Tag Archives: Manners

Teaching the Keys to Safety is Essential

When my daughter was still in elementary school there was a stranger danger alert.

Remember this


While I no longer have a child at home, seeing this picture on Facebook brought it all rushing back.  My daughter rode her bike back and forth to school.  We lived just a few blocks from the school which made her a walker but she had no one to walk with her.  Due to severe health problems at the time resulting in surgery, I was unable to drive her.

According to the school, riding a bike to school was considered a “privilege” reserved for 3rd graders and above.  I finally got them to concede that riding a bike by yourself was safer than walking by yourself.  And since they weren’t willing to walk with her or find someone to do so, they finally allowed her to ride solo.

In addition, I had gotten my daughter a Tracfone that she took with her anytime she was out by herself so she could call for help if she fell off her bike riding around the neighborhood or later on needed to check in to tell me when she got to her final destination (store, library, etc).   I used to get her the card with a year of service every Christmas and every year she had leftover minutes that would roll over.  At the time they only came with 150 minutes, so she did great!

Anyway, on “stranger danger day” the whole school was on lock down.  I was panicking because she was late and I had no way of finding out what was going on and no way to go looking for her.  (I think this was a week or two after my abdominal surgery.)  I called the school and thankfully found out what was going on.   My daughter in the meantime was panicking because she was going to be late and she knew I would worry and they wouldn’t let her call home on her phone or theirs!  (Yes, I took that up with the school too.)

Here in the Midwest, all towns are equipped with tornado sirens.  They are tested everywhere on Wednesdays at noon and carry an unmistakable sound that lets everyone for miles know of impending danger.

I wrote a letter to the mayor, the school board and the principal asking that a similar system be utilized to put everyone on alert.  My suggestion to them was that we use something similar to the tornado siren system to alert everyone to what was going on.

Not only would a siren notify parents as to why students would be delayed, but it would alert students to “drill” type procedures like a fire alarm as well as letting area neighbors know that they needed to be on the look out for suspicious people in the area.  My suggestion was declined with a letter telling me that it was too much effort and unnecessary.

While I always knew I placed more value on my daughter than anyone else did, it was very disturbing to see it written out and her worth be considered so negligible.  It was the following school year that I began homeschooling my daughter.

In the meantime, in the “aftermath” of the event, one of the local news stations had interviewed a few people and it was on the air that very night.  One police officer commented that it’s very hard to catch “strangers” because children made such horrible witnesses because they have no concept of age, weight, etc.

Following the suggestions that officer made during that interview, my wheels got moving.  We called an “emergency” Brownie meeting that the parents were required to attend with the girls.  We did mock sessions asking the kids to describe us.  We met at the school, so having the chalkboard at our disposal we wrote out the answers the girls came up.  Adults were described as being anywhere from 20 to 100 years old, up to 1500 lbs and 20 feet tall!

When we asked the kids to describe what a stranger looked like, it was like asking them to describe a comic villain.  They were confused at first when we told them that a stranger is anyone you don’t know.  They can be handsome, friendly, clean and can even have a puppy.

We then taught them (and their parents) that rather than trying to come up with numbers, to do comparisons instead. Cindy’s dad looks as old as my dad or he’s fat like Uncle Bob or Patty’s mom is skinny like Aunt Judy, wears her hair like my babysitter or smiles like Grandma.

Size, shape, skin color, hair color, hair style and car makes, models & colors are all something that can be accurately communicated this way as long as children are taught to look for the comparisons so they can related them to you or police.

If a child does witness anything and are communicating with police, parents will be called and involved.  From there, police can clarify descriptions with the parents… how old is Dad, how are Uncle Bob or Aunt Judy built, etc.

I used to teach employees that the best form of security is good customer service.  Engage the customer and maintain eye contact.   There’s nothing wrong with teaching kids this too.  Those people who do bad things look for easy targets, whether it’s an adult or child.  They want someone who is easily intimidated and manipulated.   Assertiveness training is not just for adulthood, a dynamic personality keeps people safe at any age.

None of these things need be taught by panic.  The goal is not to teach paranoia  but rather awareness.  Play is always the best way to teach.  Make it a game.

  • Take pictures of celebrities and have your child describe them trying to have you guess who it is.
  • Point out scenarios that you see on the street that you feel could be unsafe and engage your child in conversation.  “See that little girl alone on the street corner?  That doesn’t look safe to me.  What do you think?”
    • It shows you listen to them and value their opinion
    • It teaches them to look around them to see situations and to watch out for other people.
  • Selling popcorn and cookies for Scouts or fundraisers for school or church are great ways to get them to practice eye contact and assertiveness (along with salesmanship, manners & cash handling).

Passwords are also a great means of security that we utilized as well.  It’s that extra step that not only makes them feel safe but makes them feel empowered.  We now live in a world filled with passwords, get them used to it early.  Let them learn what a good password is and let them practice even when you pick them up.  It’s a secret shared with only you two.

One last thing.  Teach your child to listen to their gut (or their “spidey sense” as I like to call it).  Whether it’s a neighbor or a relative, if they give your kid the creeps, please don’t force contact or allow them to be alone with that person.

Learning to trust your primal instincts is a good skill and one we unfortunately don’t listen to often enough.  How many times have you done something, only to kick yourself later commenting “I KNEW I shouldn’t have done that!” or “I had a bad feeling about that, but did it anyway”?

When Kid was little I read an article about a study done with victims of molestation.  Almost all of them had come from families where there was forced intimacy… meaning “go give Uncle Bernie a kiss”, “I don’t want to, I don’t like him” only to be told to do it anyway or something guilt provoking like “he’ll be sad” or he’s gonna cry”.  To adults it tends to be a big game to teach about manners.  I remember these vividly from my own childhood.

Sadly, instead of teaching manners, it teaches children that adults have authority over their bodies.  It also teaches that if they don’t listen to “Uncle Bernie” that they can get yelled at, punished, etc. by their parents or their parents will be mad at them.  I had never considered this until reading that article and it had a profound impact me based on incidents in my own childhood.

I know you want to keep your kids safe, and I want your kids to be safe too.  The world is a scary place but that doesn’t mean they have to be scared of it.  Give them the tools they need that keep them safe and will also help you sleep at night.







Call Center Confessions or How To Be A Good Customer


I have a confession… I have a day job.

I do over the phone technical support for a major cable, internet & phone provider.  This is the second company I’ve worked for doing this kind of work.  Prior to that I ran a chain of retail stores, worked in several hotels and before that I was in restaurants (server, hostess, bartender, cook, dishwasher, manager).

I know customer service, inside and out, from both sides of the phone/counter.  I have worked both at home and in a call center (so not fun, it’s also a giant Petri dish for sharing bacteria, colds, viruses, whooping cough, etc).   Like you, we come to work in all weather, in sickness and health, etc.

I enjoy my job and most of my customers.  I have the privilege of having conversations with people all over this nation and enjoy it immensely.  That being said however, there are two reasons for the incredible turnover in this industry; the first reason is poor employees and the other is bad customers.

Now before you roll your eyes and chew me out, please know that I’ve had my fair share of poor customer service experiences as well.  Yes, there are people that should not work with the public and believe me when I say they do get weeded out fairly quickly.

Here are some things you may or may not know about the faceless employee on the other side of the phone:

Call Time

We have a “handle time” or “call time” that we are required to meet as employees.  For my current employer it is 15 minutes, meaning I have 15 minutes to get your services fixed or schedule a service call.  If it seems like I’m rushing you, I apologize, I am trying to get to the heart of the matter as quickly as possible.  I want to resolve your issues and I don’t want you to have to call back.

Call Backs

Some companies view it as a sign of poor employee performance if you have to call back within a certain period of time to deal with issues, mine included.  The vague statistics that show on an employers reports about how many times a customer has to call back does not reflect that you weren’t home to troubleshoot, you couldn’t verify security information on your account or that you’re late for a dinner date and wanted to end the call before your issue was resolved.  It gets held against the employee regardless.


We’re not allowed to tell you no.  So that means when you ask if we mind while you can put the phone down to talk to someone else in the home, feed the dog, deal with your kids or answer your cell phone, we’re obligated to let you do this.  Please don’t take advantage of us.


We are required to verify certain information on the account before we can help you.  I apologize if this is frustrating for you, but it is for us too.  The quicker we get through this, the quicker we can resolve your problem.


You are our eyes and ears – we can’t see what lights are on, what your TV says nor can we hear the sound that your DVR is making.  Yes, I need you to unplug that cable, push that button or read that label.

Use common sense & don’t waste your time.

If it says “press the C button or call this number”, please press the “C” button before calling in and spending 25 minutes on hold just for me to tell you to press the C button.

If you cannot boot up your computer, this isn’t problem with your internet service, it’s a problem with your computer. Please take it to be serviced.

If your TV doesn’t turn on, the company providing you with cable service is not responsible. Contact the TV manufacturer, a a TV repair person or purchase a new one.

If you only have one phone in your home and no dial tone, it may be a problem with your phone.  Purchase or borrow another phone to test the line before calling if you can.

Satellite dishes actually receive their information from satellites in space that orbit the earth.  If you are in the middle of a storm and can’t get a signal because of cloud cover, please wait for the storm to pass.

If there is snow on your satellite dish that is keeping you from getting a signal, clean it off or wait for it to melt.

If I have to tell you that you’ve reached the wrong department, while I empathize with your frustration, not allowing me to get you to the correct department isn’t helping to correct the problem you called about.


I know your services are urgent and that you’re paying for them to work.  So is every other customer.  Residential technicians do not work around the clock.  I am not their supervisor, nor do I have control of their schedule.  When scheduling a service call, I am given a list of available appointment times that I can use.  I cannot override this or write my own.

If it’s Saturday night and I can’t schedule a tech to come to your home until Monday, that means there are no open appointments before Monday.  I’m not trying to make you suffer.  Treating me badly does not open the schedule up nor does asking for my supervisor.  He or She has no control over the schedule of another department either.

Telling me how much you pay for your service monthly does not give you privilege over every other paying customer.  Our rates are the same for all customers.  If another customer called before you did and it resulted in the scheduling of a service call, why should you get to go first, because you’re yelling louder?  If you wouldn’t do this while you were standing in a line at a retail location, please don’t do it here.  It’s the same poor manners.

You get what you pay for

Please don’t scream at me because you run a business out of your home but don’t want to pay for business service.  I understand that when your service is down you could be losing money and/or can’t work. However, if you choose to save money by only paying for residential service, then you will need to wait for a residential technician.  If you want business class priority, then please be willing to pay for business class service.

Don’t hang up

Most of us have a scripted call closing that we are required to tell you to close the call, please allow us to do this no matter how cheesy it may seem.  Not only does it allow us to do our job as dictated by our employer, but this also affords us the time to finish documenting your account appropriately and close it correctly.  From the time you hang up I get 30 seconds before the next call.  No typo there, 30 seconds.  It’s not much time to get things done properly which is why we prefer to do it while you’re still on the phone.

That’s also why sometimes an agent/representative may seem a little harried or short when you first start talking to them, especially if we just came off a bad call.  I’m not making excuses, just explaining the nature of things.  While you shouldn’t have to be affected by our last call, it’s hard to switch gears from a bad experience to a good one on only 30 seconds.  Give us a chance to catch our breath and get the information we need while we’re still waiting for your account information to load on our computers and I promise I’ll make it worth your while.

So what does this all come down to?

  • Have your information ready, know your phone number, have your account number handy and be willing to tell us whose name is on the account.  I’m really happy that you and your spouse are in a great relationship, sadly other people aren’t and we need to make sure you are authorized to access the account.
  • Speak clearly and recognize that we may be entering in your information, please don’t go so fast that you could be confused for an auctioneer.
  • Unless you’re calling about a billing issue, please call from home and allow time for us to troubleshoot together.
  • Turn down TV’s, radios, etc, don’t yell over them.
  • Do not have me on speaker phone.  That’s okay while you’re waiting on hold but when you connect with an agent/representative please do us the courtesy of a direct conversation.
  • Get your children settled, calm screaming babies, barking dogs, etc.
  • Do not answer other phones.  You are on a business call, please regard it as such and call your spouse/child/friend back when we’re done. Just as you want our undivided attention, we prefer yours as well.
  • Assess the situation before you call.
    • Is this a problem on one TV/phone/computer or all of them?
    • Are multiple services having issues?
    • If there’s no power going to a device, is it plugged in?  Does the outlet work?
    • Follow the prompts on the screen and do what it tells you to do before calling
    • If the automated message says you’re part of an outage, listen to the estimated restoral time and wait for it to be resolved.  An outage is the result of a local or regional physical issue, which is either a construction or network technician issue.  Troubleshooting equipment in your home will not create a better outcome no matter how willing you are to do it.  (If a bridge is out, you can’t fix it by looking under the hood of your car.)
  • You called me for help because I’m the one with the training and expertise, please let me do my job.

And of course, have you tried turning it off and on?  🙂