1. Rebecca

    I work for a department of the local Board of Ed, heavy on phone calls from parents who are seeking a particular service for their child. We have set guidelines on who qualifies – in the past, many children were hand-waved and granted the service even if they missed officially qualifying, but now finances are cut and we can no longer allow that. Thus, many parents are furious when they call, screaming, “My child qualified for five years! How dare you cut us off now??”

    Yes, screaming. I do not exaggerate that on a daily basis, I am verbally assaulted by a number of parents. They literally scream, use profanity, threaten to call lawyers or “expose us” to local media. There is no reasoning with such individuals, no amount of calm speech or offers to speak to a supervisor.

    My question is, how would you recommend ending such a call? My supervisor gets to a certain point in the conversation, where all that can possibly be said has been said, but the parent keeps ranting and going in circles, upon which she says, very forcefully but politely, “You have a good day, now!” Then she hangs up.

    I’ve taken to doing that, for lack of a better option. But I’m just curious how others would respond to the callers. I could really use some suggestions before I lose my sanity altogether!

    • Jerry

      “I understand that this is a difficult time for you, but I don’t allow anyone to speak to me like that. You may call back once you have composed yourself.”


      The trick is to remain very calm — almost cheerful during the exchange and you’ll win.

  2. Rae

    Hi Rebecca,

    I work in a call center, and I’ve had programs like this before where $$ runs out and people FLIP. In my experience, you don’t want to hang up on them or escalate the situation. This is a person who’s super mad because money or a service they were counting on is no longer available, and YES, that really really hurts some people.

    So…listen. This period of screaming rage calls can last a few days or a few weeks, but people run out of steam or find something else to be angry with. Just listen to them. Let them run out some of the mad. And then tell them that you are ending the call.

    “Mr Person, I understand that the closure or change in the program has affected you and your family. I know that this was unexpected and that you are upset. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done. There is no funding available to run the program as we have in previous years. Thank you for taking time to explain your concerns to me. I will be ending the call now. Have a nice day.”

    I want to throw this out there: telling the upset parent on the other end of the phone, “Please don’t speak to me like that” doesn’t usually work because they are already past most of the rules of courtesy at that point. So, you know. Don’t be rude, but don’t try to lecture them on politeness either. It’s not going to win you any battles. I think listening to them blow off steam and politely ending the call is the best way.

    ok, bye!

    • Alicia

      Rae’s advice is fantastic. Another thing you can try is to direct the energy elsewhere. I’m sorry but funding has been cut by such and such entity. We can not serve your child due to this budget cut. If you wish to discuss this with the lawmakers/ budget maker who cut the funding please do so their contact info is …….

      • Rebecca

        Thanks for your input, Rae and Alicia – unfortunately, it’s a bit deeper than that. This is a city with a high level of poverty, illiteracy, crime, etc. Many are used to screaming and throwing profanity into every conversation, let alone when they’re angry. So while the script you give is an ideal, it is unfortunately not something that makes one iota of difference to about 75% of my callers. Trust me, I have tried – many, many, MANY times.

        As for “Please don’t speak to me like that,” yes, I do say that when it’s really needed, because I am a person too. I have feelings, and frankly, there is a certain level of abuse I simply will NOT tolerate. It is not worth any job to become physically ill. My supervisor, who gets her own large number of similar calls, says that we absolutely do not have to tolerate profanity or verbal abuse, and that I am allowed to tell people, “You can call me back when you are calmer,” and hang up. I don’t really think that works, either, but sometimes it simply gets to a point where NOTHING works, and you just have to end the call for your own mental sanity, but probably the caller’s as well.

        I think part of the big picture is also that people don’t seem to realize you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. If I tell someone that their child doesn’t qualify, and they are kind and polite, telling me how desperately they need the service, etc., then I will do everything in my power to see if there’s something I can tweak to get them in, or perhaps some alternative. But if they start making lewd suggestions about what I can do with their body parts – yes, this happened just last week – then forget it.

        • Rae

          Oh, that’s awful!

          Are you the only one who takes these calls, or does your whole office share this responsibility?

          Do you have a way to de-stress? Because, wow! That’s no fun.

        • Elizabeth

          I think you should take a hard line. At the first instance of raised voice or profanity, I would draw a clear line. “If you raise your voice or use profanity, I will end the call.” And then do it. If they don’t qualify, what is to be gained by continuing the call? Repeat as necessary and eventually people will get it that you will simply not speak to them unless they are calm.

          • Rebecca

            Unfortunately, again due to budget crunches, I am a one-woman department for the most part. I have to take all these calls myself. Only the worst ones get sent down to my supervisor.

            Thanks, all, for your comments!

  3. Mary

    I am recently engaged and about to send out Save the Date cards to those people I will be inviting to the wedding. There is a lot of information about the proper ways to address wedding invitations, including whom to include on the inner and outer envelopes, etc., but not as much about Save the Dates. If I will be inviting someone with a guest to the wedding, should I address the invitation “Ms. Lizzie Post and Guest”, or just to the direct invitee? Also, how do I handle if children will be invited to the wedding? Should I include all of the children on the Save the Date envelope? Thanks

    • Alicia

      Save the dates once you send them out you can not cut from that list. So I would wait to add and guest to the real invites and kids on save the dates only if you are 200% sure you will be inviting the kids.
      Other then that normal formal invitation addressing is what is called for ie the same as wedding

      • Country Girl

        Alicia brings up some great points. To add, if at all possible, you should decide on concrete guest list before sending your save the dates. A save the date is essentially a heads up for guests so they can start to make arrangements to attend your wedding. If you neglect to add children or plus ones to your Save the Date then guests will miss out on making their plans accordingly. (ie. they will make unnecessary childcare arrangements, not purchase the correct number of plane tickets, not inform their plus one so they can make the proper arrangements, etc.) Save the Dates don’t act as ‘useful tool’ if the guests are mislead in any way and could potentially cause major confusion.

        • Clara

          Just as a side discussion, I’ve always wondered where etiquette stands on Save the Date cards. Personally, I find them helpful for a wedding you want to attend, but on the other hand I feel sort of trapped when I’m told about a date so far in advance. How can you decline a wedding that you’ve known about for a year? I realize that etiquette believes if you say “I cannot attend” no one is supposed to say “why can’t you come?” But we all know that in reality we do get pressed for a reason. There are a few situations I can think of where, if I only received an invitation 6 weeks ahead, previous plans would make sense, but other situations where my saying “oh I had previous plans” would not be believed because I had already received a save the date card.

          • Winifred Rosenburg

            Etiquette does not frown upon Save the Dates as they can be a thoughtful notification especially for people who live far away and may want to take advantage of advance airline discounts. As you pointed out, there is no requirement to give a reason for not going. If for some reason you would like to give a reason, there are many acceptable excuses including financial reasons, work scheduling problems, family obligations, the list goes on.

          • Alicia

            Sate the dates are wonderful. The only key is that they do not put an obligation on the recipient they only put the obligation on the sender.

            Just because someone asks does not mean you must answer.
            “Oh I’m so sorry it is impossible for me to attend. So do tell me about how you have been, how is the underwater basketweaving class going” Ie firm no then subject change

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