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It’s just BASIC common courtesy…

January 25, 2010

Doesn’t anyone teach basic phone skills anymore?

I had an interesting experience trying to find a last-minute sitter to watch my kids yesterday.  My regulars weren’t available so I started calling around “referred” kids and using my neighborhood directory where supposedly interested kids put their names in as wanting childcare jobs.

Most of the time, I can’t reach anyone.  I leave a message on the voicemail and RARELY is the call ever returned.  Not to say “no,” not to say, “yes.”  The call goes into the ether, never to be responded to.

Sometimes, I get a real, live person.  That happened to me once yesterday — now keep in mind this Teen had indicated she was interested in doing babysitting  jobs through our directory which is why I was calling her.

Me: Hello, <N>, this is Mrs. N up at xxx street — in your neighborhood.

Her:  Uh, ok…

Me: I understand you’re interested in doing some babysitting and I’m looking for a sitter.

Her: Well, uh, ok…yeah…I do babysitting…(LONG pause here)

Me: Ok, that’s great I’m looking for someone for a couple of hours tomorrow evening…

Her:  Uh, well…um, see I’m not really available to do babysitting right now…

Me: Well, ok then, I guess this’ll make for a short conversation. Thanks anyway.

Her: Yeah, ok…fine. (she hangs up)

I have had more complete and lively conversations with fir trees, frankly, than I did with this teenager.  I guess I’m funny, but I expect that by this age, a young person should be capable of carrying on a basic phone conversation with another person (adult), using mostly complete sentences. And, if you’re hanging out your shingle to do work (babysitting, pet care, yard care) it might be nice if you seemed at least VAGUELY interested in the opportunity. 

I don’t know what else was going on at the time with my not-available-at-this-time sitter prospect but it’s clear I severly interfered with her personal time.

It makes me wonder if anyone really ever teaches their kids just the basic elements of a polite phone conversation anymore or if parents ever observe their kids’ calls.  My guess is “all too rarely” because we hear that employers’ biggest complaints about kids coming out of High School/College and into the job market are that they lack the interpersonal skills they need to succeed in the workplace.

So, it’s a pay me later for the employers who are getting  job candidates who think it’s appropriate to answer a call with “Yeah, uh-huh?”

Dear Teen: I KNOW taking a call from an unknown adult is weird and awkward sometimes — I was where you are now not too terribly long ago, –and perhaps there are a hundred things more interesting than talking to me about babysitting.  But there is a basic, courteous way to speak to someone on the phone and it wouldn’t kill you to take the 30 seconds to form a complete sentence, thank me for calling, but indicate that sorry, you wouldn’t be able to help.

You would have left a favorable impression on me, and I might try again some other time.  Instead, you’ve left a seriously negative impression and I’m likely to not bother you next timem even if you ARE my last resort. And, further more, you became the poster-child for my blog on the lack of common courtesy.

“Uh, huh…yeah, ok….”

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