TV Telephone Etiquette

Doesn't anyone say "goodbye" anymore?

The inability for main characters who answer the phone to either hang up the phone, acknowledge the caller, or say any "good-bye" equivalent. This is because phone calls are often done solely for exposition.

If there is no split-screen and the other end is not heard by the audience, characters are also required to repeat back everything the person on the other end says to them.

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  • A Running Gag in the film 8 Heads In A Duffel Bag involves the primary antagonist's inability to have a normal phone conversation, usually in the form of destroying the receiver instead of saying goodbye and hanging up.
  • In Layer Cake, the protagonist remarks "That's rude, Mr. Dragan", after the caller (a psychopathic Serbian hitman) hangs up without saying goodbye.
  • In The Smiling Lieutenant, the lieutenant gets the news from a lady friend that he is being forced to marry a princess he's not interested in. He hangs up the phone without saying goodbye.

  • Star Wars: Emperor Palpatine needs no comm etiquette, as is pointed out in Shadows of the Empire. He has a habit of stating what he wants without greeting, then ending the conversation without any kind of farewell. His subordinates have learned to accept this as 'just one of those things'.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Law & Order (and later Law & Order: SVU) Captain Cragan invariably answered the phone by yelling "What?".
    • Rarely in any cop show will a police officer of any sort finish a call with anything resembling a "goodbye". They just jot down whatever information they need from a call, maybe verbally confirming it, then slamming the phone down and calling for their partner/subordinate to handle, or help them handle, the situation that the call was about. NYPD Blue and Homicide Life On The Street are particular repeat offenders.
  • David Sandstrom of ReGenesis answers with an impatient "Yeah?" or, later in the series, "What?" This seemed to vary in its hostility based on whether or not another then-present character was prodding him to answer his phone.
  • NCIS: They're repeat offenders, none worse than Gibbs, of course.
  • On Covert Affairs, Annie calls Auggie on this early in an episode, saying that "normal people" say good-bye. He replies that it's just one more reason not to. This becomes a very minor comedic subplot, until the end of the episode, when Auggie is going off on his own to seek revenge. Annie knows something is wrong when he says . . .
  • "What?" is Miss Parker of The Pretender's signature greeting.
  • 24. Nobody ever says goodbye on the phone, which is a little funny since Jack spends at least half the series on one.
  • Characters on Seinfeld seemed to have a particular aversion to saying goodbye.
  • Debra Morgan on Dexter is also really bad with this.
  • Happens on Nikita a lot too, although it's kind of understandable.
  • The Brady Bunch: Mike calls a friend of his about a problem; he jumps right into the topic and doesn't say goodbye. Robert Reed wrote one of his many scathing memos about this scene.
  • Gaia Moore greets callers with "speak".
    • Truth in Television: A common phone greeting in Mexico is "Diga", which means "speak".
    • In Italy it is "Pronto" (see Inspector Montalbano) leading to the joke where an American hears people use that word on the phone and assumes it means "hello". He approaches a woman and says "Pronto" and gets a slap in the face for it. "Pronto" means "Ready".
  • Parodied along with everything else on Garth Marenghis Darkplace. Most of the time, characters will end even the most desperate and ominous conversations with an inappropriately casual "Bye!" At the other end of the scale;
    Thornton Reed: [picks up phone] Uh huh. Bye. [hangs up] Good gravy. A small bunch of objects are flying of their own accord in E Wing! [picks up non-ringing phone, then hangs up without saying anything] And apparently more objects are heading this way! [hesitantly, in the direction of the telephone] Good...bye...
  • On Barney Miller, a man tried to commit suicide by drinking a chemical. Wojo called Poison Control to ask what to do, but they needed to know what chemical the man drank. Eventually he reveals that it was food coloring. Wojo says "Food" into the phone, then realizes what the man said, and hangs up without another word.

    Web Original 
  • In The Guild, the leader of the evil guild is overtly rude over the phone. He answers the phone by stating the activity that you're interrupting, like "Journalling!" He also hangs up abruptly without saying goodbye, which confuses Cyd.

    Western Animation 
  • Lampshaded in one episode of The Fairly OddParents, Timmy is talking on the phone with Chester and AJ (in a three way split screen). After the conversation is over he hangs up as does Chester. AJ is still hanging on the line when he realizes the other two hung up. He looks at the camera and asks "Doesn't anyone say goodbye anymore?"
  • Played for comedy in The Life & Times of Tim, when Tim bungles a call from a prospective employer by hanging up when he thinks the conversation is over. After a pause, the caller continues speaking, not realizing that he's hung up.

    Video Games 
  • Inverted in the Fallout: New Vegas DLC Old World Blues: After Dr. Mobius delivers his terrifying broadcast from the Forbidden Dome, he caps it off with a cheerful "That is all. Bye bye."

    Real Life 
  • In South Korea, when a phone conversation is over, the callers simply hang up. Saying goodbye is not needed, although they may make a certain "Hmm" sound, indicating that they're about to hang up.
    • In the Korean Drama Emperor Wang Guhn - set in the 9th century, so well before the telephone - conversations often end with one party just saying "Chou-me" (subtitled "Well then") and wandering off.
  • The book Nee Naw: Real Life Dispatches From Ambulance Control complains about people copying the way TV characters do this with emergency calls of all things. "In soaps, people often just call for an ambulance, bark an incomplete address and then hang up. And then, nee naw nee naw, the ambulance arrives." In real life, the dispatcher needs to keep you on the line to provide details about the patient's symptoms, verify where you are and generally make sure the paramedics are as informed as possible by the time they arrive, in addition to talking you through any first aid that may be necessary. Only hang up when the dispatcher tells you you can hang up.
    • Cellphones have implemented a feature called Emergency Callback whenever you dial 9-1-1. This allows the operator to call the phone back... you know, in case you do this.
  • Ever had a job that requires you to do customer service on the phone? If so, then you probably are already familiar with this.