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Tell a marketer how you feel

Sharing strategies on how to get rid of those annoying telemarketers

Posted: Monday, October 20, 2003

I love all the flap over telemarketing because everyone gets to watch two essential democratic freedoms duke it out: one person's freedom of speech vs. another person's right not to be bothered by it.

My guess is that First Amendment purists ultimately will rule in favor of the telemarketers, meaning we'll have to be prepared to fight them where they sit: on the other end of the telephone. Here are some of my favorite ways to deal with them.

Record your smoke alarm going off and play it back for them.

Ask them to wait a second while you shut the door. Then never come back.

Pretend to take an interest in them by chatting about absolute drivel for as long as possible taking as few breaths as possible. If you want some tips from pros about how to do this, watch "Gavel to Gavel." Outside Alaska try C-SPAN.

Start crying and tell them you don't deserve the happiness they have brought you. No matter what they say, start crying again, and ask for a few moments to recover. Drag this out as long as you can.

Get creepy. Say things like, "You know, I was watching your kids the other day and I think they need new clothes."

Techwit By Jason Ohler

Call them first. I am collecting numbers of telemarketers so that we can start calling them during dinner. Offer to sell them their privacy for $100. I offered one a car if he promised never to call me again. He asked me whether it had a leather interior.

Be a bit crazy. Tailor it to what they're selling. If they're trying to get you to switch phone companies, say: "I don't need to call people. On my planet we use telepathy. I know what you're thinking right now and I'm going to report you to Elgar, Lord of the Flatulent Nimrods."

Tell them you'll be happy to buy whatever they're selling if they listen to some of your poetry first. It needs to be bad poetry. Don't have any? Visit my site, www.jasonohler.com/badpoetry, and feel free to use whatever you find. Please honor my policy of reverse copyrighting: You have to promise to claim you wrote it.

Struggle to understand them while using bad English. This doesn't require a foreign accent because no one speaks very good English anymore, not even the English. All you need is a genuine lack of consideration and a limited vocabulary. A typical conversation with a telemarketer trying to get you to refinance your house might go like this:

Telemarketer: Good evening. Say, what's the interest on your house?

You: Interest in my house? I like house. Not moving.

Telemarketer: I guess I wasn't clear. I'm talking about the interest rate you are paying for your house. What are you paying?

You: Not praying. Don't have to. Free country.

If you've got time, pretend to understand now and again, then relapse:

You: Oh! I get it. You're interested in my loan?

Telemarketer: Yes!

You: No alone. Have family.

If we're serious about this problem, then we need prevention programs designed to identify and treat youth at risk of becoming telemarketers. Fortunately, research has come to our rescue. Secret CIA documents left at my house suggest that all telemarketers have one thing in common: they made crank calls as kids. Remember when you were a kid and you'd call people you didn't know and ask them if their refrigerator was running? Then you'd laugh and tell them they'd better go catch it? It turns out that this was just gateway behavior to something far worse: calling strangers at home to sell them stuff they don't want.

Or we could simply harness the talent of telemarketers. It takes a special kind of energy and fearlessness to use contrived, bogus information to convince millions of us to spend money we don't have to buy unnecessary schlock we don't need. Maybe we should just channel this talent into something more respectable, like U.S. foreign policy development.



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