Have Americans Forgotten Their Manners?

ByABC News
November 25, 2003, 8:30 AM

Dec. 2 -- You know the type. The kind who knocks your shoulder with no apology in his rush to his very important meeting. The one who unloads 37 items at the "10 Items or Less" lane. The harried shopper who barks orders at sales staff as though she's the only customer.

People can be rude and it appears rude people are on the rise.

After a surge of goodwill among fellow Americans following the Sept. 11 attacks, manner experts and others have observed a marked drop in courtesy. At a post-Thanksgiving sale last week, for example, Florida shoppers trampled a woman and rendered her unconscious in their rush to a Wal-Mart sale, while in Louisiana, video captured a shoving match between shoppers.

One survey commissioned from ORC International by Lenox, a gift company, confirms an increase in such brusque behavior. The survey found more than one-third of 1,000 people polled rate the manners of Americans as poor. That's nearly a 50 percent jump from 2002 and a 65 percent drop from results of the same poll in 2001.

Of course, none of these rude people include ourselves or so we believe. Most Americans rate their own manners as well, quite excellent.

And therein lies the rub, say etiquette instructors.

"Etiquette is not just about what fork to use," said Sandra Morisset, a professional etiquette trainer in New York City. "It's all about your self awareness and treating others with respect. If you're not aware of your behavior, that's a problem."

Economy, Parents, Tech to Blame?

Why do we behave the way we do? Ask a dozen people and you'll get a dozen answers from hard times to bad parenting to too much technology. All seem to point to a "me" focused society.

Among accounts solicited from ABCNEWS.com readers, many blame bad behavior on new generations. "Young people believe they are "entitled" to almost anything," says Donna Dickerson of Tampa, Fla.

Read accounts from readers here.