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"Hold on, please..."
February 11, 2002 3:11 PM   Subscribe

"Hold on, please..." Please! Do this! If we all do it, we can change the world! A national No-Call list would be great, but that assumes that telemarketers will follow the law.
posted by o2b (45 comments total)

 
We have a 'no-call list' in Georgia, and it actually works pretty well. I'm down from 6-10 calls per day to only a couple per week. I think it cost me like ten bucks or something, but it is totally worth it.
posted by spilon at 3:26 PM on February 11, 2002


But in reality, this only punishes the poor shlub making $7.50/hr to harrass you. It won't actually put any of the companies out of business; it will only lessen the telemarketer's already meager paycheck. Just tell them to put you on their no-call list.
posted by jpoulos at 3:35 PM on February 11, 2002


I heard about something on the Howard Stern show this morning called the TeleZapper. Evidently when it detects an electronic telemarketing call, it will respond with a tone identical to the one the phone makes when a number has been disconnected. The added bonus is that most automated systems will then remove your number, thinking it bad, from their calling list and you're not bothered by them again.
posted by robbie01 at 3:41 PM on February 11, 2002


Ya, I bought a Telezapper at K-Mart. I only get maybe 5 calls a month, but it was worth $50 to get rid of them. I've had only 1 sales call in 3 months.

Every time you pick up the receiver there is a brief beep (sort of like an answering machine, but shorter. Not that three-tone beep you hear on disconnected lines).
posted by fleener at 3:51 PM on February 11, 2002


But what if each unsuccessful call took the solicitor a few minutes instead of a few seconds? What if a phone solicitor could make only a dozen calls per hour, instead of several hundred?

Then a lot of poor people would be out of work. A lot of people who are either working telemarketing as a second job because of the weird hours it allows, or because they are physically disabled and cannot do even menial labor.

I worked as a telemarketer. Like the vast majority of people who do it, I found it to be a hideous, soul-sucking vocation. Nobody wants to interrupt your dinner to try to sell you something. Nobody wants to get yelled at by every third potential customer. For me, making calls was worse than receiver them myself. That's why I quit.

But there are a lot of people who didn't like it any more than I did, but who had to do it because the world is a shitty, unfair place, and they had no other reasonable way of making ends meet. This is not a revelation.

My point is that telemarketers are not the enemy. The enemy is the marketing strategy that says that you can possibly make a leeeeeeettle bit more money pitching to everyone than you would by pitching more vigorously to those who are probably more likely to listen.

If every state had no-call lists that "direct marketing" firms respected, that would be wonderful. Most people could keep their jobs, and you and I wouldn't have to be bothered a couple times a day to pick up the phone, politely say "not interested", and hang up. But a strategy like tying up the phone line does more damage to the (by and large) innocent victims than it does to the guilty parties, because they will be the ones being punished for not making sales.

Well, them and their families, but that's not a fair thing to say.
posted by Hildago at 3:53 PM on February 11, 2002


We also have a "no-call" list in Texas, but from what I can tell it would eliminate about two out of ten of the annoying calls I already get from Alumni groups, charities, insurance companies and family members. Maybe I should try Steve Rubenstein's trick on that broke cousin of mine.
posted by pomegranate at 3:53 PM on February 11, 2002


Caller ID and a general willingness never to pick up the phone when it reads "unavailable" or "anonymous." It's made my phone life much less fraught with peril. My favorites are the companies that don't block their name.

"Hmmm, do I want to talk to American PhoneBothering Company? You bet I do!"
posted by Skot at 4:00 PM on February 11, 2002


Hildago: couldn't you use that argument to defend any industry against any charge? Every company employs at least a few "innocent victims" who would lose their jobs if something damaged the profit margin.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:14 PM on February 11, 2002


Why not make money off of the annoying telemarketers like I do? I made several thousand (US) $ doing this until I was undoubtedly placed on a "psycho" list.
I wish they'd start calling again because I saw a coffee table I want.

In the US, federal law dictates that a company must pay you $500 per phone call after you have requested to be placed on their do not call list. All I've ever done is threaten to sue them; it costs these companies more money to send a lawyer to your local court than it does just to cut you a check and get you out of their hair.

Get the name of the company first and write down the date. Then ask for the full name of the person calling, their physical address (no P.O. box), if they work for a company subcontracted by a biggie (like a phone company) or if they actually work for the big company. Under federal law, they must give you this information or they will be in violation of federal law. Then tell them you want to be put on their do not call list and you need them to mail you a copy of their company's do not call policy. (This too is federal law. Keep a copy of what they send you.) Tell them you are going to sue them if you hear from them again. Do not put up with bullshit like "it takes 8 weeks for our lists to be updated"; this is ridiculous in the computer age. Keep good records of these idjits. When one of them calls again, get a manager, and then get the name of their corporate counsel. Make it clear that you'll go to the mat on this. Tell them you'll settle for a check or you'll sue - and don't give up. My bro just got a check for $1500 from a major vacation property corporation who kept pestering him.

There are numerous anti-telemarketing websites - I ran a search on Google a few years ago and learned how to make money off of these annoyances.
posted by Dinzie at 5:32 PM on February 11, 2002


I had a teacher in high school who employed an interesting technique to get rid of telemarketing and, primarily, junk mail. Whenever an unsolicited call came for him, his response would be: "I'm sorry, but Mr. so-and-so passed away last week." Whenever junk mail came, he wrote "Return to sender: DECEASED." After a few weeks, he was off of virtually every mass-marketing list.
posted by rorycberger at 5:36 PM on February 11, 2002


Hildago, I don't see the logic.

No matter what forces telemarketing companies to abandon cold calling - the economics of hold, or mandatory no-call lists - as long as they do, the numbers of people employed in telemarketing will be the same in the end.

Until that happens, poor zhlubs on an hourly rate still get paid to hang on and wait, so I don't see how they are hurt - in fact since they have to do fewwe painful pitches per hour, arguably they're better off.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:53 PM on February 11, 2002


Then a lot of poor people would be out of work.

Exactly. We should also start more wars in order to make sure that the soldiers don't end up in the unemployment line. True, the army doesn't compare in benevolence to companies like Microsoft, who also employs a lot of disabled people. Keeping companies in business on the basis of the people they save from unemployment ought to be the policy our whole economy is based on. Heck, why stop with just hanging up on them? Buy what they're selling! The poor worker will get a commission, and you'll go to heaven.
posted by bingo at 6:04 PM on February 11, 2002


The other night I got a phone call from a guy trying to sell me something. I told him I was busy, but really interested in his product, and could I call him back in a few hours. He told me that he wouldn't be working then, so I asked for his home phone number so I could call him at home. He then said "no, I don't want a stranger calling me at home", and at that point I said, "NEITHER DO I!!!" and I hung up on him.

I am sure it did not accomplish much, and it is kind of immature, but it sure felt good.
posted by alball at 6:14 PM on February 11, 2002


another good tactic is to tell military recruiters you're gay. it's worked wonders for me!
posted by mcsweetie at 6:43 PM on February 11, 2002


Excellent link, wonderful idea!
posted by Oxydude at 7:15 PM on February 11, 2002


that assumes that telemarketers will follow the law.

Here's a novel idea: if they don't, PUT THEM IN JAIL.

Damn conmen, cluttering up my answering machine.
posted by rushmc at 7:43 PM on February 11, 2002


Can't a combination of caller ID and unlisted phone numbers stop telemarketing?
posted by Charmian at 8:02 PM on February 11, 2002


Tangent. I received the following e-mail from some dear friends:

When you get ads in your phone or utility bill, include them with the payment. Let them throw the junk away. When you get those pre approved letters in the mail for everything fromcredit cards to 2nd mortgages and junk like that, most of them come with postage paid return envelopes, right? Well, why not get rid of some of your other junk mail and put it in these cool little envelopes! Send an ad for your local chimney cleaner to American Express. Or a pizza coupon to Citibank. If you didn't get anything else that day, then just send them their application back! If you want to remain anonymous, just make sure your name isn't on anything you send them. You can send it back empty if you want to just to keep them guessing! Eventually, the banks and credit card companies will begin getting all their junk back in the mail. Let's let them know what it's like to get junk mail, and best of all THEY'RE paying for it! Twice! Let's help keep our postal service busy since they say e-mail is cutting into their business, and that's why they need to increase postage again!

Send this to a friend or two or three...or fifty....

posted by ParisParamus at 8:03 PM on February 11, 2002


rushmc - Damn conmen, cluttering up my answering machine.

The word you're looking for is "phonies." Yes, that really is where it comes from.
posted by NortonDC at 8:10 PM on February 11, 2002



posted by evanizer at 8:20 PM on February 11, 2002


Until that happens, poor zhlubs on an hourly rate still get paid to hang on and wait, so I don't see how they are hurt - in fact since they have to do fewwe painful pitches per hour, arguably they're better off.

They're hurt because you're hampering their ability to make sales to the few people who might be buying, and since most of them work on commission, that means money out of their pockets. If you don't wish to hear their sales pitch, say a firm "No thank you" or follow the steps to be put on the no-call list, and then both you and the poor zhlub can move on with your lives.
posted by Dreama at 8:20 PM on February 11, 2002


Dreama - Many here believe that helping telemarketers move on with their lives is a disservice to the public at large.
posted by NortonDC at 8:26 PM on February 11, 2002




My favorites are the telemarketing outfits that use computer pre-dialers. The systems can't always tell that an answering machine has picked up, so the call gets passed to some schlub who recites his/her whole brain-dead monotone sales script before pausing to say "hello...? hello?!?!"

My answering machine is always full of that.

And Hidalgo, Dreama: my private, personal phone line is not a freakin' jobs program!

posted by Tubes at 8:43 PM on February 11, 2002


They're hurt because you're hampering their ability to make sales to the few people who might be buying, and since most of them work on commission, that means money out of their pockets.

Now that really makes perfect sense. The fact that someone may not be able to make money should justify practically anything, should it not?

Why, did you know that if you're a pharmaceutical company selling a sleep remedy, the absolute best time to call people is between midnight and 4 AM? Sure, most people are going to be asleep and a little angry that you called at that hour. But if we don't allow such marketing, we'll be hampering the ability of businesspeople to make sales to a few people (insomniacs) who might be buying, and that will mean money out of the pockets of those brave telemarketeers working the night shift for the benefit of all humanity.

Don't you just hate business regulations? They're so unamerican somehow. Why, look at how requiring accurate accounting practices and minimal ethical standards hampers the ability of certain energy conglomerates to further line their pockets.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 8:54 PM on February 11, 2002


"couldn't you use that argument to defend any industry against any charge? Every company employs at least a few "innocent victims" who would lose their jobs if something damaged the profit margin." -- Mars Saxman

Yeah, I suppose you could. But what I think is different about telemarketing is that everybody I knew who worked there for a long period of time (and was not a supervisor) was doing it as an absolute last resort. I mean, every company that deserves to be shut down has a few people who don't deserve to be laid off, but we're talking about an entire industry made up of people who, in disproportionate numbers, are not going to be able to find new jobs.

I'm not saying this a reason (as later posters imply) to spoon-feed the telemarketing industry, just a reason to, instead of doing what you can to destroy it, try to find a compromise between "getting back at those bastards who call you up during the news" and ensuring your privacy. For example, extended "do not call" lists as opposed to guerilla revenge tactics to tie up their phone lines.
posted by Hildago at 9:57 PM on February 11, 2002


"No matter what forces telemarketing companies to abandon cold calling - the economics of hold, or mandatory no-call lists - as long as they do, the numbers of people employed in telemarketing will be the same in the end."

My logic is this: If you focused your sales pitch on people who did not specifically remove themself from your realm of potential customers, you are probably not losing any money, because there is only a negligible chance that these people would ever buy anything from you. And because it takes a heck of a lot longer to talk to someone who is (even mildly) interested in what you are saying than it does to just have someone shout in your ear then slam the receiver down, you are not going to be losing many (if any) man-hours of work.

And even if the total number of operators necessary to sell x number of units decreases as a result of selling to a more targeted audience, there is at least a chance that the people who are laid off are laid off because they aren't as good at it as the people who stay on. In the case where "customers" just lay the receiver down and wait until the telemarket hangs up, the failure to make a sale does not reflect on the quality of the employee, but is instead completely arbitrary (and therefore unfair). Because calls are monitored by Quality Assurance teams (at least where I worked), and tallies of your sales are recorded, it's possible that someone could lose their job simply by being unlucky enough to have randomly dialed a larger number of angry consumers than another solicitor. Theoretically, anyway.

Until that happens, poor zhlubs on an hourly rate still get paid to hang on and wait, so I don't see how they are hurt - in fact since they have to do fewwe painful pitches per hour, arguably they're better off.

Well, there are a couple things: for one, there is the matter of the QA teams and mandatory quotas as mentioned above. For another, just as most waiters and waitresses survive on tips rather than wages, most telemarketers get a good percentage of their paycheck from sales commissions. So in this respect, all things are not equal.
posted by Hildago at 10:12 PM on February 11, 2002


Keeping companies in business on the basis of the people they save from unemployment ought to be the policy our whole economy is based on. Heck, why stop with just hanging up on them? Buy what they're selling! The poor worker will get a commission, and you'll go to heaven.

I think you're taking me wrong. I'm not saying we support the telemarketing industry, I am saying that in retaliating for years of annoyance and preventing years of the same, we should target the companies themselves and not the workers. That is to say, change the way their systems operate so that people can do their jobs and we can eat in peace, rather than kicking them in the jimmies just to watch them squirm.
posted by Hildago at 10:15 PM on February 11, 2002


Why, did you know that if you're a pharmaceutical company selling a sleep remedy, the absolute best time to call people is between midnight and 4 AM?

It is illegal for telemarketers to call between midnight and 4am. The times in which they are allowed to call are pretty reasonable. Something like between 7 and 5, but don't quote me. When I worked at a direct marketing firm on the west coast, we had to be there by 4am (or whatever EST -3 is), though, to be able to call people on the east coast. That's what I meant by weird hours.

And look, I am not defending the industry. I hate the telemarketing industry. I quit because I hate it. But I am willing to examine my feelings towards it and realize that striking back at the lowest-level drudges who are themselves symptoms and not causes is not going to help anything. Get pissed off if you want, but at least choose the right target.
posted by Hildago at 10:24 PM on February 11, 2002


Junkbusters and the Direct Marketing Association have sites that help cut phone soliciting. Our phone is quieter, and signing up is free.
posted by MRYeatts at 11:00 PM on February 11, 2002


just hang up. start panting and moaning. ask them about their underwear. rant about jesus/allah/buddah/the black helicopters. its an annoying phonecall, not the end of the world. get over it and get on with your life.
posted by hipstertrash at 1:18 AM on February 12, 2002


I'm going to give everyone the two best pieces of advice to combat telemarketing (telephone spam, as I call it). Mentioned elsewhere in this thread and on the web, but here it is again:

1. Whenever you get a telemarketing call, interrupt the person as soon as you can, or when they pause after whatever "Yes" answer question they ask (as a trick), and say those lovely magic (and legal words):

PUT THIS NAME AND NUMBER ON YOUR DO NOT CALL LIST.

(and immediately hang up).

By law, they are required to do so, and will not call you again. Some ignore it, but you'll be suprised how well this works after a month or two. Don't just hang up. Don't yell at them. Don't say "Please hold." The magic words do work.

And for those who don't follow the rules:

2. I'll save you some money so you don't have to buy a TeleZapper. The Telezapper simply plays the first tone in the three tones that proceed "this number has been disconnected" message that we all know well. The telemarketing dialer listens for that tone, and assume the number is disconnected, deleting it from it's list.

Why not simply place those three tones (or the first two, or one) at the beginning of your answering machine message? After a few weeks letting it screen, you'll get the same results as a TeleZapper. Don' t have the tones...?

Well, you can download the sound file of the disconnect tones here.

You're welcome.
posted by jca at 1:55 AM on February 12, 2002


Three years later, and they haven't figured out my answering machine doesn't want a free weekend in Boca or the Poconos....
posted by ParisParamus at 5:01 AM on February 12, 2002


Coincidentally, I just posted an entry on my blog about this subject. UK people can sign up online to the Telephone Preference Service, and avoid unwanted garbage.
posted by viama at 5:15 AM on February 12, 2002


get over it and get on with your life.

Novel solution for everything! Wow, that was refreshing. It would be much easier to get on with our lives if the phone didn't ring every time I sat down with another offer from Shitibank. Here's another idea: go cellular. My next apartment won't have a main telephone when I move shortly. I know everyone can't do this because of coverage, but we certainly plan to.
posted by adampsyche at 5:16 AM on February 12, 2002


My mom has worked as a programmer in direct marketing for many years (yes, she is The Beast, but junk mail put me through college) and she set me up once as a dummy address to make sure the stuff was flowing through correctly. Yay for mom her code worked; boo for me because I am forever deluged...until now! What useful info!
posted by macadamiaranch at 5:59 AM on February 12, 2002


striking back at the lowest-level drudges who are themselves symptoms and not causes is not going to help anything.

Except that's simply not true. Stopping the technique at the source stops it. A method will only be pursued for as long as it is successful. If cold-calling didn't WORK, no one would fund it.
posted by rushmc at 6:58 AM on February 12, 2002


Proof positive that legislation cowtows to corporate america: The "do-not-call" lists are all opt-out, as opposed to opt-in.
posted by yesster at 7:07 AM on February 12, 2002


Except that's simply not true. Stopping the technique at the source stops it. A method will only be pursued for as long as it is successful. If cold-calling didn't WORK, no one would fund it.

Whoops, silly me. I meant "won't help anything" as in "will put people out of work for no good reason," not "will not stop people from calling you."
posted by Hildago at 7:55 AM on February 12, 2002


Recording the tone onto your answering machine is the coolest thing Ive seen in a while.
posted by stbalbach at 9:57 AM on February 12, 2002


Heres a better sounding disconnected tone set.
posted by stbalbach at 10:25 AM on February 12, 2002


"will put people out of work for no good reason," not "will not stop people from calling you."

Then our point of disagreement is over what constitutes a "good" reason. :) <--- note use of friendly disarming smiley

In my book, my right to avoid unsolicited and unwanted interruptions of my life trumps some greedy bastard's (AND his minions') "right" to ignore my wishes and harass me.
posted by rushmc at 10:04 PM on February 12, 2002


If you wish to be uninterrupted, then turn off your phone or get caller ID -- this isn't about your desire to be uninterrupted, this is about your desire to not be marketed to, which has morphed into a desire to be vindictive toward people who cannot do anything to stop the marketing, instead of following the simple procedures which will impact how many calls you get personally and send a legitimate message to marketing firms.
posted by Dreama at 11:19 PM on February 12, 2002


>which has morphed into a desire to be vindictive toward people who cannot do anything to stop the marketing

Ummm, couldn't they just quit their job and work at McDonald's instead? It isn't like the wages are that much different, and it isn't like there's no jobs at the local burger joint. Well, at least I think that's what the plastering of "Now Hiring" all over most fast food places around me means...
posted by shepd at 12:10 AM on February 13, 2002


Ummm, couldn't they just quit their job and work at McDonald's instead? It isn't like the wages are that much different, and it isn't like there's no jobs at the local burger joint.

When McDonald's is paying upwards of $17/hour, it might be comparable -- that's about what my nephew is making selling Time/Life products by phone. (He sells between 30-50 subscriptions to their book, music and movie series every day.) Bonuses and incentives are a big part of the pay equation in telemarketing. A very big part.
posted by Dreama at 1:43 AM on February 13, 2002


Dreama - You just eliminated any sympathy that people at home may have had for telemarketers.
posted by NortonDC at 4:40 AM on February 13, 2002


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