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How Late is Too Late to Call?

My entire life, I have suffered from Too Late To Call anxiety.  There were the people who made my life easy by saying something like, “I go to bed at 8 pm.”  Cool, if I know you go to bed at 8 pm, I don’t call after 8 pm.  Easy to know that 9 pm would be too late to call.

But what about everyone else?

I feel like 11 pm — unless you’ve been told otherwise by the person — is too late to call across the board.  No one appreciates a call at 11 pm.  What about 10 pm?  Most people I know are still awake at 10 pm.  Is it okay to call them then?  I mean, you’re not waking them up, and if they don’t feel like talking, they won’t pick up the phone.  If that’s too late, is 9 pm okay?  9:30?

What is the cut-off time for calling a family member?  A friend?  A complete stranger?  Is it different depending on your relationship with the person?  Or does that not matter: is there a polite cut-off time across the board?  And if there is, what is it?

Moreover, what is too early to call?  My general rule is 8 am for a weekday, 9 or 10 am for a weekend.  I may be playing it too safe, but I get so cranky when someone wakes me up that I never want to be the person who calls and wakes up someone else.

This isn’t usually an issue because who has time to chit chat at 8 am?  But if we’re defining what is too late to call (and I subsequently have another question based on the number we arrive at), we should probably get a working range for too early to call too.

So weekdays AND weekends (unless it’s the same time regardless of the day): what is the acceptable start time for making phone calls and what is the latest time you can call someone and still be polite (the exception being people who have told you not to call after a certain hour)?


1 Her Royal Fabulousness { 07.02.13 at 7:40 am }

I’m with you. On weekdays, I say 8am and 8pm are the boundaries unless it is really important. On weekends I say a 9am start and 8pm finish are kindest. Of course if you had asked this question 10 years ago I would have said 12pm and 11am for weekends. 🙂

2 N { 07.02.13 at 8:10 am }

No earlier than 8 on weekdays, though I even usually go with 9. Business hours. 😉

On weekends, unless I’ve set it up, I usually dot call before 10.

As for too late… I don’t know. I don’t go to sleep until midnight or 1, but there is a part of me that feels like past 8 is too late anyway. I don’t know why, though.

I used to have a lot of the same anxieties, but actually the prevalence of cell phones has helped me a lot with it, because people can choose to answer or not, and most people I know, unless they also use it for business, put their phone on silent when they’re done dealing with people for the day. And if I still feel anxious about it, I can always text, knowing they’ll get it later.

(Of course most of this is a moot point, as I almost never call anybody, and very rarely answer my own phone.)

3 Carolyn Savage { 07.02.13 at 8:11 am }

I don’t like calling after 10 pm. I will call someone after 7 am on weekdays if I know they are a mom or are going to work–usually only for an urgent issue, though.

I say, when in doubt…text.

4 Heather { 07.02.13 at 8:50 am }

Friends? I usually know their schedules so I’ll call based on what I know.
Acquaintances? My cut off is 8:30pm. Unless they tell me: I’m up until X time.
Total Strangers? I will never call after 7pm. Only because I have no idea what is going on in their lives.
Morning time is hard. I never call in the morning. I had an occasion recently where I had to get a hold of an acquaintance before school started (PTO business). I knew she was getting her son ready for school that started at 8:20. So, when I looked at the clock and saw 7:15 I called. Everyone was up getting ready for the day. That’s the only time I’ll ever call in the morning.
Weekends, my cut off time to call at night are the same as above.
Family? Hell, they have to put up with me calling no matter what time 🙂

5 a { 07.02.13 at 8:51 am }

10 pm was always the cutoff in my house. However, my aunts would always tell us that they did not answer the phone past 7 pm – anything later than that could wait for the morning. I can sort of see the point, there. However, I still stick with my 10 pm cutoff. No calls after that. It even used to (sort of) bother me when my husband would call from overseas. He’d be getting up right when I was trying to go to bed!

I don’t like to call anyone before 9 am, unless I am absolutely certain they will be up. 10 am on weekends.

None of this is really relevant to me anyway, because I hardly ever call anyone. 🙂

6 Amy { 07.02.13 at 8:52 am }

I don’t like calling after 9. If I get a call after 9 I feel I cut the person short because I usually have that “I’m done” feeling. I don’t call before 8 a.m. unless the person and I have plans for that day or I have somewhat of an emergency.

7 Tigger { 07.02.13 at 9:06 am }

I don’t call after 10 or before 8 most of the time. Now, my MIL is a night owl, so calling her at 11pm or after noon is a good idea. She’s not awake at 8am! But unless it’s an emergency, I don’t call after 10pm or before 8am. I find that just rude. Every time we get a call between 10pm and 8am, I freak out a little, wondering if something is wrong with someone.

8 Blanche { 07.02.13 at 9:11 am }

Growing up, I was taught that the evening call cut-off was 8pm so that’s what I’ve stuck with. Mornings are a bit fuzzier since I’m not usually ready to call anyone in the morning – but I guess 8am or so. Any calls earlier than that are usually bad news. Besides, most of our mornings are so scheduled that a phone call of any length would make me late and so I project that on everyone else, except my parents who I know are up at the crack of dawn regardless.

9 Another Dreamer { 07.02.13 at 9:17 am }

Well, everyone who knows me personally (IRL, not spammers or debt collectors) know you aren’t going to get an answer before noon. I generally rise 10-11am, and I am not awake enough to talk until I’ve had breakfast! As for how late to call me, my sister regularly calls me from midnight to 1am (different time zones) because she knows I don’t usually go to sleep until then, and she calls me when she’s headed into work (night shift). I’ve always been a night owl, which is why working third shift fit me so well. Everyone knows that. Morning is beautiful, but if I’m out before 9am, I usually look disoriented and say something along the lines of, “So this is what this time of day looks like!” Sunrises are beautiful, but beauty isn’t of much use when you can’t function.

That said, like you, I never know when it’s acceptable to call someone. I try not to call after 8pm, but if it’s a fellow night owl I will call/text later (generally texting first to make sure they’re awake). I don’t like calling late even if I know they stay up though, because I don’t really like taking calls an hour before bed. I have a routine, and I like to stick with it.

10 Denver Laura { 07.02.13 at 9:39 am }

I guess it’s a southern thing, but I don’t call between 6 pm – 7 pm. Not that everybody has dinner then, but I just can’t get that out of my head. I don’t call after 9 pm or before 9 am. My mother, however, is “on call” at any point. She has told me as much.

Thing that grates on my nerves, I live in MDT. As in, 2 hours BEHIND the East coast. So when my BIL in Virginia decides to text my husband at 7 am… Yeah, not on my fav list most weekends.

11 Gail { 07.02.13 at 9:43 am }

The latest someone should call (unless there is an emergency) is 9:30, regardless of the day of the week. That way, any conversation will be over by 10:00, which I deem to be the official end to any phone use (and it is also the time when noise ordinances kick in as well). I’ve had a few friends text me later to ask if it was okay to call. I definitely think that is a good idea, too. If the person doesn’t answer the text, they don’t want to be called, either.

As for what time to start calls in the morning, I would go with 8 am on weekdays and 9 am on weekends. I think most of the working world or those with children are up before 8 am on a weekday, but that time allows someone to actually be alert. On weekends, I would give them an extra hour. I don’t know what the noise ordinances are for morning activities (lawn mowing), but I always wait to start our outdoor activities until those times out of respect.

12 Brookes4boys { 07.02.13 at 9:59 am }

We do 9am and 9pm, no matter the day. That is the rule we have set for our children to make and receive calls from their friends and I think it is a good rule of thumb for anyone

13 gwinne { 07.02.13 at 10:01 am }

Mostly I believe calls should be made between 9;00 am and 9:00 pm. My exceptions are people I know are definitely awake because they have small children (am) and folks I know are definitely awake because they are night owls (pm).

14 Lindz { 07.02.13 at 10:06 am }

I was raised that you don’t call after 9pm or before 9am unless someone is dead or dying. My parents still follow this. My MIL doesn’t answer her phone after 7, so if we call at an “unusual” (aka not predetermined) we end up talking to the answering machine until she gets to the phone and determines that we aren’t telemarketers.

15 Paula { 07.02.13 at 10:17 am }

During the week, I’d go with 8 am too. My mother had what we always called the ten o’clock rule on weekends and other non-work days; calling before then was at one’s own peril. It stuck with me in that I don’t call people before 10 on weekends, and prefer that others not call me before then either.

16 loribeth { 07.02.13 at 10:55 am }

I wouldn’t presume to call anyone before about 9 a.m., unless I knew they were going to be up. I had/have an uncle who was a farmer & since he was always up at the crack of dawn to feed the animals, etc., he seemed to assume everyone else was too. If the phone rang/rings at my parents’ house at 6:30 or 7 a.m., you know it’s probably him. :p

(As an aside, I wish this rule would apply to commuter trains & cellphones as well. I have heard so many people sitting & chatting for the entire trip like they were in their living rooms — at 6:45 in the morning. I’m still half asleep and I find it incredibly annoying. Who the heck are they talking to at this hour of the morning & can it not wait until they get to the comfort of their living room or office where the rest of us don’t have to listen too??)

In the evening, I generally would not call anyone after 9 p.m. & I don’t like to receive calls after that either. The one exception would be my parents. They are night owls, & most people know they can call them late at night & they’ll be up. So dh & I will be tucked in bed when we’re visiting them, half asleep & the calls will start coming in, one after the other, at 11 & 12. :p

17 Heidi { 07.02.13 at 11:12 am }

I’m amazed by how many people have the 9 AM and 9 PM rule. That was the iron-clad rule in my household growing up (I’m 50), and I’ve pretty much adhered to it going forward, unless it’s urgent before-school business. I have a friend who’s several years older and who also grew up with that guideline; it was a joke between us, and when the phone in either of our houses rang at precisely 9 AM, we always knew it must be the other one.

18 k { 07.02.13 at 11:41 am }

No earlier than 8am, unless it’s a school day and I’m calling or being called by another parent with carpool needs. As for evenings, probably no later than 8 or 9. The thing though is that I do a LOT more texting than calling, and my close friends and I can sometimes text well into the night, past midnight if a conversation is good. The great thing is that I don’t have to interrupt a thought because the kids are out of their room, again, and I can do things like laundry and chores while texting and still carry on a conversation. So the rules go out the window with texting – again only among close friends though.

19 Catwoman73 { 07.02.13 at 1:54 pm }

At our house, unless it’s an emergency, we prefer people not call between 9pm and 7am. If we get calls between these hours, we assume that a family member is having a medical emergency, and we panic (imagine how pi$$ed off we are when it’s a telemarketer! Yes, we have had calls from them after 9:00…). My work is the only exception- they can call as late as 11pm, or as early as 5am without me losing my shit.

20 Turia { 07.02.13 at 4:56 pm }

Growing up, our cut off was 10 p.m., and I guess we’ve stuck with that, although I agree with a lot of other people that I try not to make calls after 9 p.m. and get weirded out when our phone rings after that hour.

Mornings are harder. Probably 8 a.m. on a weekday and a bit later on the weekend unless I know they are always up earlier/later. But I don’t usually need to call someone first thing in the morning, unless it’s something really serious, in which case I’m probably not going to wait until 8 a.m. anyway.

21 Chickenpig { 07.02.13 at 4:57 pm }

My pet peeve is people who call between 5-8 pm in my house. It is so busy at that time that I don’t have a minute to talk to anyone, and yet I have family members that insist on wanting to chat at that time. The time I am most free to talk is between 8:30 and 10. If the phone rings after 9:30-10:00 I assume it is an emergency so it makes me nervous. I won’t call other people after 9 unless I know that they are awake or want me to call them then.

22 Jo { 07.02.13 at 6:12 pm }

Growing up, our rule was 10 am to 10 pm. I’ve kept to that as an adult, as well.

23 Bionic { 07.02.13 at 6:39 pm }

Particularly post-baby, I am colossally unimpressed by phone calls after 9, or really 8:30. Partly this has to do with our particular kid’s un-sleeping habits, but really, unless you are my mother or a very close friend, I need some down time at the end of the day. I generally don’t call before 10 in the morning, but that’s less of an issue in our lives as far as receiving calls, since lord knows the child is up.

24 GeekChic { 07.02.13 at 6:40 pm }

The rule growing up was that you know what someone’s schedule is like before calling because family and close friends were on shift work (police, doctors, fire, soldiers) so no “civilian” schedule would cut it. I still remember the binder of schedules on the shelf near the phone. If you had to deal with a “civilian” the rule was calls should be between 9 am and 9 pm in the person you are calling’s time zone (not yours).

In my personal life I still follow the “know someone’s schedule” rule. My friends find me amusing to call because I don’t have a cell – so no texting to see if I’m up or otherwise available to talk (I can sleep through the phone quite easily so it doesn’t bother me if people call while I’m sleeping).

25 Elana Kahn { 07.02.13 at 6:51 pm }

Unless I know someone is up earlier, 8am is the earliest I would call someone. I try not to call too much after 9pm, unless I know the person is still awake. I know I can call one of my relatives after 11pm most nights and she’ll be up, but if I call in the morning before 10 or 11am, she is probably still sleeping.

26 Wolfers { 07.02.13 at 8:12 pm }

I don’t call and folks don’t call me. 😀 emails and texts are sufficient. It’s rare that I have to make a call..usually for a doctor appointment.

27 Alexicographer { 07.02.13 at 10:16 pm }

My mother taught me the 9 to 9 rule and I abide by it, except I will call (close) family about (important/immediate) matters until 10 (I will of course also call anyone who needs to be called about an urgent matter at any time but only because the 9 to 9 rule doesn’t apply to those). And obviously the 9-9 is their time zone, not yours, if they are different.

If someone gives me a different set of rules (“a good time to reach me is between 10 and 11 pm”) I will call them then, assuming of course it is feasible for me to do so.

I would call another parent before e.g. school started (if they have a kid in my kid’s school), if I needed to do so, but only for a pressing matter. But then, I rarely if ever call anyone to chit chat, as I most like to do my chatting in person or, on the many occasions that’s infeasible, via email.

28 Battynurse { 07.03.13 at 12:15 am }

I usually make it a point not to call most people after 8 or 9pm. I do have a few people I know get up early so I generally don’t think it’s bad to call them around 7am but wouldn’t call most that early. Of course all of this is on the basis that I actually call people which I rarely do. I’m really bad at picking up the phone and calling people. Not because I don’t want to talk to them but because I’m afraid they don’t want to talk to me.

29 Kacey { 07.03.13 at 3:09 am }

I don’t call before 9am or after 9pm unless I know their schedule well enough to know that an earlier/later call is ok.

30 Ana { 07.03.13 at 11:31 am }

I never actually call anyone anymore. When I did, if it was a close friend/family member, I’d stick to the schedule I knew they kept. For acquaintances, 8AM on weekdays, 11AM on weekends unless urgent (mainly because I liked to sleep in myself), and 9PM any night. I once was awoken at 5AM by a family friend inviting me to dinner. They were early birds. I assumed someone had died getting a call at that hour. WTF.

31 minniek { 07.03.13 at 2:27 pm }

I rarely talk to anyone on the phone. I will occasionally talk on the phone to two very good friends who live out of state, and I will only call them when we’ve scheduled a “phone date” – usually the scheduling is done via email or text. I have friends in almost every time zone in the U.S. For texts, I always take that into consideration. I won’t text between (their) hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. If I am afraid I’ll forget what I wanted to tell them, I just email instead because all my friends check it first thing in the a.m. anyway.
That said, I am notorious for ignoring texts that happen between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. That time is either family time, study time, or sleeping time. If its an emergency, people should call, not text, anyway. (Of course, that means that when I do get a call at 8 a.m., I assume someone is in the hospital or something.)

32 Melanie { 07.03.13 at 4:05 pm }

I am a late night person, so my ingrained feeling of what is too late or too early is much different from the majority of the world. But I used to be a telemarketer and the laws we had to go by were 9 am and 9 pm, weekday or weekend, so that’s what I try to stick to. Unless I know the person is up earlier or later. I am usually up well past midnight, but if someone called me after 10 pm or so it would freak me out. And if someone calls earlier than 8 am, oh no. just don’t do it. haha.

33 Amy Elaine { 07.03.13 at 8:14 pm }

I love this question. A few months ago, an ex-co-worker of mine (she had retired) called me on my land line at 10pm. When I answered the phone, it was pretty obvious she woke me up. She asked cheerily, “Did I wake you up?” when I said yes – she started chatting. No “sorry, let’s talk tomorrow”. Our phone call was disconnected and I thought good deal. I hung up. She. called. back. I picked it up and hung it up. She. called. back. I picked it up and informed her that my husband had to be to work at 7am the next morning, that she was being rude and she should stop. calling. The next day she had the NERVE to facebook me and ask me “are you all right? I am worried about you”. Srsly? Srsly.

34 magpie { 07.03.13 at 9:58 pm }

When I was a kid, there was a family who you couldn’t call before noon, ever – because the father worked nights and would be sleeping.

35 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 07.04.13 at 11:43 am }

Definitely differs depending on the person. And the channel. I text later than I would call.

36 Ellie { 01.21.16 at 9:11 pm }

I am not really sure when ill stop and start picking up the phone, but i feel rude calling anyone before 9 any day. If i am calling a friend and its after 10:30 ill text then call. I always feel weird calling a not very close friend thats not expecting my calls home phone.

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