August 20, 2010

"Your call will be answered in the order it was received."

Why does this common phrase feel grammatically wrong? I was on hold long enough to find the answer:
... a single thing cannot be received in a particular order. "Your call will be answered in the order your call was received?"

Suggestion: Calls will be answered in the order they were received.
I feel much better now.

33 comments:

El Pollo Real said...

Peed antics.

traditionalguy said...

Take some aspirin and rest your hugh brain. All will seem grammatical when you awake.

traditionalguy said...

That was "Huge" not Hugh. Heffner brains are small.

ricpic said...

When they tell me my call will be answered in approximately three minutes and a rep comes on the line in one minute I feel cheated. Honest Injun.

mesquito said...

Also, it's bad form to gratuitously split an infinitive.

Mike said...

Ann's suggestion mixing future and past disconcerts me. How about "calls will be answered in the order they are received"?

Kirby Olson said...

One good thing about "your" in the first position in the sentence is that it directly addresses the consumer. Like when you walk in to a busy shop and a clerk looks you in the eye and lets you know she has seen you, and will get to you. Grammar is good, but I prefer personal recognition, or some cyber-simulation thereof.

Is there some way to reconcile the two?

"Hi, we know you're there! We have you queue'd, according to time of call! Your time is money, right? Now sit tight and enjoy Lady Gaga muzak, Buster Brown!"

former law student said...

How about a simple, "Wait your turn."

BJM said...

I was feelin’ kinda lonesome and blue
I needed somebody to talk to
So I called up the operator of time
Just to hear a voice of some kind
“When you hear the beep it will be three o’clock”
She said that for over an hour
And I hung up

rhhardin said...

Your name will be placed in a hat.

Jonathan Campbell said...

The more fundamental reason why it is ungrammatical is that you cannot say "a call is received an order." Instead you must say "a call is received IN an order." Thus, ignoring the issue you received for the moment, the grammatical way to say it is "your call will be answered in the order it was received IN" but since we (arbitrarily) don't like to end sentences in prepositions, it should be "your call will be answered in the order IN WHICH it was received."

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

Suggestion: Calls will be answered in the order they were received.I feel much better now.

No, you don't. Just like everyone else, you're sick and tired of talking to a machine when you need real, human contact. And if they don't stop playing that God-awful Muzak, you won't be responsible for what you do.

And you, a law professor.

PS One of the new Chase cards promises as one of its perks that, if you call customer service, you are guaranteed to speak to a human being.

former law student said...

Calls will be answered in the order they were received.

I don't care about "calls." I just care about "my call."

Ann Althouse said...

"Just like everyone else, you're sick and tired of talking to a machine when you need real, human contact."

Au contraire! I prefer when there's a robot that solves my problem through a series of questions. Saves me the trouble of being nice.

Scott said...

It looks funky because it's missing a direct object.

More correct would be:

Your call will be answered in the order it was received in by someone in Mumbai who was carefully trained to leave you with the impression that they care about your problem.

Eric said...

PS One of the new Chase cards promises as one of its perks that, if you call customer service, you are guaranteed to speak to a human being.

It's true, I have a Sapphire Card and by God I talk to people, and they are NOT in India!

Pogo said...

"Your call will be answered in the order it was received."

...this means...

We don't give shit about you or your problems. Wait until we do. It might be never. Who knows? For Christ's sake, just a buy a new one, or get it fixed somewhere, and leave us the hell alone.

prairie wind said...

Your call will be answered as soon as we finish discussing the last stupid caller or as soon as we get back from our smoke break.

As for those guys in Bangalore, one of them magicked a virus out of my computer, and his English was better than that of most Walmart clerks.

Chip Ahoy said...

All of our operators are busy with other customers, all those operators being one Maria who takes calls at her own singular pace.

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

"Just like everyone else, you're sick and tired of talking to a machine when you need real, human contact."

Au contraire! I prefer when there's a robot that solves my problem through a series of questions. Saves me the trouble of being nice.


Sad to say, many times the robot cannot provide the needed assistance. And, having done my time in customer service, it's astounding how many people don't care about being nice.

c3 said...

The approximate wait time for my comment is.......

six minutes

Beta Rube said...

The phrase "your call" is used to try to personalize automated answering. I think the companies are willing to trade grammar for letting you know they care.

If you want to be a stickler, you could argue that your call has been answered already. It is not in the public cloud nor is it ringing. It was just answered by a device, not a person. In the industry no one uses "answer" to mean presented to a live agent.

Calypso Facto said...

Professor Ann said: "I just wanted a multigrain bagel!!!!"

Fen said...

Hey Call Center managers: fix your stupid option tree. When I call for tech help or to report a problem with my line:

1) I don't want to go thru more than 2 layers of options to get to a human.

2) I don't want to listen to a 30 second advertsement. I could care less that Shaq is now your official spokesman and that he loves the way you intstalled his cable.

3) I dont want to listen to more offers. I'm calling because my line is down. Again. Why would I buy more equipment when you even cant maintain what I already own?

Seven Machos said...

No. It should be in the active voice. This is vital for good writing and speaking.

We answer calls in the order we receive them

See? Wonderful and concise.

Kirby Olson said...

Seven Machos has a good point.

John E. said...

"Can I help who's next?"

Skyler said...

Sheesh, Ann.

Kev said...

I try to avoid customer service by phone if I can at all help it. If the problem can be solved by an email, I'm trying that first.

Scott said...

Better yet:

We answer calls in the order we receive them. So fuck you, pinche fresa.

BJM said...

@fen

Easy fix.

Presione el número 9 para el español

Choose the Spanish language option and most of the time you'll get right to a live bilingual CSR.

davewollenberg said...

Pogo, do ya REALLY have to swear to get your point across? NOBODY wants to read that filth!

Erroll said...

I would say that, invariably, when I am placed on hold by an answering service, the message says “your call will be answered in the order it was received”– and each time, I cringe at the missing words, and I actually correct the voice out loud (at the risk of being taken for a madman), shouting “in the order IN WHICH it was received!” into the phone. I don’t think that’s stuffy or wordy at all. Barring that, the only "quick fix" that I can think of would be to simply say "Your call will be answered as soon as possible"... When it comes down to it, what good is telling the caller that he's in a call queue if you're not saying how long the queue is? I would prefer the type of system that says "your wait time will be approximately 12 hours and 16 minutes"... Needless to say, if I receive multiple emails on this commentary, I will answer them in any order I damn well please!! Thanks!