The collapse of formality

Examples of social decline, especially in the UK

Re: The collapse of formality

Postby Elliott » 23 Oct 2012, 16:53

Two defences of manners have appeared in the last week:

John Humphrys

Lori Anderson

Isn't it amazing that this tagline actually needs to be said in Britain?

The Scotsman wrote:SIMPLE courtesy and polite behaviour, writes Lori Anderson, have an important place in civilised society
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Re: The collapse of formality

Postby Gavin » 26 Oct 2012, 19:55

In the first post of this thread I mentioned Dalrymple being addressed as "mate" by a surly teenage shop assistant. Quite normal. This evening I was addressed as "mate" by a jewel ear-ringed young lad who must have been no more than twelve years old. I did say "It's not mate" but I didn't dare say much more: his father might have been present.
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Re: The collapse of formality

Postby Connor » 06 Nov 2012, 04:00

Gavin: That reminds me of a nerve-wracking trend I've noticed:

Suddenly - for reasons that I don't comprehend - the servers in private establishments feel the need to shout out my name when my order is ready.

This horrible trend, I believe, originated at Starbucks, but it has spread to many other places. In case you're lucky enough to live somewhere that hasn't picked up on this practice, I'll explain:

After you place an order at the counter (whether it be for coffee, food, a package, etc), the server then asks for your first name. Then, when your order is prepared, the server shouts out your name from across the room, signalling you to come back to the counter.

When on Earth did this become standard procedure? I swear that this wouldn't be considered normal just a few years ago.

Perhaps I sound paranoid, but I really get nervous when I hear a stranger shout out "Connor!" from across the room like that. I've even considered adopting a pseudonym that I would use just to place orders nowadays.

The sad thing is, I understand what places like Starbucks are trying to do with this practice. They are calling me by my first name in an attempt to make their establishment seem hip, laid-back and thoroughly modern. Well, it's not working. I just find the whole thing intrusive and alienating.

When informality goes a step too far, it leaves everyone squirming on the inside.
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Re: The collapse of formality

Postby Podori » 06 Nov 2012, 04:13

Connor wrote:Gavin: That reminds me of a nerve-wracking trend I've noticed:

Suddenly - for reasons that I don't comprehend - the servers in private establishments feel the need to shout out my name when my order is ready.

This horrible trend, I believe, originated at Starbucks, but it has spread to many other places. In case you're lucky enough to live somewhere that hasn't picked up on this practice, I'll explain:

After you place an order at the counter (whether it be for coffee, food, a package, etc), the server then asks for your first name. Then, when your order is prepared, the server shouts out your name from across the room, signalling you to come back to the counter.

When on Earth did this become standard procedure? I swear that this wouldn't be considered normal just a few years ago.

Perhaps I sound paranoid, but I really get nervous when I hear a stranger shout out "Connor!" from across the room like that. I've even considered adopting a pseudonym that I would use just to place orders nowadays.

The sad thing is, I understand what places like Starbucks are trying to do with this practice. They are calling me by my first name in an attempt to make their establishment seem hip, laid-back and thoroughly modern. Well, it's not working. I just find the whole thing intrusive and alienating.

When informality goes a step too far, it leaves everyone squirming on the inside.


A friend of mine avoided that problem by telling the Starbucks clerk that his name was Osama. The clerk was too embarrassed to call out my friend's pseudonym, so he carried his drink to him.

But my friend was Indian. If you are white, you will have to go as Adolf.
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Re: The collapse of formality

Postby Connor » 08 Nov 2012, 00:30

If you are white, you will have to go as Adolf.


That sums up quite a lot of our current era, Podori.
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Re: The collapse of formality

Postby Gavin » 02 Feb 2013, 11:52

A good article on the BBC magazine site - this deals with the very informal greetings used by websites now, and mentions the infuriating way that call centre staff (often based in India) repeat one's name ad nauseum during the call as if this makes them sound more genuine, when actually it makes them sound like a speaking computer.
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Re: The collapse of formality

Postby Charlie » 02 Mar 2013, 18:30

I took my fiancée to a Mexican restaurant in London yesterday. Whilst the food was excellent, the whole "vibe" of the place was laid back and informal. There's nothing wrong with laid back of course, but I did find myself bemoaning the rather "cheeky chappy" style of some of the waiters and waitresses.

The waiter who came over to serve us announced that he was there to - "look after ya today!". This gregarious young northerner had an affable nature that I initially warmed to. However, as the meal wore on I became increasingly annoyed with him. He was a good guy and he was working hard, but he kept saying things like "y'alright buddy?", "ok matey!" and at the end, "did ya manage to nick some of yer missus's pud then?". Maybe this is the kind of "blokey banter" that his employers want him to use, but I'd just prefer quiet, respectful and attentive service thank you very much. The restaurant wouldn't necessarily have to lose lose any of its precious "laid-backness", but a little bit more formality from the waiter would have gone a long way yesterday.
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Re: The collapse of formality

Postby Gavin » 02 Mar 2013, 19:11

I could not agree more, Charlie. I think that kind of service is unprofessional and grossly over-familiar, quite frankly, but were we to object these days, we would be deemed the rude ones.

Nobody minds a little bit of informality here and there, but these people have no idea how to behave. Even their bosses probably don't know what is right now. In the pub where I go (I shall be going there shortly!) the staff are much the same. Some are fine, but one lad of about eighteen addresses me as "bud". The young female staff just sulk, for the most part barely acknowledging customers but constantly checking their phones.

You have provided me with the perfect opportunity to voice a couple of bugbears about service in such establishments, which I have been meaning to mention for a long time. Allow me to vent them here, as if addressing the staff!

  • It should never be necessary to interrupt a diner just as they are beginning their meal with an enquiry as to whether "everything is okay with your meal". Firstly, they do not know yet! They're just starting. Secondly, do not interrupt them and invade their privacy (they cannot even reply to you with a mouthful of food anyway!). Thirdly, you (or someone above you) will be informed if everything is not okay, be sure of that. Fourthly, you should have the confidence in your establishment that everything is okay.

    This really annoys me. They probably think they are being considerate, but they're being the opposite. About as much thought has gone into this as goes into using "Baby on board" notices.
  • Do not ask your customers "Who's next" at the bar. Do not allow the customers to drink at the bar because this is pig-headed and inconsiderate of them. They are obscuring the pumps and preventing people from reading them, shifting (of course) only very slightly and begrudgingly, if asked to move. So get these people out of the way and sat at tables, then you can see who is at the bar! Now, do not depend on the customer to tell you the order in which to serve. Just discreetly notice who has come in. Have one eye on the bar. This is actually your job and not the customer's. They don't want some kind of argument breaking out.

    Many are the times I have actually been next in line but have had at least one person, usually female, served before me, often with that customer knowing full-well that I was next in line. Were I to complain, however, that would be be viewed as ungentlemanly, because feminism only works one way. I'm not talking about extremely busy periods either here, of course; this happens sometimes when there are only about four people at the bar.

Okay, thanks for that. I shall now go to said establishment and get a pint anyway! Not all the staff are that bad, but as we know, here in the UK our natives are, for the most part, really not very good at the service sector.
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Re: The collapse of formality

Postby Caleb » 04 Mar 2013, 01:01

The other day, my wife gave a young lady at the local petrol station here a bit of a tongue lashing for calling her "older sister". In most parts of Taiwan, that would be considered extremely familiar. Here though, it's pretty common as people are extremely laid back (and backward in many ways). The young lady didn't really understand why my wife was upset. I told my wife that people here probably do find us weird.

In terms of people pushing in line or being served inappropriately, many years ago in Australia I was at a supermarket, waiting in the express lane. The woman directly in front of me had a basket containing so many items that they were literally falling out of it and she couldn't even carry it for more than a few seconds. She was pushing it along the floor with her leg. Some people around me were grumbling, and I actually pointed this out to her. She completely ignored me. When it came to her turn to be served, I pointed the situation out to the cashier in a loud voice so that people from other check lanes would pay attention. You could just see that the cashier wanted to slink away and not have to deal with the situation. He offered some sort of weak excuse and tried to serve her as quickly as possible. So, I called the manager over. He offered a weak excuse too. I realised nothing would come of it. I mostly just wanted to really embarrass the woman with too many items so that she might think twice again in the future.

I actually am one of those people who will embarrass people a lot of the time for being stupid or inconsiderate. Another situation is when there is a turning lane or people can clearly see that there's a lane that ends up ahead, but they try to pull a sneaky move and push into my lane. I'll leave enough of a gap that they'll think they can get in, and then when they're just beside me, I'll move right up behind the person in front. This usually means that they're going to have to wait about half a dozen cars before another opportunity presents itself, thus negating the whole point of the exercise in the first place.

People cutting in line, people trying to board a train before others have alighted, etc. I tell them all to wait their turn or even physically block them from doing so.
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Re: The collapse of formality

Postby Gavin » 04 Mar 2013, 02:12

I suppose, in theory, it's okay to load up your basket if it's "baskets only" - quite annoying though. Here in the UK they tend to say "7 items or less", which solves that kind of thing.

I take your point about applying discipline when cases are clear, however with the driving issue I couldn't help but be reminded of Dalrymple's recent article The Sock Fairy!

The thing is, in the UK, if you want to apply any kind of discipline you'd better be ready to use those self defence skills as to even look at someone for a fraction too long can result in violence. You have to pick your targets, I think, and sadly those most deserving of admonishment are those who we can least safely admonish. People are not afraid of getting out of their cars here in the UK and going over to other drivers if they consider themselves to have been affronted in some way (even if, of course, they are the ones in the wrong).
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Re: The collapse of formality

Postby Caleb » 04 Mar 2013, 04:01

In Australia supermarkets also have a limit on the number of items you can take through an express lane. The lady in question had multiples of that number.

As for people who should be admonished, generally, it's not as bad as in the U.K., though there are still places where you have to be careful/sensible. Fortunately though, such places and people can generally be avoided in Australia. I know where they are in Melbourne and I don't go there. Problem solved.

Incidentally, regarding the Sock Fairy article, I base my paranoia on the road upon the two following points. Firstly, there are almost always signs a long way before the point of no return. Secondly, there is one particular road where this always used to happen with my family. My mother (from the passenger seat) would always tell my father not to go in a particular lane. He would always say it would be fine, and then he would become annoyed when people didn't let him in. I must have witnessed this hundreds of times, maybe even thousands. He can't be the only driver on the road like that.
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Re: The collapse of formality

Postby Elliott » 25 Mar 2013, 16:47

A good little article here about the decline of manners and politeness in Britain, including one rather infuriating example of the curious intersection between PC/feminism and sheer nastiness.
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Re: The collapse of formality

Postby Gavin » 25 Mar 2013, 17:15

A very good article by Peter Whittle, thanks. I bought and read his book Look at Me: Celebrating the Self in Modern Britain before even starting this forum. It is excellent. This seem to have got a lot worse since then.

By the way, disgusting behaviour from the hate-filled feminist on the bike. Such people should be ostracised from society in my view.
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Re: The collapse of formality

Postby Elliott » 05 Apr 2013, 00:49

I don't know what to think about this. Maybe it's not a bad thing. It just strikes me as another example of my generation not really knowing how to be adults. But as I say, maybe it's actually a good idea after all and I'm just being grumpy.

This office may be the most fun in Britain as it comes kitted out with a giant helter-skelter slide, a tree house and even a pub.
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Re: The collapse of formality

Postby Gavin » 05 Apr 2013, 01:09

I think it's very immature, to be honest. Lots of media agencies in London are kitted out with table football tables etc. and I find that rather immature. Maybe that's just us!
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