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Telephone Etiquette

By Hannah Reich Berman

A voice recording that one makes for his (or her) answering machine should sound like what it is—a recording! I, for one, prefer it that way. If somebody dials my phone number when I am not home, my answering machine will kick in and the caller will hear my voice telling him that I am unavailable. My message goes on to say that the caller should leave a message after the beep. It may be disappointing to make a call only to learn that the person is not available, but at least it doesn’t leave the caller feeling like a dummy, because the caller knows from the outset that I am not on the other end of the line.
The caller is well aware that what he is hearing is a recording. My message sounds like a recording and it acknowledges that indeed I am Hannah but that I am not actually on the phone. It explains that, when I am able, I will promptly return the call. To sum it up—while the voice is recognizable as mine, it can be clearly identified as a recording, and, for that reason, no caller has to feel foolish. After hearing the beep, he simply has to leave a message. Unfortunately, it does not work that way with everyone.
Some people use their answering machines in a totally different fashion. They manage to leave a message that starts off with a long drawn out Hello that causes the unsuspecting caller to think that he has reached the person he called. I resent that. I have two friends who manage to fool me. It is not clear to me if they do this on purpose; one of these days I will ask them about it. Do they want their callers to think they are on the phone? As a result of this trickery (and I do think of it as trickery), I have, on countless occasions, begun to speak, thinking that I was talking to a live person.
Being the sucker that I am, I fall for it every time, even when I know that the person I am calling has that type of a message. And when, a split second later, I discover that it is a recording after all, I feel like a dunce for having fallen for it yet again. Since nobody actually hears my greeting, there is no reason for me to feel silly. I am the only one who knows I was duped.
And there is more to it than feeling foolish; there is also disappointment, because I start off thinking that my friend is on the phone and then learn that she is not. My wish is that the people who make these misleading recordings would get with the program! Folks should see to it that their recording sounds like a recording. That would prevent me from blabbing into the phone with a warm Hello and then finding out that I am talking to myself.
As much as I dislike those messages, I am curious to know how it is done. For that reason, from time to time, I have practiced what I think of as the alternative method of recording by trying to make it sound as if I am actually there. But my rehearsals haven’t paid off. Nobody would ever think it is anything but what it is—a recording of my voice. I try to give the same long and friendly Hello that I do when I actually answer the phone, but I never get it quite right. It wouldn’t fool anyone. I don’t practice this with the intention to trick anyone, but only to see if I can do it. But by now I realize that I cannot. Apparently there is a mechanical-sounding quality to my words that would prevent anybody from thinking that I am actually on the line.
It occurs to me, however, that I might be rehearsing the wrong thing. Instead of retraining my voice, maybe I should be retraining my ears. If I am unable to distinguish between a recording and a live person, it might be that my hearing is off. In the meantime, whenever I call either of these two pals, I still never know for sure if I have reached a live person. That’s just the way it is.
There is another thing that people do that drives me crazy. And a great many folks do it: They don’t disconnect me. It happens when, in the middle of a conversation, the person I am speaking with receives a call on her other line and immediately says to me, “Oh, I have to go (a euphemism meaning she is going to hang up on me) because I need to take this call.” She gives me a proper goodbye and the next thing I know she ends our call.
The problem is that whenever somebody does that, it does not totally disconnect her line from mine so I am left with a useless phone and I am unable to make another call. The connection between her phone and mine will eventually be severed, but until it is, my phone is unusable. If I want to make another call, I have to use my cell phone to do so. What people should know is that they need to make certain to completely disconnect from the first call before taking the second one. But it has been my experience that nobody ever does it. I do not like it. But that’s just the way it is! v
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.

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Posted by on December 4, 2014. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.