Thursday 17 May 2012

5 Stages of Grief: Telemarketing Edition

"Hello.  May I speak with Mr. or Mr.s Rotten?"
I'm here to tell you about a virulent evil that stalks and preys on the good citizens in my neighbourhood, and throughout the rest of the free world.  When we moved here all we were looking for was a nice quiet neighbourhood with a good school where we could raise our kids. Maybe a place close to a nice park where the kids would play.  Maybe we'd get a dog.

So we bought a little fixer-upper in a neighbourhood our real estate agent assured us was "hot", which apparently means that even if we did nothing to our house the value of the property would go up just by our sitting on it.  There's a french immersion grade school and high school within walking distance, two beautiful parks, a nature conservation area with plenty of hiking trails, a community center, a library, and an aviary and it's all nestled within the shadows of a University campus.  In short, our neighbourhood is basically the setting of a 1950's sitcom.  It was perfect!

Or so we thought.

You see what I didn't know was that there was lurking a vicious parasite that will feed off anything but particularly enjoys targeting the denizens of pretty little suburban neighbourhoods just like ours.  And our neighbourhood has one of the worst infestations that it has ever been my displeasure to experience.  For the love of all that is holy I will share with you my horrific tale, my soul-shattering experience of having to deal with this unspeakable evil: telemarketers.

1)  Denial.

Not surprisingly, once we were settled into our new home, we had to still deal with some of the mail and business contacts of the previous resident, Mrs. Fraser.  A couple of times a week we'd get a call asking for Mrs. Fraser and we let them know she no longer lived here and thought that was the end of it.

It was in the spring of the second year of living here that I began to notice we were getting a lot of phone calls.  I usually screen my calls letting them go to voice mail first.  The phone was ringing all day long but no one was leaving a message.  So Daddy got a call display phone and we soon found out that they were telemarketers.

I have been desperate enough for an income in my lifetime that I had to swallow my pride and work as a telemarketer.  It was horrible.  But I knew they would just keep calling until they spoke to someone so I started answering the phone.  I empathized with the telemarketer, knowing they were just trying to pay the bills, so I tried to treat them the way I wish people had treated me when I had to do that job.  They'd understand we're not interested and move on the next potential customer like any intellgent person would do.

2)  Anger.

Not only did the calls not stop, we were getting even more of them than before!  Sometimes from the same business over and over.  And many of them (not all but many) were quite rude.  If my phone rang ten times in a day (some days it was more than that) only one of those calls would actually be for me; from someone I knew and wanted to talk to.

I was pissed.  I stopped being polite.  First I was just saying, "Please stop calling here!  We are not interested!" and slamming the phone down.  Then I progressed to abusive ranting.  "What the hell is going on?  I told you guys already I'm not interested so why the hell do you keep calling back?  Take me off your fucking list!  I will never do business with you assholes!  Piss off!"  SLAM!

We even tried joining a National Do Not Call List and at first it worked, but soon the calls began to trickle in and next thing you knew I was being harassed again.  When I asked Daddy about it he looked into it and discovered that list isn't all that it's cracked up to be and that sometimes joining it makes the calls worse because asshole telemarketing firms target those people.  Besides, I'm a free citizen with a constitutional right to live free of harassment!  I shouldn't have to join a Do Not Call list!

This has got to stop!

3).  Bargaining.

I thought, maybe if telemarketing firms understood that telemarketing is actually counterproductive to their business they would stop.  Maybe businesses would find a less invasive way of finding new customers.  Maybe someday we could see a world where telemarketing is limited to fundraising and polling and the like. These are business people, they must see the logic behind not alienating people, right?

My new tactic was to ask to speak to the supervisor.  I would politely inform him that I was taking note of the business he represented so that I could take care to avoid future business with that company.  I told him  that I refuse to do business with people who use telemarketers and that I would encourage all of my contacts to do the same.  And then I requested to be removed from their call list.  I thought if I did this, if I fought the good fight, maybe it would all stop someday.

And then, once enough time had elapsed for me to forget about the incident/lose track of my phone records, they called back.  They always apologized and acted surprised that the computer didn't take my number off the list.  Unfortunately they repeated verbatim the same apology.  Every time.  From a script.

4).  Depression.

It seemed clear that this was never going to end.  There was nothing I could do.  The telemarketers were legion.  Resistance was futile.  I stopped answering my phone altogether.  This was my life now.  My phone was no longer a communications device that I owned.  It felt like a piece of plastic that we paid money for on a monthly basis in order to enjoy incessant harassment from the capitalist free-market system.

What was the point?  The more I tried, the more I was harassed.

(Sigh).  Just leave a message and I'll call you back.

5)  Acceptance.

After a couple of years of phone-related depression I began to realize I was not alone.  My friend Jen posted a facebook status update about a shockingly rude call she received from a telemarketer.  When she said she wasn't interested The Business That Shall Not Be Named Here asked her if she knew what she was talking about.  And then demanded to speak to her better-informed husband.

(Okay, it was Weed Man!  W-E-E-D M-A-N!  They are assholes, NEVER do business with them.  Just ask these people.)

I laughed and made a joke about it in her comments.  I had no intention of going any further than that because of my phone-depression.  But then, not an hour later they called me!

I was kind of fuming at their treatment of my friend and years of built up frustration and resentment, so I let them feel the full fury of my verbal wit (which delighted Frick to no end) and slammed the phone down.  It was very satisfying as, for some reason, when I am angry I suddenly become a genius with sarcastic phrasing.  It's my super-hero power.

Motherfucker called me right back.

Oh, it's on Weed Man.  Do not mess with an angry bitch who blogs.

I found pages and pages of complaints (Google turned up 184,000 results) going back for years and coming from all across Canada and the United States.  I had no idea it was this widespread.

After reading a lot of forums and message boards I came to the conclusion that I was going to have to join the National Do Not Call List after all.  It's a lot better than it was when we first tried it.  Telemarketer harassment is against the law and you can involve the local police and the CRTC (FCC in the US, OBVS.).  If you are on the list, the telemarketer will be fined $2,500 per call.  They also offer documentary services for free so you have proof of the harassment.  I signed us up and it will take effect in 30 days.

Doing this changed my whole perspective.  I know I have to put up with these calls for another 30 days, but there is now a light in the darkness.

I now welcome these calls.  In fact.....I'm going to miss them when they're gone!  Because I never realized until now what an opportunity for fun I had all along.

The very first phone call I got after registering with the NDNCL I answered with glee.  They asked to speak with Mr. or Mrs. Rotten.  I said, "Hold on, I'll go get Mr. Rotten right now."  And then handed the phone to Frack.  Frack recently learned a knock-knock joke.  I must say his speech therapy is really paying off.  You can really understand him saying "banana".

At times when Frack is unavailable to field my calls I put the phone receiver by my computer speakers and play this for them:

This is some of the best fun I've had in a long time.  I have the soul of a 14 year old boy so these kind of immature and consequence-free antics are deeply and spiritually fulfilling.  Now I look forward to each and every time the phone rings.

If any of you have creative ways of handling telemarketers I would love to hear them!  I've got 23 days to go....


  1. Oh, That is brilliant. 90% of my calls are from telemarketers as well. We tried the do not call list on our old number but it didn't seem to do anything so I didn't bother with the new number. I shall have to give it a go. In the meantime Cat loves to talk on the phone. :D

    1. Truly its a brilliant site! LOL... your cat loves to talk on the phone! But you know what Melissa, one thing why I like DNC list because they did not stop calling from those companies you already do business with. You have to stop these telemarketing calls yourself. That's why telemarketers afraid to call you back.

  2. Ha! Brilliant! I will jist give the phone to the babies and the person on the other emd can listen to them scream and snarl and bite each other for the phone. Brilliant.

  3. This may be what you're looking for:

    It's Tom Mabe and he's a comedian who messes with telemarketers, and he's FREAKING HILARIOUS!!! He was on the Bob and Tom Show a few years ago (they're out of Indiana).