How to Answer a Telemarketer

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Lately we’ve been getting more and more nuisance phone calls. Whatever happened to that “do not call” list, I dunno. We have been searching for ways to turn the tables on these pests. Here are some suggestions. When a telemarketer calls:

*Try a lot of heavy breathing, without saying anything. Maybe throw in kind of a breathy little laugh, as if you were visualizing yourself tying Little Nell to the railroad tracks.

*If it’s a real person at the other end of the line, do a bit of acting, make yourself sound anxious, and ask, “Is this about the murder?” Give away no particulars, but act confused.

*More likely, it’s a robo-call. I don’t know what happens if you wait patiently–I don’t have that much patience–for the opportunity to respond, and then project some kind of loud, long, nerve shattering noise into the phone. Something like a tea kettle boiling over, say. Or turn on some horrible rap music, or an odious commercial, turn up the volume, and press the phone to the speaker.

I don’t guarantee that any of these will work, and I welcome suggestions as to how to relieve this irritation. “Hi! This is Jennifer! And our records show you stayed at one of our Halitosis Castle resorts recently–!” And it’s all a big fat lie because you haven’t stayed at anybody’s resort in 15 or 20 years…

Somehow, somewhere, there’s got to be a solution to this problem.

6 comments on “How to Answer a Telemarketer

  1. If there’s a real person on the other end of the line, excitedly tell them you really want to talk to them – just hold on till you hang up your other line. Then, just set the phone down and walk away. They’ll get tired of waiting. Robo-callers are another matter. No human tricks that I know of work on them.

  2. Usually, if I don’t recognize the phone number on caller ID, or if it’s “unknown” or a series of zeroes, I don’t bother answering. Few of these leave a message, as an important call would do. However, this sometimes prompts them to call back a few hours later. So sometimes I do answer. For robo-calls, I just hang up as soon as they tell me I’ve been to their resort before or they want to save me money on my charge card. For real people, I say, “Let me interrupt. I don’t make any purchases on the phone (or: I don’t make any donations or pledges on the phone). Please remove me from your call list.” If they persist instead of apologizing and assuring me I’ll be removed from the call list, I hang up.

    With the real people, I do try to be polite at first, because the fundraiser may be from an organization that I normally contribute to by mail, or the caller may be an innocent out-of-work person trying to make some part-time money and not realizing what a nuisance he or she is being. Only if they persist do I become brusque. But I always say, “Please remove me from the call list.” Then, if they keep calling, I remind them that they’re legally obligated to remove me from the call list once I request that they do so, and if they continue calling I’ll have to report them to the Attorney General’s office.

    1. It really gets me when Rutgers calls and tries to hit me up for a donation to the university. “I am ashamed to be a Rutgers graduate,” I always say, “and I won’t contribute until Rutgers stops doing things that are evil, pointless, or just plain stupid.”

      But even that doesn’t stem the flow of the hard sell. One is eventually forced to resort to rude noises…

  3. Of late, the only calls I get seem to be robo calls, usually the same recording of a young woman with a very pleasant voice. I just hang up.

    For live humans, I have a number of psychological warfare tactics in my bag of tricks. My favorite is to explain that they’ve called my computer helpline and before we proceed I’ll need their credit card number so I can charge them for my time. From that point on, no matter what they say, my only response is to,ask for their credit card number. I am pleasant, but unrelenting. The response on the other end varies from incredulity, to outrage to laughter.

    The one I find most gauling seems to originate from some auto glass company in Phoenix and I’ve taken them on repeatedly. They will call and lead off with a lie. Either, they will ask for someone by name, such as “may I speak to Hazel?” or will say that they replaced the windshield in my Blazer (or some other car name) and wanted to know if I was satisfied with their service. Depending on the lie they tell the conversation will go one of two ways.

    If they ask for a woman by name, they are simply employing a binary trick to ensure that they aren’t asking for my actual name. Had a woman answered, they would have asked for a male name. (In this day of transgenderism, perhaps I should assume my most masculine voice, say “this is Hazel” and let the fun begin.) When I tell them that there’s no one at this number named Hazel they will say that she must have had this number before me, then launch into their windshield spiel. At that point I mention that I’ve had the same phone number for years and that they are trying to establish a business relationship with me and their first act was to lie, which means that I would never do business with them because they have already proven they are not trustworthy. If the caller is pleasant and respectful at that point I’ll simply ask if they think their grandmother would be proud of them for lying. If the caller was arrogant, I will affect a tone of false pity and ask if their mother was in prison during their formative years and that is why they were reduced to calling people and lying.

    If they led off with claiming to have replaced the windshield in my Blazer (or whatever), I assume a snooty tone of voice and exclaim that I wouldn’t be caught dead driving anything but a Mercedes. Then I once again explain that they have initiated their communications with me with a lie and that if they are willing to lie right up front, I could only expect the same were there to be a problem with the windshield and that they will never lay a hand on my vehicle. Once again, I usually ask if their grandmother would be proud of the way they conduct their business, then hang up.

    I feel sorry for the poor stiffs that have to make bothersome phone calls for a living, but if they start out by lying, I will not hesitate to point out that they do something indecent for a living. I hope that, perhaps, it gives them food for thought and that they may decide to find a more productive line of work in the future.

    1. I was one of those poor stiffs once–selling Time-Life books over the phone. We are sometimes forced to do shameful things just for the money.

      The telemarketing lie I find most offensive is, “This is the call-back *you requested* after viewing the TV commercial for our Acme back brace!” Obviously designed to take advantage of elderly people whose faculties are wearing out.

    2. It’s sad that our economy forces people into such things. I’ve had my share of lousy jobs including a two week stint as a telemarketer at the ripe old age of 17. It was horrible.

      What galls me is the lying. If a business starts out by lying to me first thing, they are obviously willing to lie to their customers and I should expect more of the same if I do business with them. If the guy called and said: “This is Ralph up at Acme Windshields, got any need for a windshield?” I could at least respect their honesty. If I needed a windshield at that moment I might even give them a shot.

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