the script was tailored so that the customer could launch straight into the sale. I’d say “Thankyou for calling $Company, which event and date would you like to book?”. Customers could then easily say “I’d like 2 tickets for the $Group concert on $Date” and I could process the sale. I really like it when other companies/reps do this – either by asking for an account/reference/order number, or even just a name straight off, it makes it clear that chit-chat isn’t wanted and allows the rep to guide the call.

      1. Allison*

        I worked at a concession stand at a movie theater, and I got the occasional person who’d just walk up and bark “POPCORN!” at me, but most people would say “hi, I’d like . . .” and that was fine. One day a British guy came to my register and just said “Hello.” I was so put off I hesitated for a moment before saying “hi” and then he asked “how are you?” and I was genuinely confused as to what was going on. Not annoyed, just completely thrown off.

  23. Allison*

    #4, while I do believe that people should show gratitude for things – a simple “thank you” can go a long way! – and it’s reasonable to feel a little put off when someone doesn’t say anything at all or is then rude to you after you’ve helped them, it doesn’t usually help to get mad at someone for not showing you the level of gratitude you were expecting.

    For example, it absolutely baffles me how people will hold the door for someone, and then yell at them for not saying “thank you,” or post some angry rant about it on Facebook. Or that one Facebook friend I have who often whines about how she does all these nice things for people but they don’t come rushing to her side every time she needs a favor. If you can’t do something nice without expecting anything in return, maybe you shouldn’t bother.

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      ” it absolutely baffles me how people will hold the door for someone, and then yell at them for not saying “thank you,””

      I do that a lot. If I am polite enough to hold the door open/stop on the pavement/wait for you to pass me in a shop and you don’t say thank you, then I will say thank you, loudly, with a Paddington Bear stare. None of those things are nice, they are courteous, and when someone is courteous to you you should be courteous back, even if it’s just saying thank you to acknowledge that they have made (even a tiny) effort in order to make your life easier. That’s very different from gift giving.

        1. Allison*

          Right. Look, I will say “thank you,” and if I don’t I might be really out of it or distracted by some major thing on my mind; and I know that failing to thank someone is rude, but someone yelling at me for being rude is also being rude.

      1. Creag an Tuire*

        Frankly, I think I’d rather open my own gosh-darned doors than deal with you, if it’s all the same.

        1. Spooky*

          I’ve been known to stop and tie my shoe or something if I see someone holding a door, just so they’ll give up and leave before I get there. I know it’s such a little thing, but I’m not great in social situations and it just feels awkward.

        2. A Bug!*

          Yeah. No matter what the strings, it’s not a courteous gesture if there are strings attached.

          If you’re going to lecture me for not being appropriately-thankful for your holding of a door, then I’m going to file you in the same mental folder as I file too-pushy squeegie kids. If you’re alright with that, then please carry on with your spontaneous “etiquette” lessons.

        3. One of the Sarahs*

          Same. Opening the door for someone is a nice thing to do, it’s not a social contract where everyone understands what you think it means.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You’re breaking a pretty major etiquette rule there yourself, though, by calling someone else out on a breach of etiquette.

        Also, for what it’s worth, you can’t really know what’s going on with those strangers! Do you really want to be the person chastising a stranger who’s in a fog because they just found out someone they love died, for example?

        1. Bend & Snap*

          Ugh, this. I’ve been going through a rough time personally and the other day someone pulled up next to me at a light yelling FFFFFFF YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU and giving me the finger. I had no idea what I did wrong but it definitely wasn’t intentional.

          It’s just easier and less stressful to assume error over intent, and to act with kindness instead of rage.

          1. Not me*

            I was given the “Smile! It can’t be that bad!” while dealing with a medical issue. I’m thankful that most people at the time assumed I was absent-minded and not a jerk who needed to be called out.

              1. Monique*

                Not sure I agree. I remember scowling over a family member being late while walking past a homeless man one evening. I felt he had a solid point when he pointed out it probably wasn’t that bad, considering, and it cheered me up, and I did smile.

                Tone matters greatly though – he sounded kind and warm and like he genuinely wanted to cheer me up.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But you could have been thinking about the cancer diagnosis you just got, or your friend’s recent death, or all sorts of other things where it would have been wildly inappropriate. It’s needlessly intrusive (and it’s also only asked of women 99% of the time).

                2. Kelly L.*

                  @Alison Yep. I was just reading a comment a few days ago–here? somewhere else? I don’t remember–where a woman got “smile, it can’t be that bad” and her baby had just been stillborn. Yes, sometimes it really is that bad.

                3. CheeryO*

                  Yeah, I am always going to remember this really kind, gentle older man who I worked with for a while – I was seriously in the dumps one day, and he came up to me and said really quietly, “You have the world in front of you, just smile.” And I know that on principle I should have been annoyed, but he said it in such a sweet and caring tone that it really did cheer me up.

                4. Monique*

                  On reflection, I think he said, “Smile, it’s free!” rather than “It can’t be that bad.”

                  I appreciate it could be completely the wrong moment for someone who was feeling really terrible for very legitimate reasons, and therefore a dangerous phrase better left unused, but in this situation it actually sounded so kind and warm that it cheered me up. I didn’t feel chastised or scolding – my experience was very much like CheeryO’s, where I felt uplifted.

                  In my case, a complete stranger was trying to make my day slightly better. I guess it just goes to show that you communicate with so much more than just the words, cause I understand that the words in another tone/context would leave me fuming mad. I just wrote to say it doesn’t always have to be bad, sometimes it can be a nice thing, too.

                  I was so taken aback that I didn’t know what to say initially. My late family turned up eventually, we had dinner, and I went back to see if he was still there so I could maybe buy him a coffee or some food, but he’d already left and I’m still bummed I didn’t do something kind right back in the moment, cause he really made my day better.

              2. Allison*

                Yes, I agree. There are times when smiling is important, like when you’re a cheerleader, and the advice that smiling makes everything brighter is well intentioned, but in most situations, I really don’t appreciate being told to smile.

                Worst, most recent incident of this was when I was swing dancing, and there was this rude couple sitting on the side of the floor that’d been pointing at people dancing, making comments and laughing their heads off, and then I heard one of them say “I LIKE TO *SMILE* AT *MY* LEAD!” Eughhh . . .

            1. JAL*

              This wasn’t a work related situation, but I was told to smile IN. MY. PHYSICAL. THERAPY. OFFICE. when I had a back injury and had to go through the runaround before my insurance would approve my MRI. I was laying on the table with an ice pack on me barely able to move. If I weren’t in so much pain or half comatose from hardly sleeping the night before, I would have said something.

          2. Full of stories*

            This reminds me of a funny story. One night I woke up to the sound of a man screaming outside of my bedroom window “fffff uuuuu c-word.” My husband was a police officer on duty in that town at the time so I called his cell and asked him to go check it out. Meanwhile, I’m running through a list of people who could possibly be mad at me enough to be doing this and drawing a blank. Turns out it was a local homeless man who was mentally ill. He was walking back to the shelter and made a wrong turn, ending up in our backyard. He was fighting with one of the voices in his head. Very very sad but it had absolutely nothing to do with me.

            In case anyone is wondering, my husband was very kind to him. He brought him to the local hospital and when he was cleared, picked him up and brought him back to the shelter.

        2. Temperance*

          When my pet was terminally ill, I was having a bit of a meltdown in my car while I looked for the vet’s office (new vet in a location I was not familiar with). I was driving very slowly, checking cross streets. Some jerk in a green Ford Mustang stuck her head out the window to curse me out and flip me off for driving too slowly. I’m not ashamed of what I yelled back at her, but sheesh, her jerkitude made a terrible day that much worse, and by the time I found the vet’s office, I was crying.

        3. Nicole*

          You’re correct and this is something I need to work on mentally. I don’t chastise anyone who doesn’t thank me for holding open the door but it does bother me. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m a self-diagnosed HSP (highly sensitive person) or what, but I’m easily affected by other people’s moods including rudeness. I really wish it didn’t bother me!

          1. Devil's Avocado*

            I’m like this too. Recently my therapist asked me to to come up with two alternate explanations for everything after my initial reaction. For example:

            I hold the door for someone and they don’t say thank you:
            Initial reaction: God, that person was rude and doesn’t appreciate this small favour.
            Explanation 1: Maybe they have social anxiety and found the interaction weird.
            Explanation 2: Maybe they are preoccupied because their child is sick.

            I’ve been doing this exercise for about 2 months, and I have to say it has really changed how I approach these things. I’m much more willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, brush off annoyances without letting them get to me, and to see that their actions are probably not intended to be a slight against me as a person. It’s really been a game changer for me. (But it takes a lot of discipline to implement, and you have to do it consistently.)

              1. Devil's Avocado*

                I have honestly been waiting for someone to get it/comment on it for like, 3 months. So thank you. ;) (It’s hilarious to me, but I’m a giganto-nerd.)

            1. Nicole*

              I really like that, thanks for sharing. I’m going to try doing this! It certainly has to be better than stewing in anger at some stranger for what ultimately amounts to nothing in the grand scheme of things. I know I often let the rudeness of others affect me too much and it’s not doing me any good.

      3. neverjaunty*

        Well, since you’re clearly OK with calling out strangers: What you’re doing is rude and a little creepy. Doing somebody an unasked-for favor and then insisting they show gratitude conveys the message that your “polite” gesture wasn’t meant as a courtesy; it was meant to make YOU feel gracious and important, and you will punish people who don’t play their part in your script.

        I thank people who hold doors, and I also hold doors for others. But FFS, I don’t snarl at people if they fail to thank me for the latter. Maybe they’re oblivious. Maybe they don’t speak English well. Maybe they are preoccupied thinking about their dad’s cancer. And maybe they are jerks, but clearing my throat at those people is not going to make them suddenly turn polite.

        Also, they’re going through a door. WTF are they supposed to do, stop dead (snarling up foot traffic) to turn around an apologize?

        1. Allison*

          I’ve also had people get mad at me for not showing enough gratitude, even if I did thank them. I had a neighbor hold the door for me once, which he really didn’t need to do since I was pretty far form the door, so when I realized he was holding it open for me I did pick up the pace so as not to waste his time, but then when I said “thank you” he barked “sure!” and stomped off.

          I can’t help but think some people are really hoping for me to gush about how nice they are for helping me and how they’ve renewed my faith in chivalry.

          1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

            I work on the third floor of a building and often people ahead of me will hold the door to the second door open for me. I always say something akin to “thank you, but I’m going up another flight!” most people are gracious but every now and then I get someone who snaps “Well fine!” and slams the door.

            Some people just want to be grumpy, I think.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I get people who do that when I’m doing stair climbs–they see me coming and hold the door, but I just wave them off. “Thanks, I’m going up!” So far nobody’s been a jerk about it. If they do, I’m not going to take it personally.

        2. Turtle Candle*

          Yes; in general I agree with Miss Manners’ dictum that the only person who you can politely correct/instruct on etiquette are your own minor children.

          “In general” because there are two exceptions that I can think of. Obviously it’s acceptable if someone outright asks you; if it wasn’t, Miss Manners herself would be out of a job. And if you have a close relationship and there’s a major cultural mismatch it can be a kindness to clue someone in. (This covers both visiting-another-country type etiquette differences and things like adjusting to the differences between school etiquette and workplace etiquette on your first job, IMO.). But even there I think you have to have a fairly friendly or mentor-type relationship, and the point/tone has to be not “you’re rude” but “here’s a different cultural norm that you should be aware of.”

      4. Monique*

        Yeah, it seems like it… might serve you better not to hold doors open.

        I really wouldn’t mind if someone didn’t hold a door open, but I’d really bloody mind if someone pass-ag THANK YOU-ed me. I’d choose door number 1: opening my own doors.

      5. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

        We’ll agree to disagree. I’m not going out of my way to force my version of manners on people, but when I’ve just had to hold the door open for three people who never even looked up from their phones, because I couldn’t get in and letting it close into their faces is illegal, or had to choose between stopping walking, walking into moving traffic or walking bang into someone who won’t stop a conversation for a few seconds to get into single file on the pavement, or had to wait in a shop for somebody to stop talking to their neighbour who they just bumped into because they’re clogging up the aisle with their trolleys and not hearing my “excuse me”, then I think a small acknowledgement of the inconvenience isn’t out there.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          This is all just normal “out in the world” stuff though. Yes, it can be irritating, but purposely being rude to someone is a crappy thing to do.

          1. Allison*

            Not to mention a bad idea, because you never know who’s gonna go “oh, sorry about that” and who’s going to escalate it to a screaming match with cursing and name calling. I just don’t need someone yelling and cussing at me when I’m out running errands, so it’s usually best to say nothing and move on.

        2. Observer*

          Oh, please. Just stop holding doors for people. And if you REALLY have to, then just speak up and say “could you move in or out.” What you are doing is, at best, rude.

          Every so often I think of the book titled “Everything I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.” One of those rules comes to mind: Two wrongs don’t make a right.

          1. Windchime*

            Yeah, I’m trying to think of a place where it’s illegal to let it shut behind you.

            Look, I don’t mind when people hold a door for me most of the time. It can be nice. But don’t stand and impatiently hold the door if I’m still 20 feet away, so that I feel compelled to hurry so that I don’t inconvenience you. And please don’t stand in the doorway while you are pushing open the door inwards so that I basically have to brush my body past yours in order to get in — that annoys me more than anything. Either go through and then hold the door open, or just let me open it myself. I don’t want to have to brush up against you to get through the door.

        3. Creag an Tuire*

          I apologize — I didn’t realize you lived in an Orwellian dystopia where it is literally illegal not to hold a door open. That must be so stressful for you.

        4. Monique*

          You *are* going out of your way to force your manners on people if you get terse with them if they don’t immediately do something your way. You don’t really get to scold people unless you’re their parent and they’re under age. That doesn’t mean you can’t be assertive, of course.

          You don’t know what’s going on with the people that don’t express the required gratitude. You’re judging them as rude, when they may be glued to their phone for very legitimate reasons that are none of your business. They may be incredibly tired, worried sick about a loved one… who even knows.

          I can’t be the only one who’s managed to complete their commute (don’t worry guys, public transport, not driving) without remembering a single thing about the journey? I wouldn’t have noticed an open door or someone letting me in when I’m that zoned out. It doesn’t make me a bad or ill-mannered person, it makes me someone who’s using every last bit of energy they’ve got left to get themselves home after a tough day.

          And if nothing else, it’s terrible manners to point out bad manners.

        5. I'm a Little Teapot*

          You sound like a coworker I had a couple of jobs ago. She apparently waved hello to me in the hall one day; I was doing something else and didn’t see her, so I didn’t respond. She decided this meant I was stuck up and rude, so for the rest of the time I worked there (over a year), she made snide comments about how I was too good for her and too good for this place every time I saw her. I apologized, but she kept it up.

          One day she called me into her office and gleefully showed me a wage garnishment notice she’d gotten from the IRS. (She worked in HR.) I pleasantly pointed out that the garnishment was for a former employee with a similar name to mine. She looked so deflated; I expect I’d spoiled a fair bit of superiority and malicious gossip on her part.

        6. Kerry (Like the County in Ireland)*

          “Illegal?” Is there a Law & Order: Door Manners Enforcement Squad I don’t know about?

          1. Creag an Tuire*

            “I was busy! I didn’t see her!”
            “Didn’t see her? You didn’t see her? She had shopping bags!” :: Stabler slams his hand on the table :: “SHOPPING! BAGS!”
            “Is… this seriously why you arrested me? Should I get a lawyer or something?”
            :: Stabler grabs perp by the collar ::
            “Punks like you make me SICK!”

          2. So Very Anonymous*

            “In the criminal justice system, door-manners-based offenses are considered especially heinous. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad called the Lenny Briscoe “Open and Shut” Victims Unit. These are their stories.” CHUNG CHUNG!

            1. So Very Anonymous*

              Benson: “Yeah, “open and shut’ means something… kinda different here.”
              Newbie: “How do you *live* with this?” (sobs)
              Benson: “You don’t. Be glad you can still cry.” (Freezes in moment of PTSD as they approach a turnstile).

        7. Elizabeth West*

          I know it’s annoying. People are annoying in general. I said “Sorry” in Britain (especially in London) more times than I’ve ever said in my entire life because people are everywhere and sometimes they just will. not. move. I’ve had very good luck with “Can I get by, please?” said in a slightly raised voice (maybe because I’m a loud American, LOL). I don’t hold doors for people unless they’re right there.

          FWIW, I tried not to be THAT annoying tourist and move out of the way!

      6. Velociraptor Attack*

        Are you doing a kind act because you’re polite or because you want to be thanked for it?

  24. jhhj*

    #3 I say stuff like “Hi how are you” because it is automatic and I am not really thinking that closely when a rep picks up after a hold. It’s like when you buy a movie ticket and the person says enjoy the show and you say “thanks you too”, it’s an automatic response that isn’t appropriate in context but is meant as a bit of social lubrication “Hello, I respect you are a person too who is as worthwhile as me, we’re not in a servant-type relationship”.

    Are there more ideal ways to do it? Perhaps. insert pun here has a nice script. But I think most people just say it automatically and aren’t trying to mess up a person’s day; the people who really want to discuss how you are either actually do care (they exist) or are just trying to show some kind of dominance.

    1. Persephone*

      It definitely is automatic. I listen to sports radio all day, and some hosts make a big deal about when people call in not starting with “how are you” or “how are you guys doing”. Until they started pointing it out, I never really noticed that almost everyone does it when they call in.

    2. teclatrans*

      Yeah, I think it is automatic for some subset of people. I am 43 and still don’t have the pattern down. A cashier asks me how I and I am cluefull enough (now) to say “Fine, thanks!” but then I am usually deep into the transaction before it occurs to me that I was supposed to ask how they are. But I had already mentally been focused on the transaction (and what I needed to do to complete it successfully) — their question was an interruption resolved in the approved manner and then I returned to the business at hand. I wish I had been taught the full pattern as a kid, but as a child of the 70s, my parents were pretty allergic to “manners” and social ritual.

      Also, I think some of us tend toward more “concrete” thinking (it’s a frontal lobe thing). Even without autism, there are a bunch of us out there who take things at face value and have to work harder at the nuances of social pleasantry.

      1. teclatrans*

        Oh, my point about concrete thinking: I am okay with asking “how’s it going” because “it” is broad and open-ended. I don’t feel comfortable asking strangers “how are you” because, being rather literal-minded, those words mean something. If I ask, I actually want to know, not hear a breezy “fine, thanks.” I understand that this isn’t the social norm; I am not arguing against it, just trying to explain how some of us are rubbed the wrong way by the convention.

  25. Not Karen*

    #4 If you are giving a gift because you want to be thanked for it, then you are giving for the wrong reason. If you leave something at my desk instead of giving it to me in person, I’m not going to go out of my way to thank you.

    1. Artemesia*

      I don’t get this at all. Once you are out of diapers and certainly outside your family people don’t shower you with gifts because it gives them pleasure to celebrate your wonderfulness. Gift giving is a social interaction, half of which is acknowledgement by the other party. And generally it is part of a reciprocal arrangement. Even if you don’t want to have a reciprocal gift giving relationship with someone, thanks is minimally required. (stalkers exempted) If you have a desk, leaving a small gift for you there is not an insult and not going out of your way to acknowledge and thank for a gift is rude.

      They should just give me stuff and expect nothing in return because they should get their pleasure from giving stuff to me is pretty solipsistic. And none of us is the center of the universe.

      1. Kyrielle*

        This. My kid who just turned seven wanted to know why he had to write thank-you notes for his presents (including a couple from out of town family).

        I told him that if he didn’t want to write thank you notes next year, he could tell me now, and I would let everyone know that he didn’t want presents, because part of the fun for the giver is anticipating that you’ll enjoy the present, and giving them closure on that fun by acknowledging that you did is polite. Even if you didn’t love it, you still say thank you, but in his case he loved almost everything he got (and the two things he didn’t were smaller add-ins with bigger gifts that he did like).

        You write. The thank you. Note. (In the office, I might just go with a quick thank you email, especially for a small gift. But still.)

        It’s just polite to say thanks in some way.

    2. Nicole*

      I don’t think most people give gifts for the sole reason of expecting a thank you, but you best bet if I give someone a gift and they don’t acknowledge it I’m going to assume they lack basic manners and graciousness.

      I’m not sure why the fact that the gift wasn’t given in person changes the rules of etiquette in your view.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Well, I liked getting to my desk in the morning and finding a little present there at Christmas. And I did go out of my way to find out who left it and put her a thank-you card on her chair. Because that was nice and saying thank you when you get a present is just good manners.

  26. IT_Guy*

    #2 – I have somewhat the same problem. I have a high demand IT job where most people in my position rotate to other jobs every 3 years or so. I work in a cube farm that has no privacy and I get called by a recruiter at least once a week and my standard response is “send me an email with the job description and I’ll look at it”. None of them have ever had a problem with it, and I’ve never had anybody try to keep talking.

    The whole texting thing would quite frankly, freak me out.

  27. Ben*

    #4: I wonder if the gift recipient is worried about having to provide a gift back and has a budget which doesn’t allow for this? They are new to the workforce and this could explain the silence and the fact it has not been touched?

    Alternatively, they may just have no manners.

    1. Agnes*

      Getting a gift from a boss is a bit different, isn’t it? It feels more like a bonus than a gift, per se.

      Also, I agree that when you leave a gift on someone’s desk, one possible interpretation is “I wanted to give you a gift, but I don’t want to interact around it or make a big deal of it.”

      1. the gold digger*

        Or it could be, “I came by to give this to you but you weren’t here and this is the fifth time I have dropped by to find you gone and I am tired of carrying it around and I want you to have it before it gets stale so I am leaving it on your desk.”

        1. Vanishing Girl*

          This is how I always interpret it. Less “didn’t want to interact” and more “dropped by while you weren’t here.”

      2. Ben*

        I’d see it that way now, but I wonder if my 21 year old self would be the same… or think:

        “Oh wow they’ve given me a gift and I never got them anything…. It’s food, so I need to find out what she likes…or is it too late? panic panic panic”

        The fact that it was from the boss could worry them even more. Can’t they OP just drop a casual “oh you still have that? I hope you like it. I got them for you and x.”

      3. Nicole*

        Not everyone realizes it’s perfectly ok NOT to reciprocate when the gift giver is their manager, though. This past Christmas my boss gave us gifts (which he hadn’t done last year) and my coworker was feeling guilty for not getting anything for our boss. I explained the whole concept of gifting down and not up and he felt much better.

        1. VintageLydia*

          Yup if you’re new to the work force, almost all gift giving situations are reciprocal. One MIGHT not gift to their own parents at that point, but parent/child relationships are different.

  28. Mark*

    #3 – I don’t mind exchanging pleasantries when I’m initiating a call to a company where there may be at least a couple minutes of phone conversation (for example, for technical support), but it really bugs me when I receive unsolicited calls from businesses and they open with “How is your day going today?”. Before even knowing whether I will be taking the call, I usually don’t have the patience or willingness to give a considerate response.

    1. ScarletInTheLibrary*

      For me, I will chat up those unsolicited calls to try to get companies to put me on their do-not-call list. If they want to waste my time, I will drag my feet and screw them and their company over. Because asking to be put this list almost never works.

  29. mdv*

    #3 –
    I answer a publicly published customer service number, and although I do think people are being polite when they ask me questions like “how are you today?”, I really hate it — they don’t know me, I don’t know them, and I’d rather they get to the point. If the person is nice and polite about their question or problem, I am going to also think they are nice and polite in general, and don’t need the extra conversation.

    (Also, when people only hear my side of the conversation in my office, they think it is weird when I have a personal conversation with the person on the phone. I get flak for it, believe it or not.)

  30. Serin*

    #3 — the phone pleasantries thing is at least partly regional.

    I went to journalism school in the Midwest, and we were taught to get right to the point.

    Then I took a job in a small town in the South. My high-speed “Hi, this is Name from Newspaper; could you connect me with the officer who made the assault arrest outside Porkbelly Pat’s on Saturday, please?” would often be met with icy silence.

    Eventually I learned to mimic those of my co-workers who were locals: “Hey, this is Name calling from Newspaper. Nice weather this weekend, wasn’t it? Tough to come back to the office. Hey, what I’m calling about …”

    I’ve also been a receptionist, and from the other end of it, I like people to politely get right to the point: “Good morning! I’m calling with a question about subscriptions.”

    For a while I worked in the South as a receptionist for the forestry division of a state government, and I learned to dread calls that began, “I got this tree …”

    1. Kelly L.*

      I relate to so much of this! I remember having to make limousine arrangements with a business owner only a little bit south of my own town in geography, but way South-ier in culture, and how he simply would not get down to brass tacks until we’d talked about the weather and kids these days. And I think he was equally annoyed with me!

      And the forestry thing–I worked for a college’s department of fashion design for a while, and oh, the calls we got about how to get ketchup stains out of their clothes…

    2. Allison*

      This might explain some things . . . I’m in Boston and one of my colleagues works in Atlanta, and every time we need to talk about anything he’ll bring up things like weather, weekend plans, etc. before getting down to business. I just want to know what he needs from me! He also likes to have half hour meetings where he talks my ear off about something that could have been effectively explained in 5 minutes, is that a southern thing too?

      1. Liana*

        I’m in Boston as well and I suspect that our avoidance of small talk is mainly a northeast thing. My sister and I were born and raised in MA, but our parents are Midwesterners and are forever lamenting what they perceive as rudeness. I think New Englanders just tend to be a bit more abrupt.

    3. Decimus*

      Oh dear lord. I’m an ex-pat New Yorker now living in Georgia. The first time I went to the grocery and they wanted to TALK to me and it really creeped me out. It still does, I’m just better about not showing it.

      On the flip side, when my now-wife came to visit me she told me how pleased she was at how fast the cashiers were in the grocery across from my building. I told her they were actually some of the slowest in the city! She likes shopping in NY.

  31. B*

    #3 – it can be nice but it’s also important to know when to just get to the point. You don’t know me from a hole in the wall, you really don’t care how I am, and I have about 15 other things to do right now at the exact same time. I am more than happy to help you if you are nice throughout the whole conversation – a beginning pleasantry besides “hi” is not needed.

  32. Anonymous tx*

    #1 I’ve dealt with using taleo/hewitt from hiring for hotels/applying for jobs . I still don’t understand their system. The company you applied to probably never saw your application. Taleo for us at least has this dumb personality test (ex. If I need help I… A) ask my manager, B) collaborate with a peer, or C) figure it out on my own)

    You never get your score or any feedback on the test. The system will then reject anyone with a low score. After that I think a person (from taleo) looks at the pool and then decides who to send to the hiring manager. The company you applied to only gets to interview who taleo sends info for. Our job website also doesn’t list actual hiring manager. It’s always an adress to the taleo people (although it has an email from instead of but it’s not firstname.lastname that our emails are like.)

    Often, especially for entry level hotel jobs, its a cruddy system. We’ve had temps who are great in the department but can’t get through the taleo application so we can’t hire them permanently.

    If you see another job with this employer you might want to try locating the hiring manager through LinkedIn before applying. Tell them you saw their open position and might be a good fit but the 3rd party application company might have a hard time noticing you’re eligible to work in their country.

    Sometimes I can tell hewitt to make sure we get sent certain applicants (assuming they pass the silly test) ahead of them applying.

    1. Carlos*

      OP here. Thank you for your kind and constructive comment! I see you got the point of what I’m going through. What makes me lose motivation is the fact that they are somehow behind a wall and they are hard to contact. I wish companies were more open. At least I wish they would post any email! LinkedIn seems ideal but I cant get anywhere without knowing someone first. I havent found it very useful yet.

      1. Anonymous tx*

        I totally agree! I wish they were more open. I think with internal candidates you at least get the name of the hiring manager but on the career website search you don’t get even a recruiter’s name from the 3rd party company.

        The wall is frustrating for the people doing the hiring too. Taleo will tell you how many people applied and how many passed through the tests but then only send you contact information of a few.

  33. Anonymous Educator*

    I used to be a receptionist. I didn’t have imposed time limits on calls or any kinds of quotas to meet, but I had to answer all the calls. So you may not be making me mad (directly) or making my boss mad (directly), but if you take up too much of my time over the phone, you’re really being inconsiderate to the 30 other people trying to call in or whom I have to call back. Just get to the point.

    As others have noted above, you can be polite and friendly without indulging in small talk and pleasantries that have nothing to do with the purpose of your call.

    1. KH*

      Yes. I was thinking about that this morning reading all the responses. I’ve worked as a hotel switchboard operator and a receptionist as well. And even not being on any kind of timer or quota, when you’re on a busy switchboard or reception desk, all you want is someone to say “can you please connect me with Mr. Jones” or “Can I speak to HR please?”. Otherwise, what’s happening is you’re responding to “how are you” and watching every line on your panel light up with incoming calls that you can’t get to. Which means for sure you’re going to get yelled at by someone in the next 5 mins because you didn’t answer their call.

  34. Adam*

    #3 As a customer service person, this drives me insane. It’s a pet peeve and flaw on my part. I totally acknowledge that, but pointless small talk irritates me when among my closest friends. Having to engage in it with faceless people I’ll probably never hear from again just makes me….NNNRRGGGHHH! Being polite and friendly through the call is awesome. I really appreciate it! But I don’t want to talk about the weather and deep down I don’t think you do either.

  35. A Bug!*

    For #3, I think there’s a slight difference between starting off with a perfunctory “how are you” and engaging in actual small talk. I get a lot of calls at work that start off with “how are you,” but when I respond with “Fine, thanks, what can I help you with,” it’s business as usual. I certainly don’t mind that. But yeah, I definitely don’t really want to yap about the weather with every caller that phones in. If there’s any chit-chat to be had I’d rather it happen after I know what the call is about, so that I’m in a position to cut it short if need be.

    (However, when it comes to businesses calling me on my personal phone, if we don’t already have a business relationship, skip the “how are you” and get straight to the point, please!)

  36. Mmmmk*

    Personally, I think it’s interesting that in #4, the OP who thanked was female and the OP who didn’t was male. I’m wondering if there are social tendencies (especially among grad students) that are coming into play here. It’s not the rule, but overall I think girls tend to intuitive understand that in this situation the gift needed to be acknowledged right away and graciously.

  37. alice*

    #3 – I notice that 99% of the people who start with “How are you?” are telemarketers or the like. So I always brace myself when that happens, which is unfortunate with the 1% who are actually wanting to know how I am. Don’t do it. It’s annoying, it’s a waste of time, and you might get someone like me who gets really tense and ready to hang up the phone when those words are said.

  38. Wren*

    #3 If it were my job to answer customer inquiries on the phone, I probably wouldn’t mind pleasantries, though I would be fine without them as well, but I really hate when people making cold solicitation calls do it calling my personal number. I don’t know who you are and you are interrupting my down time! Please start the call by identifying yourself and stating your business so I can decide as quickly as possible if I want to get rid of you.

    Maybe I’m a grinch, but I totally ignore the how are you question and brusquely tell such people pretty much exactly that.

    And stop calling me Mrs. [husband’s name] just because a woman answered the phone.

  39. Aunt Jamesina*

    “The other employee has clearly seen the gift, because it has been moved to another part of his desk and the card is gone”

    Is it at all possible that the card had fallen off the gift by the time the recipient saw it? It’s happened to me more than once! I’ve had many gifts go unthanked; I try to think the best of people and assume that the card went missing. Makes it easier to move on.

  40. KrisseyS*

    OP#3–As someone who answers the phone for the majority of the day, yes this is very annoying. When someone like your husband calls and wants to be spoken to/treated like best buddies/long lost friends that need to catch up it takes up time that may be needed for other customers, other phone calls that are ringing, etc. You call a place of business you should be prepared to get to the point and have your question/issue resolved in a polite and timely manner with out getting the persons life story or cracking jokes for 10 minutes before getting to the point.

  41. outofcontext*

    I wanted to chime in on #3! When people take a long time to get to the point, I get antsy, as low wait times are very important at my company. However, a sincere “How are you today?” even if there’s no way I’ll answer truthfully, is really nice to hear. I have a few callers a day do it and I always appreciate it. It may be because the callers who do that are generally calmer.

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