Saturday, October 11, 2003


I recently made a shocking discovery: It is now possible for me to eat an entire meal without the phone ringing even once.

It doesn't matter if I eat dinner at 5, 6 or 7 p.m. The phone stays blissfully silent, and when it does ring, I know I can pick it up without running into the living room and checking our caller ID to see who's calling. And to think I owe it all to the Federal Trade Commission and its do-not-call list.

Mixed with my immense relief is a twinge of sadness. Now that I have the FTC's muscle backing up my wish to be left alone, I've lost the opportunity to practice one of my favorite sports. It's called "Bait the Telemarketer."

This is a game where you do your best to throw the telemarketer off stride. AT&
T asks you to switch long-distance carriers, you tell them you don't have a phone. A contractor tries to convince you to renovate your home, explain that you have a deep-seated phobia of straight lines and flat surfaces, and ask if they can redo the house so it doesn't have them any more.

For a while I told telemarketers that I bill my time at $200 an hour, and if they wanted to continue the discussion under those terms, I would be happy to talk for as long as they wanted. Oddly, not one ever took me up on it.

My piece-de-resistance came a few months ago, when I received a call from a woman I'll call Sharon. I was at the point where I normally would just hang up, but for some reason I was feeling whimsical and decided to have fun.

"Doesn't this job get to you?" I asked after she had introduced herself and only just started her pitch. "I'm guessing that a lot of people hang up on you or just get really rude, don't they?"

"Well, yeah," Sharon admitted. Her voice had been lively and animated when she had started her pitch, but now it was more plaintive, what you would find from co-workers commiserating about an awful workplace.

"And I'm willing to bet you don't even like what you do," I added. "Most people can't stand to get telemarketing calls, and I'm willing to bet you don't either."

"Well," she admitted. "Not really."

"Do they pay you enough?"

The silence told me everything, even before she said, "No, they don't."

"So what you're telling me," I said, "is that you have a job where you're unhappy, you're doing something you don't like, and you get grief all the time from the people you call, and they don't pay you well enough to put up with it." I paused, and went for the throat. "Sharon, I think you and your co-workers should form a union and fight for better working conditions."

Sharon thanked me for listening to her problems, said she would have to consider it, and hung up.

I never did find out what she was selling.

Despite great moments like that one, I don't miss telemarketing calls enough to ask that my name be returned to the roster. Given its misuse of the First Amendment to annoy me at home four, five and six times a day, I doubt I'll shed a tear if I never hear from a telemarketer again, even if the product they're promoting really is as revolutionary as they say.

What troubles me is that a number of companies apparently are using telemarketing agencies from outside the United States. Labor is cheaper, and the FTC regulations apparently don't affect calls from abroad, even on behalf of a domestic company.

If that happens again, I already have the perfect solution. My 4-year-old daughter is at an age where she loves to talk on the phone.

I can only imagine the conversations she'll have.

Copyright © 2003 by David Learn. Used with permission.


Anonymous said...

hmmm... thank you for your rant.

I happen to work in the call centre industry and love it! I would like to inform you that the starting salary for a telemarketing executive is between £18,000 - £22,000 per annum in the UK plus Commision and benefits. I am sure that you will agree that this is not a bad wage at all.

What is your job by the way?

marauder said...

At the time I wrote this, I was working in newspapers; at the moment, I am unemployed.

I've no idea how £18,000 - £22,000 relates to cost of living in the United Kingdom. The exchange rate today is $1 USD for £1.4274, which means a starting salary of about $12,600 USD - $15,400 USD, plus commission. Unless you're an excellent telemarketer, that would place you well below the poverty line on this side of the Pond -- all for a job where most people regard you as an intrusion.

But I'm glad you enjoyed the piece. :-)

Telemarketing services said...

I think that salary is so good. I wish that I can work on a telemarketing company so that I will earn money like that.

Ashley said...

That's awesome. I wish I could also have that big salary that a telemarketer could earn. By the way, thank you so much for sharing us this article. Hoping that we could also have to work on a telemarketing company. Keep safe and good luck!


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