More Etiquette Stuff - A Question

I use the word “stuff” in every blog entry title on my page so the use of the word here is just to amuse myself.

I’m a receptionist and I wonder if anyone is willing to share their opinion on this tiny irritant in my life. My panties aren’t in a twist over this - I’m just curious.

This is what I generally expect:
Caller: “Hello, this is Minnie, may I speak with Mickey please.”
Me: “Of course you may. Please hold just a moment.”

This is what I usually hear:
Caller: “Is Mickey there?”
Me: “Yes.”

Looooong pause since your question has been answered.
Okay, I would never do this, but I generally answer direct questions so it took me a bit to find a compromise.
Caller: 'Is Mickey there?"
Me: “I’ll try his line for you.”

Why do people as if “someone is there” instead of asking to speak with the person?

If I do that…wait, first off I identify myself - then once I know Mickey is there, I ask if it’s possible to speak to him.

People do that because they’re clueless. Another sign of the Apocalypse - manners disappear.

well, asking “May I speak with Mickey please” sorta assumes that Mickey is in the office and is free to take my call. He may not be. Or maybe he is in, but you are redirecting his calls anyhow. So I’ll ask “Is Mickey there?” first, to not seem pushy.

ETA: Actually, I’ll ask “Is Micky available?”, but the idea is close.

Yes, but this method requires two questions to accomplish what can be done in one, plus it has the awkwardness the OP mentions. It assumes nothing; it’s a simple yes-or-no question.

Here are the possible answers to (IMHO) the proper question, which is not pushy, but rather assertive and businesslike:

“Hello, this is Minnie, may I speak with Mickey, please?”

(1) “No, I’m sorry, he’s not available right now, may I take a message/would you like me to transfer you to his voice mail?”

(2) “Just a moment please, I’ll transfer you.”

Note that #1 covers all permutations of “He’s on another line / he’s in the john / he’s at lunch / he’s on vacation today / he’s in, but he’s not in to you.”

Just ask to speak with him, and let the receptionist give you the proper response. No need to dance around determining Mickey’s locational status. And I’m fairly confident that no receptionist ever had someone ask to speak to Mickey and thought, “Pushy bitch.”

Mr. S used to have a bonehead boss who would occasionally call here to ask him to work extra shifts. I’d pick up and the guy would just kind of mumble something like, "Hey there . . . " and put the onus on me to ask, “Who’s calling, please?” (even though I could damned well TELL it was him). Annoying fucker. I’m a busy person. STATE YOUR BUSINESS! Don’t make me dance around to find out what you want.

Uh, if I phoned a business and the receptionist took my questions as literally as you, I would be chapped.

To me, Minnie asking “Is Mickey there?” means “Hello, is Mickey working today/is he around/is he available …?”

My answer would be “Yes he is, let me try his line for you.” OR “No, he’s out of the office this morning, would you like his voicemail?”

Seems like you could find worse things over which to twist your panties. :slight_smile:

I guess they either don’t know that you’re supposed to ask nicely, or they don’t care.

I like to use the person’s last name, actually (unless the business is an informal-type place). I’ll do this: “Is Mr. Mouse in, please?”. That lets the receptionist either say “Yes but he’s on the phone/in a meeting would you like his voicemail?” or “Yes, I’ll connect you” or whatnot.

For places which I call often, I’ve gotten to know the receptionist’s name. So then I do this: “Good morning jali, how are you today?” then after she replies, “Is Mr. Mouse in?”.

Today I called an architect which I know well, and his wife answered the phone (she’s their receptionist). So I asked after her health, and mentioned that I’d heard that their recent cruise was delightful, listened to her effuse a bit about that, then asked if Mr. C was in.

ETA: nicely isn’t exactly what I mean, but correctly isn’t either.

“Do you know what time it is?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Well, can you tell me what time it is?”

“Of course I can.”

(smells of burning insulation)

Wow. I think they made a TV show about you. :smiley:

Really - these things are the social grease that keep us from eating one another for dinner. When people say, “Hi! How are you?”, they don’t really want to know, either. It’s just conversational convention, and to not go along with it marks you, not them, as the weirdo*. It does assume something - it assumes that you know that when someone calls a person’s office on the telephone and asks if they’re in, then 9.9 times out of 10, they want to talk to them. No, it’s not entirely logical, but it’s one of the shibboleths of polite society.
*Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Some of my best friends are weirdos. :wink:

My parents did teach us phone etiquette, and specifically disliked “is Mickey there?” for reasons elaborated below. We were taught to say “Hi, this is Minnie, may I please speak with Mickey?”* I still use that phrasing, or sometimes “Hi, this is Minnie, is Mickey available?”
My parents were also big on addressing adults by title and surname, and when making business calls I will always use Mr./Ms. Surname, unless they’ve introduced themselves otherwise.

Well, sure, it means approximately the same thing, but it’s a bit uncouth. I’m trying to think exactly why, and all I can come up with is that it’s sort of… forward. He might be here, but for a variety of reasons may not be available to take the call. It’s not necessarily any of your business why, and asking if he’s there sort of forces the receptionist into a mildly awkward position: “yes, he’s here, but whatever he’s doing is more important than speaking with you”. On the other hand, the following transactions: “Is Mr. Mouse available?” “I’m sorry, he’s not–may I take a message?” or “may I speak with Mr. Mouse?” “I’m sorry, he’s unavailable at the moment” both leave open the polite fiction that Mr. Mouse wants nothing more than to take your valuable call, but due to unavoidable circumstances is out of reach at this time.

My parents disliked it on the basis that you should choose language that expresses exactly what you mean. What you want to know is if he’s available to speak with you on the phone. Asking if he’s “there” is a pretty specific question–is Mickey here? Next to me? In the living room? In the house? In town? Well, he’s not here, but he might be out in the yard with Pluto. Are you asking if he’s standing next to me, so as to avoid spoiling a surprise or because you want to talk behind his back? Are you asking if he’s here because you’re his wife and want to make sure he’s really in the office? Or Is it that you just want to talk to him, and if that’s the case, why didn’t you ask in the first place?

I tend to assume that it’s a literal question, so that when I answer the phone and someone asks if my husband is here, I’ll answer: “I think so–would you like to speak with him?” or “do you want me to find him?” Sometimes the answer is “Oh, no, I just wanted to check if he was home from work so I could drop off the weed-whacker I borrowed and loan him the book he was looking for, do you mind if I drop by in a few minutes?”

I had a friend whose parents insisted on, when she answered the phone: “Hello, my name is Molly”, except it came out in sort of an all-one-word sing-song which I’m finding it completely impossible to replicate in text. Something like: hello*m’nameis Molly! Odd.

Dang, my response to this last night got eaten when the database got hosed, I guess. I think it went something like this:

Well, of course if I were working as a receptionist I wouldn’t actually respond with a flat “yes/no” to “Is Mickey there?”, just as the OP describes that she would not. But it does create a bit of a mental bump. I guess it reminds me if when my kid sister’s airhead friends would call and say, “Is Minnie there?” without identifying themselves. It’s rather blunt, and unbusinesslike, and it just makes me think of how an unwashed kid with no manners would use the phone.

Sure, “Me want talk Mickey” or “Hey dollface, put Mickey on the horn” would get your point across too, but in the grown-up world we use certain phrases to grease the societal wheels, and IMHO this is one of them.

NajaNivea expressed what I’m thinking pretty well too.

Once again, what’s wrong with “Excuse me, what time is it?”

If nothing else, the indirect question leaves the door open for jokers who want to mess with you, as above. And I hate it when people do that.

Because “Is Mickey there?” means “May I speak to Mickey?” It’s a expression, not a request for whether the person is there. Yes, it’s a much more casual and perhaps unprofessional way to ask, but it means the same thing.

At home:

“Is gigi there?”
“This is she.”

“Is not-gigi there?”
“Yep, hold on a second.”/“Yep, may I tell him who’s calling?”

OP: In addition to all the idiomatic explanations above, you’re falling into the trap of looking at the world from the POV of your goals. Not the caller’s.

Consider the typical sales person’s POV… I’ll use “I” here, but understand that I personally don’t think or act this way …
When I call, my goal is to speak to Mickey. I don’t care what he/she told you about holding calls. I don’t care that he/she is in a meeting. I want to talk to Mickey, and my goals are the only goals that matter to me. And, frankly, I’m important. And you’re not. I get better results from peons by treating them as such.

By asking if Mickey’s there, I force you to either lie, or put me through. And I know that for some percentage of the calls I make, you’ll have a hard time doing the lie convincingly enough that I don’t detect it. So you’ll have given me a crack to stick my wedge in, and I’ll work that until I get through.

The end result is I get to talk to Mickey more often than if I meekly conform to your ideas of etiquette & submit to your authority. Oh yeah, it’s quicker my way.

LSLGuy–your typical salesperson is a complete idiot if he’s never learned the one simple and cardinal rule that gets you everywhere: thou shalt sucketh up to the office staff, for they haveth all control over your access to The Boss.
In all possible situations, be nice to the lady at the front desk; if she’s on your side, you’ll get much further.

I blame modern media interviewers for this type of non-question question. “You had a great game out there!” “Uh, yes, I did. Did you have a question for me to answer?”

That said, like other people have said, you know very well when someone calls and asks if Mickey is there, they want to talk to him. You’re not a computer program that needs 100 lines of code to achieve this conclusion - you’re a human being with impressive logical-leaping skills.

I have to agree with this.

But, in counterpoint, I have to say that as proper business etiquette, I’d never dream of phrasing it the way you posted.

I always say that I am LiveOnAPlane and I’d like to speak to Mickey if he’s available. Or, depending on the situation, “This is LiveOnAPlane, and I am returning Mickey’s call.”

I have to agree that too manytimes it is the caller who does not adequately identify him/herself and what, exactly, they would like from you.

I don’t know; I can’t imagine anyone who answers 'This is she" not expecting the caller to ask, “May I speak with gigi? This is Marcel.”

When I call my sister, I give my name and ask her teen-age children if she is available.
They, of course, say, “Just one moment, I’ll see”, and then bellow, “Mom, are you available? It’s j666.”
It’s pretty funny.

Still, even the one with multi-colored spiked hair has lovely manners.

When calling my own office, I ask “is Mickey there”? Because I know that like me, most of my coworkers are in and out of the office a lot and our admin/receptionist knows that a “no” answer on her part will get a request to transfer us to voicemail or a “that’s okay, I’ll try him/her on his/her cell then”.

If I’m calling elsewhere it’s generally more formal as stated above. FTR, I don’t consider “is Mickey there” to be impolite, just informal and not as polished or businesslike as “Hello this is Minnie, may I speak with Mickey”.

:slight_smile: We tolerate the masses and strive to understand their vernacular.

I agree with those who said that “Is Mickey there?” simply means, “Would you please put me through to Mickey?”

In fact, it would be inappropriate for you to give out the information the question literally requests anyway. It’s none of their business whether Mickey is there or not, only whether or not he is available to speak to them. What if they were a jealous spouse/paramour or business rival, who had an ulterior motive for wanting to know whether or not Mickey was in the office? Accordingly, interpreting the question as “Would you please put me through to Mickey?” is the right thing to do.

I usually ask “Is Mickey there, please?” or “Is Mickey available, please?” after identifying myself. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this disconcert someone, and the response invariably is, “Let me transfer you.” If for some reason I should need to know whether Mickey is in the office, I ask “Is Mickey in the office today?”