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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners 8/18

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

DEAR MISS MANNERS: In the past several weeks, two service providers have arrived at my home at least an hour before the beginning of their allotted time window (9 a.m.-1 p.m.) (e.g., 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), with no phone call in advance to ask if a schedule change would be OK.

While some people might be thrilled not to have to wait around for a later arrival, I am not; my work schedule starts late and ends late. And typically, it is necessary to clean up the house, get family members dressed and fed or otherwise prepare before people come and do work inside the house. It is disruptive enough to prepare for a 9 a.m. arrival, let alone to allow for the possibility that the providers might show up even earlier.

In a third case, the workers had not shown up by nearly the end of the window. No one called me. I called the business to ask where things stood, as I had to leave for an appointment, and was told they were running late.

As a longtime homeowner, I am accustomed to experiencing this from time to time. But the increasing frequency of this – with no communication – makes me wonder if this is becoming a “new normal.” with respect to how businesses treat customers who don’t protest. I realize it could be pandemic-related, but am afraid it is not temporary.

What is the polite thing to say to service providers when they arrive early? Or to the business managers, to discourage this, when you are otherwise pleased with the service?

Also, what should be said in the case of late arrivals with no call? In the first early case, I asked, “I thought you were planning to come between 9 and 1?” The provider just smiled. I let them get started on the work. In the second case, I said, “This is really not a good time; could you please come back later?” In neither case was there an apology.

GENTLE READER: Showing little regard for the customer’s time was pioneered by cable television providers so effectively that the phrase “waiting for the cable guy” is likely to outlast the technology itself.

Their behavior had little to do with manners and everything to do with leverage., as in, “Do you want me to install this thing, lady, or what?”

There is nothing impolite in telling the workers that, unfortunately, you are not ready for them, as you were told they would not be arriving before 9 o’clock.

Note that this combines an apology with blaming someone other than the worker. But Miss Manners warns you of what you already know: No matter how polite you are, you run the risk of waiting, while the time window closes, wondering whether the person will return.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What should a bridal shower after the wedding be called?


Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website

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