Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Do Not Call

Last night something happened to me that hasn't happened to me for a long time. I got called by a telemarketer.

Not just once, but twice.

It was somebody calling for a daily newspaper in the area, trying to peddle subscriptions. I've never subscribed to this paper, I wouldn't have the time to read it if I did. First time they phoned me, my old reflexes kicked into gear instantly: "Sorry, I'm not interested in that offer"; and then I hung up.

Second time they phoned me, just a few minutes later, I said, "Sorry, I'm on the Federal Do Not Call list"; and then I hung up.

I remember the bad old days when I routinely used to get two or three telemarketing calls a day, every day. Sometimes more. Offering credit cards. Offering debt management. (What debts?) Offering vacations to Disney World or wherever. I had a universal way of dealing with telemarketers: first time I could get a word in edgewise, I would say, "Sorry, I'm not interested in that offer," and then I would hang up.

Eventually I got onto saying, "Sorry, please put me on your Do Not Call list." As I understood it, telemarketers were obliged by law to keep and honor such a list. Though there were a few outfits that just didn't bother, such as one shady credit foundation which faithfully left the same prerecorded message on my answering machine once or twice a month: "'ve already been approved, and frankly I'm surprised we haven't heard from you already... If you phone me back, I'll be in my office until ten tonight..."

But saying I wasn't interested usually worked, with occasional exceptions, such as the ones who tried to press me for a reason why. (I'd simply repeat, "Sorry, I'm not interested," and then hang up.) Or such as the outfit which then proceeded to call me back half a dozen times in the next twenty minutes. Telephone harassment, anyone?

Or then there was the telemarketing flunky who got my answering machine— "Hi, this is Pastor Paul Burgess, I'm unable to come to the phone right now..."— and before he got to the point where he identified the company he was calling for, he decided to pause in mid-script, make a U-turn, and wrap up his suddenly aborted telemarketing presentation with a cheery, "666! Satan rules!"

(Yeah, I know, telemarketers weren't supposed to leave messages on answering machines. But that didn't stop some of them from doing so anyway.)

When the Federal Do Not Call list became available for signup a year and a half ago, I signed up immediately, the very first week. When the Do Not Call list went into effect a year ago in October, it was like a sudden blessed blanket of peace and quiet descending across my daily life. No more telemarketers waking me up from a nap. No more telemarketers phoning while I'm eating supper. No more telemarketers pestering me on my day off.

Last night must be only about the third time in a year and more that I've received a telemarketing call from other than a charity, a pollster, or (in the weeks preceding the election) a political outfit. It makes a real difference in the quality of my life, not to be getting all those telemarketing calls all the time. In my line of work, I can't not answer the phone, because it could be somebody phoning me, at any hour, about a sudden emergency. It makes a big difference to have the reasonable assurance that when the phone rings, it's someone I know, calling me for some bona fide reason; and not just some paid flack intruding into my home to hawk a credit card.

I view much of what our federal government does with a measure of suspicion, to put it very mildly. (You know, one of the three big lies is, "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you.") But I've got to admit, the Do Not Call list is close to an unalloyed good. For once, the folks in Washington did something completely right.

Phone, ring thou not! Oh, by the way, if you're not on the national Do Not Call list already, and you'd like to get on, you can register by making a toll-free call to 1-888-382-1222. For TTY access, call 1-866-290-4236. Or you can register online at


Blogger Caltechgirl said...

ROFL! The funny thing is wondering what the motivation in leaving such a message is. Further proof of the idiocy of telemarketers. Threatening them with the DNC list is funny though. They get all serious and apologize.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005 1:44:00 PM  

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