Just a Reminder Re: Contacting Me via Phone

And the reminder is: I don’t really like it and I’m very likely to be annoyed with you if you do it, and when I’m annoyed, I have a pronounced tendency to be rude.  Which I’m pretty sure you won’t like.

Who is exempt from this “don’t call me on the phone” rule? Personal friends who I know in real life and/or business associates (i.e., people who pay me money on a regular basis, or with whom I am talking about services which will result in them paying me money). Everyone else should use e-mail, and even those people who are thinking of trying to do something with me which will result in me getting money should e-mail first.

Basically: When in doubt, don’t call, use e-mail to contact me. I bring this up because of a recent spate of people calling me up out of the blue, which I want to nip in the bud, because it makes me cranky to be called up by (to me) completely random folk, who are usually bugging me about something I’m likely to tell them just to send me an e-mail about, anyway.

This is all covered in my contact information in any event.

“But what I have to tell you is really important and I’m sure you won’t mind –” Yes, I will mind, actually. Remember that what is important to you is not necessarily important to me. And even if it is something that’s potentially important to me, do you really want to start off trying to tell me about it in a way that’s going to annoy me? I’m guessing “no.”


59 Comments on “Just a Reminder Re: Contacting Me via Phone”

  1. My personal rule of thumb on this issue is: if I gave you my phone number, it’s OK to use it. Otherwise, sod off!

  2. President Obama has just signed the 700 billion dollar bail out. Press one to find out if you qualify for mortgage relief.

    Please press one. Please. Now. Press one.

  3. I loathe the phone. At work, I simply refuse to pick it up. As a business tool, it is pretty much useless anyway. The only people who actually call are people who are, in general, at the bottom of the priority list.

    I had one coworker who would drive me insane. His accent was really having so I in particular wanted to talk to him with text. My phone would ring. I’d let it roll over to voicemail. I’d immediately get an IM saying “are you there?” If I said yes, my phone would immediately go off again.

    I vastly prefer IM and email because it allows both parties to think things through, and has a ready made record for when you need to go back and figure out what was said.

    It seems to me to be something of a generational thing. I’ve noticed that when people at work want to actually talk to someone, they generally send an instant message saying “are you free for a call?” More civilized, I think.

  4. I don’t mind phone calls, so long as they’re from people I know. And the good thing about having a cell phone with no landline is that if you want to make sure you’re unreachable you can just shut your phone off.

  5. I really prefer IM and email, as well; but, then again, I’ve been using IM in some form or another for more than fifteen years, and I worked in phone-based tech support for four years, intensifying my dislike of the phone.

    I’ll use the phone for personal stuff with people who don’t like to talk online, and for business-related stuff where I’m calling a business line … but otherwise, I never want to talk on the phone.

  6. This could have been distilled down to one sentence, equally effective:

    “Don’t call me, I’m -writing-.” Because if it might disrupt you from writing more books for us to buy, who would do so, really?

  7. I too much prefer text forms of communication. What I especially dislike is voice mail, because then you can’t even ask them to repeat that last bit. You’re just stuck listening to the message over and over trying to figure out some detail. Especially annoying if that detail is their number.

  8. i would rather stick to email for communication. i have never been one for talking on a phone voices should be reserved for face to face communication.

  9. Unlisted numbers. Very yes. MZB had one (and had some sad/amusing stories of Life Before the Unlisted Number), and we never, ever gave it out to anyone (I’m pretty sure the only people who knew it were her agent, editors, and very close friends/family).

    My cell phone is my primary contact number. It handily tells me who is calling, and I can know from a glance if it’s something I should jump to answer or not. My general rule of thumb is: if I don’t recognize your number calling in, you go straight to voice mail. If you don’t leave voice mail, I guess it wasn’t important. If you do leave voice mail and I don’t know you, you don’t get called back.

    The cell phone also gets turned to vibrate at night, because my sleep is precious, and I know if something catastrophic happened to family, they’d leave voice mail.

    But I’m very sensitive about the whole privacy thing. Hell, I don’t even like emailing people I hardly know, much less (shudders of horror!) calling them. I suspect this is largely because of those sad/amusing stories I heard ages ago. Common courtesy and all that. I has it.

  10. I always feel guilty about how much I hate talking on the phone. But I really, really do. So much so that sometimes I’ll just ignore calls even from people I really would love to talk to.

    E-mail and IM is just so much easier and clearer, and the paper trail has saved my ass so many times.

    I have to ask: Were any of these phone calls from, like, fans? Doubly awesome if so — both annoying AND creepy.

  11. Put me on the phone-haters list. Those I WANT to hear from have my cell #.

    And cell phones have this awesome feature…an OFF button.

  12. But there’s this exciting bacon news that I’m sure you’ll want to hear about as quickly as possible!

  13. These aren’t random Whatever readers ringing you, are they? If so, I agree with R.W. Ridley @8: bizarre.

    Calling up someone one vaguely knows from the internet without an express invitation, especially if it’s a one-way “know” like reading their blog, is kind of the beta and psi of boundaries violations (alpha and omega being showing up at their house or place of business uninvited).

    If all you get is annoyed in the face of that, you’ve got a lot more grace in the face of WTF than I do.

  14. I hate the telephone. Hate it. I am in cahoots with a coworker in my office to just eliminate cold call communication as a way of getting things done in litigation. We are on a mission. Such calls are almost always a gigantic waste of time. I consistently send calls to voice mail and then email back to set up a MUTUALLY convenient time to talk.

    Drives me insane. I hate the phone. Hate hate hate.

  15. I wonder, do you ever regret being so findable? I mean, given that you broadcast your position on the planet quite frequently on the internet, it’s a wonder you don’t have folks knocking on your door “just to say hello”. Do you ever have fear of attracting weirdos?

  16. Fathercrow:

    Being findable isn’t generally a problem because most people remember that they don’t in fact know me, and I’m not nearly famous/attractive enough to garner genuine stalkers.

    And to be clear, I don’t think most of the people who call me up out of the blue are creepy or intentionally rude; most of them are genuinely apologetic when they figure out it’s not something I approve of.

  17. I remember as a kid racing my sisters to the phone to see who would be the one to get it. It was a privilege to get a call and we all wanted to to be the first to answer it. Now I hate calls, I’d rather get an email or text to deal with. I have a great service that turns voicemail into a text message so that I can read it – far quicker than having to listen to voicemail. The mobile, carried with you, is now too personal to you, being interrupted by calls from those you don’t know is just an intrusion.

  18. I can’t imagine just calling someone I don’t know. What’s scary is this is something that’s actually encouraged by some as a useful ‘networking’ tool. (being currently unemployed, I’m learning a lot more about networking than I ever wanted to!). it’s just ‘stalker’ creepy to me.

  19. Call you? Never thought of it.

    Linking to another topic, that would be a good way to trigger the bomb.

  20. Well, there is a valid point about much of the message being lost when all you have is the words…

    But for unsolicited calls– my SO is still struggling with it, but I can honestly claim to have perfected the fine art of Not Answering.

  21. What if I’m Steven Spielberg? THEN can I call you?

    What if I’m President Obama and I’m calling up to tell you that I JUST LOVED Zoe’s Tale and will you autograph copies for Malia and Sasha? THEN can I call you?

  22. The only acceptable reason for strangers to call out of the blue is if someone is dead, or about to be. In the absence of an obvious choice for that someone, the caller is assumed to be volunteering.

  23. I don’t mind receiving phone calls as much as I mind being expected to make them. I just feel like I am being unnecessarily invasive.

    That said, in my line of work (business litigation) there are sometimes things that need to be communicated, but that you would prefer do not exist in the form of a permanent electronic record somewhere. That’s where the phone becomes useful.

    The worst of both worlds is leaving a voice mail — no delete or backspace button, but it’s recorded and can be replayed. Hate that.

  24. BTW, how are people getting your phone number? (Not because I want it…because I’m curious as to how it got out there in the world of people you don’t want calling you in the first place).

  25. I’m listed.


    Steven Spielberg wouldn’t call me, he’d call my movie agent. Likewise, President Obama wouldn’t call me; someone from the protocol office would call to tell me when I needed to be by the phone to expect a call from him. In both cases, I figure I’m safe.

  26. I recently got a call from “Unknown” with no phone number. It was a recorded voice telling me that my People’s Bank account was in jeopardy, and would I like to press a button and tell them all my secret passwords. I declined. >.>

    But they shouldn’t’ve gotten my cell phone number at all, as those are supposed to all be unlisted.

  27. Here’s the J Winter Phone Contact Rule: If I’m in the middle of something, I only answer the phone for my wife or my stepson.

    If I’m at work and generally soaking the company by, oh, I dunno, surfing the web, the list expands to my brother, my nephew, or my ex-wife, all people I’ve known for longer than 14 years and have been related to at some point or another.

    If I don’t know your number or you’re not my wife, my stepson, or a current or former relative, I’m not picking up.

    If I didn’t give you my phone number, do not call, do not text, do not IM. (Hint: Any AIM or Yahoo message requesting an age check will result in a new entry to the blocked list.)

    I hate phones. I have to answer them all day long. Unlike John, I will not do you the courtesy of being rude. I will just hang up.

  28. MWT,

    I believe they’re random dialing. Usually Michael’s phone will get one of those calls, and then a bit later once they’ve gone through the intervening numbers, my phone will ring.

    Kinda like phone surveying for research–you take a block of numbers and call every (whatever) number of the list and keep going until you get the desired number of respondents.

  29. “I’m listed.”

    Ah. I believe Dr. LB has diagnosed the problem.

    Prescription: Unlist.

    I suppose you’re not a big enough name to get hounded by photographers and whatnot…but it would seem that your profile is high enough that listing your phone number publicly is going to result in some annoying situations that whatever conveniences arise from being listed don’t justify.

    I know, you’re probably going to say “why should I unlist? I’m not the one calling people out of the blue and being a jackass. Why should I be inconvenienced?”

    Because you make a living by putting your name out there in the public in the context of entertainment. Advantage? Money, fans, and you get to do something you enjoy as your job. Disadvantage? Some people are annoying and think they know you better than they really do.

    So, I’d recommend removing your phone number from public listing. Alternatively, you could post on your blog about how annoying it is to get phone calls from random-ass people…but I have my doubts as to the effectiveness of that method.

  30. Someone called you out of the blue. That’s just rude, pure and simple. No matter how much you like an author, calling them cold is just bad.

    I hate the phone myself. Even if I know the person, I try to get off the phone as fast as possible. Emailing me is the best way to get my attention.

  31. Ok, Michelle — there are like 5 people reading this comment thread that just spit coffee from their noses. :D

    Good thing I wasn’t drinking coffee at the time, then. ;)

    I don’t hate talking on the phone, but if I don’t recognize the number (or if it shows “no number” on my cell’s caller id) I just don’t pick it up. For those friends/family with unlisted numbers (aka my roommate), I’ve told them to dial *82 first so I’ll see the number.

    I cannot stand getting calls from people I don’t know. I’m very protective of my phone number and give it out only to people whom I trust. If you’re a friend or family member who wants to give my number to someone, you sure as hell better check with me first or I will reign fiery hell down upon your head.

    I don’t mind receiving texts, as I have an unlimited text plan, but on my current phone I can’t stand sending them. Once I get a smart phone, I predict I won’t hate it so much.

  32. I only answer the phone for my wife or my stepson.

    If I’m at work and generally soaking the company by, oh, I dunno, surfing the web, the list expands to my brother, my nephew, or my ex-wife, all people I’ve known for longer than 14 years and have been related to at some point or another.

    Oh yeah, that other nifty feature of my cell phone–being able to assign different ring tones to different people, which lets me know without looking that it’s (1) someone I should answer right NOW, or (2) everyone else in the universe.

  33. I don’t do well with phone calls, either. My process is one email, one followup, then a voice mail. I always get confused when people pick up while I’m trying to leave voice mail. Why would they do that? I’m trying to talk to their machine, not THEM. In order to have a real time conversation, I need to meditate first, and put on mascara, and have a cup of tea, put on fuzzy socks, warm up my voice, say some daily affirmations, and breathe deeply… I have gotten used to doing business by phone simply because it’s kinda normal, especially to people over a certain age, but I’m definitely an email person.

    I luuuuurve it when the people I’m trying to reach have publicists because this makes it easier for everyone. Have you looked into that, John? I have no idea what the cost would be, but it sounds like you’re overwhelmed. That’s kind of a good thing, actually.

  34. I’m in IT, ignoring the phone (my work, home or cell) could possibly be a career ending move. Since I am forced to answer the phone, I am very respectful of those who have the ability to control their phone usage.

  35. I try not to abuse the phone number, but I’m sorry about all those out-of-office messages my Brain Pal (“Pissant!”) sent you when I was drunk the other night.

  36. I use my phone more at Worldcon and at conventions than in real life. I really prefer E-mail for most communications, particularly when you are calling me WITH INFORMATION I’D LIKE TO KEEP A RECORD OF.

  37. Hey now, no need to get all pissy, Scalzi. I was only calling to see if you wanted to change your long distance service and you go and get all rude, how was I supposed to know you were eating dinner?

    If you don’t like being interrupted you should have emailed me and said so.

    Jeez, some people.

  38. @john scalzi

    I feel your pain, not because I’m all famous, but the moment I registered my LLC I was slammed with phone calls and mail offering me wonderful opportunities for chairs and toner. All for a business that I run out of my back pocket, lol. I’ve found a couple options for that: either white lists for your phone through your phone provider, or having software on your local VOIP system that screens calls and only lets the people with a particular code through.

    Because I have a Windows Smartphone, I set up a ring tone for ‘non addressbook’ phone numbers that rings a special ring tone, that’s essentially 2 seconds of nothing. I never hear their call now :)

    I did miss my dr’s office calling once though :(

  39. Publish a 900 number. At least then you’ll have a business transaction. $19.95 for 30 seconds of Scalzi?

  40. That’s good to know. I will call you at the same time every day from now on. ;-)

  41. I’m in a flat with six other people all with phones on the same line. These days I don’t even pick it up; people who know me can ring my cellphone, and everyone else can send me snailmail. Of course, since usually my cellphone is turned off or buried at the bottom of my bag, and I take ages to getting around to opening my email or physical mail, I’m fairly hard to contact. I rather like it that way.

  42. As Stephen Fry said, calling someone and making their phone ring as a result is like going up to them and shouting, “TALK TO ME! TALK TO ME! TALK TO ME! TALK TO ME!”

  43. ha ha, you have no idea how much this post made me want to look you up and call you to ask you where you get your ideas from.

    i restrained. barely. something tells me others might not be so disciplined.

  44. I dislike the phone too, but LB has a great point:

    “That said, in my line of work (business litigation) there are sometimes things that need to be communicated, but that you would prefer do not exist in the form of a permanent electronic record somewhere. That’s where the phone becomes useful.”

    There are many instances where lawyers wish they were in an alternate unverse where their clients hadn’t said _____ in a written or otherwise recorded form…..

  45. @ Scalzi at 40

    I’m not overwhelmed. I just don’t like random phone calls.

    Hey John!

    I will be calling @ 2pm, 7pm, 2 am, & 5am.

    So they are not random.

    Also since I do not have your number can you let me know what it is.


  46. I grew up with the telephone being a major force in mine and my family’s life. being that we lived in the geographical center of Bum F**k Egypt.
    That being said, I simply cannot imagine calling up someone like John who, even though I have met him a couple of times, read all of his crap, etc, etc, does not know me from Adam’s off ox.
    I’d like to say I’m surprised that this happens, but unfortunately, that’s not true. The more I find out about people, the less I like ’em.

  47. There have been times in my life when the telephone had to be answered. I grew to hate it. Either it was bad news or a stupid interruption (and frequently both.)

    (There has been good news, but far more bad-to-disaster news, and the vast majority of the calls are of the annoying unneeded interruption kind.)

    I figure it takes me fifteen minutes to answer the phone. Well, it takes seconds, but it takes the rest of the fifteen minutes to get back to what I was doing. Telephone screening lets me deal with it when I have time.

    Answering service, or answering machine as a close second.

  48. It’s shocking to me that random people would call you up like there’s no issue. Especially since it’s very clear on your blog that email is the preferred communication method.

    The audacity of people never ceases to surprise me nor the narcissism (sp?) that’s involved.

  49. Coming to this one late, but I’ve gone basically phoneless for the last three years, and longer than that for business purposes. Phoning me is for my wife and mother, and pretty everyone else is text of some sort. For business purposes, it’s e-mail for simple transactional stuff, and one-on-one-face-to-face-no-paper-trail for everything important. That’s probably from spending too much time in the bond pits and software startups, though.