27 June 2006
SETI League
PriUPS Project


My Good Deed

I don't like to use the telephone.  In a future blogitem I shall peg the rantometer with a new diatribe about people who refuse to use email, but today I'm plagiarizing myself with an item I prepared for a friend who runs an internet business, mostly selling arts on eBay.  I'm forever encouraging her to write FAQs to save time and correspondence.  For this one, however, I volunteered to be cranky on her behalf:

Why don't we use the telephone?

Only part of the answer is "we read faster than we listen, we think slower than we talk."

This is an internet business.  The only reason we HAVE a telephone is for emergencies.  We don't even use it for communicating with people in the same building!  It's slow, inconvenient, imprecise, and just plain irritating.  We're old fashioned enough to believe that when we're talking to someone on the telephone they deserve our complete attention.   We're newfangled enough to realize that we can't spare our complete attention to anyone or anything.  We're just too damn busy.

Here's another part of the answer:

Receiving telephone calls:

Everybody here is busy doing something.  Whether it's packing/unpacking, listing goods, researching provenance, or just euphemizing in the bathroom, it's still something that needs to be done.  The telephone is an interruption.  If we have to answer the telephone, it means we're not doing something else that needs to be done.

Making telephone calls:

Are you hovering by the telephone waiting for our call?  Of course not - you're in a different room, or perhaps in a different state.  And you're probably in a different time zone.  Do you want to be interrupted?  Probably not.  Do we want to wait for you to come to the phone? Do we want to wait to find the right party when someone else answers?  Or to leave a message and play "phone tag"?  Definitely not.

Receiving email:

We go to the computer when convenient, between other tasks.  It may only take two minutes, or it may take half an hour, or even, when we have the luxury of sleep, several hours.  But we get your email, and we answer it.  No wasted time (beyond deleting the spam) and no interruptions.

Sending email:

Questions are typically one of three types:

  • You have a question for which we have to do research.  In that case, why have you wait while we fumble?  Instead of wasting your time by putting you on hold, you can go about your business and we'll email when we have an answer.  And when you have the answer, it will be in clear writing, with references, instead of in your scribbling, which is probably just as illegible as ours.
  • It's one we've already answered once or a hundred times, e.g., "Why don't we use the telephone?"  If we have the answer, we put it on our web site the first time, and never have to answer it again.  If we did this by telephone, we could either play you a recording (boring for you) or read the web page to you (boring for both of us).  Instead you're reading it here.  Big time saver - you read faster than you listen, too. 
  • One whose answer would interest others, e.g., general questions about arts that our expertise can help resolve for you and might be of interest to the community as well.  In that case, why not share the info?

In summary

There is almost never a reason to use the telephone in our business.  It is an obsolete excrescence of the previous century, and one we embrace only in exigent circumstance, and with reluctance even then.  If you need to contact us, please use email or, in the case of secure communication such as credit card number transmission, use our fax number (PLACE NUMBER HERE).   You will receive a faster and more considered reply by email.  (If you DO send a fax, please be sure to put your email address legibly on the fax.)

I hope it worked for her.  Certainly nobody ever calls me any more!

Richard Factor