M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Monday, February 10, 2003  

Courtesy Call

It’s tough to write a daily blog without falling back on bitching about telemarketers at least once in a while. But there’s a reason I haven’t done it so much. And it’s not pretty.

There’s something I have to confess. If, upon reading it, you’re seized by an overpowering urge to close your browser window and never come back, I won’t blame you. Just hear me out first.

I used to be a telemarketer.

Actually, it could be argued that what I did was even worse than telemarketing. I was a “telephone solicitor.” That doesn’t mean I wandered the streets asking people for spare phones. No, I called people at home. In the evening. During the dinner hour. To ask them for money. I wasn’t even offering anything in return. I was just asking for donations. And if you gave one? That just made it more likely that we’d call you again in a year.

The only way I was able to live with myself while doing this job was by sucking at it. And thus I was fired after less than a year. But I still felt that I had a karmic debt to repay, so for years I was nice to telemarketers who called my house. I never gave money or bought anything, mind you, but I was still nice about it. I did that for ten years and called it even. Now I’m much more of a hard-ass; if they keep trying to sell me after I’ve said “no, thanks,” once, I hang up. Yeah, telemarketers reading this are trembling in fear.

Interestingly, last week I got a call from someone who does the exact same job I used to do, for the same institution. “I’m just going to stop you there,” I said pleasantly after listening a few words of the same rote pitch that I used to blurt out. “I used to have the same job you’re doing, and it sucks, and it’s not your fault, but I’m not contributing, okay?” I think she may have been a little amused, perhaps a little appreciative. But she was definitely thrown. And I can tell you from experience that if the telemarketer is thrown, then you’ve won. She let me off the phone with a half-giggled “okay.”

I’ve heard all of the allegedly humorous and effective ways of getting rid of telemarketers. From putting the phone down on the counter and walking away to belting showtunes into the mouthpiece to asking for a minute to consult with “Lord Satan,” none of them are really my style. But the other night, I accidentally stumbled on a method that I can’t wait to try out again.

Telemarketer: Hello, I’m calling from MCI, your long-distance company about a rate reduction.

Me: Oh, yeah, I’ve kind of been shopping around for a better long-distance plan.


Me: Does the new plan have that local access service charge?

Telemarketer: …um…

Me: Because the local phone company charges you $1.95 a month to let you access their lines and you pass that fee on to us.

Telemarketer: Naw…

Me: Really? Because I called about it when it showed up on my bill.

Everything I’ve said to this person is true, by the way. But at this point, I remember that MCI is not “my” long-distance company at all. Merely “a” long-distance company, as far as I’m concerned. As soon as I get an answer to my last question, I’m going to point this out to the gentleman.

Except he’s hung up on me.

Let’s replay that part of the conversation:

Me: Really? Because I called about it when it showed up on my bill.

Telemarketer: [presses “release” button]

Me: Yes!

So apparently, all you need to do to get rid of telemarketers is ask them arcane questions that they couldn’t possibly have the answers for. The possibilities are endless.

Telemarketer: …So we’d like to send you your new credit card. If I could just verify your address?

Me: After the introductory period expires, what’s the APR going to be?

Telemarketer: Um, that depends on the prime interest rate at that time, as determined by the Federal Reserve Board.

Me: And what will that be?

Telemarketer: …[presses “release” button]

Me: Yes!


Telemarketer: So would you be interested in supporting the Minnesota Orchestra this year?

Me: I don’t know. Are they going to do anything about the seating of the percussion section?

Telemarketer: Uh…

Me: Because where we normally sit, the percussion section tends to drown out the lower brass instruments. You hear so much about the acoustics of that place, and then you go to hear a concert and you can barely pick out the sousaphone. What’s up with that?

Telemarketer: …[presses “release” button]

Me: Yes!

I’m free! Free from annoying telemarketers! All I have to do is annoy them more!

Of course, this is going to get me back in the red karmically in a big hurry. But I can live with that.

posted by M. Giant 3:20 PM 0 comments


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