Service of Chutzpah

February 12th, 2015

Categories: Chutzpah, Some Nerve

Ring a Ding Dong

A friend sent me this email which inspired today’s topic. I think most people know the definition of chutzpah, but just in case: “Unmitigated effrontery or impudence; gall. 2. Audacity; nerve,” according to the Urban Dictionary.

She wrote:

“I have an idea for your blog on phone etiquette, about calling people on their office line or at home and then, if they get voicemail, immediately dialing their cell phone.

“This happened this week to me from a woman I hardly know–she had also written me an email alerting me/or warning me that she’d be calling.

“It’s presumptuous of someone to be so pushy [unless in an emergency]. I was under the gun, had no intention of answering my office line until I’d met a deadline when I hear my cell phone ring. I thought this was nervy and didn’t answer and then she shoots off another email. I was obviously either busy, on another line or out of the office.

“What did she want to speak with me about you wonder: She wanted FREE advice.

“Addendum: We finally spoke, and she asked for a meeting and then cancelled the appointment we’d made. She has not responded to my email with suggested alternate dates and it’s been hours.”

You’re Kidding

A woman I know, [unlike my friend’s caller in the example above whom she hardly knew], who works for an ad agency, left me a message: “You’re busy, but can you call me back because I have a few questions. We hired someone to write a press release but I have no confidence in either the copy or the writer.”

Did she forget that’s one of the services my agency offers? I’ve happily edited memos [for free] and shared insight on industries I’m familiar with and helped find her an intern so I suppose it’s my fault that she figured there’s no end to my largesse. Newsflash: There is. Folks need to know where to draw the line.

Can you share examples of chutzpah? It feels good to get the instance off your chest, right? Do you think people are clueless when they irritate others by going too far? Do you point it out to them or let it go?


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16 Responses to “Service of Chutzpah”

  1. EAM Said:

    In the first case, she’s got a major case of being inauthentic. I’m calling you under the pretense of offering you an idea but that’s not why I’m calling, I’m calling to get something from you. That’s Chutzpah with a capital “C” if she cancels the meeting. As someone who is a consultant, I’ve asked for support of people. I’ve been surprised by people who I consider my closest friends who do NOT respond to me and then also unexpectedly gotten the support of people whom I consider acquaintances.

  2. Nancy Farrell Said:

    I think that this is something everyone encounters at work from time to time. I think it can be handled tactfully without the relationship suffering. I babysat as a teenager for a family whose mother eventually informed me she wanted to add housework onto my list of duties. I was already fixing simple meals and cleaning up after them so this went above and beyond. I smiled and enthusiastically said that I thought her suggestion was a great idea and how much are house cleaners earning? And when she asked what I meant I said that if we’re changing the agreement I could only assume that we were changing my compensation. That was the last time we ever spoke about it but I continued to work happily as a babysitter for the family.

  3. Merv Kaufman Said:

    I remember, years ago, my wife’s (older) cousin was in New York
    to interface with the couple who were about to become her son’s
    in-laws. The woman took Cousin Jo to lunch, then to Van Cleef &
    Arpels, because Jo said she wanted to find a pin to go with the
    dress she planned to wear at the wedding.

    The snooty salesperson offered a number of choices, none of them
    other than Very Expensive. Jo, a modest New Englander, singled
    out one that she particularly liked and tentatively asked the price.
    The saleswoman reeled off a number; cousin Jo must have
    very obviously recoiled. . . because her about-to-be-relative
    immediately jumped in: “Is this your best price?”

    Cousin Jo was mortified. Here she was, in one of New York’s
    chicest and most distinguished jewelry stores and. . . Well,
    the salesperson left the floor, ostensibly to talk to her
    manager. When she returned, she whispered a somewhat
    more reasonable number, and cousin Jo made the purchase.

    Moral: If you can hondle at Van Cleef’s, you can hondle
    anywhere. On top-line goods, there’s rarely an inflexible

  4. The Copout Codger Said:

    Your readership is probably not old enough to remember George Bush Senior’s plea for a “kinder, gentler world” more than a quarter of a century ago. I loved him for it. Of course, nobody listened, or if they did, they made fun of him.

    Today’s world seems even more chocker block full of Chutzpah than it was during his presidency. It make me glad to be old. I won’t have to be around to put up with it that much longer.

    I suppose growing pushiness is inevitable as the world’s resources become increasingly depleted by ravenous, consumption driven, ever expanding masses of desperately needy humanity, but, for me, that is no excuse.(Even if Chutzpah is supposedly working to my benefit, I won’t use it. Last year, I watched in awe as one of my doctors made several nervy telephone calls on my behalf, which he knew I would never have made for myself. I had deeply mixed feelings about both the calls and him.)

    What do I do about unwarranted aggression now? Not much. It is not worth the effort to fight the harpies off. Instead, I take the passive route and let them have their way, but I do then avoid them to the point of rudeness if they persist.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I agree: The pushy woman in the first instance should have done everything possible not to cancel the meeting. Not to answer the email on the spot was another indication of her selfish approach to life. Her motto clearly is “me, me, me!” A trade editor friend told me of some PR people who never responded to her queries about their clients but when they wanted her to cover the client, they were excessively aggressive and hounded her to smithereens.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    GOOD FOR YOU! A former client decided to plan a second press event close to a first one–something I don’t recommend in any case. When, like you, I said, “Sure, let’s discuss it and when we do, I’ll tell you what it will cost as the PR budget and my retainer covered one, not two, press events over X period.” That was the end of the discussion.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I wish I was related to the woman who helped Cousin Jo get a pin at Van Cleef & Arpels at a fair price. I could see how Cousin Jo might have been taken aback–I wouldn’t have thought to ask. If said in a nice voice it wouldn’t have come off as chutzpah…and as it was done on behalf of someone else, it would fit under the category of “good deed” in my book, though it took a lot of nerve [though maybe not “some nerve”] given the snooty approach of the salesperson. I’d say it was for a worthy cause so maybe it was to the left or right of chutzpah!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Yes, Codger, I, too wish for a kinder, gentler world. Sometimes fighting for what I pay or ask for becomes exhausting. I tell everybody when something goes right which is a sad commentary. Shouldn’t it always?

    Not all aggression is bad. I have a friend who is looking for a job and she is amazing at following up. I don’t consider her showing interest as misplaced agression–it reflects her enthusiasm about the prospective job and were I hiring, I’d give her points for that.

    However, I wouldn’t recommend the stalking tactic of the woman in the first example of my post in any instance other than trying to reach someone to tell them that a friend or family member needed their help NOW.

  9. EAM Said:

    You may remember the show “Kate & Allie” from the 80’s. There is a hysterical scene from one of the episodes where I think, Allie’s ex-husband makes some demand and she calls her neighbor to find out what the word for nervy is that begins with a “CHUH”. You guessed it, chutzpah. I wish I could find it but it was only a small part of that episode.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I remember the show but not that episode that was well written and acted as it clearly stayed with you!

    Onamonapia is a wonderful thing.

  11. Lucrezia Said:

    How about graciously taking a bull by the horns and saying/messaging something like, “thank you for asking such an interesting question. My charges are……..,” followed by a cost list, “so let me know what you would like me to do.” Then sit and await developments. Only the most boneheaded individual(s) will not get the drift.

    What my foggy little brain doesn’t get is why one would consider hiring someone who one knows might not be able to handle the job.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I was in no rush to reply and when I did, while not those precise words, that was the gyst of my part of the conversation.

    I think I know the answer to your question. It reflects a situation that happens all the time: The person responsible for the project’s outcome has no control over the selection of who is on the team. I worked for a place like that once and have heard of countless other similar, stressful situations. Nevertheless, my heart doesn’t bleed and unless hired, my free advice on this project will remain very fuzzy.

  13. JBS Said:

    Wait until you retire. I found it darn near impossible to get freelance jobs, but boy did the Charities and others come calling. The ones I supported financially, I helped, but I told the others politely to go fly a kite. If they wouldn’t hire me, why did they think I would be delighted to do it for free?

  14. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You have hit a black and blue mark and many share your pain! On the other hand, I know people who would like charities to ask for their donated help–they’ve volunteered–and they aren’t asked for it. You clearly are in demand.

    Few want to pay for much if they don’t have to these days–it’s a contagious disease. I love sharing what I know with the students I mentor and to help friends and many have helped me, sharing sage experience/advice. If someone went to their hair stylist weeping that another stylist ruined their hair, would they expect a free cut or dye? NO. In service businesses however, it happens all the time. My instinct tells me when someone is taking advantage–though I’ve been fooled and I shudder when I remember the [few thank goodness] examples.

  15. DManzaluni Said:

    Despite being a hugely useful language for when english just doesn’t cover the precise situation, even yiddish doesn’t quite have a word for when chutzpa becomes so egregious that it crosses into the realm of crass stupidity.

    But there are examples.

    How about the people soliciting for service contracts or freelance work who email, and if editors or potential employers respond, pretend to put them through a stupid rigamarole of authenticating the sender on supposed email servers! Pretending that this is some sort of spam combatting procedure.

    This has been described by one of the funniest writers in America as not only shooting yourself in the foot, but emptying the whole barrel.

  16. jeanne Byington Said:

    D. Manzaluni,

    It’s been a while since I’ve bumped into one of those annoying tests. They strike me as the modern equivalent of paying the maitre d’ to bring a telephone to your table during a business lunch in 1940’s movies to let your guest + the room know how important and in demand you are.

    As for the barrel, what a great turn of phrase!

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