Call Me Mister.


It is bad enough that one has to listen to a lot of recorded music, and to add to that insult, a new phenomenon in telephoned customer support is the use of the first name of the customer by the representative. As galling as that is it is worse when in written communication too this is done.

When this happens I take serious objection and in the case of telephone calls I ask the representative his/her age and usually find that it is in the early twenties. I tell them that I am as old as their grand father and ask them if they would call their grand father by his first name.  I use the same message in responding to emails as well.

I still do not call people I am not very friendly with by their first name unless I am asked by them to irrespective of how old they are. It simply is not in me and I find it in very poor taste when the same courtesy is not extended to me.  In the blogworld however we bloggers seem to be quite comfortable using first or nicknames and I do not find it least uncomfortable. Perhaps because we share so much of our personal lives in our blogs it becomes easier to be informal.

So, it was quite an amusing spectacle in India’s social media when our Prime Minister called the POTUS as Barak although I think that the POTUS found it difficult to call our PM as Narendra. Perhaps he just could not pronounce it properly!  Somewhat like Bikehikebabe not being able to pronounce Narasimha!

Now what happened in Germany is exactly the opposite of what happened in India.  The POTUS kept referring to Ms. Merkel as Angela while she was unable to call him Barak!  Do the Germans take quite some time before they get to first name basis?

How are you on this matter of protocol?

This entry was posted in Customer Service, Friendship, Language, People, Sociology, Values and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Call Me Mister.

  1. Dun-Na-Sead says:

    I was baptized with a traditional Irish name, but my legal documents are all in a simpler English form. What my friends, and everyone else I’ve ever really talked more than once to, call me is the short form of both. When a hotel, airport, or sales person comes up with my document first name, as you say, usually 20 year olds, they get a short Ms, and my husband’s and my mutual family name. In a rather cold tone, I’m afraid. As for “Angie”, Germans are MUCH more formal. Rule of thumb, if you haven’t played in a sandbox with someone, as a five year old, or are a member of a mutual singers, chickenraisers, or etc. club, where you use informal address in the club, but outside it has no meaning, forget it. The new info flow and data exchange form, like at academic conferences, is first name, but Sie, the formal you, not Du, the informal one for family or children or chicken raisers. But it will probably take 20-30 years before this finally is universally accepted, even at conferences. When in doubt, use Mr or Ms, Herr or Frau, and Sie. They will tell you when you can change to Du. Ps Germans call their chancellor “Angie” from the Rod Stewart song, or, “Mutti” an ironic form of mommy.

    • On the few occasions that I had to interact with Germans in Germany, I was quite comfortable with their formal address culture as we in India too have the same.

  2. shackman says:

    No synchronicity here 🙂 – whenever someone calls me Mr I suggest they call me Chuck. I am and have always been rather informal. And I was once rather fluent in German and was taught to use the more formal Sie until Du was offered/suggested by the person to whom you were speaking so I am smart enough to use the more formal version when called for.
    shackman recently posted..Child abuse

  3. wisewebwoman says:

    I guess what has staggered and upset me more than anything is the dropping of auntie and uncle from the lexicon of my nieces and nephews. Not their choice but the choice of my siblings. Something wonderful has definitely been lost and I feel so sad.
    As to these punks calling me by my first name? And airlines, etc? Water off a duck’s back. They are strangers.
    wisewebwoman recently posted..I am stir crazy, so here’s a poem.

  4. Grannymar says:

    I never mind what I am called so long as it is not early in the morning! 😉 Well almost – I HATE the title ‘Ms’. Google Ms and you will get About 2,070,000,000 results for Multiple sclerosis which affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide range of symptoms including problems with muscle movement, balance and vision. I hope I do not affect people like that!

    This morning I phoned my insurance company to renew the car insurance policy for another year. To my surprise, there was very little number punching, no music, a polite and courteous young lady who addressed me correctly AND I came away with a reduction of £29.25 off their suggested cost for the year. Win win for me. Paying online would not have produced that outcome.
    Grannymar recently posted..Dreary, grey and puddle wet

  5. Mitali says:

    It is annoying, but so far telemarketers have always addressed me as miss Mitali ( they can’t get the surname), but what is really annoying, is when a friend of a friend addresses me by the same nickname that my friend uses, when we are just acquaintances.

  6. I grew up with “Mr.” and “Mrs.” However, when I entered the workforce at 18, I began work in a company where the “corporate culture” was to address everyone – right up to the CEO – by their first name. This was so difficult for me, at first. My manager begged me to stop calling him “Mr. Nixon.” Everyone else called him “Charlie.” One day, I noticed he signed documents, “Charles.” I asked which he preferred: “Charlie” or “Charles.” No one had ever asked him that; he admitted he preferred “Charles.” It had just enough formality that I was able to call him that, rather than “Mr. Nixon.” It took a while before I felt comfortable calling managers by their first names. My father also worked there, and even HE urged me to start doing that. Now, it comes naturally, and I find it more condescending than respectful coming from (most) young people who call me “Mrs.” or “ma’am.” (A few of them, though, are so cheeky I’ll insist on it, just to make the point that they are not my peers.) In politics, there should be someone whose job it is to advise on proper protocol in different countries. I doubt that President Obama would have difficulty learning to pronounce anything. Former President G.W. Bush, on the other hand…would have been wise to stick with “Sir” and “Ma’am.” He couldn’t even be taught to say “nuclear” correctly.
    Holly Jahangiri recently posted..Weight Off My Mind

  7. I think it’s funny if Barack was bothered by being called by his first name after he had done it to Ms. Merkel. Yay, Prime Minister!
    Cheerful Monk recently posted..Yay, Razor!

  8. Cathy in NZ says:

    What I hate are salespeople/similar have no idea what my name is and call me “lady, dear/ie, miss, love, similar” – there doesn’t seem to be any sort of generic way to address people who haven’t got a name badge on their lapel/chest…

    Having a shortened name from my proper name means I usually grasp what type of person is calling me – gov’t departments usually use long version but then can’t pronounce my surname…and thumble about with that!

    Often with the phone, I’m expected to find the correct number on my phone pad to connect with what seems the best option or press 0 for the operator – all get me music, often with a pause and something telling me my call is important to them…it’s rare for the voice to say you’ve 8th in the queue!

    Occasionally I don’t get music at all rather “our lines are overloaded, please call back later” – which is harder because when would “later/better” be 🙂

    telecommunications have improved but now they are more annoying because for some reason their are no employees at the other end, waiting for you to call 🙂

    • There are consultants now who teach “soft skills” to employees in customer service positions but they somehow don’t seem to address this issue. The mechanised systems of telephony is another disgusting development.

  9. Maria says:

    I’m so used to being called ‘aunty’ or ‘chachi’ by youngsters here in India that I find it quite strange to be addressed by my first name by kids.I remember phoning my sister in London some years ago and feeling quite put out because she introduced me to her children on the phone as ‘Maria’ and not as Aunt Maria. What was even more strange for me was when I came to know the fact that my sister has an Indian friend called Usha who insists on being addressed by my young niece and nephew as Mausi (mother’s sister in Hindi). Being the real Mausi, and the Badi Mausi (mother’s elder sister) at that, I felt quite put out that an Indian lady had, apparently, snatched away my rights.
    Maria recently posted..Another Mashup/Catchup – LBC Post

  10. Anna says:

    I have lost contact with Germans and Germany some time ago, but looks that they are as formal ever. It was not enough that you need to address people by Herr or Frau but you had to list all their business and academic titles. If Mr Schmidt had two PhD titles he would be addressed as Herr Doctor Doktor Schmidt. Polish people are slightly relaxing about titles those days but there still are strong similarities in etiquette of those two countries. Maybe that is the reason I do not mind to be addressed as Anna. Or maybe living in Australia relaxed me a bit.

  11. srinivas says:

    I think a little formality would be nice. This first name business is, in all possibility, just our generation’s hipocracy…like our CEO used to say “Call me vishy…” as though it makes him my friend.
    srinivas recently posted..Do we need any manager at all?

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