Saturday 1 August 2009

Hello, how are you today?

I hate telemarketing. You pay unreasonable charges for a phone account, and some company then has free rein to interrupt your evening with a sales spiel that you haven't solicited and don't want. They pay nothing, considering the privilege of commandeering your valuable time a freebie. I ask, is that fair?

Then there's the problem of how to get rid of the caller - someone sitting comfortably in a call center in Mumbai (or even worse, Australia) - without being wantonly rude. Yes, I know some people take sadistic delight in getting back at telemarketers, but I suspect that they also took pleasure pulling wings off flies as kids. The voice at the end of the line is just doing a job, and any job is better than no job at the moment. That said, if they want to try hawking and peddling their dubious goods and services, fine, but kindly give me a miss.

Two recent local news stories coalesced to drive me to do more than grin and bear it. Epilepsy NZ, a worthy organization that does a lot of good, has severed ties with a fundraising agency called the Epilepsy Foundation after it was revealed that, as reported in the NZ Herald, "only a small fraction of 2.8 million collected for the charity was actually spent for the cause it was collected." Most of the rest went to - you guessed it - the telemarketer. Charities are particularly difficult to hang up on, but given the piddling amount Epilepsy NZ actually received, my "bowels of tele-compassion" have been permanently blocked. Yes, it's a good thing to give, but a really dumb idea to give over the phone.

Around the same time consumer advocacy television show Fair Go publicized a way of circumventing most of those calls: by registering as a "no call" with the Marketing Association. Last year I contacted the phone company (the much-beloved Telecom) to find out just that information, but their frustratingly unhelpful help-desk had no idea what I was talking about.

It was a no-brainer to register, and in the days since the calls definitely seem to have dried up. But no system is 100% effective, and in the spirit of "fight fire with fire" I also wrote a script to read to any telemarketer who still dared to squat like a parasite on the other end of my phone line. I figure this is only playing fair... they have their script, I have mine (which now sits permanently beside the phone.) Today was the first chance to use it.

G: Hello?
TM: Hello, am I speaking to...
G: Is this a direct marketing or telemarketing call?
TM: (pause) Well, I'm actually calling on behalf of a...
G: This number is registered with the Marketing Association as a "do not call." It should not appear on your database."
TM: Uh, that's okay, thank y...
G: Please do not call again. (Hang up)

It quite made my day.


Anonymous said...

i just use Caller ID. if I don't recognize the name/number of the caller, i don't answer. and i never answer calls from "800" numbers.
there is a phone on the market that allows you to block unwanted numbers. all you will here is a short ring. i'll be ordering one soon.

        AMERICAN KABUKI said...

Just ask them "have you given your heart to Jesus yet?"... I find that stops them dead in their tracks. Telemarketers do not like the tables being turned on throws them off script. They're like turtles on their backs, little green legs flailing away but going no where fast.

Similarly when JW's ring the front doorbell, ask them, "Have you read Jesus' other gospel, The Book of Mormon"?

And when the Mormons call at the door, just say "Lord Satan and Beelzebub beckons you entrance... let me cast a spell on your bicycle...muhahahahah...." Its more than those fresh young 18 year old minds can handle, all those old religious superstitions kick in so fast!

But a simple stone Buddha outside the front door is often enough to deter most of them.

Phrontistes said...

Gavin, registering with a do not call list can come back to bite you in the backside. A couple of years ago the Canadian government ruled that the telemarketers association had to establish such a list. So far, so good. Tens of thousands of Canadians rushed to sign up. Of course, all the telemarketers had to have access to the list so they would know who not to call. That worked great for a while, until the telemarketers figured out the law was only enforceable for Canadian telemarketers. So they simply moved there operations across the border into the US. Thanks to our goverment the telemarketers now have a huge new list of numbers that they can call.

Phrontistes said...

As noted in a previous post, your method of telling them you are on the do not call list wouldn't be much good here. Indeed, they are grateful you're on the list, that's how they got the number. We have another method, which in my opinion is much more fun.

TM: Hello, how are you today?

Pron: Oh, I am so glad you asked! I have just been diagnosed with testicular cancer. My wife just left me because she doesn't want to be around anyone who can no longer provide for her "special needs". On top of all that, the dog just pooped all over the living room rug, and Aunt Mabel just phoned to inform me that she is my real mother via the milkman.....

By the time I get this far the line has usually gone dead. :-))

larry said...

come on guys! (and gals)

Telemarketers have a very tough job. You certainly do not seem inclined to make it any easier for them. For some of these folks, it is the only gainful employment they are capable of. Have a heart.

Richard said...

So you now have a new appreciation for the COG's who promise "no follow-up, no request for money" -- right???

Anonymous said...

all you will hear is a short ring.

sheesh, i should proof read my posts before submitting them.

Anonymous said...

For anyone who is contemplating purchasing prescription meds on line ... beware

We receive an average of 2 to 3 calls per day, non-stop, all of which originate from India. We have tried numerous approaches:
wrong number, the person is deceased (which doesn't deter them, so we offer them a copy of the deceased death certificate); identity theft, no such person. This has been going on for years now.

My advice: if you purchase anything on-line, use all zeroes as a telephone number.

camfinch said...

"i just use Caller ID. if I don't recognize the name/number of the caller, i don't answer. and i never answer calls from "800" numbers."

Exactly. Glory hallelujah for caller ID! I almost never answer calls from numbers I don't recognize, unless perhaps it's from an area code from which I'm expecting someone (a business, whatever) to call me. And never from toll-free numbers. I figure it's this simple: if it's someone who really needs to talk to me, they'll leave a voice mail.

In the U.S., the do-no-call registry prevents cold calling, but allows ANY company that has had dealings with you in the past to call you. And non-profit orgs. are exempt from do-not-call. If any of this has changed, someone please correct me.

Mel said...

One thing worth noting:
If you get a call from a telemarketer or an unfamiliar source, don't say the word, "yes", or "uh-huh", or anything that can be construed as an affirmative answer.

I once got "slammed", and ended up with a long distance phone company I didn't want.
When I complained, they said they had my voice on recording saying, "yes", claiming I had consented to the switch.
It took a few calls(one to them, one to the FCC, and another back to them telling them exactly what the FCC told me to tell them), but I was released from it after one billing cycle.

Apparently, that long distance phone company was doing some sleight-of-hand and recording the victims' "yes" word and pasting it into a phony larger 'conversation' in order to back up their fake claims that people consented to use their service.

What's next? Joe Junior coming down from the mountainous golf green with a "new commandment" on a stone tablet that he claims to be written by the finger of God, which reads, "THOU SHALL NOT ASK FOR ACCOUNTABILITY FROM PIRATES"?