How to Have Fun with Telemarketers.

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.”

or

“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!!!”

“MRS. PETERS??”

“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.

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32 thoughts on “How to Have Fun with Telemarketers.

  1. HYSTERICAL AS ALWAYS AND WHAT GOOD ADVICE! MY FAVORITE THING TO DO WAS PUT MY ELECTRIC HAND MIXER FULL BLAST ON THE PHONE RECEIVER; BUT I ACTUALLY LIKE THE KID PLAYING AN INSTRUMENT BETTER.

  2. The youngest of my brothers is a MASTER in dealing with telemarketers. I’m fairly sure he’s caused more than a few to quit rather than chance calling someone like him again. Whether it’s stringing them along so they think they have such a huge sale they have to call over their supervisor to OK it then pulling the rug out from under them (always in a very jovial manner), or asking them ridiculous questions about, say, adult diapers, it’s always fun to listen to him get them excited/exasperated/pissed off. I’ll have to see if he’s done the CSI tech thing yet. If not, he’s got a new one! XD

  3. I worked as a telemarketer for a grand total of 1 month. I hated every single second of each day I worked. So, while I have sympathy for those forced to make intrusive calls as a means of making a living, I usually just hang up. Then again, I might have enjoyed my job more if people had done any of the things on the list!

  4. What? Where did my original comment go? Did you see it before disappeared? Well anyhow, I came back to tell you a postscript – – I drove somewhere in a big van to watch the Oscars and read your post aloud to the passengers who absolutely LOVED IT. We all voted and decided that #4 (especially the vegetarian line!!) and #1 were our favorites (I felt that “Good Night Moon” should be the book of choice, and of course the last line – – “Goodnight Annoying Telemarketers Everywhere!”

    Can you tell I just adored this ?? I cannot believe there are now 6 more days between me and your next post.

    • I didn’t see your original comment! But thank you for your postscript! The idea of reading GOOD NIGHT MOON is absolutely brilliant. I am putting my copy next to my phone this very minute, and I can’t wait to use the line: Goodnight Annoying Telemarketers Everywhere”!

      Thank you for reading this to your friends! Hope you had a fun night!

  5. I love every one of your ideas. I usually chirp a very happy, very loud, “No Thank You!” and then hang up, but that’s not very imaginative. I have put the receiver down and walked away at times. I’m convinced, though, that nothing will keep these people from finding you. It’s an annoying, inevitable result of living in this world and not in a tree in some rainforest far away from civilization.

    • “Chirp a very happy, very loud ‘No Thank You'” – I loved your use of the word “chirp.” Hysterical! And the idea of putting the phone down and walking away!

      This list keeps growing!

      #11 – hold receiver up to a household appliance (see comment #1)

      # 12 – sing “No thank you” to the tune of Happy Birthday

      # 13 – say, “I’m really interested, but could you hold on a sec?” and place the phone down and walk away.

  6. LOL!! Love it. I used to be one, believe it or not. I have a couple more. Pretend you speak a foreign language and don’t understand a word they are saying. Or pretend you are hard of hearing, but don’t really know you are…Both great one that will give you many laughs and frustrate the you know what out of the caller.

    • The hard of hearing suggestion is great! I may try that one next! Yesterday I told a telemarketer she had called during Family Story Hour and I read “Go, Dog. Go.” Because she told me the call was being monitored for quality assurance, she couldn’t hang up and was forced to listen to the whole book. At the end of the book, when the dogs say good-bye, I said, “Speaking of which – good-bye telemarketer” and hung-up.

    • You are so dear. Thank you for checking. All is well – This week turned out to be much busier than anticipated and I didn’t carve out time to write.Trying to write now!

      I am so sorry I didn’t provide you with a Sunday Fix!

  7. This was a great post! Very funny. Clearly you must be awesome because I see that Stephanie is also here.

    I used to give the phone to my oldest daughter when she was around six. She loved talking to someone on the phone and telling them all about her dog, and when she would tell me, “Mom, they say they want to talk to you.” I would say, “No dear, they’re wrong. They really want to talk to YOU, I promise!” Sadly, around eight she lost interest.

    There was also one company that just wouldn’t stop calling even after we asked them to nicely, several times. So I downloaded the ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger Soundboard’ on our iPad. SO much fun.

    “Who is your Daddy, and what does he do?”
    “You lack discipline!”
    And of course, “It’s not a tumor!”

    My husband and I had tears running down our face.

    http://www.crocopuffs.com/soundboard/arnold.html

    Thanks for the fun read!

    • Thank you so much! Stephanie is one of my most favorite bloggers. She always writes these one liners that just make me burst out laughing.

      Thank you for the link, and some more ideas on how to have fun with telemarketers!

  8. As a former telemarketer and manager, and the mother of a former telemarketer, I must condemn tactics like blasting electric mixers and air horns at people who make minimum wage and are working hard to earn commissions under what is often cruel pressure from their employers. Putting the phone down and walking away causes a penalty for many callers (but I use that one for robocalls). Your suggestion #10 is likely to freak out someone who is trying very hard to make ends meet. Besides, the person whom you talk with usually has absolutely NO control over whom they speak with and what rules they have to follow…especially when they are deciding between paying something toward their next heating bill or buying groceries instead of a dollar meal at McD.

    I prefer your tactics, especially 1-9.

    I also recommend what I’ve heard: “I’m sorry. Ben’s not available. We are in the middle of his funeral service. I thought you might be his mother. She hasn’t arrived yet, and we’re worried about her.”
    “Yeah, I’d be glad to give to X, but I’m on my way to bail out my son for homicide…again.”
    But best of all:
    “Thank you for calling. I appreciate all the calls that you are making to help raise money for X, but I am not in a position to give anything at this time. Click.” This gives them the opportunity to call the next person who might actually be glad to hear from them (yes, it genuinely happens or else the employer would not be in business), and it can not be considered the caller’s fault.

    Thanks for all the laughs that you give us. I am a loyal follower. I know that this post was well-intentioned.

    • Whether I am writing about telemarketers, in-home sales parties or store managers’ reactions to me inadvertently disabling the bottle recycling machine, my intention is always to deliver humor and never to offend. I am truly sorry if this post rubbed you the wrong way.

      Thank you for making this place one of your regular stops! I really do appreciate you!

      • I know you meant well. I’m sorry if I came across too harsh. Sore subject, especially after someone circulated an email claiming that Andy Rooney was advising people to treat telemarketers abusively. You can read about it at Snopes. You can find other suggestions for dealing with telemarketers there, too.

  9. My father resorted to humour with telemarketers, for our greatest pleasure! When they asked how he was, he would answer with a litany of unpleasant events ranging from mild to severe: “I have a sinus infection; my dog bit me; I burnt my toast; I lost my job; my wife left me.” He also pretended not to be the owner of the house when asked, adding “but I really hope to buy it soon; I’ve been putting $10 aside each week for that”. 🙂 When a telemarketer calls me, I answer in whatever language I can, with ready made sentences that make sense if only they were in context (Italian and German are my go-to languages!)

    • I love it! Like Saturday Night Live’s Roseanne Roseannadanna! “My sinuses are clogged, I have a rash that won’t go away…” Hysterical.

      And the bit about trying to buy the house! So clever!

      Thank you for reading!

  10. This is cracking me up! I had a ton of luck with, “I’m drunk, I know who I’m voting for, I found Jesus, and I don’t need a new phone plan. Thanks for playing, try again next time!”

  11. Hee Hee ! I love these ideas! This woman from a car dealer calls my husband three days a week with a new “deal”. I thought about picking up one day and accusing her of having an affair with him!

  12. I love this – Little Miss Menopause suggested I take a look after she read my little rant on tele-calls. But I have to tell you this is art and should be printed and and distributed to homes in the same way emergency plans for flooding and fires are.

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