Monday, January 31, 2005

Prisoner in my own home

Beware: rant ahead.

I spent another day home today due to my unhappy sinuses. I tried to get some work done, but ultimately had to shut the PC down and take a nap.

The phone, however, kept ringing. Telemarketers from all over the planet wanted me to sell my house, get another credit card, send them money, and schedule a day to have my carpets cleaned.

Eventually I had to resort to using Caller ID to decide who I would and would not allow through. This bothered me immensely, because I had no choice in the matter. I could not control when the phone rang, or who would be on the other end. It was an incessant invasion of my privacy, and it ticked me off.

I lost it on someone who called from a call center - you can always tell, because you can hear the din of the floor before the person realizes my call has been "presented". She made a pitch for a product I had never heard of. I asked if they had a web site where I could conduct further research before making a purchase decision (I know, I was being too nice...I should have just told her I wasn't interested, but my wife says I have trouble saying no.) She rudely spoke over me, pushing me to make a commitment right there. By my third repetition of "no", she put her hand over the phone and spoke to her "supervisor", who ordered her to get me to commit to the purchase right now.

I've never been strong-armed by a telemarketer before, so I pushed right back. I recall using the phrase "I don't think you're listening to me" more than once before I finally told her I simply couldn't cope with her tactics. Later on, my wife received a call with the great news that she had been "selected" for a "special" credit card,which she promptly and politely turned down. Not half an hour later, the same call center called back with the same offer. Gack!

Now, today I wasn't feeling well. When I'm otherwise healthy, I occasionally decide to work from home so that I can focus on the task at hand in a peaceful place. The way I write, I need to have large expanses of quiet time. Constant interruptions by telemarketers does not do wonders for my productivity or my mood.

I appreciate that they have a job to do. But at the end of the day, I seriously don't care. This is not a place of business: it is my home. If they want to call me at the office, go nuts. That is, after all, business. But ceaseless calling to my home by the same idiotic people trying to sell me the same idiotic crap that I absolutely do not need does not make Carmi happy.

I look forward to Voice over IP telephony becoming available in my neighborhood soon. Once we switch over to it, it'll be nice to drop off of their telephonic radar for good. It'll leave me more time to speak with the people who truly matter: family and friends. And no one else.

Anyone have any good telemarketer-survival tips? I'm all ears. I'd even go so far as to describe myself as desperate.


Veda said...

Carmi, I hear ya! :)
When they catch me and I'm not busy (rare), I'll amuse them. "What's that? How does it work?" When they think they've got me, I decline kindly with words of "I know you're only doing your job."

Otherwise, I'll either just hang up or give some version of "No/No thank you/Don't call me again." In the states we've got it where if you tell them not to call you again, they can't. It's against the law. There's a company just went through a case last summer...they called me three times. By the third time I'd seen the news. "Isn't your company going through a case right now for you calling people more than once? You called me twice already today and the second time I waited while I was taken off the list. I'm not waiting this time. Call me again and I'll jump onto that bandwagon suing you." that was kinda fun!)

Good luck. Could you by chance disconnect the line for a few hours, have family/friends call you on a cell?

**Wheeler, I'm workin' on it! :)

Joan said...

I'm a big advocate of turning off the phone and letting the machine get it. I agree with the previous person who said to let your family know to call you on the cell if they know you are home but aren't answering.

markisdead said...

i can't understand why someone doesn't develop a phone which allows trusted numbers to pass, and others to be screened. a firewall for a phone.

i have got into the habit of putting the phone down as soon as i realise that it's someone trying to sell me something. i felt rude at first, but now i realise that it's the best thing to do. i've been tempted to buy one of those musical birthday cards and 'put them on hold' next to it's annoying tune, but i'm no THAT cruel!

actually, in the UK, you can register to NOT get direct sales via your phone. apparently it works really well (if a company breaks it, they can be fined), but it's one of the many things i've not got round to doing yet!

i just thought! how about trying to sell THEM something!! try and make them a deal they can't accept. could be fun!!! let us know if you do :-)

anyway, i hope the sinuses get better soon!

mike said...

I like this approach:

(TELEMARKETER): Hi. Would you be interested in switching over to TMI long-distance service?

SEINFELD: Oh, gee, I can't talk right now. Why don't you give me your home number and I'll call you later?

(A LONG PAUSE) (TELEMARKETER): Well, I'm sorry. We're not allowed to do that.

SEINFELD: I guess you don't want people calling you at home.


SEINFELD,(HANGING UP): Well, now you know how I feel.

Rachel - Wicked Ink said...

I spent 3 weeks as a telemarketer for NorPac - selling magazine subscriptions.

Problem is, telemarketing is like spam, if enough people respond to it, it becomes worth their while.

I had a telemarketer want me to give money to a police fund. I asked for documentation to be sent to me before I made a decision and they told me they couldn't do that. So I said I might want to donate money, but I would really need to see formal information, and have it checked out before committing.

They sent the package, and have since sent 3 others, demanding I send them the lowest donation amount $25. I feel like writing a letter explaining the situation and telling them that they won't be getting $25. I am curious though, if they think they have me committed, can they send it to collections?

Dean said...

There's some sort of underground telegraph that moves amongst telemarketers, some sort of 'mark' list.

I gave, once, to a charity that phoned with a heartwrenching sob story of children and liver disease. It was a mistake. The volume of calls went up shortly after, until we were getting 2 or 3 in an evening.

I finally got fed up, and I answer all calls the same way: "I don't buy anything or give money to people who phone me." Then I hang up. Not loudly, just hang up.

It took six or eight months to work, but we get very few calls now. Probably only two or three a week, and I answer all of them the same way.

Oh, and I expect that 'firewalls for your phone' are only a few years away. We're not far off the point where the home telephone disappears in any event. Exactly how it will work, I don't know, but the problems of telemarketing and spam have made it clear that the next generation of voice technology will have some sort of safeguard.

Lou said...

Dearest Carmi ... I do not suffer from "telephone guilt". My husband and I can blissfully ignore the thing though the little one doesn't understand how we can pass up an exciting opportunity to talk to someone at the other end. Perhaps we should let HIM answer the phone. Now THAT's an idea

We use call display extensively and do not pick up "unknown name, unknown number". If it's someone who cares about us, they'll leave a message. We also often use the "telezapper". As soon as you pick up, or the voice mail kicks in, it sends a signal that the phone number is not in use. Works great on those computer-generated callers.

My home is my sanctuary. Hope you're feeling better real soon :)

A Woman Changed said...

Hi Carmi,
I'm sorry to hear you're still feeling "poopy." (I got that word straight from my MD.) I certainly understand your misery - At one point, the telemarketers were calling us at 9am on Sunday mornings. It was ridiculous and we too were prisoners in our own home. As soon as we signed up for the national Do Not Call list, all of these horrible phone calls went away. Do you have the TeleZapper up there in Canada? It's a little device that can determine if a caller has used an automatic dialing system, and it disconnects the call as soon as you pick up the phone. I like this option because I enjoy getting calls from family and friends...and they stop calling if/when you stop answering the phone. Good luck - hope you're feeling better soon. jk

Terry said...

Hi Carmi, this is what works for me.
I answer before they get a word out (thank god for call display) "Is this a telemarketing call?" They almost always answer yes. Then I ask what company they work for and what company they're representing (they have to tell you that). Then I ask for their comapny contact number (they have to tell you that too). Then I say I don't want anything and please remove me from their calling list. I always wait for confirmation and ask for the caller's name or identifier. I rarely get the same place calling twice. I never answer a question either, just ask one back. Cheers, T

eric said...

The catch with telemarketing is if they can get you to talk, they're trained to go for the throat.

As soon as they start talking, I simply say "No thank you, I'm not interested, but you have a nice day, okay?! Bye." and hang up on them. It may seem rude, but really it's not. It would be with your friends and family. But not with telemarketers.

Thumper said...

Before the Do Not Call list came to fruition in the U.S., we'd get upwards to 30 unwanted calls a day. It doesn't matter if you answer the phone or not, the phone is still ringing and interrupting your day.

My son started answering the calls. And as the people would launch into their sales pitch, he would start, too: "Have you found Jesus? Is Jesus your Lord and personal savior?" His voice would get louder, edging into the evangalistic. "Tell me, DO YOU WANT TO BE SAVED? Say it with me! HALLELUAH!"

After a couple weeks of that, the calls dropped drastically. But I'm not sure if he saved anyone... ;)

Mellie Helen said...

Echoing some of the earlier comments, go ahead and switch the phone off and use mobiles for friends/family. And I have allowed the kids to talk to telemarketers on the phone: they (the kids) love it, and it's on the telemarketer's dime. First time offenders get very polite treatment from me. However. Really annoying callers who call time and again are treated to readings from whatever's handy (cereal box, shopping list, etc.) and yes, sometimes even a devotional. The other trick? As they're beginning their spiel, I say, "Oh, hold on just a moment, please" and I just leave the phone on the countertop. Unless I know I'm expecting an important call, this one is the most satisfying to me for the nudges who want to waste my time.

L said...

I just went completely cellular, myself. Sweet bliss...

Jef said...

First, I would just like to say that Joan's method is very effective. She NEVER answers her home telephone--you must call her mobile phone to reach her.

Do you have a No Call List in Canada?

Since my partner and I both have the same first name, I can sometimes pretend to be the Jeff not asked for. I will usually say the other Jeff is in Europe for several months. I love it when they ask to speak to Mrs. Jeff and I get to say, "Speaking."

I used to have an elderly black lady who called every night about the same time and asked to speak to Lavenia. Each night I would tell her that she had the wrong number. This went on for six months. Finally, she called me at a bad time and I said, "Oh no! I guess you didn't hear. Lavenia passed away." Although the lady never called back, I felt bad afterwards for saying such a horrible thing. Wherever you are Lavenia, I wish you good health.

Christine said...

My husband was a telemarketer briefly in college, and says that they are required to continue to push until they get three "no"s out of you.

He now has fun with the telemarketers who call here, and can usually get rid of them pretty quickly. His tactic: lying! For instance, when the mortage companies call we tell them we are renting - we go right off their lists. When the newspaper calls, he tells them we are illiterate. They really don't have a response to that one. Once I think he even told a phone company that we live in a tent and don't own a phone, and then asked them if they were calling him a lier.

I (sometimes) have a hard time being rude to them, because I know the person on the other end is just doing his or her job, but I always try to be firm, let them know that I conduct NO business over the phone, and I always ask them to take me off their calling lists. I believe they are required to do this if you request it. Good luck!

Danya said...

Hey Carmi!

One of the joys of speaking a non-official language of Canada is that you can use it to your advantage with telemarketers. After I tried politely refusing (and then being either 'spoken over' or even politely threatened for not being interested in the telemarketer's product), or plain hanging up, I decided to have a bit of fun. After my inital 'Hello'I assess my callers importance to me and then tell them in Russian that I would like fish for lunch or just plain ramble on. I think that you could effectively practice your Hebrew skills on them and have some fun at the same time. Otherwise, if I'm not in a playful mood, I just get rude and ask them to take me off their call list PERMANENTLY. I've heard that they can put you back on after 6 months if you don't specify that you'd like to take a permanent hiatus from their pestering.