My Irish colleague told me that when talking to a customer over the phone asking:"come again?" is considered rude and even offensive since it is very informal and almost demanding.
Now I did not really believe him, since I think there is more to words than just the words themselves, like the context and the tone of voice. Was it not 90% how you say it and 10% what you say?
Anyway. In Ireland I witnessed several ways to ask a person to repeat themselves.
Starting with "aha?" Or the "he?" Used by the Irish-man I talked to myself quite often. Next I'd put "what?"
Compared to these I'd classify "come again" not as impolite and rude especially when I say it in a polite almost deferential tone of voice.
For comparison. In Germany we have the "Was?" = "what" and the "Wie bitte?" = "How please?" the latter being the official polite way of asking to repeat. Which is quite short and since I find it awkward to say: "Can you repeat that please?" several times in a phone conversation over a bad line, I find "come again" quite similar to "Wie bitte?", just lacking the please, and appropriate.
What do you guys say about this?
PS: Compared to How do you decide which phrase to use when asking people to repeat what they said? I'm not asking about a ranking.
I'm more asking if "Come again?" is more like "Fuck you" or more like "You are brilliant". The difference being, that one of them you probably have a hard time of making sound polite or appreciating. Though it can be done, but I guess not to a complete stranger.