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.
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.