1970s phone etiquette film features sexism, horrible bosses

Customer service film reminds us how bad office life was in the '70s

I'm sure you've all seen a "customer service film" at a new job at some point in your career - they usually show a rather amusing scenario about what happens when employees don't treat their customers the right way.

In this film from 1971, the Bell System produced a film on phone etiquette to show customers and employees on proper ways to use the phone, especially with new features like call forwarding and putting people on hold coming into usage. The film features Pat Harrington, Jr., who later went on to play Schneider in "One Day at a Time", as the boss of a sportswear firm who keeps getting stymied by his office staff's inability to properly use the phone system.

Having seen films like these before, I suppose the "bad behavior" was expected, but what struck me more was the sexism and blatant "bad boss" behavior of some of the employees. If I answered a phone and someone started yelling at me (even someone whose car had broken down and was wet), I certainly might forget some of my phone etiquette and training. Of course, today, Mr. Davis would have a cell phone and would be able to call the customer directly from inside his broken-down car (right after he called for a tow truck). Still, it's no surprising that films like "9 to 5" appealed to a wide audience, highlighting such boorish behavior.

This film was also directed by Bruce Bilson, a noted Hollywood director of TV shows that included "Hogan's Heroes", "The Odd Couple" and "Nanny and the Professor." He even directed the episode of "The Brady Bunch" where Bobby pretends to be sick so he could meet Joe Namath.

The guy in the stockroom was Joe Conley, a character actor best known as Ike Godsey on "The Waltons"; other people may know some of the other actors/actresses, but I'm too young to remember many of them.

Keith Shaw rounds up the best in geek video in his ITworld.tv blog. Follow Keith on Twitter at @shawkeith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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