Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Why I Hate Telemarketers

By Sariah S. Wilson

In my head I can hear my YW President in a singsong voice telling me I shouldn’t hate anyone. But I have a special sort of loathing reserved for telemarketers, who I think will be consigned to the ninth level of Outer Darkness.

Yes, I know that they’re “just doing their job.” But people in the Mafia are just doing their jobs, too.

It started when I worked as a receptionist shortly after moving here to Ohio. I took the position because the company was an ESOP (employee owned) and I made as much in my yearly bonuses as I did in my salary. (Interesting tidbit of family history here - my mom took my job when I stayed home to be with my baby, and she currently works there still.) So the job was not the greatest, but the money was way too good for someone with a degree in history to pass up.

And when you work for a medium sized manufacturing company, and you’re the only one answering the phones, I would say that about 75% of the phone calls you’ll get are telemarketers/salesmen. My company didn’t have a voice mail system, and obviously, no one wanted to stop what they were doing to listen to a sales pitch. So whenever a salesman would ask to be put through to someone at my office, I always said I’d have to take a message.

It was easy enough to tell who was who when they called. I got to know the regular vendors, customers and family members quickly, and so anyone who didn’t fall into one of those categories was suspect.

So the telemarketers tried different strategies to get around me. There was the, “Oh, I was just talking to your IT manager the other day and I forgot to write his name down. Can you tell me what it is?” Problem: We didn’t have an IT manager. Or there was “Put me through to so-and-so. This is Bob Smith. He’ll know what it’s regarding.” Problem: The CEO had no idea who Bob Smith was and thus, Bob Smith got chewed out by said CEO for acting like they were friends. We also got a lot of name mispronunciations, which was usually an immediate tip off that they were not, in fact, someone that person wanted to talk to.

I got yelled at. A lot. Magazine salesmen were the absolute worst in how they treated me. I thought it was pretty stupid of them - I actually had (or used to have before I had children) a very good memory and I remembered the name of the company they were calling from. The next time a call came in from that company…they were going on hold.

Because when you work that sort of job, it’s all about time. The more phone calls you make, the more likely it is that you’ll get a yes eventually. So I’d leave them on hold until they hung up. If they wanted to waste my time, I could waste theirs right back.

The absolute worst though, and I truly didn’t believe this until it happened for the first time, was a sales scam that the office staff warned me about. Apparently there are people who will call in and say something to the effect of their technician will be out that week to work on the copier, and can I check the model number and give it to the caller so that they can be sure the technician brings out the right parts. The hope here is that the receptionist is naive enough to give out that sort of information, and then the caller will mail out parts for the copier and charge our company for them and harass the company about “paying the bill.”

I think over the two years or so I worked there, I got at least two of those phone calls a week. So I made it enjoyable for myself. Sometimes I’d rattle off numbers and letters, “9J67Z243” and just keep going until they hung up. Or I’d use my old standby of putting them on hold. Other times the office staff had a game we used to play where I’d start it off by telling the caller that I didn’t have that information, but Suzie in accounting did. I’d tell Suzie on the intercom who it was, and then she’d pick up, listen, and tell the caller that she wasn’t the person who had that info, they needed to talk to Chris in sales, and she’d transfer the call to him, and then he’d transfer the call to someone else, and so on and so on until the person eventually hung up. We had one copier scammer who stayed on the line for 20 transfers. (And lest you think that I’m an evil person for my ways, it happens to everyone who works that job. I know, because my mother who is this total extrovert who loves people and who is so super sweet and nice, now does the same things I used to do. They drive her absolutely crazy.)

After dealing with this all day five days a week, literally the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was deal with more telemarketers. At least at the office I was paid to put up with them. We blocked unlisted numbers or automatic dialing systems from calling us, but it didn’t stop them. We celebrated in our house when the went into effect.

But despite the fact that we’re on that list, we still get phone calls. Oh, they’re much sneakier about it now. Now it’s the car dealer where we bought our last car reminding us to come in and get our oil changed and hey, while we’re at it, look at some of the new cars they have. I’ve tried calling the dealers directly to get off their lists, but no dice.

Then there’s the people who call with market research studies, and after you’ve answered their questions, want to tell you about this great mortgage/vacation/etc. deal they’ve got. Or they want us to donate money to their charity. Things like that.

I feel very resentful about being infringed upon in my home, on something that *I* pay for. If my phone was free, and paid for by telemarketing groups like this, well, that would be a different ball game. But this is my phone that I pay out the wazoo for (because we get our DSL through our phone company) and it continually irritates me that at least half the calls that come into this home are from telemarketers.

So when I pick up the phone, I immediately tell them to put me on their do not call list. If the company ever calls me again (the joy of caller ID) I simply log onto the Internet, go to and report them (using the file a complaint button).

Does anyone else have this problem with telemarketers, or am I alone in my craziness?


At 4/14/2007 3:12 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

I used to work as a telemarketer, doing surveys (not selling) so I've seen it from both sides of the fence. It's just not good either way.

My favorite phone call is one I got about two months ago. I picked up and the guy said, "Emma?"

I said, "No, you have the wrong number." Then he went off into his speil.

He called again about six days later. "Emma?"

I said, "No, and you know full well this isn't Emma. I told you that when you called before. Now take me off your list!"

I'm actually pretty evil. After he hung up, I thought of the perfect comeback. He hasn't called back yet, though, so I haven't had the chance to use it, but if he does . . . picture this:

Him: "Emma?"

Me: "I'm so glad you called! Listen, I just got back from the doctor. I'm pregnant. How are we going to tell my parents?"

I think he deserves it. But rats, I think he actually did take me off the list that time.

At 4/14/2007 3:42 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

LOL Tristi - I hope he does call again. :)

I read one years ago about a man who told the cable provider saleswoman that he couldn't get cable because he was Amish and didn't have electricity or any technological devices, i.e., a TV or a phone. He said they were totally against his beliefs. When the confused woman pointed out that the man was speaking to her on a phone, the man screamed, "Look what you made me do!" before hanging up.

Probably one of the nicest things about having an unusual name like mine - when people call here looking for Sarah, I tell them truthfully that there's no here by that name.

At 4/14/2007 6:26 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

I have no patience for telemarketers who call me at home. But as someone who has been in sales for over twenty years, I am far more willing to take a business call at work.

If you don't let anyone through but your existing vendors, how will you know if there is better pricing or services available? Mail? Most people throw that away as well. In person? I'll bet you turned salemen away at the company door.

I don't take long with a salesman--if I'm not interested in what they are offereing, I let them know and get off the line. But the same companies that don't want to take a salesperson's call, almost always do some sort of outbound sales of their own. So what goes around comes around.

The one thing I train my people to do differently than you experienced is to recognize that the receptionist is their friend, not their enemy.

When they call, they introduce themselves and their company. They explain what they are calling about and ask for the correct person. All the while they treat the person on the phone with respect. Most of the time they get it back. Not always, but those that don't are usually companies we'd rather not deal with anyway.

At 4/14/2007 7:57 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

If you don't let anyone through but your existing vendors, how will you know if there is better pricing or services available? Mail? Most people throw that away as well. In person? I'll bet you turned salemen away at the company door.

Honestly - I don't know. I was low man on the totem pole, and was given very explicit instructions. In fact, the man in charge of all vendor-related things (the purchasing agent), the only person who would deal with sales people, told me I was not to put calls through to him. So I really have no idea how he would find out if someone had a better deal or pricing to offer him. And yes, I had to turn people away at the door if the purchasing agent instructed me to. I would tell him who was there to see him and nine times out of ten he didn't let them in.

And I can tell you from my experiences that most telemarketers did not treat people like me with respect. I was an annoyance to get past and was treated as such, which, as I said, I thought was a pretty dumb attitude to take since I was the gate keeper.

At 4/14/2007 9:58 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

I agree Sariah. the "gatekeeper" gets the worst of both worlds. You get in trouble if anyone gets through, so people lie to try and get around you.

When I was selling, I tried to always make friends with the gatekeeper as I always got further with honey than vinegar.

Now we are all the salespeople trying to sell our books. Fun stuff.


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