"Telemarketers, Make My Day" was one of the first articles ever published in The Hittman Chronicle. Although it has been on the site for two and a half years (just slightly less than One Standard Eternity in Internet Time) I still receive lots of e-mail about it. Most of it is from people who also enjoy torturing telemarketers or just want to rant about how evil they are. I also get an occasional nastygram from a telemarketer attempting to defend their job. They usually claim their lack of marketable skills somehow justifies them intruding into our homes.
Enough of you have sent me new ideas to justify a sequel to the original column. I don't claim that any of these ideas are original most of them are not. The first two can cut down on the number of calls you receive, the rest are suggestions for how waste the caller's time.
The Technical Approach - Telemarketing companies make their calls with a machine called a Predictive Dialer. The dialer guesses when sales droids will be ready to harass people and places plenty of calls to keep them supplied. If it rings your house, but a droid is not available, you get a hang up call. Some people get a half dozen of them a day.
Predictive Dialers use a database to spread their harassment evenly, and to keep from wasting time calling disconnected numbers. Disconnected numbers always reply with a SIT tone, a bo-do-weep series of notes, followed by a recording explaining the number is not available. When the dialer hears the tones it hangs up immediately (it doesn't listen to the recording) and marks that number as disconnected. It won't try to call again, at least for a while.
There are devices available that exploit this to your advantage. They play the tones and fool the machines into marking your number as disconnected. Once most of the telemarketing companies have done this (it takes a few weeks) you'll get far fewer calls.
The tone generators cost about fifty dollars, and the tones are played whenever the phone goes off hook, including when you're answering it. There is a better way. Since most TM calls come during the day, while you're not at home, you can get the same results by recording those tones at the very beginning of your answering machine message.
THMC is pleased to give you the tools to do this, right here on this page.
- Get your answering machine and set it in front of your PC speakers.
- Press whatever button starts recording your outgoing message.
- Click here
- Pause about a second, and then finish recording your outgoing message.
That's it. Telemarketing machines that hear those tones will stop calling, and within a couple of weeks you should get far fewer calls. (Note: if you right click on the above link, you can save the .wav file to your hard drive and play it from there. That will give you more control over the timing.)
The Legal Approach New York State has an opt out list for people who prefer not to be harassed in their homes. Call 1-800-697-1220 or visit this web site to be put on an opt-out list. The law contains loopholes some weasels can squirm through, but it should help reduce the calls.
The telemarketing lobby has enough money to buy lots of congress critters, so most states don't have opt out laws. If yours doesn't, let your political representatives know you don't want telemarketers hassling you. Ask them what theyre going to do about it. Opt-out laws are obviously inferior to opt-in (where you'd have to give permission for them to call) but anything that can interfere with this vile profession is a step in the right direction.
Time Wasting Approaches
When a telemarketer calls, if you have the time and the inclination, the best way to ruin their day is to keep them on the phone for as long as you can. They work on commission, so their time is literally money. Waste their time, and you waste their money. Frustrate them enough and they'll be encouraged to seek legitimate employment.
The Apartment When someone calls selling windows, siding, or other home improvement products, feign interest. Tell them how many windows you need replaced, or how much siding you'd need, etc. When they ask for your address, tell them Apartment 3C.
Dead People This common ruse doesn't really fool anyone, and doesn't waste much of their time, but telling the caller that the person they're looking for is dead leaves them speechless.
Primal Scream Therapy A loud, blood-curdling scream at the top of your lungs is a great way to reduce stress. First, lower your voice. Then lower it a bit more. You want the caller to turn their headset all the way up. Be sure to exhale as much as you can, then inflate your lungs completely and scream as loudly as possible until you run out of air. Repeat until you hear a dial tone.
Some folks prefer to do this with air horns, available at any boating supply store for under ten bucks, but this is one of the few times a holistic, natural, organic approach is superior.
The Non Sequitur Approach This is my personal favorite. Listen intently, asking relevant questions, faking interest through their entire sales pitch. Just as they're about to go for the close, get stupid. Request something that makes no sense at all. Insist on it.
I got a call from someone offering mortgage refinancing. I told him I was paying 15% on an old mortgage, which got him very excited. We discussed points and payments and prime rate and everything else I could think of before I got to the kicker.
"Does it come in blue?"
"Blue. Does it come in blue? I'm interested in this mortgage, but I want a blue one."
"It's a mortgage sir, it doesn't come in colors."
"I like blue. I have a blue house, and my rooms are blue, my favorite painting is the Blue Boy, I use Blue Bonnet margarine and I don't want the mortgage unless I can get a blue one."
He hemmed and hawed and finally said he thought one of the pages of the contract was light blue, would that be sufficient? I told him it would be. We talked a bit more before I got to the punch line.
"But I have one more question."
"Will it core a apple?"
"A apple. Will it core a apple?"
"Sir, are you toying with me?"
"Of course! I'm deliberately wasting your time!"
The Dirty Old Man If you place a call to a stranger and start talking dirty, you'll be arrested, and rightly so. But if a stranger calls you, you're within your rights to explain to them, in great detail, the perverse sexual acts you'd like them to perform on you. Sometimes they'll hang up right away, sometimes they'll sit there in shock for a minute or so. If they stay on the line long enough, mention goats.
The Scary Customer When someone calls for a cleaning service, ask them if they can get blood out of ceiling tiles, and if they can come over right away.
The number of ways you can annoy them is infinite; these ideas are just here to get you started. Think of what they're selling, and how you can use it against them. Act stupid. Act smart. Demand that they listen to your latest poem, and comment on it extensively. Treat them like Dear Abby and tell them all your embarrassing personal problems. Treat them like your best friend. Treat them like your worst enemy. Improvise. Be creative.
The bottom line is that if you can annoy them more than they can annoy you, you win.
Here's the original article.
If you didn't get the "core a apple" reference, you're not a Honeymoonie. Read the second synopsis on this page for an explanation.
© 2002 Dave Hitt