The Book of Business Etiquette Part 2

"I wore a fur great-coat at that time, and before we were well clear of the wharf, he questioned me concerning it, and its price, and where I bought it, and when, and what fur it was, and what it weighed, and what it cost. Then he took notice of my watch, and asked me what that cost, and whether it was a French watch, and where I got it, and how I got it, and whether I bought it or had it given me, and how it went and where the keyhole was, and when I wound it, every night or every morning, and whether I ever forgot to wind it at all, and if I did, what then? Where I had been to last, and where I was going next, and where I was going after that, and had I seen the President, and what did he say, and what did I say, and what did he say when I had said that? Eh? Lor' now! Do tell!"

This sort of curiosity is harmless enough, but exasperating, and so childish that one hates to rebuke the person who is asking the foolish questions. There is another kind which is perhaps worse--the man who asks intrusive questions about how much salary another is getting, how old he is (men are as sensitive on this subject as women) and so on and on. It is perfectly legitimate to refuse to answer any question to which one does not wish to reply. Every man has a right to mental privacy even when he is denied, as he is in so many modern offices, any other kind of privacy.

A loud or boisterous person is objectionable. Many times this is through carelessness, but sometimes, as when a man recounts the story of his dinner with Mr. Brown, who is a national figure, in a voice so loud that all the people in the car or room or whatever place he happens to be in, can hear him, it is deliberate. The careless person is the one who discusses personalities aloud in elevators, on the train, and in all manner of public places. Exchanging gossip is a pretty low form of indoor sport and exchanging it aloud so that everybody can hear makes it worse than ever. Names should never be mentioned in a conversation in a place where strangers can overhear, especially if the connection is an unpleasant one. Private opinions should never be aired in public places (except from a platform).

The highly argumentative or aggressive person is another common type of nuisance. He usually raises his voice, thus drowning out the possibility of interruption, and talks with so much noise and so many vigorous gestures that he seems to try to make up for his lack of intellect by an excess of tumult. Arguments have never yet convinced anybody of the truth, and it is a very unpleasant method to try. Most arguments are about religion or politics and even if they were settled nothing would be accomplished. In the Middle Ages men used to debate about the number of angels that could stand on the point of a pin. Hours and hours were wasted and learned scholars were brought into the discussion, which was carried forward as seriously as if it were a debate between the merits of the Republican and Democratic parties. Suppose they had settled it. Would it have mattered?

One of the most offensive public plagues is the man who leaves a trail of untidiness behind him. No book of etiquette, not even a book of business etiquette, could counsel eating on the streets in spite of the historic and inspiring example of Mr. Benjamin Franklin walking down the streets of Philadelphia with a loaf of bread under each arm while he munched from a third which he held in his hand. One can forgive a man, however, if he, feeling the need of nourishment, eats a bar of chocolate if he takes great care to put the wrappings somewhere out of the way. No man with any civic pride will scatter peanut hulls, cigarette boxes, chocolate wrappings, raisin boxes, and other debris along the streets, in the cars, on the stairs, and even on the floors of office buildings. Garbage cans and waste-baskets were made to take care of these things.

Tidiness is worth more to a business man than most of them realize. In the first place it gives a favorable impression to a person coming in from the outside, and, in the second place, it helps those on the inside to keep things straight. Folders for correspondence, card indexes, memorandum files and other similar devices are essential to the orderly transaction of business.

Keeping ashes and scraps of paper off the floor may seem trifles, but such trifles go far toward making the atmosphere, which is another word for personality, of an office. Some men have secretaries who take care of their desks and papers and supervise the janitor who cleans the floors and windows, but those who do not, find that they can manage better when they have a place to put things and put them there.

Nothing has more to do with making a gentleman than a courteous and considerate attitude toward women. In business a man should show practically the same deference toward a woman that he does in society. Any man can be polite to a woman he is anxious to please, the girl he loves, for instance, but it takes a gentleman to be polite to every woman, especially to those who work for him, those over whom he exercises authority.

It is unnecessary for a man to rise every time one of the girls in his office enters his private audience room, but he should always rise to receive a visitor, whether it is a man or woman, and should ask the visitor to be seated before he sits down himself. In witheringly hot weather a man may go without his coat even if his entire office force consists of girls, but he should never receive a guest in his shirt sleeves. He should listen deferentially to what the visitor has to say, but if she becomes too voluble or threatens to stay too long or if there is other business waiting for him, he may (if he can) cut short her conversation. When she is ready to go he should rise and conduct her to the door or to the elevator, as the case may be, and ring the bell for her. He cannot, of course, do this if his visitors are frequent, if their calls are about matters of trifling importance, or if he is working under high pressure.

We once had an English visitor here in America who thought our manners were outrageously bad, but there was one point on which we won a perfect score. "Any lady," he said, "may travel alone, from one end of the United States to the other, and be certain of the most courteous and considerate treatment everywhere. Nor did I ever once, on any occasion, anywhere, during my rambles in America, see a woman exposed to the slightest act of rudeness, incivility, or even inattention." Conditions have changed since then. Women had not left their homes to go into offices and factories, but unless we can hold to the standard described by the Englishman, the change has not been for the better, for any of the people concerned.

Since the Victorian era our ideas of what constitutes an act of rudeness have been modified. Then it would have been unthinkable that a woman should remain standing in a coach while men were seated. Now it is possible for a man to keep his place while a woman swings from a strap and defend himself on the grounds that he has worked harder during the day than she (how he knows is more than we can say), and that he has just as much right (which is certainly true) as any one else. Yet it is a gracious and a chivalrous act for a man to offer a woman his place on a car, and it is very gratifying to see that hundreds of them, even in the cities, where life goes at its swiftest pace and people live always in a hurry, surrender their seats in favor of the women who, like themselves, are going to work. Old people, afflicted people, men and women who are carrying children in their arms, and other people who obviously need to sit down are nearly always given precedence over the rest of us. This is, of course, as it should be.

But the heart of what constitutes courtesy has not changed and never will. It is exactly what it was on that day nearly four hundred years ago when Sir Philip Sidney, mortally wounded on the field of Zutphen, gave his last drop of water to the dying soldier who lay near him and said, "Thy need is greater than mine."



In the old books of etiquette in the chapter on table manners the authors used to state that it was not polite to butter your bread with your thumb, to rub your greasy fingers on the bread you were about to eat, or to rise from the table with a toothpick in your mouth like a bird that is about to build her nest. We have never seen any one butter his bread with his thumb, but---- There are in the United States nearly five million people who can neither read nor write. We have no statistics but we venture to say there are as many who eat with their knives. There are people among us--and they are not all immigrants in the slum districts or Negroes in the poorer sections of the South--who do not know what a napkin is, who think the proper way to eat an egg is to hold it in the hand like a piece of candy, and bite it, the egg having previously been fried on both sides until it is as stiff and as hard as a piece of bristol board, who would not recognize a salad if they saw one, and who have never heard of after-dinner coffee.

Very few of them are people of wealth, but an astonishing number of successful business men were born into such conditions. They had no training in how to handle a knife and fork and they probably never read a book of etiquette, but they had one faculty, which is highly developed in nearly every person who lifts himself above the crowd, and that is observation.

In addition to this a young man is very fortunate, especially if his way of life is cast among people whose manners are different from those to which he has been accustomed, if he has a friend whom he can consult, not only about table manners but about matters of graver import as well. And he should not be embarrassed to ask questions. The disgrace, if disgrace it could be called, lies only in ignorance.

A number of years ago a young man who was the prospective heir to a fortune--this charming story is in Charles Dickens's wonderful novel, "Great Expectations"--went up to London for the express purpose of learning to be a gentleman. It fell about that almost as soon as he arrived he was thrown into the company of a delightful youth who had already attained the minor graces of polite society. Very much in earnest about what he had set out to do, and blessed besides with a goodish bit of common sense, he explained his situation to Herbert, for that was the other boy's name, mentioned the fact that he had been brought up by a blacksmith in a country place, that he knew practically nothing of the ways of politeness, and that he would take it as a great kindness if Herbert would give him a hint whenever he saw him at a loss or going wrong.

"'With pleasure,' said he, 'though I venture to prophesy that you'll want very few hints.'"

They went in to dinner together, a regular feast of a dinner it seemed to the ex-blacksmith's apprentice, and after a while began to talk about the benefactress who, they believed, had made it possible.

"'Let me introduce the topic,' began Herbert, who had been watching Pip's table manners for some little time, 'by mentioning that in London it is not the custom to put the knife in the mouth--for fear of accidents--and that while the fork is reserved for that use it is not put further in than necessary. It is scarcely worth mentioning, only it's as well to do as other people do. Also, the spoon is not generally used over-hand but under. This has two advantages. You get at your mouth better (which after all is the object), and you save a good deal of the attitude of opening oysters on the part of the right elbow.'

"He offered these suggestions (said Pip) in such a lively way, that we both laughed and I scarcely blushed."

The conversation and the dinner continued and the friendship grew apace. Presently Herbert broke off to observe that "society as a body does not expect one to be so strictly conscientious in emptying one's glass, as to turn it bottom upwards with the rim on one's nose."

"I had been doing this," Pip confessed, "in an excess of attention to his recital. I thanked him, and apologized. He said, 'Not at all,' and resumed."

This was written many years ago but neither in life nor in literature is there a more beautiful example of perfect courtesy than that given by Herbert Pocket when he took the blacksmith's boy in hand and began his education in the art of being a gentleman. Not only was he at perfect ease himself but--and this is the important point--he put the blacksmith's boy at ease.

It is worth remarking, by way of parenthesis, that Herbert's father was a gentleman. "It is a principle of his," declared the boy, "that no man who was not a true gentleman at heart, ever was, since the world began, a true gentleman in manner. He says, no varnish can hide the grain of the wood; and that the more varnish you put on, the more the grain will express itself."

The American table service is not complicated. Any intelligent person who knows the points covered by Herbert Pocket, who knows that one should not cut up all of his meat at the same time but mouthful by mouthful as he needs it, that it is not customary to butter a whole slice of bread at once nor to plaster cheese over the entire upper surface of a cracker, can by a dint of watching how other people do it find his way without embarrassment through even the most elaborate array of table implements. The easiest way to acquire good table manners (or good manners of any other kind, as far as that goes) is to form the habit of observing how the people who manage these things most gracefully go about it. It is best to begin early. To use one of David Harum's expressive maxims, "Ev'ry hoss c'n do a thing better 'n' spryer if he's ben broke to it as a colt."

Eating should be, and, as a matter of fact, is, when one follows his usual custom, an unconscious process like the mechanical part of reading or writing. It is only when he is trying to be a bit more formal or fastidious than is habitual with him that a man gets tangled, so to speak, in the tines of his fork.

Cooking is one of the fine arts. Poets, painters, sculptors, musicians, and millionaires have always paid tribute to it as such--and so is dining. Like a great many other arts it was first developed among royal circles, and there was a time when the king resented the idea of a commoner being able to dine with grace and elegance. Since then it has become democratized, and now there are no restrictions except those which a man places about himself. And there is no earthly (or heavenly) reason why a man should not eat in the way which society has established as correct, and a good many reasons why he should.

Physicians--and this is the strongest argument we know--might advance their plea on the grounds of good health. In this case we find, as we do in a number of others, that what good manners declares should be done is heartily endorsed at the same time by good sense. It is only among people of blunted sensibilities that nice table manners count for nothing; for There's no reproach among swine, d'you see, For being a bit of a swine.

Among business men it is often perplexing to know whom and when to invite. Generally speaking, the older man or the man with the superior position takes the initiative, but there are an infinite number of exceptions. Generally speaking, also, the man who is resident in a place entertains the one who is visiting, but there are infinite exceptions to this as well, especially in the case of traveling salesman. All courtesy is mutual, and it is almost obligatory upon the salesman who has been entertained to return the courtesy in kind. Such invitations should be tendered after a transaction is completed rather than before. The burden of table courtesy falls upon the man who is selling rather than the one who is buying, probably because he is the one to whom the obvious profit accrues.

Social affairs among the wives of business men which grow out of the business relations of their husbands follow the same rules as almost any other social affairs. Nearly always it is the wife of the man with the higher position who issues the first invitation, and it is permissible for her to invite a woman whom she does not know personally if she is the wife of a business friend of her husband.

The biggest hindrance to the establishment of good manners among business men is the everlasting hurry in which they (and all the rest of us) live. There must first of all be leisure, not perhaps to the extent advocated by a delightful literary gentleman of having three hours for lunch every day, but time enough to sit down and relax. Thousands of business men dash out to lunch--bad manners are at their worst in the middle of the day--as if they were stopping off at a railroad junction with twenty minutes to catch a train and had used ten of them checking baggage. And they do not always do it because they are in a hurry. They have so thoroughly developed the habit of living in a frenzied rush that even when they have time to spare they cannot slow down.

Pleasant surroundings are desirable. It is much easier to dine in a quiet spacious room where the linen is white and the china is thin, the silver is genuine silver, and the service is irreproachable, than in a crowded restaurant where thick dishes rattle down on white-tiled tables from the steaming arms of the flurried waitress, where there is no linen, but only flimsy paper napkins (which either go fluttering to the floor or else form themselves into damp wads on the table), where the patrons eat ravenously and untidily, and where the atmosphere is dense with the fumes of soup and cigarettes. But luxury in eating is expensive and most of us must, perforce, go to the white-tiled places. And the art of dining is not a question of what one has to eat--it may be beans or truffles--or where one eats it--from a tin bucket or a mahogany table--it all depends upon how; and the man who can eat in a "hash-house," an "arm-chair joint," a "beanerie," a cafeteria, a three-minute doughnut stand or any of the other quick-lunch places in as mannerly a way as if he were dining in a hotel de luxe has, we think, a pretty fair claim to the title of gentleman.

The responsibility for a dinner lies with the host. If his guest has had the same social training that he has or is accustomed to better things he will have comparatively little trouble. All he can do is to give him the best within his means without apology. We like to present ourselves in the best possible light (it is only human) and for this reason often carry our friends to places we cannot afford. This imposes upon them the necessity of returning the dinner in kind, and the vicious circle swings around, each person in it grinding his teeth with rage but not able to find his way out. Entertaining is all right so long as it is a useful adjunct to business, but when it becomes a burden in itself it is time to call a halt.

Smoking during and immediately after a meal is very pleasing to the man who likes tobacco, but if he has a guest (man or woman) who objects to the smell of it he must wait until later. On the other hand if his guest likes to smoke and he does not he should insist upon his doing so. It is a trifling thing but politeness consists largely of yielding gracefully in trifles.

Old-fashioned gentlemen held it discourteous to mention money at table, but in this degenerate age no subject is taboo except those that would be taboo in any decent society. Obviously when men meet to talk over business they cannot leave money out of the discussion. In a number of firms the executives have lunch together, meeting in a group for perhaps the only time during the day. It helps immeasurably to coordinate effort, but it sometimes fails to make the lunch hour the restful break in the middle of the day which it should be. It is generally much more fun and of much more benefit to swap fish stories and hunting yarns than to go over the details of the work in the publicity department or to formulate the plans for handling the Smith and Smith proposition. Momentous questions should be thrust aside until later, and the talk should be--well, talk, not arguing, quarreling, or scandal-mongering. The subject does not greatly matter except that it should be something in which all of the people at the table are interested. Whistler was once asked what he would do if he were out at dinner and the conversation turned to the Mexican War, and some one asked him the date of a certain battle. "Do?" he replied. "Why, I would refuse to associate with people who could talk of such things at dinner!"

Polite society has always placed a high value on table manners, but it is only recently that they have come to play so large a part in business. Some one has said that you cannot mix business and friendship. It would be nearer the truth to say that you cannot separate them. More and more it is becoming the habit to transact affairs over the table, and a very pleasant thing it is, too. Aside from the coziness and warmth which comes from breaking bread together one is free from the interruptions and noise of the office, and many a commercial acquaintance has ripened into a friend and many a business connection has been cemented into something stronger through the genial influence of something good to eat and drink. It is, of course, a mistake to depend too much upon one's social gifts. They are very pleasant and helpful but the work of the world is done in offices, not on golf links or in dining rooms. We have little patience with the man who sets his nose to the grindstone and does not take it away until death comes in between, but we have just as little with the man who has never touched the grindstone.

Stories go the rounds of executives who choose their subordinates by asking them out to lunch and watching the way they eat. One man always calls for celery and judges his applicant by what he does with it. If he eats only the tender parts the executive decides that he is extravagant, at least with other people's money, but if he eats the whole stalk, green leaves and all, he feels sure that he has before him a man of economy, common sense, and good judgment! The story does not say what happens when the young man refuses celery altogether. Another uses cherry pie as his standard and judges the young man by what he does with the pits. There are three ways to dispose of them. They may be lowered from the mouth with the spoon, they may be allowed to drop unaided, or they may be swallowed. The last course is not recommended. The first is the only one that will land a job. But tests like this work both ways and one is rather inclined to congratulate the young men who were turned down than those who were accepted.

All this aside, an employer does want to know something about the table manners of an employee who is to meet and dine with his customers. An excellent salesman may be able to convince a man of good breeding and wide social training if he tucks his napkin into his bosom, drinks his soup with a noise, and eats his meat with his knife, but the chances are against it.

A man who is interested heart and soul in one thing will think in terms of it, will have it constantly in his mind and on the tip of his tongue. But the man of one subject, whatever that subject may be, is a bore. It is right that a man should live in his work, but he must also live outside of it. One of the most tragic chapters in the history of American life is the one which tells of the millions and millions of men who became so immersed in business affairs that they lost sight of everything else. The four walls of the narrow house which in the end closes around us all could not more completely have cut them off from the light of day. It is a long procession and it has not ended--that line of men passing single file like convicts down the long gray vaults of business, business, business, with never a thought for the stars or the moon or books or trees or flowers or music or life or love--nothing but what casts a shadow over that dismal corridor.

These are dead men with no thought Of things that are not sold or bought.

In their bodies there is breath, But their souls are steeped in death.

It is not a cheerful picture to contemplate (and it seems a good long way away from table manners), but the men who form it are more to be pitied than blamed. They are blind.



"If the outside of a place is not all right," says a man who spends the greater part of his time visiting business houses and talking with business men, "the chances are that it is not worth while to go inside."

There are three ways of getting inside: by letter (which has a chapter to itself), by the front door, and by telephone. And there are more complaints against the telephone way than either or both the others, which is perfectly natural, since it is the most difficult to manage. In the first place, it requires good behavior from three people at the same time, and that is a good deal to expect. Secondly, they cannot see one another--they are like blind people talking together--and no one of them can do his part unless the other two do theirs. In the third place, the instrument is a lifeless thing, and when something goes wrong with it it rouses the helpless fury inspired by all inanimate objects which interfere with our comfort--like intermittent alarm clocks, collar buttons that roll under the furniture, and flivvers that go dead without reason in the middle of country roads. In each case whatever one does has no effect. The alarm clock continues to ring (unless one gets out of bed to shut it off, which is worse than letting it ring), the collar button remains hid in the darkest part of the room, the flivver remains stuck in the muddiest part of the road, and the telephone is worst of all, for the source of the trouble is usually several miles away and there is no means of getting at it.

The telephone is a nuisance--no one denies it--but it is a necessity also--no one denies that, either--and one of the greatest conveniences in an age of great conveniences. Some of the disagreeable features connected with it cannot be done away with but must be accepted with as much tranquility as we can master, like the terrific noise which an aeroplane makes or the trail of smoke and cinders which a railway train leaves behind. The one who is calling, for instance, cannot know that he is the tenth or eleventh person who has called the man at the other end of the wire in rapid succession, that his desk is piled high with correspondence which must be looked over, signed, and sent out before noon, that the advertising department is waiting for him to O. K. their plans for a campaign which should have been launched the week before, that an important visitor is sitting in the library growing more impatient every minute, and that his temper has been filed down to the quick by an assortment of petty worries. (Of course, no office should be run like this, but it sometimes happens in the best of them.) Some one has said that we are all like islands shouting at each other across a sea of misunderstanding, and this was long before telephones were thought of. It is hard enough to make other people understand what we mean, even with the help of facial expression and gestures, and over the wire the difficulty is increased a hundred fold. For telephoning rests upon a delicate adjustment between human beings by means of a mechanical apparatus, and it takes clear thinking, patience, and courtesy to bring it about.

The telephone company began its career some few years ago unhampered by the traditions to which the earlier corporations were slave, the old "public be damned" idea. Their arbitrary methods had brought them to grief, and the new concern, with a commendable regard for the lessons taught by the experience of others, inaugurated a policy of usefulness, service, and courtesy. The inside history of the telephone is one of constant watchfulness, careful management, and continuous improvement; and every improvement has meant better service to the public. (We are not trying to advertise the telephone company. We realize that it has been guilty, like every other business, of manifold sins.) Even the fact that there is a telephone girl instead of a telephone boy is due to the alertness and good business sense of the company. To put a boy before a switchboard and expect him not to pull it apart to see how it was made; or to place him in a position to entertain himself by connecting the wrong parties and listening to the impolite names they called each other and expect him not to do it, would be expecting the laws of nature to reverse themselves. The telephone company tried it--for a while. They discovered, besides, that a boy will not "take" what a girl will. It makes no difference what goes wrong with a connection, the subscriber blames the operator when many times the operator, especially the one he is talking to, has had nothing to do with it. The girls have learned to hold their tempers (not always, but most of the time), but when boys had charge of the switchboards and the man at the end of the wire yelled, "You cut me off!" and the youngster had not, he denied it hotly: "You're a liar! I didn't!" The subscriber would not stand for this, angry words flew back and forth, and more than once the indignant young operator located the subscriber (not a very difficult thing for him to do) and went around to settle things in person. Words were not always the only weapons used.

If this had continued the telephone would never have become a public utility. People would have looked upon it as an ingenious device but not of universal practical value. As it is, good salesmanship and efficient service first elevated a plaything to a luxury and then reduced the luxury to a necessity. And it was possible not only because the mechanism itself is a miraculous thing but because it has had back of it an intelligent human organization working together as a unit.

We say this deliberately, knowing that the reader will think of the times when the trouble he has had in getting the number he wanted has made him think there was not a thimbleful of intelligence among all of the people associated with the entire telephone company. But considering the body of employees as a whole the standard of courteous and competent service is extraordinarily high. The public is impatient and prone to remember bad connections instead of good ones. It is ignorant also and has very small conception of what a girl at central is doing. And it is quick to blame her for faults of its own.

One of the worst features of telephone service is the fact that when one is angry or exasperated he seldom quarrels with the right person. Some time ago a man was waked in the middle of the night by the ringing of the telephone bell. He got out of bed to answer it and discovered that the man was trying to get another number. He went back to bed and to sleep. The telephone bell rang again, and again he got out of bed to answer it. It was the same man trying to get the same number. He went to bed and back to sleep. The telephone bell rang the third time, he got out of bed again and answered it again and found that it was still the same man trying to get the same number! "I wasn't very polite the third time," he confessed when he told about it. But the poor fellow at the other end of the wire probably had just as touching a story to tell, for unless it had been very important for him to get the number he would hardly have been so persistent. The girl at the switchboard may have had a story of her own, but what it was is one of those things which, as Lord Dundreary used to say, nobody can find out.

The girls who enter the service of the New York Telephone Company (and the same thing is true in the other branches of the telephone service, especially in big cities where there are large groups to work with) are carefully selected by an employment bureau and sent to a school where they are thoroughly grounded in the mechanical part of their work and the ideals for which the company stands. They are not placed on a regular switchboard until they have proved themselves efficient on the dummy switchboard, and then it is with instructions to be courteous though the heavens fall (though they do not express it exactly that way). "It is the best place in the world to learn self-control," one of the operators declares, and any one who has ever watched them at work will add, "Concentration, also." One of the most remarkable sights in New York is a central exchange where a hundred or more girls are working at lightning speed, undisturbed by the low murmur around them, intent only on the switchboard in front of them, making something like five hundred connections a minute.

They are a wonderfully level-headed group, these telephone girls, wonderfully unlike their clinging-vine Victorian grandmothers. They do not know how to cling. If a man telephones that he has been shot, the girl who receives the call does not faint. She sends him a doctor instead and takes the next call almost without the loss of a second. If a woman wants a policeman to get some burglars out of the house, she sends her one; if some one telephones that a house is burning, she calls out the fire department--and goes straight on with her work. Now and then something spectacular happens to bring the splendid courage of the girls at the switchboards to the attention of the public, such as the magnificent service they gave from the exchange located a few feet from Wall Street on the day of the explosion, but ordinarily it passes, like most of the other good things in life, without comment.

The New York Telephone Company tries to keep its girls healthy and happy. At regular intervals they are given rest periods. Attractive rooms are prepared for them, tastefully furnished, well-lighted, and filled with comfortable chairs, good books, and magazines. Substantial meals are supplied in the middle of the day at a nominal charge. Special entertainments are planned from time to time, and best of all, the play time is kept absolutely distinct from the work time, a condition which makes for happiness as well as usefulness.

The girls are not perfect, they are not infallible. And they are only a third part of a telephone call. They work under difficulties at a task which is not an easy one, and their efficiency does not rest with them alone but with the people whom they serve as well.

A telephone call begins with the subscriber. Very few people understand the intricate system of cable and dynamos, vacuum tubes, coil racks, storage batteries, transmitters and generators which enable them to talk from a distance, and a good many could not understand them even if they were explained. Fortunately it is not necessary that they should. The subscriber's part is very simple.

He should first make sure that he is calling the right number. In New York City alone, forty-eight thousand wrong numbers are asked for every day by subscribers who have not consulted the telephone directory first, or who have unconsciously transposed the digits in a number. For example, a number such as 6454 can easily be changed to 6544. The telephone directory is a safe guide, much more so than an old letter or bill head or an uncertain memory. Information may be called if the number is not in the directory, but one should be definite even with her. She cannot supply the number of Mr. What-you-may-call-it or of Mr. Thing-um-a-bob or of Mr. Smith who lives down near the railroad station, and she cannot give the telephone number of a house which has no telephone in it. She has no right to answer irrelevant questions; is, in fact, prohibited from doing so. Her business is to furnish numbers and she cannot do it efficiently if she is expected also to explain why a cat has whiskers, how to preserve string beans by drying them, what time it is, what time the train leaves for Wakefield, or what kind of connection can be made at Jones's Junction.

In calling a number the name of the exchange should be given first. The number itself should be called with a slight pause between the hundreds and the tens, thus, "Watkins--pause--five, nine--pause--hundred" for "Watkins 5900" or "Murray Hill--pause--four, two--pause--six, three" for "Murray Hill 4263." The reason for this is that the switchboard before which the operator sits is honeycombed with tiny holes arranged in sections of one hundred each. Each section is numbered and each of the holes within it is the termination of a subscriber's line. In locating "Watkins 5900" the girl first finds the section labelled "59" and then the "00" hole in that section, and if the "59" is given first she has found it by the time the subscriber has finished calling the number.

The number should be pronounced slowly and distinctly.

When the operator repeats it the subscriber should acknowledge it, and if she repeats it incorrectly, should stop her and give her the number again. And he should always remember, however difficult it may be to make her understand, that he is talking to a girl, a human being, and that the chances are ten to one that the poor connection is not her fault.

To recall the operator in case the wrong person is connected it is only necessary to move the receiver hook slowly up and down. She may not be able to attend to the recall at once but jiggling the hook angrily up and down will not get her any sooner. In fact, the more furious the subscriber becomes the less the girl knows about it, for the tiny signal light fails to register except when the hook is moved slowly; or if the switchboard is one where the operator is signalled by a little disk which falls over a blank space the disk fails to move down but remains quivering almost imperceptibly in its usual position.

After he has placed a call a man should wait at the telephone or near it until the connection is made. Too many men have a way of giving their secretaries a number to send through and then wandering off somewhere out of sight so that when the person is finally connected he has to wait several minutes while the secretary locates the man who started the call. It is the acme of discourtesy to keep any one waiting in this manner. It implies that your time is much more valuable than his, which may be true, but it is hardly gracious to shout it in so brazen a fashion.

It has been estimated that in New York City alone, more than a full business year is lost over the telephone every day between sunrise and sunset. There are 3,800,000 completed connections made every day. Out of each hundred, six show a delay of a minute or more before the person called answers. In each day this amounts to a delay of 228,000 connections. Two hundred and twenty-eight thousand minutes (and sometimes the delay amounts to much more than a minute) is the equivalent of 475 days of eight hours each, or as the gentleman who compiled these interesting statistics has it, a business year and a third with all the Sundays and holidays intact. In the course of a year it amounts to more than all the business days that have elapsed since Columbus discovered America!

It may be argued that we would be better off if we lost more than a year every day and did all our work at more leisurely pace. This may be, but the time to rest is not when the telephone bell is ringing.

The telephone on a business man's desk should always be facing him and it should not be tricked out with any of the patent devices except those sanctioned by the company. Most of them lessen instead of increase efficiency. A woman in her home where calls are infrequent may hide her telephone behind a lacquered screen or cover it with pink taffeta ruffles, but in a business office it is best to make no attempts to beautify it. It is when it is unadorned that the ugly little instrument gives its best service.

There should always be a pad and pencil at hand so that the message (if there is one) can be taken down without delay. The person at the other end probably has not time (and certainly has not inclination) to wait until you have fumbled through the papers on your desk and the rubbish in the drawers to locate something to write on and something to write with.

"Hello" is a useless and obsolescent form of response in business offices. The name of the firm, of the department, or of the man himself, or of all three, according to circumstances, should be given. When there is a private operator to take care of the calls she answers with the name of the firm, Blank and Blank. If the person at the other end of the wire says, "I want the Advertising department," she connects them and the man there answers with "Advertising department." The other then may ask for the manager, in which case the manager answers with his name. It is easy to grow impatient under all these relays, but a complicated connection involving half a dozen people before the right one is reached can be accomplished in less than a minute if each person sends it straight through without stopping to exchange a number of "Helloes" like a group of Swiss yodelers, or to ask a lot of unnecessary questions.

It is not necessary to scream over the telephone. The mouth should be held close to the transmitter and the words should be spoken carefully. In an open office where there are no partitions between the desks one should take especial pains to keep his voice modulated. One person angrily spluttering over the telephone can paralyze the work of all the people within a radius of fifty feet. If it were a necessary evil we could make ourselves grow accustomed to it. But it is not. And there is already enough unavoidable wear and tear during the course of a business day without adding this.

"Hello, what do you want?" is no way to answer a call. No decent person would speak even to a beggar at his door in this way and the visitor over the telephone, whoever he is, is entitled to a cordial greeting. The voice with the smile wins.

An amusing story is told of a man in Washington who was waked one evening about eleven o'clock by the telephone bell. At first he swore that he would not answer it but his wife insisted that it might be something very important, and finally, outraged and angry, he blundered through the dark across the room and into the hall, jerked down the receiver and yelled, "Hello!" His wife, who was listening tensely for whatever ill news might be forthcoming, was perfectly amazed to hear him saying in the next breath, in the most dulcet tones he had ever used, "Oh, how do you do, I'm so glad you called. Oh, delightful. Charmed. I'm sure she will be, too. Thank you. Yes, indeed. So good of you. Good-bye." It was the wife of the President of the United States asking him and his wife to dinner at the White House.

If the person calling is given the wrong department he should be courteously transferred to the right one. Courteously, and not with a brusque, "You've got the wrong party" or "I'm not the man you want" but with "Just a minute, please, and I'll give you Mr. Miller."

The time when people are rudest over the telephone is when some one breaks in on the wire. It might be just as well to remember that people do not interrupt intentionally, and the intruder is probably as disconcerted as the man he has interrupted. If he had inadvertently opened the wrong door in a business office the man inside would not have yelled, "Get out of here," but over the telephone he will shriek, "Get off the wire" in a tone he would hardly use to drive the cow out of a cabbage patch.

In an effort to secure better manners among their subscribers the telephone company has asked them to try to visualize the person at the other end of the wire and to imagine that they are talking face to face. Many times a man will say things over the telephone--rude, profane, angry, insulting things, which he would not dream of saying if he were actually before the man he is talking to. And to make it worse he is often so angry that he does not give the other a chance to explain his side of it, at least not until he has said all that he has to say, and even then he not infrequently slams the receiver down on the hook as soon as he has finished!

Listening on a wire passes over from the field of courtesy into that of ethics. On party lines in the country it is not considered a heinous offense to eavesdrop over the telephone, but the conversation there is for the most part harmless neighborhood gossip and it does not matter greatly who hears it. In business it is different. But it is practically impossible for any one except the operator to overhear a conversation except by accident, and it is a misdemeanor punishable by law for her to give a message to any one other than the person for whom it was intended.

In every office there should be a large enough mechanical equipment manned by an efficient staff to take care of the telephone traffic without delay. "The line is busy" given in answer to a call three or four times will send the person who is calling to some other place to have his wants looked after.

Few places appreciate the tremendous volume of business that comes in by way of telephone or the possibilities which it offers to increase business opportunities. They are as short-sighted as the department store which, a good many years ago, when telephones were new, had them installed but took them out after a few weeks because the clerks were kept so busy taking orders over them that they did not have time to attend to the customers who came into the store!

Another important vantage point which, like the telephone, suffers from neglect is the reception desk. Millions of dollars' worth of business is lost every year and perfect sandstorms and cyclones of animosity are generated because business men have not yet learned the great value of having the right kind of person to receive visitors. To the strangers who come--and among the idlers and swindlers and beggars who assail every successful business house are potential good friends and customers--this person represents the firm,--is, for the time being, the firm itself.

It is very childish for a man to turn away from a reception desk because he does not like the manner of the person behind it, but business men, sensible ones at that, do it every day. Pleasant connections of years' standing are sometimes broken off and valuable business propositions are carried to rival concerns because of indifferent or insolent treatment at the front door. Only a short time ago an advertising agency lost a contract for which it had been working two years on account of the way the girl at the door received the man who came to place it. He dropped in without previous appointment and was met by a blonde young lady with highly tinted cheeks who tilted herself forward on the heels of her French pumps and pertly inquired what he wanted. He told her. "Mr. Hunt isn't in." "When will he be back?" "I don't know," and she swung around on the impossible heels. The man deliberated a moment and then swung around on his heels (which were very flat and sensible) and carried the contract to another agency. Instances of this kind might be multiplied. Some business men would have persisted until they got what they wanted from the young lady. Others would have angrily reported her to the head of her office, but the majority would have acted as this man did.

Most men (and women), whether they are in business or not, do not underestimate their own importance and they like to feel that the rest of the world does not either. They do not like to be kept waiting; they like to be received with a nice deference, not haughtily; they do not like to be sent to the wrong department; and they love (and so do we all) talking to important people. Realizing this, banks and trust companies and other big organizations have had to appoint nearly as many vice-presidents as there were second-lieutenants during the war to take care of their self-important visitors. Even those whose time is not worth ten cents (a number of them are women) like to be treated as if it were worth a great deal. It is, for the most part, an innocent desire which does no one any special harm, and any business that sets out to serve the public (and there is no other kind) has to take into account all the caprices of human vanity. We cannot get away from it. Benjamin Franklin placed humility among the virtues he wished to cultivate, but after a time declared it impossible. "For," he said, "if I overcame pride I would be proud of my humility."

Courtesy is the first requirement of the business host or hostess and after that, intelligence. Some business houses make the mistake of putting back of the reception desk a girl who has proved herself too dull-witted to serve anywhere else. The smiling idiot with which this country (and others) so abounds may be harmless and even useful if she is kept busy behind the lines, but, placed out where she is a buffer between the house and the outside world, she is a positive affliction. She may be pleasant enough, but the caller who comes for information and can get nothing but a smile will go away feeling about as cheerful as if he had stuck his hand into a jar of honey when he was a mile or so away from soap, water, and towel.

A litter of office boys sprawling untidily over the desks and chairs in the reception room is as bad, and a snappy young lady of the "Now see here, kid" variety is worse.

The position is not an easy one, especially in places where there is a constant influx of miscellaneous callers, and it is hardly fair to ask a young girl to fill it. In England they use elderly men and in a number of offices over here, too. Their age and manner automatically protect them (and incidentally their firms) from many undesirables that a boy or girl in the same position would have considerable difficulty in handling. And they lend the place an air of dignity and reserve quite impossible with a youngster.

In some offices, especially in those where large amounts of money are stored or handled, there are door men in uniform and often plain clothes huskies near the entrances to protect the people (and the money) on the inside from cranks and crooks and criminals. In others, a physician's office, for instance, or any small office where the people who are likely to come are of the gentler sort, a young girl with a pleasing manner will do just as well as and perhaps better than any one else. In big companies where there are many departments, it is customary to maintain a regular bureau of information to which the caller who is not sure whom or what he wants is first directed, but the majority of businesses have only one person who is delegated to receive the people who come and either direct them to the person they want to see or turn them aside.

Most of them must be turned aside. If the stage managers in New York interviewed all the girls who want to see them, they would have no time left for anything else, and the same thing is true of nearly every man who is prominent in business or in some other way. (Charlie Chaplin received 73,000 letters during the first three days he was in England. Suppose he had personally read each of them!) Hundreds of people must be turned away, but every person who approaches a firm either to get something from it or to give something to it has a right to attention. Men are in business to work, not to entertain, and they must protect themselves. But the people who are turned away must be turned away courteously, and the business house which has found some one who can do it has cause to rise and give thanks.



The etiquette of traveling includes very few points not covered by the general laws of good behavior. Keeping one's place in line before the ticket window, having money ready and moving aside as quickly as possible instead of lingering to converse with the ticket-seller about train schedules and divers other interesting subjects are primary rules. It is permissible to make sure that the train is the right one before getting on it, but it is unnecessary to do it more than half a dozen times. When the sign over the gate says "Train for Bellevue" it probably is the train for Bellevue, and when the guard at the gate repeats that it is the train for Bellevue the chances are that he is telling the truth.

An experienced traveler usually carries very little baggage. A lot of suitcases and grips are bothersome, not only to the one who has charge of them, but also to those who are cramped into small quarters because of them. A traveler may make himself as comfortable as he likes so long as it is not at the expense of the other passengers. If they object to an open window the window must stay down. Lounging over a seat is bad form, especially if there is some one else in it. So is prowling from one end of the car to the other. Besides, it makes some people nervous. Snoring is impolite and so is talking in one's sleep, but they are beyond remedy. Talking with the person in the berth above or below is not, however, and is much more disturbing than the noise of the train. Forgetting the number of one's berth and blundering into the wrong place is a serious breach of good manners in a sleeping car, and it is extremely severe on timid persons who have gone to bed with visions before their minds of the man who was murdered in lower ten and the woman who brought her husband's corpse from Florida in the same berth with her.

Chapter end

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