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Comment: Telemarketeers

Oh Say Can You Cease!
Most Rev. Fr. Antonio Hernández

There is such a thing as a "phone trap", which the telephone company will use to stop annoyance calls by tracing their origin.

The manners mavens have all condemned it, saying we have the right to terminate it with extreme prejudice. My mother and aunt used to swear like sailors whenever they encountered it- and they were Godly ladies. I myself usually face it with some peppery language that my mother, aunt and sailors never had time to think up.
What is "it"? "It" is the telemarketing call.

As much as I have always deplored telemarketing calls, still I can see no logic in the new Do Not Call Registry. The fact is that telemarketers are tenacious, devious and shameless. They have to be, or they will be out of a job. Even when the national Do Not Call Registry takes effect- that's actually a big 'if' right now- what's to stop marketers from calling anyway? How could a person prove telemarketers are still at it?

There is such a thing as a "phone trap", which the telephone company will use to stop annoyance calls by tracing their origin. This service costs more than anything the telemarketers are peddling, is an even worse intrusion on the citizen, and at the end of the 20 day period that the "trap" has been on the line, the customer doesn't even get the satisfaction of learning anything- other than being informed that the nuisance caller has been identified and "stopped". Is this process worth the while to stop unscrupulous telemarketers?

The reasonable option is the "phone butler", an inexpensive little box with a big red button on it. This deliciously practical device plugs right into the telephone. When taking an annoyance call, the individual merely presses the big red button, hangs up the phone, and a digital alarm and recording comes on the line to inform the telemarketer that the home does not accept telemarketing calls. It then advises the telemarketer to remove the number from their list. These nifty little boxes, about $7.99 from K Mart, are well worth their small cost- though one does need to answer the phone in order to use them. But there is a certain Cold Waresque satisfaction in "giving" the telemarketers the "red button".

In the old days, we had to handle the task ourselves, and verbal volleyball with these phone line marketing-terrorist screwheads is no fun task. With telemarketers catching on to the federal law that prohibits them from calling back once they've been told not to, they now have recordings making the annoyance calls. You can't tell a recording where to go, now can you? Thus the companies can always claim that no one ever informed them to cease and desist.

Some companies do have a dram of integrity; their computerized lists have a Do Not Call section and the company will usually honor it. But that does nothing to stop the unprincipled, inexperienced or incompetent telemarketer from nagging a household to death. At my residence we pay over $100 a month in premium digital cable, yet the company sees fit to annoy us with telemarketing calls. Yes, they'll do it even when they already have the customer by the cojones. They won't stop even when they are told. So, do we really need Big Brother to step in and stop it?
Many have answered "YES!" to that question.

No one blames them. But the day we throw everything on Uncle Sam's shoulders is the day we really start to willingly surrender our rights and freedoms. I say let the telemarketers exhaust themselves in their stupid task; this is supposed to be a free country. And many of us actually enjoy talking to some of these nice people (there are so few nice people anyway). We can still order them to cease and desist after we're done talking. When it's someone really rude and annoying, our resulting "blue streak" can be very therapeutic for us.
Incidentally, I and all of my friends were on the national Do Not Call Registry the day the website went up.
© Rev Antonio Hernandez October Ist 2003

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