Loud Unnecessary Speakerphone is Loud and Unnecessary*

October 13, 2009

There are plenty of things that speakerphone is good for:  conference calls, …

… actually, that’s all I can think of at present.  Pretty much any other use of speakerphone is just obnoxious. Here are some examples of dumb things people do with speakerphones (all of which I have observed in my office):

  • Talk on speakerphone when you’re the only one on your line
    Why bother doing this? If you’re just lazy then you don’t need to be working. If you’re working on something else, stop what you’re doing to give your caller your full attention – it’s rude to give someone half of your attention. If you can’t commit to a phone call, don’t make one or take one. It’s why God invented voicemail.
  • Leave your office door open with speakerphone full blast
    This is inconsiderate to everyone who works on the same floor as you. Some people are even trying to have their own phone conversations and don’t necessarily want to participate in yours.
  • Leave your phone on speakerphone while the person on the other end talks about something personal or confidential
    This happens SO frequently. Either the other person doesn’t know they’re on speakerphone (perhaps they think they just have a bad connection), they don’t realize how loud your phone is set, or they don’t realize how many people are around who shouldn’t hear the information they’re passing along.  Regardless, lots of information is shared with people who shouldn’t have it because of speakerphone abuse.
  • Put IT on speakerphone while they’re giving you a confidential username and password
    I assume people do this because they have difficulty balancing the receiver on their shoulders while writing down their password. Working in IT security, I cringe every time this happens, because I realize that for every one time I hear this in our building, I know that it’s also happening 50 other places throughout the company.
  • Have a detailed conversation with your doctor on speakerphone about what should be a very private medical condition
    There is a lady who used to work a few offices down from me (she moved to a different building since then) and she doesn’t know what a receiver is, so everything was either on speakerphone or her cell phone. Whenever she speaks, she’s unreasonably loud, and whenever she spoke on her cell phone, she liked to do it immediately outside of my cubicle. It was almost a relief when she used speakerphone (since it was the lesser of two evils) because at least she wasn’t invading my personal space when she did so.
  • Have a personal conversation with your friend on speakerphone while at work
    It’s like shouting to the company, “I’m using company time to do personal stuff!!
  • Have a heated argument with your spouse on speakerphone while at work
    In my old cubicle, I worked right outside of this guy’s office – he got into a screaming match with his wife over speakerphone every single day. They argued about the stupidest stuff, too, like groceries, who would pick the kids up from karate, which side the fork goes on… things like that.  I always wanted them to get into it about something interesting, but they never did.
  • Have a conversation on speakerphone when the other person actually needs to understand what you’re saying
    I can never understand anything over speakerphone. I’ll get the caller to repeat what they’re saying over and over until they give up and pick up the receiver. I find that just asking someone to do something isn’t nearly as effective as teaching them a lesson through passive-aggression. :)
  • Putting someone on speakerphone without first asking their permission
    I don’t mind being put on speakerphone if there’s a reason for it, and if I’m told ahead of time. If I’m put on speakerphone without consent or notification, that’s both rude and sneaky.
  • Dial a phone number while on speakerphone and then pick up the receiver just after the other person answers the phone

This last example angers me more than all of the others combined. Really, how lazy do you have to be to not be able to pick up the receiver before you dial? If I’ve got the receiver up to my ear and the person on the other end then picks up the receiver, it makes a loud fumbling “thump-click” noise right in my ear. Not only that, but at that point I already know that the person on the other end of the phone is unforgivably lazy. So before they’ve even started talking, they’ve already lost my respect and damaged my hearing.

There are two types of speakerphones: half-duplex and full-duplex.
Half-duplex phones (the least expensive and much more common) can only send sound in one direction at once. This means that when the speaker part is activated, the microphone part is deactivated, and vise-versa. This can (and often does) lead to miscommunication as either party can be completely cut off at any time.
Full-duplex phones (more rare and expensive) can communicate in both directions at once. Communication is still degraded, however, due to the fact that the microphone covers a much larger area than the phone receiver would.

More and more cell phones are equipped with speakerphone, as well. I always find it obnoxious when someone is walking down the street, holding their cell phone up to their mouth, and shouting into it because they have it set on speakerphone. How much easier would it be for them to just hold the phone up to their ear and speak in a normal tone? I assume that they must do this because, for some reason, they need the whole world to hear their conversation. I hate to say this, but I don’t care about whatever they’re talking about.

Don’t get me wrong – speakerphones have their purpose in this world, and many dial-in meetings would be difficult without them. However, just like every other piece of technology Man has created, speakerphones have been tarnished by those who choose to utilize them in an irresponsible way.

*Credit for the title goes to my friend Elan, who said this in an e-mail to me once :)

How to Treat People in the Service Industry

October 9, 2009

First off, I just want to say that it makes me genuinely sad that I have to write this. Human beings seriously don’t know how to treat one another. Everyone thinks they’re better than everyone else when they’re really not.

The other day, I called up a customer service representative at my phone company because of an error on my bill. I was on auto-pay, but I had still received a late payment notice. There had been no attempt to automatically pull the money from my bank account, so I knew this hadn’t been my fault – so I called to have the problem straightened out. That’s right. I called to have the problem fixed – not to scream at some random hourly representative of the company.
I was impressed at how polite and professional the gentleman on the other end of the phone was. He addressed me with the highest formalities and apologized profusely for the error, however, which I didn’t feel was necessary – I wasn’t angry, but it certainly felt like he expected me to be. Once he had credited my account with the correct amount, removed the late payment from my account record, and re-enrolled me in auto-pay (during a server move I had been inadvertently removed), I thanked him with a smile in my voice. The problem had been adequately and professionally solved. He paused for a moment, as if bracing for an incoming scream-fest. When he realized I wasn’t upset with him, the nervousness seemed to melt away from his voice as he said, “No, ma’am, thank you. You’re certainly a valued customer, and we’re happy to keep your business! Call us again if you need anything.” It was almost disturbing how genuine this sounded.
It made me a little bit sad.
I realized that this guy spends all day sitting in a chair, getting yelled at for things that aren’t his fault – that’s his job. I’ve been where he is, too. I’ve never worked for a phone company or call center, but I’ve worked in the service industry all my life. I still work at a theme park. I don’t work directly with the guests anymore… but I essentially work in a service position for employees of the company. I’m walked all over all day, every day. I bend over backwards to do favors for people that I work with, and rarely do I get thanks. The closest I can usually expect is an, “It’s about time.”

Why do people think it’s OK to treat other people like this? Just because you’re paying someone for a service (or in my case, they’re other employees, so they’re not even paying for my services) it does not automatically give you the right to treat that person like they’re stupid or worthless. I’m not talking about if they’re rude to you first. If they start it, by all means, finish it. But if someone is being nice to you, be nice to them, regardless of if you’re paying them or not. And if you initiate the contact, initiate it with a friendly demeanor – you’re more likely to get one in return.
Also, just because someone is working for a company, it does not mean that they’ve written all of that company’s policies. If that company has done something unfair to you, don’t take it out on an hourly employee – it’s probably not their fault.

Something to remember from the perspective of someone spawned from the service industry: the ruder you are, the worse service you will receive. That’s how it works. If you walk up to another human being that you’ve never met before, and immediately start acting superior to them just because you’re paying for their services, you’re never going to get the same treatment as you would if you treated them with respect. I certainly know that I do favors for people who are nice to me, and I do not do favors for people who are not nice to me. A majority of the people I know from this industry are the same way. In fact, in my email at work, I have a personal folder labeled “Back Burner.” If someone’s unnecessarily rude to me, I’ll move all of their emails right into that folder and wait until I’m done with everything else before I get to their requests.

Politeness can be contagious. If you’re nice, you’ll get better service, and possibly extras thrown in, just because people will like you. If you’re rude, you’ll get the minimum possible services, period.

If you have a genuine complaint with a company and an employee is unable to solve the problem to your satisfaction, don’t yell. Ask to speak with the employee’s superior. Discuss the problem in a calm, rational manner. If you yell, it makes your problem look silly, and it makes you look like a person who overreacts. It automatically puts employees on the defense, which turns the situation into a “you versus them” scenario, rather than a situation in which everyone’s on the same team trying to come up with a solution that’s acceptable to all parties involved. Keep your calm, or else you completely give up control of the situation. Remember – there is always a higher authority you can ask to speak with if things aren’t being handled in a manner you feel is appropriate. So be nice.

Stop Driving Like an Idiot

October 8, 2009

I think this is a good one to open with. It’s a very broad topic, however, and I’m sure I’ll touch on it in more detail in future posts.
One thing to remember, as far as driving is concerned, is that getting to your destination alive is really almost as important as getting there on time. Really. Speeding excessively and swerving in and out of traffic won’t get you there any sooner if you flip your car on the way. You may be doing the other drivers a favor, though, by permanently removing yourself from the planet when you crash and die. The big problem, however, is that you’re also risking other peoples’ lives by driving recklessly. I don’t think it’s fair that I need to risk my life every morning on my drive to work because someone else doesn’t value his own life or anyone else’s.  If these people want to off themselves, that’s fine, but they don’t need to be risking the lives of total strangers in doing so.
Oliver Wendell Holmes (Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1902-1932) is credited with saying, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”  I’ve always loved this phrase, which stands for both personal freedom and personal responsibility. Mess up your own life, not everyone else’s. And I don’t want to hear any excuses. If you’re late to work, suck it up and wake up earlier next time. If you’ve got a genuine medical emergency, call 9-1-1* and wait for the ambulance. They’ll be able to take care of you on the way to the hospital, so you’ll be getting treatment sooner than if you just drive on your own.

 At the same time, there is a balance. Some of us really do want to drive a reasonable speed. If you can’t do at least the speed limit, you really have no business driving.  If you’re too scared to make a left turn when there’s a break in oncoming traffic, you have no business driving.
If you can’t do the minimum speed limit on the highway, you’re really no safer than the people who go too fast. Keeping up with the flow of traffic is the key. If you notice everyone around you is either going much faster or much slower than you, it means you’re doing it wrong.  Speed up or slow down accordingly, and you’ll be doing your part to make driving just a little more bearable. It’ll cut down on both road rage and traffic deaths.
Speaking of which, if some idiot has failed to follow my advice and crashed his sports car full-speed into an 18-wheeler, do not slow down to watch as they pull his mangled corpse out of the wreckage. It means the rest of us will have to sit and wait for you to gawk. Mankind is inherently greedy. We have the urge to rubberneck even though it’s at the expense of all of those hundreds of drivers behind us. We don’t care about that, though, because we’re so greedy and self-centered.

In the “driving” category, there’s one thing worse than rubberneckers: people who drive in the emergency lanes during heavy traffic to cut off everyone in front of them. That’s cheating at life and it’s inexcusable. Nothing about driving makes me angrier. If nobody did this, there wouldn’t be traffic jams.  If you do this regularly, then you are a pathetic excuse for a human being and you need to cut your driver’s license into pieces right now (if you even have one). I’m not even kidding.

Let someone in. Not everyone, but when you’re passing an on ramp in heavy traffic, let one person in. If everyone did this, everyone would get where they’re going faster. Don’t be too nice, but don’t be too mean. Just be a decent human being and we’ll all get to our destinations alive and in a reasonable amount of time.

Don’t read while you’re driving. Don’t send text messages while you’re driving. Don’t do your makeup while you’re driving. Don’t shave while you’re driving. Make your kids stay seated while you’re driving. Wear your seatbelt while you’re driving.

Just remember: you don’t deserve to drive. So don’t take it for granted, and do it right.

*Don’t tell me you don’t have a cellphone, because I know you do. I’ve seen you talking on your Bluetooth in the grocery store. I just want to slap you when I see you doing that, you pretentious jerk. Hold the phone to your head like the rest of us, so we know you’re not trying to talk to us.

This is for Your Own Good.

October 8, 2009

Hello, world.
I just wanted to introduce myself in this first post. My name is Kristi, and I will be using this venue to give the world advice.
This blog came about when I tried to think of one message I would tell the world if given the opportunity.  I came up with 19, right off the top of my head.
At the writing of this post, I am 27 years old. During those 27 years, I think I’ve been pretty perceptive of right and wrong. I also take note when adults behave in a manner that I feel to be juvenile. It seems to happen more and more frequently every day. It’s frustrating and often inexcusable. I am therefore offering my services in critiquing and advising the world on its terrible behavior. Enjoy! :)


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