Saturday, September 16, 2006

Yet another annoying thing about telemarketers

Ever wonder why, when you pick up the phone, there is sometimes a pause for a second or two before someone comes on, and that someone is always a telemarketer? It's because the marketing companies have automatic dialing machines. These dial numbers at random until they someone picks up, then connect that person to one of their operators. The purpose is to save money. The wages they pay the operators, low as they are, are still their major cost. If they can have a machine do the dialing, instead of a person — and more important the waiting while the phone rings — they can save pennies that add up to lots of dollars.

Well, that's nice, but it means that you have to wait two seconds for an operator to be found. Sometimes one of them doesn't show up, because the autodialer happens to get too many hits at once. When that happens you wait longer, possibly until the machine hangs up on you. Worse, you start to worry that someone is stalking you. Then there are the times when your voicemail answers the phone. Either the autodialers can detect that or the telemarketer operators are trained not to leave an apologetic message, because the most that happens is a blank message on your voicemail. Which you have to listen to and erase, while thoughts of stalkers flit through your brain.

Isn't it nice to know that your angst and wasted time are helping telemarketers save a lot of money? Maybe, if you meditate on the number of them working for charities since the federal "no call" list was created. Then again, those organizations supposedly representing the police, whose administrative costs are 85% of their revenu, are classed as charities. In any case, I feel the need to strike back. And there's a simple way to do this: When the telemarketer calls and asks for you (usually mutilating your name), say "Just a minute," and set the phone down as if you're going to get the person they asked for. Hey, perhaps if they think "Foyle" is pronounced to rhyme with "school," then I really am going off to look for "Mr. Fool." In any case, I don't find him until the phone starts beeping, demanding to be hung up.

The beauty of this approach is that it strikes right at the root of the problem: If we can find a way to waste the operators' time, then the goal of saving labor costs will be foiled. The telemarketers will give up on autodialers, and we can all live happily ever after.

My wife thinks this is mean to the operators, who are innocent Bengali women just trying to make a decent living. I figure you probably develop a thick skin pretty quick in the telemarketing game, and having to listen to the background noise in my house for 30 seconds is probably one of the more restful ways they get hassled. So, until someone thinks of a better way to retaliate, I'll be asking telemarketers to "Wait just a sec, while I go find him," as often as I hear that little pause.


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