Chimney cleaners. Chronic disease organizations. Electric company suppliers. Cancer societies. Extended automobile warranties. College alumni fundraisers. Companies making vague promises to lower interest rates on loans you don’t even have. They call constantly; often at the most irritating times. Sound familiar?
You hang up as soon as you recognize the crackling pause after saying hello (the telltale indication it’s a telemarketing call). But this does not work. Stubbornly, they will call back the next day … and the next … and the next. Requesting they no longer call your number is laughable. These people are trained in the art of loopholes and tenacity. They have no scruples.
Giving money – no matter how small – to charities seeking donations in hopes the’ll leave you alone only provides respite for a brief period of time. Plus – many of these organizations sell your number to other charities, which means your “please go away” donation just opened up an avalanche of more pesky non-profit calls.
The National Do Not Call List is ineffective. Businesses have found ways to circumvent the rules. Non-profits are excluded from the Do Not Call List, as well as political surveys.
How do we cope with such intrusiveness? If we can’t beat them, we must join them. In order to protect our sanity, I offer you The Underground Writer’s “How to Have Fun with Telemarketers”:
1. Inform the telemarketer (or charity) they have called just as Family Story Time is starting. You will need to have a children’s book by the phone at all times in order to make this work. Place the phone on speaker before you start reading the book out loud.
“I hope Pete The Cat is okay with you, it’s the book my son chose. Otherwise, we have Frog and Toad or Ferdinand The Bull.“
2. Pretend you and your spouse are in the middle of a heated argument and get the caller involved.
“Boy, am I glad YOU called! Listen to this. My husband? He NEVER takes the garbage out. So, like, yesterday I put it on the back porch because I didn’t want it stinking up the kitchen -”
“Um … Mrs -”
“Wait. I’m not finished. So I put it on the back porch and some sort of animal gets into it. Now there’s garbage EVERYWHERE and he’s telling ME I need to clean it up! Since I put the garbage on the porch. But here’s the thing -“
3. Act thrilled that someone has called your home. This requires asking questions about the caller, and diverting their questions.
“Why, hello Maria from The National Protect Indigent Feline Association! Where are you calling from?”
“Indiana. Would you be willing to pledge just twenty-five-”
“Indiana? What part?”
“The middle part. Would you be willing to pledge just -”
“I’ve never been to Indiana. What’s it like?”
“It’s fine. Mrs. Underground Writer, there are thousands of homeless -”
“Know someplace I’ve never been? Alaska. Yup. Never been. Can’t say I necessarily WANT to go since I hate the cold…”
4. Invite the caller for dinner (since they always seem to call during meals). Literally: Put the phone on speaker and plop the receiver in the middle of the table and announce how you never have dinner guests. Then, act as though they are actually present.
“I hope you’re not a vegetarian. We’re having steak.”
“We’re so happy you can join us!”
5. Start singing – Broadway show tunes seem to freak telemarketers out quickest.
6. Have a child who plays an instrument? Wonderful! Have them play a song or two.
“Before I answer your question as to whether or not I’m happy with my electric supplier, my daughter wants you to hear her practice Hot Cross Buns on her clarinet.”
7. Ask their opinion on your new curtains. But they can’t see your new curtains? Exactly. Describe in great detail what these curtains look like: color, pattern, how they match the color on your walls. What we’re aiming for here is, boring. Much like their call.
8. Put your toddler on the phone – preferably one who is just learning to imitate animal sounds.
“Mrs. Peters? My name is Jason and I am calling from the Lower Your Credit -”
“Ohhhh, Jason! I am so glad you called. My two year old just learned to make all the sounds on Old McDonald’s farm! Listen…”
“Mooooo! Oink! Oink! Oink! Baaaaa!!!”
“Neigh! Mooooo! Quack!”
9. Seek medical advice. Persistent ache in your lower back? Lump somewhere? Hey, they called you.
10. In all seriousness, be polite. Thank them for calling, and ask that they remove your name and number from their calling list. Then inform them that you trace all calls, and you now know where they live and what kind of car they drive. And you hope they have a very nice day.