Telemarketers. I admit that I do struggle with them. I would say that the number of telemarketing calls we receive at home seems much higher than the number of calls we receive from people we know. They come in waves: Windows and Doors, Carpet Cleaners, Duct Cleaners, Charitable Organizations, Credit Card Companies, Political Parties, Timeshare Vacation Sales, Newspapers and on and on. Caller ID is of little use because most of them do not register a name, only a number. So we generally respond to the calls.

There are some evenings when the calls arrive one after another. Usually between 6 and 7pm.

Two nights back, I was going through some plans with my wife in my home office. There were a number of interruptions making it difficult to stay focused on the discussion. When yet another telemarketer called in, I was not all that patient and understanding.

Ring, ring, ring.

Another call. And no caller ID. I picked up the phone.

“Can I speak to Mr. Richard Cleaver?”?
“Yes. What is it that you want?”?

At this point, my tone was direct, not friendly. Whenever a call starts this way, I know that it is a telemarketer.

“Can I speak to Mr. Richard Cleaver?”?
Was she unable to hear me the first time?
“Yes. What is it that you are selling?”?
“Is this Mr. Richard Cleaver?”?
“Yes. THIS IS RICHARD CLEAVER. What do you want?”?
“Please be informed that this call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes and…”?

Why do I care about whether this call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes? Do I need to consult a lawyer to ensure that my interests are protected when telemarketers make contact? What if I do not want the call to be recorded? Do I have a choice? For that matter, I do not want to be called by these folks in the first place. And so I interrupted the script.

“What is the purpose of your call?”? I asked for the third time.

And I received a curious response. Although my tone was direct, it was not harsh or rude. I simply wanted to close the call as quickly as possible.

“Why are you being so aggressive?”?

I was a bit taken aback. A stranger calls my home, uninvited, to pitch a product that I do not need and refuses to tell me the purpose of the call after three requests. And then I am taken to task for being aggressive. On a telephone no less.

Ready. Aim. Fire.

“I only wanted to know the purpose of your call.”? I replied. “And since you are unwilling to tell me, I can only conclude that there is no need to have this conversation. Goodbye.”?

Fine. Point won. But I felt horrible after the call. That was another person, trying to make a living, and I had clearly upset her. Sure, I was frustrated by the seemingly endless series of calls coming into our home from telemarketing firms. And I suppose I was reasonably justified in trying to get to the point quickly.

Later that evening, just before I went to sleep, I thought about the impact I had on that person. I could have handled the call with a lot more grace.

5 replies
  1. Rob
    Rob says:

    Richard, In fairness to your last comment, I would think that given the number of individuals they call during any given shift, your approach was likely considered to be on the kind side and you should not worry about their feelings. I am sure they deal with much worse. After all, they do in fact intrude.

    The way I handle these calls, and I share the same 6:00 – 7:00pm experience, is by saying. “I can’t talk to you right now – may I have your home phone number and I will call you back?” Often the response is – “I can’t give you my home number”, to which I reply – “You called ME at home!”

    After the usual stunned silence, this usually truncates the call quite quickly. And my wife gets a chuckle out of it to boot! Rob

  2. Stephen Meyer
    Stephen Meyer says:

    That’s a tough call for sure (no pun intended). I’ve heard that if you ask to be taken off their calling list that they have to by law. And since my family has been adamant about this, our incoming telemarketing calls have significantly reduced. I even had one place that called a second time and then gave a really sincere apology once I informed them that I had already asked to be removed from their list. So maybe there’s some truth to it. As for that woman, I can see why you felt bad, but I guess this is the consequence of using people as if they are machines. A machine without social graces would call a random home and try to sell them something, but no person in their right mind would think that to be sound thing to do, there’s no sense of shame.

  3. Rob
    Rob says:

    Hi, Richard,

    My experience is that these calls are generally abandoned and they do not leave voice mail. I would be inclined, as you suggest, just not to answer.

    Merry Christmas! Off on holidays now until Jan 7th. (other than a business meeting on the 14th, this week.

    Talk then, and hope your family has a stress free and wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year to you and your family as well. Rob


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