I work at home, which is why I know so much about telemarketers, and why I despise them. My hatred derives from the fact that the American consumer already has a staggering, overwhelming array of products and services from which to choose. In truth, we have more access to stuff than at any time in the history of the world. We don't need people soliciting our business.
Besides shopping malls, department stores, strip malls, boutiques, yard sales and street vendors, there's the Yellow Pages, the Pennysaver, newspaper ads, magazine ads, TV commercials, radio commercials, junk mail, leaflets, billboards, skywriting, and, of course, the Internet -- all of them hawking products, all of them looking for customers. If you're unsure what to buy or where to buy it, you simply go to Google, type in something resembling the name, and voila!
Given this almost infinite access to retail products and services, why do we continue to receive unsolicited telephone calls? The notion of a total stranger feeling he's somehow "entitled" to invade my privacy by calling my home and asking if I'd like to buy insurance drives me absolutely nuts.
I've had lots of experience with telemarketers. I've probably received, conservatively, 500 telemarketer calls. Here are 12 things I've done, listed in descending order -- from most rude, to least rude -- to get rid of them. If you happen to be a telemarketer who had the misfortune of having called my home, my apologies. Please don't call again.
1. The moment I realize it's a telemarketer, I begin screaming obscenities. You have to be a weak, immature person to do this, but I've done it. I spew out a stream of unconnected, undirected profanities, then quickly hang up.
2. Hang up the instant I identify them as a telemarketer. Cut them off immediately. Give them nothing.
3. Listen for a moment, then hang up. It's similar to #2, except I allow them to speak for a second or two longer before crushing them.
4. Leave the phone off the cradle and go about my business. They will talk for a minute or so and then ask for a response. They'll repeat my name. They'll say, "Hello, David??" Then they'll say "Hello?" again. Then they hang up.
5. I ask who's calling, let them give their name, then instantly hang up.
6. Ask who's calling, say I'm sorry ("Sorry, not interested"), then hang up.
7. Ask who's calling, say I'm sorry but use their name when saying it ("Sorry, Leonard, I'm not interested"), then hang up.
8. Curtly say they caught me at a bad time. I'm eating lunch or dinner, entertaining guests, am on the other line, etc.
9. Make up a legitimate excuse. We just had our house painted. My brother-in-law is a contractor. He does all our work.
10. Thank them for calling, then politely ask them to remove my telephone number from their call list.
11. Make a general statement summarizing my personal manifesto, stating that I adhere to the principle of never doing business with phone solicitors. Alas, most hang up before I finish my spiel.
12. Ask sincere, personal questions. How long have you been doing this job? Do you like it? Are you aware how much we all hate getting these calls? Most will laugh and say yes, they are aware.
David Macaray, an LA playwright, is a former union rep and author ("It's Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor")