Arm wrestling with telemarketers

They got me good today. Twice in fact. I can usually figure it out when the phone rings and the ID thingy on the phone reads a weird number with lots of zeros or says “Ontario” or “Nigeria” or “Answer this, you fool” — I can usually realize that I’m being had.

They got me good today. Twice in fact.

I can usually figure it out when the phone rings and the ID thingy on the phone reads a weird number with lots of zeros or says “Ontario” or “Nigeria” or “Answer this, you fool” — I can usually realize that I’m being had.

Sometimes you can just tell that it’s a dastardly telemarketer phoning you, and sometimes they somehow sneak into your phone line and you pick up the call expecting a normal conversation and instead get either a mind-numbing spiel about a “special offer” or a bored person asking you in a crackly muffled voice if you are worried about your credit rating and offering you the world’s best credit card “absolutely free.”

Whilst I sympathize that the job of a telemarketer must be one of the worst jobs on the planet, next to amateur dentistry or perhaps sewage inspector, I ask you — is there anything quite as annoying as getting an unrequested, unsolicited, unbelievably infuriating sales call at precisely the worst time? Like dinner time, TV time, bedtime, bath time or any time at all.

Oh, I have our number registered on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s National Do Not Call list, which is free of charge and highly recommended. But it still doesn’t keep the most sneaky of the maddening marketing intruders from burglarizing your phone line and wasting your precious time.

If I don’t recognize the number and I suspect a marketing meathead is phoning me, I usually let it ring and go to voice mail. On account of most of these dumb calls are actually auto-dialed by a computer, usually a computer that is much smarter than the telemarketer, and if you don’t pick up after a few rings the computer hangs up because the computer doesn’t want to talk to another computer that is asking the calling computer to leave a message, because that hurts the calling computer’s feelings.

That’s why you often get that really irritating pause if you do pick up a telemarketer’s call — the computer is handing off the call to the first available human who is either busy filing her nails or clipping his nose hairs, depending on the gender, while the computer successfully connects with innocent civilians. I usually hang up before the computer can wake up the telemarketer human. But it’s still annoying.

So today, one incoming phone call looked a lot like a number that I thought I recognized, but when I answered a nice sounding lady asked me if I would like to have a lovely free trip to the Bahamas.

I thanked her and told her I would love to but could she call me back in 4.5 years when my prison sentence was up.

Just kidding, but I did hang up on her after politely declining to listen to why I really need a new set of kitchen knives. And wouldn’t you know it, this afternoon a call came in that said “Private” so, of course, I had to get it.

Immediately this loud-mouthed schnook on the other end launched into a mile-a-minute harangue that sounded like he was either trying to tell me I was moron when it came to handling money (he would be correct) or convince me that if I was in my right mind, I should invest in a new and miraculous “financial no-brainer.”

I interrupted his frenetic patter (which was clearly being read from a cheat sheet) long enough to attempt to tell him I was not interested, whereupon he leapt even louder and even more aggressively into Part Two of his practised pitch. Blah, blah, blah. …

And then I did something I’d never done before — I just started talking, while he was talking.

Telling him I wasn’t interested and if he’d stop talking long enough he’d be able to hear me tell him I wasn’t interested, etc., etc., and all the while he just kept blabbing faster and louder. So I did too.

I couldn’t believe it myself, when it finally dawned on me that I was standing alone in the kitchen shouting into the phone to a complete stranger who was simultaneously shouting back. Like some sort of verbal telephone arm wrestling. I finally gave up and hung up.

But that’s not my worst arm wrestle with a telemarketer.

Back before the Do Not Call list, I don’t know about you but our phone line had practically melted from a veritable inundation of unwanted telemarketing calls. Finally at my wit’s end when one young lady wouldn’t shut up about a free carpet cleaning, instead of hanging up I pressed the star key really hard and really long, which sent a piercing, deafening BEEEEPP! right into her sensitive earphones.

That did it. She stopped talking all right, but one second later she turned on me — yelling that I had really hurt her ears and I was a rude and terrible human being, and she was just doing her job and I was no doubt going to burn in hell. … And I hung up. But I felt kind of bad about beeping her like that.

So next time, I think I’ll just say “Oh, I’m sorry there’s someone at the door …” and then leave the phone off the hook for a long, long time. You know, so they can see what it’s like to have someone waste your precious time.

Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.

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