Thursday, August 29, 2013

No, we're NOT on a first name basis...

Proper business etiquette seems to be lacking these days.

Our new property managers, who were not ones that I wanted, but were foisted on us because Housing 1 Source decided to get out of the property management business and didn't bother to tell us, are sending us a bunch of stuff we have to sign and read.  Yesterday, they sent me an email about ACH payments, which I then had to forward to Bill, because he's the one who handles that.  Why they were emailing me instead of him is beyond me, especially since Bill had already spoken to them about it and thought he had it all set up.

But then today, I got another email, this time with a "new tenant handbook" and some form we have to send them.  In the email, the property manager called me by my given first name instead of the name I prefer.  I have never met this woman before, so of course she didn't know I go by a nickname.  For that reason, she shouldn't have been addressing me by my first name at all.

I know it sounds snotty, but that's really a pet peeve of mine.  I hate it when people I'm doing business with presume to address me as anything but Mrs.  The reason for that is two-fold.  First off, I really hate being called by my formal first name.  It's not that I think the name is bad (property manager happens to share my first name), but because it doesn't suit me and brings back a lot of bad memories of being yelled at.  My nickname is what people call me.  It suits me.  If she knew me, she'd understand that.  But she doesn't, so she made a mistake.  It's a mistake she could have avoided if she had called me by my title instead.

Secondly, I think it's very rude to call adults you don't know by their first name unless that is what they've asked you to call them.  I actually prefer to be called by my nickname and if you call me Mrs., I will tell you that.  But you shouldn't presume to call me by my first name if I'm doing business with you.  It's just poor form.

When I was a kid, I lived in a rural community where my neighbors were all called by their first names.  Being a kid, I figured that's how it was and called my best friend's parents by their first names.  They were pretty formal people and I probably really offended them.  As I got older, I started to realize why they would feel like I was being disrespectful.  They never corrected me, but as I matured, I started calling them Mr. and Mrs.

One thing that annoys me even more than people who call me by my first name, though, are people who call me "honey", "sweetie", or "darling" when I'm trying to do business with them.  I know it's a southern thing and, if it's someone obviously older than I am, I am willing to let it slide.  But when it's a waitress or a receptionist or something, especially if she's really young, it really pisses me off.  Those kinds of pet names by strangers are demeaning.  If you don't know me personally, how can you know if I'm sweet or not?  If your insistence on calling me "sweetie" makes my teeth grind, it's a fair bet I'm not all that sweet.  ;-)

I think it's sad when I have to educate people on the proper way to address people with whom they are doing business.  I don't like to have to do it and I know they don't like to have to hear it.  But if I don't say something, they end up calling me by a name I can't stand and that puts my teeth in jeopardy.  Seems to me knowing not to call strangers by pet names or their first name is just a no-brainer that is based on respect and good manners.

On a related note, I have a feeling I'm going to hate moving from this house.  The tenant handbook has all the shit we are expected to do... which was not done for us before we moved in.

/end rant


  1. In so many ways, etiquette as it was once known, has disappeared. It used to be that if you were at a counter at the head of a line, if there was a reason you couldn't be helped immediately, your presence was acknowledged and you were told someone would be with you shortly. The same was true of drive-through lanes, whih I try to avoid on environmental principles but admit to occasionally indulging. Now, it seems thatno one sees any necesity to acknowledge your presence until they are good and ready. It's a small thing, but it's asmall part of a bigger thing. Etiuette is diappearing. Often salespeople don't even thank the customers. (It still exists among employees at Disneyland. If a salesperon is overheard not thanking a customer after a purchase, the employee is fired immediately. It;s like a time warp.) while the nutritional value of their offerings sucks as much as does any other fast food place, In and Out Burger does require employees to be polite.

    My parnts always required us to call adults by Mr. and Mrs. (or Doctor, Reverend, Father, or Sister) unless the adults told us to call them by their first names. We had one family in our circle of friends with whom we were not terribly close but came into contact with at various social gatherings) that took it to extremes. My mom said she was called "Dr. Rousseau" (which is her correct title -- not Mrs. Rousseau, so if the parents were going to be so insistent, they at least should have insisted on the correct title) all week, so during social gatherings, she preferred to be called "Erin" even by children. This family refused to bend on their family rule. My mother was "Mrs. Rousseau" whether or not she wanted to be. My mom finally got a bit snippy and told the parents that if they weren't going to let their children call her "Erin," they shuld call her "DOCTOR Rousseau," not "Mrs. Rousseau." The parents were a bit taken aback. I don't know if they believed that only medical doctors and dentists were worthy of the title, or that only males were worthy.

    1. I really think that the height of etiquette dictates that the focus be on the person's comfort. I prefer being called by my first name. That is what makes me comfortable. But only if you know that I go by a nickname, not my given name. Until then, use the honorific. Some folks are guilty of shortening someone's name without their permission, too. That has also happened to me. My nickname can be shortened by a syllable and people have also called me that. I don't like that, either, but it's better than my full name.

  2. Here in Texas, you will hear a lot of servers and waitresses call you honey, darling, or sweetie. It will happen with some degree of frequency, it is a southern thing. Totally OK to correct that of course because you need to feel comfortable with the person you're doing business with, but just a warning that it's a culture thing so you will hear it often.

    As for people doing business with you such as the property managers calling you by you first name...NO! Totally wrong. I'm in agreement with you there. Get this - I rented an apartment through an apartment locator service. I had done that when I first moved to Houston and had a good experience so this time I decided to do it again (different company than the first time since I now live in a different area of town). The apartment locator owner actually called me and left a voice mail that started like this "Hey Girl, saw you called and left a message..." HEY GIRL??? WTF??? Talk about inappropriate and weird.

    So yeah, etiquette has gone the way of the dinosaurs for a lot of people. It's a shame.

    1. I grew up in southeastern Virginia and have lived in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, so I know about the homespun terms of endearment that typically come from servers and such. And, like I said, if it's coming from an older person, it doesn't tend to bug me as much. What DOES bug me is when it comes from someone who is my age or could be my kid. It's probably not a big deal and I know I'll never change it, but it still irritates the hell out of me. Maybe I should just be glad they aren't calling me "bitch".

      Wow... I would be totally pissed if a property manager called me "girl", too. It would not make me too happy to have to do business with that person. I get that in this country, informality is the rule and I don't necessarily think that's always a bad thing. I even read an interesting article about it in the Harvard Business Journal last night. The author explained why being on a first name basis in the office could be a good thing that helped "level the playing field". But seriously, anyone in a professional job ought to know better than to call clients by a pet name... or their first name, for that matter.

      What Alexis said about her mom preferring to be called "Erin" instead of "Mrs." is also a point that I think a lot of well-meaning people overlook. I think the essence of being polite is being sensitive to another person's feelings. Therefore, if you really want to be polite, you should let people tell you what they prefer to be called, even if it means your kid is calling an adult by their first name and you would prefer they don't. If that is what the adult prefers to be called, I think that's what is most polite. Just explain to the kid that when they are talking to an adult, it's polite to use Mr., Mrs., or Ms. until the person tells you how they want to be addressed.


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