The first words I heard when I answered the phone were, “Don’t be alarmed!”
Funny, until that very moment I had no idea there was anything to be alarmed about. Though, in fact, I wasn’t alarmed, because I recognized the caller’s voice. It was Rachel.
Rachel has called us perhaps two dozen times over the past year, quite concerned about the warranties on our cars. She would be instantly recognizable even if she didn’t identify herself by name. Her voice is nasal and, though she speaks unaccented English, she sounds vaguely European.
Rachel has two messages: One starts with, “Allo, this is Rachel,” and the other with, “Don’t be alarmed.” In the latter, she says, “This is your final notice.” This confuses me; if it’s really the final notice, why does she keep calling?
Come to think of it, why does she keep calling at all? We have our number listed with the Do Not Call registry. I would tell Rachel this, except that it wouldn’t do any good, because she is a recording. At least I can hang up on her without feeling guilty.
It’s not as easy to get rid of the fundraisers who are calling to solicit donations to charitable organizations. Unfortunately, these calls aren’t covered by the Do Not Call registry. What I hate are the callers who have been trained to ask me how I am, comment on the weather, and in general chat me up as if they’ve been waiting for years to have me as their new best friend.
I already have plenty of friends. I don’t want to discuss the weather with hired money solicitors from New Jersey or Puerto Rico or Indonesia. I don’t want to tell them how I am. I don’t care how they are. And if I wanted to donate money to their charities, I would do it directly instead of going through a fundraising firm that keeps most of the money.
My partner’s pet peeve with telemarketers is those who, trying to be his best pal, call him by his first name in every other sentence. He tells them he never does business with people who use his first name with such familiarity even though they’ve never met. What is most interesting about this is the number of callers who simply don’t get it. The whole concept of addressing someone as “Mr.” is foreign to them. Some of them try to calm his annoyance by getting even chummier, which of course means using his name even more often. They don’t seem to understand why this doesn’t work.
One of my sisters is a master at dealing with telemarketers. One of her most outstanding performances was her response to the caller who wanted to sell her some sort of wonder additive to keep the septic tank functioning properly. She went off on a rant about toxic chemicals and environmental toxins and polluting the groundwater, complete, thanks to her chemistry degree, with plenty of five-dollar words. The poor man tried to respond at first, stumbling and sputtering, but he grew increasingly agitated and confused. Finally he hung up on her.
I’ve never gotten rid of a telemarketer with quite such flair, but I have hope. I’ve also stopped feeling obligated to be polite to them. True, when it comes to dream jobs, telemarketing has to be right down there with cleaning hog confinement facilities or being O. J. Simpson’s publicist. But if enough people get fed up and quit, maybe there won’t be so many of them calling me.
In the meantime, here’s my simple message for Rachel and her ilk. Don’t call me. If I’m interested in what you’re selling—or if Hell freezes over, whichever happens first—I’ll call you.
(If you haven’t ever had a call from Rachel, and you’d like to keep it that way by listing your number with the Do Not Call registry, go to http://www.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222.)