Saturday, May 26, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio


Hello there! Simply said is sufficient

In case you haven't heard, we've gone from millennial to renaissance this year.

Yeah, just like that.

In 2000, city hall gave this phone greeting:

“Welcome to Toledo, a millennium community, this is [whoever], how may I help you?”

But the 2001 salutation is:

“Welcome to Toledo, a renaissance city ...”

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, notorious for attention to detail, long ago trained his eyes on something so seemingly trivial as phone greetings.

“When our administration began” says spokesman Mary Chris Skeldon, “we wanted everyone to be greeted with, `How may I help you?' It was putting forth a new culture of public service.” Since then, she says, the city “has become known for its original greetings.”

And the folks on city hall's 22nd floor were determined that 2001, by gum, wasn't going to be any less ... original.

On the one hand, Toledo deserves beaucoup credit for even bothering to think about municipal etiquette.

At a time when “curt” seems to be the reigning philosophy of most people hired to pick up a ringing phone, it's quaint to hear someone - anyone - make any effort whatsoever.

On the other hand, there really can be too much of a good thing.

For starters, the municipal greeting, however well-intentioned, is just too big a mouthful. Should taking a huge gulp of air be a prerequisite to answering a phone?

“That's a definite issue,” pointed out Rosanne J. Thomas, a Boston-based corporate etiquette consultant whose credentials include a stint before the Massachussets Institute of Technology Charm School (itself a jarring notion).

In most cases - and certainly Toledo's - said Ms. Thomas, a phone greeting should value brevity.

“You don't want to give away the entire story of Toledo in the first breath. People will have forgotten why they called by that point. People will be happy enough if they just reach the right number.”

Something else about Toledo's mandatory phone salutation caught the etiquette expert's attention, and it had nothing to do with the finer points of designating ourselves millennial or renaissance.

“As in everything you do, just as in life,” she said, “you have to walk that fine line. You have to find the balance. People [on the receiving end of the lengthy Toledo phone schtick] might resent feeling like a captive audience when they're listening to this introduction, especially when there seems to be some advertising going on.”

It is, she suggested, something akin to reverse telemarketing - where the person who calls is subjected to an unwanted pitch. This does not necessarily leave callers with a warm-fuzzy.

So, OK, we could do better. Agreed.

But how?

Always happy to fulfill my duties as a citizen, I wrangled a free consultation out of Ms. Thomas, president of Protocol Advisors, Inc.

“Give people enough information, but not too much. It could simply be, `Good morning, city of Toledo. This is Rosanne Thomas.' The rest is superfluous. You don't want to annoy people who may already be annoyed, since you seldom call city hall without being annoyed about something.”

Roberta de Boer's column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays,

and Saturdays. Email her at or call 1-419-724-6086.

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