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Repeatedly Calling Someone's Name

Inappropriate Telemarketing Practices

Why?? do they do that?

Repeat Naming or Signifying

Repeat naming has become the bloodsport of telemarketers, as well as others who one would not expect to be in the business of intimidation. It consists of "addressing" someone by name, mid-conversation. Repeatedly. One would presume this is to initiate the conversation, but what about the repetition? The frequent repetition demonstrates the offensive intent of the tactic.

In most cases, it's easiest to "blow it off" (American for "ignore it"), since its primary purpose is to entertain either the person doing it or the fulfillment of a business desire for intimidation.

Repeatedly calling a person's name is a dead giveaway of being "handled". I think this originated with P.T. Barnum or Dale Carnagie, but it is now a standardized technique.

Reasons and Function of Repeat Naming

Someone told them it's friendly.
... which would make sense until the first person indicates being put off or offended by being signified.

It makes far less sense when they do it a second time in the same conversation. How can it be friendly to "call" you when you're already talking to them?

There are some places where it's less of a social offence to repeat someone's name during a conversation. I don't know where those places are, but perhaps they exist at least to a minor extent. Still, the first time someone takes offence should be enough.

Someone determined people "like to hear their name".
Then they would record the Happy Birthday song.
People do not like to hear their name repeated mid-conversation by an overly-familiar stranger.

Mnemonic device (not to be confused with a "pneumatic" device, which is a car tire)
If calling by name is done immediately after an introduction, it's a mnemonic device or as a "readback" confirmation and should not be considered hostile.   This of course does not apply if they start signifying in the middle of a conversation.

It's fun
This makes sense for telemarketers. They know they're in one of the most despised occupations. So why not taunt their victims as well?

That doesn't follow for other groups, however. Sure they have to deal with the public, but why is it necessary to be offensive in doing so?

Your phone connection is poor.
Okay, fair enough. If you aren't going to spring for a decent phoneset or a decent phone connection, don't blame the person at the other end of the line if they keep addressing you mid-conversation.

Their "script" tells them to do it.
i.e., it's okay to offend people because someone writing the script told them to? Just an opinion, but that makes it all the more offensive.

They need to intimidate you.
(Actually, this is the same as "Their script tells them to do it.") How important is the intimidation to them? Can they sell something without intimidating their target?


There are various responses to this tactic, depending on how busy you are, and of course how obnoxious the caller is.

Immediate Responses

Direct approach
Tell them that they are repeating your name:
"You're repeating my name.

"You've repeated my name twice. I know I have a bad phone connection, but please don't do it."

"Please don't repeat my name. It's offensive. Please don't do it."
This is also useful when someone on the other end starts asking how to pronounce your name. ("Please don't start calling my name mid-conversation.")

"You're repeating my name mid-conversation. Please don't do it."
This should clarify why this is offensive.

"You're not going to get the pronunciation right." Let's address the problem first.
If, after being told you don't like it, they still insist on (mis)pronouncing your name, then just be patient with them until they get it right.

If they say it's part of a script, tell them that makes it that much more offensive.
For one thing, you aren't talking to them through a script.

Simply answer each time ("Yes, what's the matter?").
Expect to do that in rapid succession because high pressure scripts often specify starting with your name after each interruption. You may have to eventually say you are in the habit of responding whenever someone calls your name, as a matter of "courtesy". (Yes, I know "courtesy" and "polite" are oxymorons on a telemarketing call.)

Respond (every time) with their name.
Even those who protest that they are "just being courteous" stop the tactic forthwith when you answer with their name.

Responding also breaks up a "read-it" script.

More Complicated Responses

Straightforward Approach
Ask them to "stop signifying me!" Explain that "It's called signifying. Signifying is an intimidation tactic typically used by outbound telemarketers. You already said my name like you're told to. Nobody else is on the line. Please stop signifying me because it's offensive."

Expect to be questioned about your objection to being signified.

Change your name slightly.
(Ellen, Elsa, Aliane, Elaine) Tell them if they can't get it right, to please use a more efficient intimidation tactic.

"How do you want me to address you?"
"That's irrelevant to the issue. Please don't address me mid-conversation. There's no reason to do it."

"My friends call me [cutsey street name]." Choose something that has an animal name in it, e.g., "Blue Dog".

Better yet, give your pet's name. Most people do like to hear their dog's name! Repeatedly. Mid-conversation. It's pleasant! (This is particularly good if you're in an irritable mood trying to solve a particular problem on the phone.)

Addressing someone mid-conversation is:
  • unnecessary
  • intimidating
  • offensive
  • rude
  • unfriendly
  • is an indication that one is not paying attention

"Does that bother you?"
"Yes, of course."

"Well, I am single... but somehow I don't think we're to the point of 'calling my name out excitedly'. All in good humour, of course."

Count. (how many times they repeat-name)
Start at a low voice level at first, so they slowly realize you're counting how many times they repeat your name.

"Would you kindly repeat my name, oh, about 20 more times, to get it out of your system."
Good follow-up to a previous response.

Insist that they pronounce your name "correctly"
Give them the right pronunciation and tell them their readback is wrong. When that gets old (probably immediately), just let them know that it's intimidating to repeat name because:
You don't recall having been introduced.
It is certainly presumptuous for them to call you as part of a fake familiarity.

They're accusing you of not paying enough attention. (okay, probably true)

Why would they think there are others on the line?

It's patronizing.
(Well, it sounds good.)

Actually "George Johnson" is your dog's name and the phone's listed under his name.
Your name is Heirynomous Bosch von Bad Gastenbourg, which is why the phone is in your dog's name. You listed it under your dog's name because you hate people who don't 'use' your name. (Yes, I know it doesn't make sense.)

If they want, they can call you Curly (see next entry)

Your given name is "Curly." Make sure they get the pronunciation (COIyr-lee) right, and hope their supervisor hears them do so.
Other Names:
Elizabeth (4 syllables, will break up any "read-it" script)
Achmet (hard ch)
anything with a Xhosa 'xh' (tongue cluck)
Any foreign expression with five syllables.
Pointedly ignore the insult, perhaps pointing out that in France, Japan or Canada, a retail person would never insult a customer with false acquaintance.

Ask if they have some sort of rule that tells them to use a fake familiarity tactic.

Inappropriate Signifying

A related abuse involves substituting proper addressing of a customer, by calling the customer by name. (This is distinguished by proper familiarity because the signification becomes obvious.) This is fairly rare, but essentially replaces "excuse me" with frequent addressing of a customer's name.
State an Objection - "It's inappropriate."
... for example if the business attempts to "collect" names of more than one person in a party. You could tell them that you feel uncomfortable being called by name in the middle of (whatever the transactions is; e.g., a meal); however that's usually awkward. Simply saying "it's inappropriate" is usually more direct because it states that decorum is important. It is really none of their business what the relationship of the people are.

Complex Name
If the name is long enough, a proper "excuse me" will be used.

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site first posted November 3, 1996; this page 19-Apr-05 ~~ rev 04-Feb-12 ~~ written in WordPerfect 5.1 ~~ copyright 2005 by S. Protigal ~~ Feel free to link to this.

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