Cold-callers don't warm me up with plastic chumminess

It grates when people I've never met start a conversation as if we're old friends

Related Topics

There goes the ping of my email inbox.

I open a message from someone I've never previously met, spoken to, are corresponded with, and the email begins: “Hi Simon, how are you today?”. Sometimes, there is a variant which expresses an equally vacuous sentiment: “I hope your (sic) well”. I thought it was my being a misery guts, or an old fart, or northern (or indeed all three) that enraged me about this over-familiar approach from a complete stranger - the grammatical infelicity is another matter entirely - but it appears that I am by no means alone.

Apparently, people all over the country are exasperated about the phenomenon known as “cold-caller chumminess”, and resent getting personalised emails from companies contacting them at random. What's wrong the simple formalities of inter-personal communication? When did Mr, Mrs or Ms fall out of fashion?

Perhaps it is an age thing, but when I get a phone call from my credit card company, or my mobile phone provider, and the person at the other ends starts addressing me by my first name, I find it rather off-putting. A survey conducted by the online company Ask Jeeves confirms that this is indeed a generational issue. Older people seek a return to what they consider the proprieties of formal exchanges, while those who have grown up with the general familiarity of Twitter, and have Facebook “friends” that they've never even met before, have no problem with a server at Starbucks calling out their first name when their skinny latte is ready.

Perhaps it is another example of American cultural imperialism. Every worker in a service industry in the States wears a name badge. And I've noticed a growing trend towards over-familiarity among waiters in restaurants here, and this is something definitely imported from the US. “Hi, my name's Carrie, and I'm your server,” they'll say, setting the tone of casual intimacy, and then ask, rhetorically: “How are you today?” I always have to stop myself answering that I'm fine today, but yesterday I had a terrible headache. (I realise just in time that this would make me appear to be a stuck-up, British, literal-minded bore.)

For sure, we want those with whom we come into contact to take an interest in us, but we Brits are sufficiently emotionally evolved to understand the big difference between behaviour that is respectfully solicitous and that which is inappropriately forward. The dilemma is what to do about it. It's easy to ignore emails, but can you really tell Dean from a call centre in Lincolnshire that you'd rather he called you Mr or Mrs than used your first name? Or explain to a waitress that you'd prefer it if she didn't sit at your table while taking an order?

Of course not. It would sound terrible, and might give the impression that you were hostile and aloof (you may consider this, in fact, to be an advantage of such an approach). In the end, I suppose it's another manifestation of modern world communication to which we'll just have to acclimatise. Or suck it up, to use appropriately contemporary language. Hey, what do you think? Drop me a line. But please remember to call me Mr Kelner.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Thousands of Russian troops marched on Red Square in the annual Victory Day parade in a proud display of the nation's military might amid escalating tensions over Ukraine  

Once again, the West fails to understand Russia

Mary Dejevsky
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before