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Tripped Up By Time Zones

People often ask me if I enjoy what I do. One of the fun parts of my job is doing interviews for national and local media around the United States as well as international outlets. Usually these interviews take place without a hitch. The hardest aspect of organizing the interviews is being sure of the time zone - mine and my interviewer’s- so we connect.

My first time zone fiasco happened several years ago when I scheduled a conference call with a person who was located in Singapore. The time zone problem in that case was compounded by the international dateline that runs through the Pacific Ocean. The international dateline is confusing. For instance it’s Tuesday on the east side of the line but a few feet to the west of the line it’s Wednesday. The call was set for 8:00 AM on Monday, Singapore time. So, I assumed that was 8:00 PM my time in Vermont. When I got to work Monday morning I was surprised to receive an email from my Singapore contact asking why I had missed our meeting. The international dateline had tripped me. We managed to connect a day or two later, but I was embarrassed not to know that I should have been ready for the call on Sunday at 8:00 PM.

Earlier this week I experienced another time zone hiccup. A person scheduled me for an interview at noon with a radio station in Las Vegas. I then received an update indicating the interview was moved to 9:00 AM eastern time. I checked back with the scheduler to confirm it was for 9:00 AM eastern time. At 9:00 AM eastern I tried several times to reach the station. Then I called the producer. No answer. Tried again. No answer, so I left a message explaining the problem. Tried a third time. No answer, and again I left a message with my cell number. About five minutes later the producer calls. She says the interview is, in fact, scheduled for noon eastern time, which is 9:00 AM in Las Vegas. I apologized and told her I’d call back at the correct time.

As I hung up, I realized why my calls hadn’t been answered: It was 6:00 AM her time when I tried to reach her. Oops. My belated apologies to her for waking her up.

Take care when scheduling calls or appointments that you define not just the clock time but the time zone for each person. You’ll save a lot of hassles and embarrassment.

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News." Follow Post: @PeterLPost. The 3rd edition of Peter Post's The Etiquette Advantage in Business is now available at emilypost.com.

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