Since I started working from home I’ve noticed how annoyingly often the phone rings. Normally I’d never answer it, that’s what the wife and the answering machine are for. If you’re programmed into our phone as friends or family, and haven’t disguised your caller ID, I might pick up, but it depends on what I’m doing. Please don't feel snubbed by this. I’m not the sort of person who jumps out of the shower or cuts off a crap to sprint for the nearest extension. Really, it’s no better than me busting into your house when you’re having sex and sitting on the end of the bed for a chat. “No, no, you two go on with what you’re doing, there’s just something I have to tell you.” That's how it feels to be forced to answer the phone. In my mind anyway.
Waiting on call-backs from various people has required me to pick up a lot more ‘private number’ calls lately. Thusly I have been fully exposed to the dreaded telemarketer’s cold calling system.
For crying out loud these people are a special breed. What incredibly successful brainwashing have they undergone? They launch into their spiel and talk straight over the top of your polite disinterest. (Fear of repeated 3 AM call-backs prevents me from telling them to fuck off). How efficiently they ignore everything you say that isn’t a positive response to what they are selling. Mostly whatever they are selling wouldn’t be desirable even with 100 dollar bills stuck all over it.
Previously, when I viewed the phone as a convenience for me to use and not the dog whistle its insistent tone has become, I would enjoy listening to all the hang-ups of thwarted automatic dialling machines. Then I discovered the telemarketer’s auto-dialler is programmed to keep trying at different times of the day until they finally get you. So by ignoring one call you might have subjected yourself to another five. Now I must be even cleverer. Sometimes you get a 2 second window after you pick up and can hear background noise at the call centre before an operator can connect to your line. Hang up quick, the auto-dialler marks your number as having responded and won’t call again. (For a couple of days.)
Many times I’ve fallen into the trap of letting them get started. It’s that critical period where I try to work out if it’s a publisher calling about one of my submissions or if the Indian telephone exchange has accidently re-routed a call through to Australia. What’s with all the Indian people wanting to sell Aussies stuff anyway? When you’ve got a thick accent and can only poorly emulate the countries language, why would you even attempt to sell the natives something? Especially when they are trying to convince you to buy something you don't want or need. Who encourages this? Is it a joke? I’ve just had to listen to one totally incoherent Indian gentleman spluttering and stumbling over himself for about thirty excruciating seconds on a spiel he hasn’t bothered to memorise. I only listened that long to see if he could finish. Then I think I said, ‘Ah, yeah, what? No don't repeat it! I don't think I need any’, and hung up. We were both relieved to finish that call I think.
An interesting fact is that we bring these people on ourselves. Someone is buying the shit they sell. It would only take a week of every person called saying no and these businesses would disappear overnight. I would love to know who supports telemarketers. I have a baseball bat ready for when I find out. If the product is cheap is it any good, have they told you the freight charge, can you get it locally? A cheap holiday in Rio is going to be in the monsoon season. Can’t find a financial investor you trust through word of mouth from friends and family; why don't you give your money to a cold-calling complete stranger? That’s intelligent. Do any of us need more useless and irritating interruptions to our lives? Getting a silent number doesn’t help. Putting yourself on the ‘Do not call list’ doesn’t help. There’s an opening here for someone to invent a phone that screen these calls for you, like spam software does with emails. I’ll be first in line to buy one.