The Grumpy Old Man

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Grumpy goes on about current etiquette standards

This use of Christian names


In recent years I have noticed, with increasing frustration, that everybody seems determined to use Christian names whenever they talk to me. I find it rude, presumptuous and impertinent because they don't even have the basic courtesy to ask if I mind. I come from a generation where Christian names were only used by family members and friends. These days Christian names are invariably used to put you at a disadvantage within the Business environment.

To the youngsters of today, this may seem an old fuddy-duddy view but there is a very good reason for it. In my opinion, the Christian name is one that should normally be used between friends and families, i.e. a social environment. However within the business context, the person to whom you are speaking is operating as a representative of a "Company" and therefore is trying to provide you with a "service". This does not make him your friend as he will always be operating with the interests of his company at heart, not yours as a customer. One thing it does do is to put you at a disadvantage. This is because he comes over as a friend and ergo, he is trying to do you a favour. Far from it, he is working for 'The Company' and wants your business (money)! Think on!

Such an environment becomes blatantly obvious when you are complaining about a poor product or service that a company has provided. By using your Christian name the person to whom you are speaking is suggesting that he is your friend and is on your side. As a representative of 'The Company' with whom you are in dispute, this could not be further from the truth.

Let me give you an example. Some time ago a large and very well known chain store charged my debit card ten times for the single purchase of a pair of working boots. I was unaware that this had happened until I was at the grocery checkout of a different store and found that my card was refused. All I could do was leave all the groceries at the checkout, (something I'd always wanted to do but not, perhaps, under such circumstances!), come home and sort the problem out. A quick phone call to the card company soon told me what had happened.

On telephoning the chain store at fault I was astounded when the Lassie in the complaints department asked for my Christian name! This absolutely infuriated me. I pointed out that the store she was representing had stolen 500 from me and she was presuming to use my Christian name! In the circumstances I would have thought Mr Grumpy would have been far more respectful, appropriate and perhaps a little placatory.

What really astounds me, is the lengths to which people will go in order to use my Christian name. I recently wrote a business letter and signed it "JW Grumpy (Mr)". The recipient telephoned me and instead of saying to me "good morning Mr Grumpy", he actually said "good morning JW". Well, Gordon Bennett, I nearly fell off my perch. And this sort of thing is happening all the time.

What makes it even more ridiculous is that my full (pen name) is actually John William Grumpy. When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, John was a very common name and therefore, to ensure that Mum was not inundated with the other very numerous 'Johns' from the neighbourhood when she called me, William was used instead. Now, people who insist on using John as my Christian name don't know any of this and to be quite blunt about it, I haven't a bloody clue who this "John Grumpy" is!

The origins of this use of Christian names seems to rest with the ubiquitous Marketing man. This was made clear when, some years ago, I went on a short marketing course. The speaker stood up and said "when you speak to a customer, ask him his Christian name. He will like you to use that." The speaker was not very happy when I interrupted and said "no he won't, in a business situation, I don't like people assuming that they can use my Christian name".

Now you may consider this grump as the ramblings of a solitary, grumpy old git but I have heard many other people voicing similar thoughts. So let's start a campaign to get back to the good old-fashioned ways of showing the respect for one another that properly reflects the circumstances in which we are operating.

see also Geoff's comments made on 28 July in the Forum.