Saturday, March 26, 2011

Telephone Tag

I have gone through different stages in my life in terms of how I deal with telemarketers. At first, I would hang up but then, after Dh did the job for a week, I realised just how awful the job was and felt sorry for these poor people working such a thankless job for minimum wage so I would be polite. Then, after I had to have five stitches after making the mistake of politely discussing with a telemarketer from our bank while making dinner (I wasn't paying attention and slipped with the knife and cut off the top of my finger), I realised it was time for a new strategy.

I have informally polled our acquaintances about how they deal with them. I know many who hang up, a few who just hear them out and then, there is my father. Like me, he doesn't want to be rude but he gets really annoyed, so what he does is that he counts. That's all. No matter what they say, he just continues, "One, two, three..." and if they say too much, he starts over again. He likes to see how high he can get in a conversation. I even know someone who determines that he is going to try and get the salesperson to agree to buy something from him. He has had a great deal of fun with that game.

I should say that we have registered for the Canadian "Do Not Call" list and we get fewer calls than we did before but, if you have done business with a company in the past or they are a charity, they can call. The most annoying ones are the calls that originate outside of Canada (largely coming from India, I believe) and they ignore all of our laws. We still get the annoying calls.

It became more of an issue for me in the last six months when I have begun to see a more menacing side of this. The first was a call I got about three months ago. The man told me that he was from "........ Credit Solutions" and that he was calling to tell me that my credit rating had dropped 10 points and that they wanted to help me improve my credit or get to the bottom of what the problem was. I panicked, which was silly, as I knew that 10 points means very little anyway. I got all their contact info and fortunately, I refused to give any information (I will not give anything out over the phone). I called my bank, worried about my credit and my bank helped me understand that the problem wasn't my credit, it was that these people had either seen my rating or were claiming to have seen my rating, which is illegal without my prior permission. I called Equifax, who told me to call the company back, to demand to speak to a supervisor and get to the bottom of it, which I did. It was interesting. At first, the man lied and said that it had not been said and then, he changed his tune and said that would listen to the recording of the call and if the called had discussed my personal credit rating,"appropriate steps would be taken". Of course, I told him that I would not accept this, as they would just write me off as a crazy. He insisted that he would call me back to fill me in. After I got off the phone, I became increasingly angry. I was smart enough not to give out any information but there are many, especially those who are in financial difficulty, who might panic (or older people, like my mother, who wouldn't really understand but would be scared by it). I decided that I would pursue a strategy that others had shared with me - to waste as much of their time as possible, giving them less time to harass others. I called them back every hour on the hour for the next 24 (as long as I was awake) and I filed a police report since they were fraudulantly asserting they had seen my credit rating. At the end of the time, I was assured the man had been fired. Right...

Fast forward to today. There is another company that has been really getting on my nerves and they worry me. They identify themselves as "Virtual P.C. Solutions" and they tell you that your computer is sending out virus/error messages and they are going to talk you through fixing the problem (and buying their software in the process). I only know because my brother carried the call through to completion (I still laugh at this, the guy kept telling my brother to type things and push buttons and my brother just kept agreeing that he had done it. At the end of the conversation, the guy told my brother to push "run" and then read back what was in the box. J said, "What box?" and the guy replied, "The box on your computer screen". J responded, "On my computer? I thought you wanted me to push the buttons on my t.v." and the guy hung up on him). Today when the guy called, I just kept asking to speak to his supervisor. No matter what he said, I just kept repeating my question. I gather that I really annoyed him because at the end of the conversation, he finally said, "Ma'am, put an ice block on your head and go to hell."

That tells me that I have found a strategy that works. Dh and I have decided that from now on, we are just going to keep asking to speak to a supervisor and if we do get one, we will request to speak to that person's supervisor and make it a challenge to see how high we can go. Maybe we will waste enough of their time that we can save some people an annoying call.

How do you deal with these people in a way that is kind yet without wasting too much of your own time?


  1. As soon as there's a pause (or, if they really go on and on, I interrupt), and I always just say, "I'm sorry, we don't do any business over the phone that we don't initiate. Please remove us from your list." If they try to continue, I just repeat it. It's brief, polite, and deals with whomever calls - charity, business, whatever.

  2. My husband listens long enough to determine if it is a farce, then if it is, he tells them as much and informs them that if they send him a bill or anything of the sort, they will speak to our lawyers. One company got our farm business number from the business listing and somehow got my father in law to agree to an online advertising thing... meanwhile, we are a farm. And dad doesn't remember saying yes to anything of the sort. We got a $500 bill in the mail from them, and we didn't get anything from them. My husband fought them thouroughly on it. And we have been getting calls over and over and over again from this company. It is very annoying.

    Oh, and if I get a call, I generally say tha same as Ms Huis. I do things by mail, not phone. There are too many scams out there. And with two screaming kids in the background, if they try to push thier luck, they will hear the sound of a 'click'.