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Mar 14 2016

When You Piss Off a Telemarketer

Angry PhoneRachel from Card Services is mad at me, and I’m suffering the consequences.

When I get telemarketing calls like “this is Rachel from Card Services” or “consider this your final notice [I should be so lucky] to reduce your credit card debt”, I sometimes press 1 to speak to a person. At that point, I’ve tried various strategies:

  • I tell them to put me on their Do Not Call list. That causes them to hang up immediately (not so much as a “goodbye”). Needless to say, they don’t put me on the list.
  • Or I tell them that, yes, I have high credit card debt. And. I. Talk. Really. Slowly. And. When. They. Ask. For. My. Credit. Card. Number. I. Give. Them. The. First. 16. Digits. Of. Pi.
  • Or I scold them for working for a company that breaks the law and ask them if they have any shame.
  • Or I just insult them.
  • (A friend once said that she asks them if they’ve been saved. I haven’t tried that one yet.)

Well, the company behind these calls apparently has a system for dealing with people like me. When I press 1, they start looking for an operator to connect me to. At the same time, I believe they do a lookup of my phone number in their database. That lookup takes surprisingly long, but once it completes, they see that I will waste their time and they hang up on me. My evidence is that 1) after I’m talking to a person, the call will sometimes be disconnected even before I say anything that reveals I’m not a potential sucker customer, and 2) sometimes they hang up on me even before I’m connected to an operator.

It’s an interesting approach: they don’t add me to a Do Not Call list but they add me to a Do Not Talk To list. I’m guessing there are two reasons for this. 1) Their system takes too long to identify a number; it sometimes takes as long as a minute for the system to decide to disconnect me. They don’t want their autodialer to waste that much time for every number it calls. 2) They’re scumbags. They probably take joy in the fact that they’re bothering people who would waste their time.

BTW, the official advice is that you shouldn’t answer or you should immediately hang up on telemarketing calls. The claim is that once a telemarketer knows your number is valid, they’ll call it more and even share it with others. I’m skeptical. First, not answering is an unworkable solution because you don’t always know that it’s a telemarketer, and when your answering machine or voicemail answers the call, that will tell the telemarketer it’s a working number anyway. Second, I’ve heard that if a call is disconnected (e.g. you hang up on them), the telemarketer will put that number in a queue to try again. I tend to believe this; I haven’t done a rigorous test, but it seems that if I hang up immediately, they often try again the same day, whereas if I harass them, I don’t get another call for a couple of days.

So the world is still waiting for a solution to unethical phone callers.

BTW, like the drawing of the angry phone? I paid toonimals on fiverr.com to make it for me. I’ve gotten a few graphics made for me on fiverr.com now. The results are mixed: some of the people on fiverr slap generic junk together (I’m thinking of some of the logo designers). Others, like toonimals and designs_4u have shown real creativity and effort.

1 comment

  1. Dave

    Many years ago I read about a company that put a “lose your immortal soul” clause prominently in their shrinkwrap software license. Supposedly it cut down on pirating considerably.

    Maybe you could try something like that…

    BTW, what are those round holes on the phone for?

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