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FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK: Phone etiquette is down the toilet

Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 8:59 am

At the risk of being just a little bit different, I’m not going to write about the Super Bowl and my mental picture of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh’s top assistant flipping off as many light switches as he could get his hands on.

Instead, I’m going to fixate on lack of phone conversation etiquette. I’m not talking about text messaging and tweets as I have already covered that several weeks ago. Landline communications are still needed in today’s world. But where did the conversation skills go?

Monday, I got a phone call at the office from an anonymous number (these are always trouble) from someone who had a “news story” for me. I use that term loosely.

She wanted to inform me that a local store did not have public restrooms available Saturday. I waited for the punch line but it never came.

“Did you address the issue with management,” I asked, trying not to belittle the caller while seeking the full story before rendering a decision on if something major was wrong.

“Yes. All they had to say was ‘we are sorry for the inconvenience.’”

At the risk of divulging our secrets on deciding what exactly news is and what is not, I’ll go ahead and tell you, this is not a news story. We always appreciate tips and information from the public for news that we might not otherwise know about. But when I politely told the caller ( who, might I add again, called anonymously) that we probably couldn’t do a story on that as restrooms are not required in the business she was referring to; but if she wanted to write a letter to the editor I would be glad to publish it, she was quick to kill the conversation. I barely got the words out of my mouth before she shouted “never mind, never mind” and slammed the phone down.

I’ve been frustrated on the phone before, but I don’t remember hanging up on anyone (except for when a caller accused me of being racist because of my placement of photos and continued with a profanity-laced rant).

Did I miss something in my transition to text messaging? When did it become acceptable to just not say goodbye? Have a nice day? Not even a simple thanks for your time? When did that end?

Presenting an argument for why you are calling with this information would even be OK. I am open to listening.

As it is, I’m finding conversation etiquette is really going down the toilet.


-Josh Peterson is the editor of the Manchester Times. He has won TPA awards for his writing and photography. He can be reached by email at or by telephone at 931-728-7577 ext. 105. Follow him on Twitter @joshpeterson29