Tag Archives: ettiquette

Disclaimer

This blog, article, whatever you call it has been on the back of my mind longer than any other I’ve written. A blog about how in modern society we have to give a god damn disclaimer before doing or saying anything. Most people will probably read this article and doze off three lines in so how do you start such a blog without first giving a disclaimer? Seems almost ironic that I would need a disclaimer to write a blog throwing jabs at disclaimers.

Basically, the gist of my angst here is that you can’t just be honest any more. You can’t just say what you think any more. You can’t just say the obvious any more. No matter how blatantly fucking obvious, or benign, or trivial something is these days, we all have to give disclaimers beforehand for fear of being shamed out of town, because we’ve fostered this atmosphere of wussiness.

I mean ordinarily, I would have been inclined to say at the beginning of this blog “Warning, this blog is about to use foul language. For those of you with children eyes, turn on the Disney Channel instead”.

People have to give disclaimers for practically everything they do. Here are some common examples you’re exposed to every day, whether at work, at home, during the holidays, or out in public.

  • What you say: “I can see your point of view, however it’s my opinion that…”
  • What you mean: “I heard you. I’m about to talk, please don’t hate me.”

 

  • What you say: “Before I begin, I want to clarify that I didn’t vote for Bush…”
  • What you mean: “Don’t hate me, I’m not Republican.”

 

  • What you say: “….oh and by the way, I’m Mexican.”
  • What you mean: “Don’t hate me, I’m not racist.”

 

  • What you say: “No offense, but…”
  • What you mean: “You won’t like what I’m about to say, please don’t hate me.”

 

  • What you say: “Excuse me, can you please lower your voice. I can’t hear the movie.”
  • What you mean: “I paid $12 for this ticket! Shut the fuck up before I shove my foot up your ass!”

 

 

You might argue these are niceties. But I think it’s really just pussy footing. Sometimes I wanna just blurt out “Offense intended. That’s a stupid idea.” There’s being flat out rude, and then there’s being flat out ridiculous, and I feel like the pendulum has swung very far in that direction. Even when something isn’t rude we’re afraid of coming off as rude because as a society we’ve slowly but surely been getting thinner skinned. So many people have such delicate sensibilities, and it seems like every issue is a hot topic of controversy for someone.

I’ve been told not to talk about politics even when I am with like-minded people in public, because some random person I’ll never see again might overhear and get offended. Gasp!

But exactly that’s the root of it. People being offended. Us being offended. Have we all always been so easily offended? Did we always use to cower when something of controversy was said amidst a mixed crowd at a dinner party? Do we dare not raise out glass in agreement with the stranger across the room for fear of earning some random bloke’s enmity? What happened?

Whatever fucking happened to straight shooters? Whatever happened to people who know what they want and say it. They just fucking say it for the sake of saying it? Whatever happened to Eminem? Clint Eastwood, Winston Churchill and George W. Bush? What happened to not giving a fuck?

To quote the great Marshall Mathers, “Whatever happened to wildin out and being violent? Whatever happened to catchin a good old-fashioned passionate ass whoopin’ and getting your shoes, coat, and your hat tooken

We give disclaimers for almost everything. It’s expected that you do, and rude if you don’t. If you just go off and say what you want to say, without first lubing up the sensibilities of the people around you, you’re bound to create some friction, and some enemies.

Because of this, a void in communication has been created. There are certain opinions, certain ideas, certain offensive truths that dare not be spoken for fear of offending someone and permanently landing yourself on their shit list. No more getting invited to couples charades. What has filled this void, is lies, false pleasantries, groupthink, blind obedience to, and agreement with those whose sensibilities might be offended. We’ve catered our thoughts and speech to the lowest common denominator of the emotionally volatile.

Starbucks caught a lot of flak for starting up a dialogue about race. That’s all, let’s just talk about race. Howard Schultz never told his employees to don a white hood and start setting crosses on fire, but that’s how people reacted to it.

When you baby a kid, he turns into a baby. So let’s stop treating everyone like babies. Let’s toughen up. Let’s be bold and speak what’s on our minds. I’m not saying go out and be rude, but let’s stop acting like the simple act of disagreeing is rude. Let’s stop acting like being individuals, and thus have individual thought, is an offence. Am I asking you to stop using disclaimers? Well…

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In With the New?

I swear, I’m not against change. You might think I am, but I’m not. Change can be good, change can be bad. I don’t think it’s quite accurate to make the blanketed statement “change is good”. I think change is just change, and good or bad depends on the situation.

Some people can be way too anti-change when it comes to certain things, for example changing their underwear, or apartheid. But nowadays I feel like the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, and now people are aching for change simply for the sake of change. They want new for the sake of new.

The new norm
The new norm

I don’t know if it’s a generational thing, or simply a contemporary societal thing, but whatever it is, I’ve noticed that more and more people are adhering to the out with the old, in with the new mentality. They’ve fallen for the whole ‘new and improved’ bit. But truth be told, new isn’t always improved and sometimes changing things too often or too hastily can be detrimental.

Technology

People are constantly burning through technology and replacing it with something newer. People say “OMG! I can’t wait to get the new iPhone 6!” but in other words they are saying “I can’t wait to get rid of my iPhone 5”.

There’s nothing wrong with upgrading from time to time, but if you have owned every. single. iPhone. that’s been released you might have a problem.

Losers.
Losers.

Imagine that at one point you were excited enough to camp out front of the apple store for three days in a fucking tent in 40 degree weather to get your new phone, and then imagine that in 9 months you’d be just as anxious to get rid of that very same phone. Does anyone else find this ridiculous besides me?

And let’s not forget the ever rotating roster of iPods, televisions, goPros, tablets, and laptops.

Cars

You’ve met the car whore, right? These people, usually men, change cars more often than they change their car’s oil. It’s too big or too small. Too slow, or not fuel efficient enough. Not enough storage, or a pain in the ass to parallel park. Whatever the reason, these people’s cars have a life cycle of 18-36 months. The second that lease expires, boom, new car.

Romantic Partners

I suppose this is worse than the car whore. You may notice I refer to a lot of things as whores in my various posts. Selfie whore, car whore, attention whore. But what about real whores? I get that in some areas like LA and NY being an actual whore is a rite of passage. Not knocking on casual dating. Or even casual sex. The people playing that game have a clear directive: DTF. They know they aren’t in it for the long haul, or even the short haul. The game is get laid and bounce, fair enough.

HPV waiting to happen.
HPV waiting to happen.

But what is up with serial daters? These people are incapable of not being in a relationship. There is no such thing as being single for them. They are eternally on the rebound. As soon as they are done with one relationship, they are immediately on the prowl for their next failed relationship. It doesn’t affect me at all. But I worry for these people, because they are constantly setting themselves up for emotional disaster. I wonder if they give actual relationships a fair shake, or if they duck and run the second things get a little shaky.

Fads

Another thing people are constantly cycling through is fads. More so now at an alarming rate than ever before. Forget tangible things like say consumer goods and ya know, human beings. People can’t even commit to a damn idea these days.

Gluten free, paleo diet, the green movement, the occupy movement, juicing, kale, acai, hands up don’t shoot, the ice bucket challenge, exercise, twerking, planking, Harlem shaking. These things are short lived fire crackers that ignited with a bang and disappeared just as quickly as they arrived.

fads

Think about something like Snapchat, which literally is a photo or video taken and shared with the intent of being discarded in a matter of seconds.

In With the Old

Again, I’m not anti-change. But there’s something to be said when people are constantly getting new cars, clothes, boyfriends and girlfriends, gizmos and gadgets. They are so fidgety and anxious they are always bouncing from one thing to the next, never sticking with something long enough to really enjoy it.

People can’t listen to the radio without constantly changing the station. They can’t even listen to their own playlist without changing songs every two minutes before the current track is done.

I’ve been told my blog posts are too long, even though they would only make up 5-6 pages in a paperback novel.

When I found out about Robin Williams passing away two hours after it was announced, my friend informed me “that’s old news”. Old news? Really?

People are hanging out with one friend but ignoring them, because they’re too busy nose deep in their cell phone texting someone else.

Yeah, new can be cool. But what about things that are so good they are worth keeping around for a long time? Isn’t that worth even more? What about not moving so fast that everything worthwhile is instantaneously converted into yesterday’s garbage?

In with the new, out with the old?

Forget that. In with the old.

Friends hugging
Friends hugging

How Not to Use the Self-Checkout Lane

What better inspiration for a blog than one’s firsthand experience of something incredibly annoying? Recently, I was at Albertson’s patiently waiting for one of the four self-checkout kiosks to become available. I waited in line for what felt like an eternity (6 minutes), because the four other patrons ahead of me had a combined IQ of 17.

When grocery stores first introduced the self-checkout kiosks, they were God’s gift to man. The inept, the decrepit, the fearful, the outright lazy, and parents with kids dared not venture into the strange land of do-it-yourself. Why spend time scanning groceries when there’s a kid 10 feet away perfectly willing to do it for me, and bag my groceries alphabetically.

But one day the unthinkable happened. The sky darkened. Stupid people became more brazen, and starting using self-checkout.

Self-checkout machines were not invented as a form of entertainment, or to raise your self-esteem. The whole point behind the self-checkout lane was (and still is!) for people with only a few items to get in and out as fast as possible. All the rules about how to use and how to not use the self-checkout kiosks boils down to one thing: Hurry the fuck up.

Have Payment and Sufficient Funds Ready

What better way to look like an ass than to be caught pants down at the kiosk, fumbling for your credit card or digging in your pockets for an extra 17 cents. The kiosk didn’t just pop out of nowhere and boom, suddenly you’re first in line and caught off guard. While you’re making your last pass down aisle 12 and begin making your way to the register, you should be getting your ducks in a row. As soon as you find yourself staring down that machine, you should be hitting the ground running, ready to scan, swipe, bag, and bounce.

Payment
Have your payment ready

Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast

A for effort for the people who try to be quick. But if you’re going so fast every other item doesn’t get scanned, then F for execution. You know in the slasher films where the girl is being chased by the killer, and she’s trying to unlock a door but she can’t, because her hands are so jittery she can’t even stick a key in a damn lock? That’s how you look when you try to be a show off at the self-checkout. Take it easy, and scan each item methodically. If you really want to be quick, remember this one piece of advice: Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

Frustrated People
The cause of mass shootings

No Alcohol

If you haven’t figured it out by now, every time you purchase alcohol a store rep has to come over, check your ID, and type in some authorization code that seems to take an eternity. Even though the store lets you, the unwritten law is don’t go to the self-checkout if you’re buying alcohol because it holds up the line. As a matter of fact, when at self-checkouts, don’t purchase alcohol, cigarettes, or any products that require you to present an ID or get help from a store clerk.

Alcohol on Shelves
No Alcohol at the self checkout!

No Produce

If what you’re buying needs to be weighed, or if you have to manually scroll through an endless list of different breeds of tomatoes, then you don’t belong in the self-checkout lane. Women tend to be the biggest offenders of this rule, probably because women are more likely to buy produce, and men are more likely to buy frozen pizzas. If you’re getting one banana, your sins are forgivable. If you’re into juicing, or it looks like Carmen Miranda is hiding in your basket, then you need to get in a regular line. The rule here is: If it has a bar-code then get it. If it requires a scale then forget it.

No Produce
No produce in the self-checkout lane

No Coupons

In this instance, women are the only offenders. Coupon collectors are already annoying enough as it is when you’re in a regular line with a skilled cashier who knows what the hell they’re doing. Imagine the frustration of everyone in line behind you as you un-crumple a million paper coupons and tediously scan each one. The whole point of the self-checkout is expedience, not thriftiness. If you want to use coupons, get your ass in the regular line.

Coupon whores don't belong in the self-checkout lane
Coupon whores don’t belong in the self-checkout lane

10 Items or Less

Yo mother fucker, I see you over there and that’s clearly 12 items.

Seriously though, be courteous. I’ve noticed people have started breaking the 10 items or less rule in the regular express checkout lane. It’s becoming the new speed limit. The sign says 65, but we all drive 70, and cops let you slide by without a ticket.

If you require the use of a shopping cart to hold your entire purchase, then you don’t belong in the self-checkout. Baskets only people!

This person does NOT belong in the self-checkout lane.
This person does NOT belong in the self-checkout lane.

Leave the Kids at Home

This is a store, not kindergarten. If you can’t find a sitter, fine. But make sure your kids are well behaved, and most importantly, don’t let your kid use the machine. Yes, you win the parent of the year award for wanting to teach your toddler how to buy groceries, but when there’s a line of people behind you, set the kid aside and make haste. Kids are slow, and if they touch the wrong button or mess up the machine, then a clerk has to come over to bail you out. Teach your kid something useful like how to file taxes, and do it on your own time.

Kids Shopping
T-t-t-today junior! Leave your brats at home

Bag at the End

It sounds counter intuitive but from personal experience I’ve found it’s usually easier and faster if you bag your items after you’ve paid. When scanning, simply place the items on the weight tray. The kiosks usually take 5-10 seconds and the end of each transaction to process your cash or credit card payment. Use this time to two-birds-it and bag your groceries while the machine is wrapping up your purchase and printing the receipt.

Business Communication Part 1 – Phone Communication

I can go on for days about communication, so rather than turning this into an essay, I’ve broken this into a series of blog posts.

As part of my job, I do a lot of communicating with a very wide and diverse group of people. Some are starving college students, others are multimillionaires. Men and women, young and old, tech savvy and old school, married and single, blue collar and white collar, domestic and foreign born, first time homeowners and real estate tycoons, and everything in between. Over the years and with my experiences I’ve learned quite a bit about the dos and don’ts of business communication – what works, and what doesn’t.

This advice is not your typical “their vs they’re”, “are vs our”, “to, too, and two” spiel you can find anywhere. Assuming you are already literate, here is some communication advice you can actually take advantage of. Despite my intro, not all of this is not strictly business communication advice, but advice that will prove useful in any context.

For Part 1, the you need only relearn your ABCs, and your 123’s.

Relearn your ABC’s.

“B like Boy, A as in…. Apple, N like Nancy, C like….. ummm….. Cat?” If this sounds like you spelling out “Bancroft Street” to a stranger over the phone, then you are putting yourself and others through a lot of unnecessary trouble.

Every day I hear my clients struggle with reading off VIN numbers to me over the phone.

It’s about time you learned and memorized the US Military Phonetic Alphabet, also known as the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. This handy system will save you time and embarrassment when spouting off an endless series of letters. The system was specifically designed so that when reading off letters over radio transmission, it is easy to distinguish between one letter and another.

"Oscar Mike Golf! That was hilarious Sarge!"
“Oscar Mike Golf! That was hilarious Sarge!”

Military Phonetic Alphabet

The list is as follows.

  1. Alpha
  2. Bravo
  3. Charlie
  4. Delta
  5. Echo
  6. Foxtrot
  7. Golf
  8. Hotel
  9. India
  10. Juliet
  11. Kilo
  12. Lima
  13. Mike
  14. November
  15. Oscar
  16. Papa
  17. Quebec
  18. Romeo
  19. Sierra
  20. Tango
  21. Uniform
  22. Victor
  23. Whiskey
  24. X-Ray
  25. Yankee
  26. Zulu

When it comes in handy:

  • Driver’s License Numbers
  • Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN)
  • Hard to spell names
  • Hard to spell street names
  • Policy numbers
  • Anything where you’re spelling out a word with tons of letters.
  • A surefire way to garner respect from military clients and peers.

A is not for Apple. From now on, it’s Alpha. Familiar yourself with all 26 letters and practice them regularly. Memorize it. Learn it. Love it.

Relearn your 123’s

Another task I do daily is collect phone numbers, street addresses, and credit card numbers. Believe it or not, there are right and wrong ways to do this.

I doubt you’re pronouncing the numbers wrong, but you could be reading them aloud the wrong way.

Do Re Mi... ABC... 123... Baby, you and me!
Do Re Mi… ABC… 123… Baby, you and me!

Credit Cards

Credit cards are conveniently broken down into four groups of four digits, with the exception of American Express. When reading your credit card to someone over the phone, make sure to read the numbers the way they are commonly displayed:

For example: 1234 pause 5678 pause 1234 pause 5678. American express displays their numbers in groups other than four. In this case, try to break them into groups of 4 anyways.

Phone Numbers

Another big one I noticed people botch often is reading off phone numbers. First of all, always read the area code. Never assume the other person knows the area code. More and more, even “small towns” have multiple area codes as populations swell. San Diego County for example has three area codes, 619, 858, and 760. Los Angeles probably has twice that.

Second, remember that people write slower than you can talk. So when reading off a number of any kind, make sure to sllllooooowwww down. The pauses let the person listening to you catch up, so they don’t have to ask you to repeat yourself.

Third, just like with credit cards, read phone numbers the way they are commonly displayed. For example: 619 pause 555 pause 6789.

Numbers In General

Do not use the letter “O” for the number “0” (zero). This can be especially confusing for alphanumeric chains where either a letter or number can possibly be correct, such as an account number or email address.

Read each individual digit. Do not combine digits to make larger numbers.

For example:

The chain “7-8-5-2” should be read “seven-eight-five-two”.

The chain “7-8-5-2” should NOT be read “seventy eight-fifty two” because this can then be misinterpreted as 70-8-50-2.

Regardless of what the number is, try to break down long chains of characters into groups of four, and pause between each group, just like you would with a credit card. This makes it easier for the person on the other end.

Conclusion

That’s it. Relearn your ABCs and your 123s. If you can do that, you’ll make life easier for yourself and anyone you communicate with over the phone.