Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ask a stupid question

All my working life, I have been dealing with stupid questions. They mostly come from people who are too lazy to follow directions.

For example, when I worked for a recycling nonprofit, I fielded all the inquiries that came through the contact form. At the top of the form, we had posted a list of questions we could not answer. Of course, this did not stop people from asking those same questions on a regular basis. I started compiling a list of the dumbest questions so that I could eventually blog about them, but I always chickened out, afraid it would cost me my job...and sometime since I left the job, I lost the list.

I get a few eye-roller questions here at my current job (though I think I've intimidated most of our users into thinking twice before sending me a question). But by far the stupidest questions I get nowadays are from my potential guests on Airbnb. In my listing, I describe my living situation and the surrounding area in great detail. Almost any question that people could think to ask about my accommodations is answered. I post at the top of my listing a plea (in capital letters!) for people to read the whole listing before asking a question or making a booking request. But almost every day, I receive an inquiry from some lazy oaf who wants to know how close I am to the airport and DC and public transportation (see section "Getting Around") and how much the room costs (see first line of listing). I get complaints from guests who were not expecting me to have pets, even though I have dedicated a whole paragraph to explaining about the dog, the rabbit, and their respective shedding habits, and I include a picture of them both in the photos section.

I list my room at the lowest price in my metropolitan area (It costs approximately as much to stay in my house with a private room, an outfitted bed, a kitchen, free towels, and central heat as it does to rent a campsite and bring your own tent). But just yesterday, I got a singular inquiry from a potential guest from Viet Nam wanting to know "Can you give me more discount for Vietnamese?" This person also wanted to know whether I was close to DC. Well, with two stupidity strikes against them, I didn't even want their money. I declined their inquiry without another word.

The moral of this story is, if you were contemplating asking someone a question today, contemplate this first: When the answer is right under your nose but you refuse to look for it, you're only sending the message that you value your own time more than that of the person you're asking—hardly the right way to begin an interaction. If you can do just one thing to make this world a better place, it's to do your research before you ask a question. Oh, and if your question is about whether you can get a discount for being Vietnamese, better to not ask at all.