Eric Wolfram's Writing, Stop Inbound Telemarketing

Stop Inbound Telemarketing

Telemarketers -- they call you during diner or during your favorite TV show, and they try to sell you things that you don't want. What can you do?

After all is said and done, telling the caller "Thanks, but I'm gonna pass", may be the best, no-hassle compliance, with or without the "and please put me on your don't-call list" coda. But what if you want to do more? Here is the definitive solution:

Use this script to gain control and possibly sue them (disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer and I don't know if it will work in your state or country) -- I followed that script and I have received written notice from specific companies that I am no longer on their call lists and that I'll be off their call list for 10 years. After I followed that script to the end with three or four of these direct marketing companies, my telemarketing calls have seriously disappeared. Now, I'm surprised when a call is a telemarketer.

Tricking Telemarketers
Steve Rubenstein, a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, has proposed "Three Little Words" based on his brief experience in a telemarketing operation. He claims these three words will stop the nuisance for all time. The three little words are "Hold on, please." Say this while putting down your phone and walking off instead of hanging up immediately. This makes each telemarketing call so time consuming that it may save three others, or more, from being called during that time. When you eventually hear the phone company's beep beep beep tone, you know it's time to go back and hang up your handset, which has efficiently completed its task.

I used to think that was funny until Eric L. Shulman talked some sense into me:

Eric L. Shulman's "What's Wrong With Tricking Telemarketers"
To the people who advocate, "hang on, I'll get the person who lives here," put down the phone and go about their business, I'd like to remind them, that because of performance monitoring, they may be causing the poor phone droid big troubles. True, you're playing a funny trick on someone with a job that's one step up from shoveling shit off the sidewalk, and that person has a lousy job with the following features:
  • Low pay (often minimum wage)
  • They get lots of verbal abuse from the folks they call
  • They get only one or two 5-10 minute breaks in an 8 hour shift (many places actually track their time by the MINUTE, and deduct for scheduled break time, even if it's a bathroom break!)
  • They have under intense performance monitoring (seconds/call, calls completed, calls/sale), which can get them summarily FIRED if they fail to meet the very stringent performance metrics.
  • They get no benefits (most Telemarketers keep employees below the 27.5 hour 'part-timer' level so they don't have to provide benefits)
So first of all -- don't be mean to the person calling. Why? They are not in control of:
  1. who to call
  2. when to call
  3. what to say (they have a script to follow, and if they don't complete certain sections, they usually don't get credit for the call).
And remember, when you drag out a call by playing 'head games' with the person calling, you may actually cause the poor soul to LOSE THEIR JOB because you may be causing them to miss their call quota. So the nice way to respond to Telemarketers is to actually listen to their pitch for 10 or 15 seconds, and then interrupt with:
"Thank you for the offer, but I'm just not interested in xxxxxxx... I know you have many calls to make, so let me save you some time so you can call someone else who might actually be interested. If you need to read any part of your script to get credit for this call, go ahead and say what you need to. Otherwise, thanks for calling and good luck to you."
At this point, most telemarketers are just relieved that they are not getting yelled at, and they politely thank you for understanding and hang up. Everyone feels good and there was no harm done. However.... if their response to "I'm not interested" is to ask "Why not?" (or they switch to the 'hard sell' part of their script), then say:
"Because I said I'm not interested and because I don't have to explain my reasons, our conversation is done. Thank you for your time and goodbye" (you can even say it like that lady from "The Weakest Link -- goodbye."
At that point you have politely ended the call, and hanging up is entirely appropriate.

Broken Record Technique
If you say, right away, "I'm not interested. Best of luck with your next call." They may say thanks, or be encouraged to continue their script. Just repeat, "I'm not interested. Best of luck with your next call." If they keep going, you keep repeating "I'm not interested. Best of luck with your next call." They'll get the message.

What is the actual Telemarketing law?
Federal law that requires consumers to individually notify each telemarketer that they wish to be placed on that company's Do Not Call list. Hmmm, so I guess that means it's legal unless you call the telemarketers to tell them not to call you.

However, states are getting into the act. California passed a law in 2001 that requires the Attorney General's office (Dept of Justice) to run a centralized "Do Not Call" list. SB 771: California law about a centralized "Do Not Call" list

It will join about a dozen other states that already have such systems. The California law targeted Jan 1, 2003, for the registry to be available, however, I think the program hit some delays trying to coordinate with a pending federal "Do Not Call" registry. More info and links about the federal "do not call" programs:

Technology to Trick Telemarketers
Then there is the TeleZapper. According to their web site propaganda, this sends out an inaudible "line is dead" signal that only computers can hear. Telemarketers who use computer dialers (the ones where you hear the pause), would be informed that the line is dead and disconnect. So you'd hear a single ring or a half ring, but no more. In theory, this will eventually get you dropped from the databases of numbers that get passed around. In theory.

A friend looked into the TeleZapper and found that all it does is generate the first note of the three "number out of service" tones. After looking around a bit on epinions, ehow, and the internet, he determined that he could record these three tones on his outgoing message to the same effect. He generously posted a WAV file of "number out of service" tone that you can record on your outgoing message.

If you do that, will friends and business colleagues think that your number has been disconnected or that they reached a wrong number? Not if you keep the pause between the tones and your greeting to be fairly short. My friend said that not had even one person commented on it. Telemarketing calls and "ghost" calls are practically gone, he reports. Coincidence!?

Privacy Manager -- from Pacific Bell
But what if you're home, eating dinner -- or worse -- what if the Simpsons are on when they call? In California, the phone company (PacBell) has a "Privacy Manager" service. Any number that blocks their caller ID goes through Privacy Manager. Such a caller gets the opportunity to record their name. (e.g. "You have a call from......'Joe Blow Vinyl Siding'"). You get a message telling you there's a call waiting, and then choose to ignore the call, answer it, route it to voicemail, or instruct the caller to place you on their "do not call" list. It's of limited use, but it's still a helpful tool.

As a result of Privacy Manager, some telemarketers like Sprint and AT&T, call from numbers that appear on caller ID. These numbers are often identical each time a particular firm calls, even if it's a big firm like AT&T. Another helpful Pac Bell feature can help. The automatic call reject manager. This is a list of numbers which are automatically rejected before your phone ever rings. I forget the key combination to access the manager, but it's listed with all the other custom calling features in the front of the White Pages. After putting the Sprint and AT&T LD telemarketing numbers on the call reject manager, for instance, you will never hear from either of them until they change their number. So this feature is very effective against known "pests". I suspect it was offered initially to people who wanted to avoid ex-lovers, stalkers, etc. but it's very effective against repeat telemarketers as well.

What about Fax Machine telemarketers? Is that illegal?
Under federal law, it's illegal to send unsolicited faxes, but California law has an "opt-out" mechanism, which allows advertisers to send anyone with a fax machine sales pitches (non-stop) until the recipient calls the sender and asks to be taken off their marketing list.

So evidently it "is" illegal to send SPAM to fax, but California has this silliness. People have reported calling the fax spammers to get removed, but the result is that some other company just keeps faxing.

Here's a discussion on Fax Law

Useful tip: Try to re-file your voter registration, and leave the phone number blank. One person claimed, he did that a couple months a San Francisco election, which are notoriously behind ample recorded telemarketing calls, he received no automated messages from candidates! Try that at your own risk.

About This Page
This page isn't perfect. Please contact me with more information. I maintain this page to because I have noticed many people being harassed by telemarketers, and sometimes I felt harassed too. Please let me know if anything on this page is misleading or if it needs updating or additions.

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