By Doug Kelly
Don’t you just love it when your caller ID shows an unfamiliar name or phone number but you answer anyway in the scant chance it’s not a telemarketing call? Unfortunately, 99 times out of 100 it turns into just that, with one of these typical first-liners:
- “Hello, this is Sarah calling on a recorded line. We’ve been trying to reach you about your car’s extended warranty.”
- “Hello, my name is Mike and I’m calling from WorldsLowestRates.com and we can save you 30% on your car insurance.”
- “This is an important message – do not hang up the phone. Your Google business listing needs updating.”
- “Congratulations, you just won a free vacation stay at Marriott.”
- “We recently paid cash for a house in your neighborhood and wondered if you might want to sell your house too?”
If it’s a robocall, I just hang up; if it’s a real person imposing on my time, after saying hello and hearing the start of a sales pitch I put the phone down and let him or her jabber on for a couple of minutes until hearing the off-the-hook tone. Maybe that sounds cruel, but if someone is essentially wasting my time, wasting his is fair game.
Sometimes, however, I’m in a devilish mood. I’ll fence with Mike by asking how much I’m now paying for car insurance. He’ll answers by fishing for details on what car I have and what I’m paying for coverage. “But Mike,” I’ll say innocently, “how do you know you can save me 30% if you don’t know what I’m paying now?”
Of course Mike doesn’t want to hear that. And it drives home the fact that my number was autodialed, that it connected to Mike sitting in a cubicle in a room with 30 other Mikes wearing headsets, he’s reading from a script, and doesn’t have the faintest idea how much I’m paying for car insurance. For that matter, he doesn’t even know if I own a car.
But I do partly sympathize. Years ago I did telemarketing for a company offering a lower cost for electrical bills. It involved a complicated process whereby the called person needed to first put down the phone and go find a past electric bill. Suffice it to say that that week represented a process of merciless self-flagellation. I dreaded each call connection because each subjected me to yet another exercise in masochism.
I lasted a mere five days along with most of the other folks who similarly licked their wounds and vamoosed via the exit door. But I also noted a few telemarketers in that boiler room who thrived and seemed totally unperturbed by rejection. I just didn’t possess their thick skin to handle hang-ups 95 percent of the time and the other five percent pressuring hostile strangers on the phone.
I did have one stock answer for those who actually took my call and inevitably asked, “Where’s the catch?” My sarcastic answer: “It’s in the trunk of my car, I’ll go out and get it.”
No wonder I never got any sales.
Close on the heels of telemarketing headaches is when your phone number used to be owned by someone who ran up a lot of debt. I still occasionally get calls from collection agencies hoping to locate the deadbeat who formerly possessed my cell number. After stating that so-and-so ditched the number four years ago and yet the same agencies again come looking for him, they only finally remove me from their lists when I say that so-and-so is indeed here but he’s busy with their mothers.
I seem to be a magnet for a variety of phone snafus. My family was stationed at Homestead Air Force Base south of Miami in the 1960s. Our phone number happened to be one digit off from that of the base motor pool. After constant calls to our residence to request a vehicle for visiting officers, Dad’s pleas to the base operator to change either the motor pool’s number or ours fell on deaf ears.
Thereafter, whenever alone in the house and a call came in from some bigwig asking for a car, I’d pretend to be an airman at the motor pool. Even as a young teen my voice sounded like an adult’s.
A typical conversation went thusly: “This is Colonel Williams from the Pentagon. I need a car delivered to the Visiting Officers Quarters immediately.”
“Yes sir, it’ll be there in ten minutes.”
About 15 minutes later, the phone would ring. “Hey, this is Colonel Williams. Where in hell is the car I requested? I’m going to be late for a meeting.”
“Oh, sorry, I had to take a dump. I’ll be right over with the car.” I’d then abruptly hang up.
The next call would find Colonel Williams demanding my name. Disguising my voice this time, I’d inform him that he must have dialed the wrong number as this wasn’t the motor pool. After that scenario played out several times over the next few months, the motor pool’s number was changed. I still sympathize for the poor souls at the motor pool who undoubtedly got their fannies chewed out.
Similarly, years later when living in Miami, I soon discovered that my phone number and that of a nearby apartment complex to be nearly the same. After receiving dozens of calls from interested renters, I politely asked the apartment owner if he could change the number. He uttered two words to me that were not Merry Christmas and slammed the phone down in my ear.
Big mistake. The next few wrong numbers found me telling curious renters about a door-buster special on a two-bedroom apartment for only $200 per month.
“OMG, when can I come see it?”
“Be here tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. sharp, and knock hard on the manager’s door.”
It wasn’t long before the apartment complex changed its phone number.
I only wish it would be that easy dissuading those pesky telemarketing calls.