Another telemarketing mini-rant

I was going to write something like this:

If there's one thing I hate more than telemarketing calls where there's a brief pause after I pick up the phone and I have to say "Hello?" three or four times before a human answers, it's telemarketing calls that come in while I'm out and get the answering machine. (Okay, actually there are quite a lot of things I hate more than either of those. It's a figure of speech. Cope. Besides, it's the traditional way to begin a complaint of this sort, which is to say a crotchety complaint about what the world is coming to, on account of a ridiculously minor annoyance that really doesn't particularly matter in the greater scheme of things.) The messages always go something like this:

"Hello. . . . Hello? . . . Hello? . . . Hello? . . . Hello, Mr. Hartman? Mr. Hartman? Hello! Hello!" and then a click.

(This evening's recording said "Mrs. Hartman," but otherwise was basically the same.)

What bugs me is not just that they're junk calls, but that by the end of them, the telemarketer is sounding aggrieved and annoyed, as though I've done some personal injury to them by answering the phone and then not talking to them.

You would think that telemarketers would quickly become aware of the fact that sometimes their stupid system connects them to an answering machine. You would think that they might realize, after thirty seconds of nobody speaking at the other end of the line, that perhaps they're talking to such a machine. You would think that they would attempt some marginal form of politeness, or at least that they wouldn't let their annoyance show through, given that they're the ones calling me about something I have no interest in.

But no; they're annoyed, and they make that clear, and then they hang up.

But then I had some food and read some SWAPA, and Steeleye Span's "Cadgwith Anthem" came on iTunes, followed by a Bare Necessities tune, and I'm now in a marginally better mood, so instead of writing all that I'll go read some submissions.

5 Responses to “Another telemarketing mini-rant”

  1. Anonymous

    There’s an F key that you can use to indicate “answering machine, call back later” on the calling center software; you learn to recognize an answering machine on your first day.

    The aspiring telemarketers who can’t figure this out are ruthlessly culled.

    Aren’t you on the Do Not Call list yet, Jed?

    –Fred, former manager of call center 😉

  2. Michael Canfield

    More tips from another former telemarketer: I can vouch for the national Do Not Call list.
    I used to get 3-4 calls a night, and now I’m down to a couple a month. If I do end up talking to a rep I immediately say “Please put me on your Do Not Call list” and hang up. Sometimes the rep will want to waste their own time (and further waste yours!) by trying to argue: “But you don’t even know what it’s about yet!”) You don’t care, just hang up. The rep may or may not comply with your request — they may in fact try to fuck with you further by flagging you as requesting call-back for example. But it the cumulative effect. If you register with the national directory, and tell every caller that still gets through to put you on the DNC list, soon you’ll be down to very few calls.

  3. Jed

    Yup, I’m on the national Do Not Call list, and every time I speak to a telemarketer I immediately tell them to put me on their Do Not Call list. I’ve been doing that for years, but I still often get one or two calls a day (usually in midafternoon) on days when I work at home.

    I’ve learned to just hang up if nobody responds to my greeting within about two seconds, but I don’t always get the timing right.

    Now and then, a telemarketer hangs up on me the second I start to ask them to put me on their Do Not Call list. I find that totally infuriating. Once or twice I’ve tracked down a manager from the company who the marketer was working for and complained about such activity, but usually I don’t have an easy way to do that.

  4. Kelly

    I work at a call center updating insurance information, and one of the most annoying things is people who yell “I’M NOT INTERESTED PUT ME ON YOUR NO CALL LIST”. Not every call that sounds like telemarketing IS telemarketing, and one of our biggest problems is that people won’t give us the time to explain that we aren’t selling anything and their insurance company has hired us. It’s even worse for the people who just say “I’m not interested” and hang up, because that won’t take them off our calling list; they have to tell us they don’t want us calling anymore. And this all defeats the entire purpose because their company just sends them a letter telling them they HAVE to call us, so they have to talk to us anyway.

    Also, nobody where I work pauses before speaking when a person hangs up…so I can’t comment on why that happens. The only thing I can think of are families that live way in the backwoods and have really horrible telephone connections, maybe? I can’t tell you how many times people have yelled “I CAN’T HEAR YOU, SPEAK UP!” resulting in me having to quite literally scream into the telephone to this moron who, nine times out of ten, just has their phone volume on the lowest setting.

    Okay, I’m done.

  5. Jed

    Thanks for the comment, Kelly.

    Good point that not everything that sounds like a telemarketing call is one. On the other hand, I’ve lost count of the number of telemarketing calls I’ve received that begin with “I’m not trying to sell you anything”; to me, that’s become a code phrase for “I want to keep you on the line as long as possible listening to my spiel before I try to sell you something in a particularly sneakily roundabout way.”

    Also, I get telemarketing calls a couple times a week now (the volume’s gone way down since I wrote this entry three years ago), but I never get calls from my insurance company. So when someone calls me from a call center, I’m pretty likely to assume that they’re a telemarketer, just based on experience. I know that makes things difficult for people like you who are doing useful work by phone, and I’m sorry about that; but given the volume of telemarketing calls, I don’t think it’s really fair to blame customers for making that assumption. Just keep in mind that it’s not you that they’re upset about; it’s the last fifteen calls they got from call centers, all of which (most likely) were from telemarketers.

    Still, most of the time I do wait to hear what it is that the person’s calling me about; seems only polite. Most of the time, I don’t say “Please put me on your don’t call list” until it’s clear that it’s a telemarketing call.

    As for pausing before speaking, I’m pretty sure that it has nothing to do with backwoods telephone connections. It’s extremely common, and I’m pretty sure it has to do with machine calling systems; the machine makes the call, waits for the recipient to answer the phone, and only then brings the telemarketer online. Which is fine, except that there’s a delay of about two seconds between the time I say hello and the time the telemarketer is on the line. Which means that if nobody responds to my hello within about two seconds, I can be pretty sure it’s a telemarketer and just hang up. This isn’t the fault of the people making the calls, nor is it my fault; it’s the fault of the people who designed the machine-calling system. The delay ought to be much shorter.

    I assume that machine-calling is also the cause of the answering-machine issue this entry was about. The calling machine waits until the answering machine picks up, then waits a few seconds longer (I have a shortish answering machine message), then connects the caller to the conversation after my machine has beeped. So from their point of view, someone answered the phone but then won’t say anything. On the one hand, I can see how that would be annoying to them; on the other hand, they really need to figure out that this happens (it must happen all the time!) and learn that nobody is being nasty to them, it’s just an answering machine, plus a stupid design flaw in the machine-calling system.

    I confess I’m annoyed by you referring to your customers as morons simply because they can’t hear you. I certainly understand how annoying it is to be told someone can’t hear you–I have a quiet voice, and when I make calls I quite often get told that I need to speak louder, and I always find that frustrating. But the issue is not that the person who can’t hear me is a moron. Phone lines are very often filled with static and noise, and cordless phones often make the situation worse. Some people don’t hear very well. There are lots of reasons for difficulty hearing someone over the phone, and none of them have much to do with the intelligence of the listener.


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