Mirram Webster dictionary online defines etiquette as follows - the rules indicating the proper and polite way to behave. Okay, that's fair. However I think that it leaves off something at the end. I think it should read 'the rules indicating the proper and polite way to behave according to the situation you are in'.
For example, we all know about regular social etiquette, dinner table etiquette, job interview etiquette, business etiquette, email etiquette, wedding etiquette, bachelor/bachelorette party etiquette (really?), children's etiquette, blog etiquette, and so on, and so on. For nearly any situation you may find yourself in that involves other human beings, there is etiquette for it.
I think I've mentioned before that I work for myself and one of my clients is a major electronics manufacturer. I may have failed to mention that I help manage their online chat application. Even chat has etiquette although most of the rules that I have seen revolve around dealing with others in a social IM situation. What I'm talking about is when you go to a chat application that is tied to a company or online store. Where the chatter is there to assist you on behalf of an online store. Most people don't even think about it, but there are definitely ways to make everyone's experience with it better.
1. Most online chatters responses are timed and that is one of their key attainment metrics. So, when they say 'just one moment while I research that for you.' their response clock stops. If you say 'thank you' or 'ok' or anything at all it starts their clock again.
2. I assure you when you are online chatting with someone who is representing a store, they are a real person. No need to ask if they are a robot or a machine as your first question. It's annoying and insulting. They are not. If they were you would be able to tell.
3. If it takes 30 seconds or less to get a response, there is no need to type things like 'Hello???' 'Are you there???' That's just snotty. I'm sorry but there is no other way to say it. If you ask a question the person on the other end of that chat may or may not know the answer off the top of their head. If it is a product question, consider how many items that store has on its site. If they say that they are going to check on that, just let them do it.
4. Most chatters who are working for an online store or other service aren't at liberty to answer personal questions. So they may come across as evasive. They don't mean to be, but they can't answer them the way they would over the phone or in person so don't ask.
5. In the event that the chat agent doesn't have the information you want or tells you that they don't have the tools to knock off an extra percentage off the total bill or whatever, don't berate them about it. I assure you that they aren't trying to be deliberately unhelpful (most of the time) and would much rather be able to help you than endure the badgering.
With all that said, I do understand that there are some stinky chat services out there that don't deserve the time you spend with them. For those I say, if you come in contact with a bad chat service, tell your friends, blog about it, whatever but don't go back. That is really the only way the store will get the message is if the chat traffic slows way down.
I wasn't going for preachy, I swear. More like a PSA to lubricate the wheels of online service chat.