I seem to receive calls from telemarketers a couple of times each week, even though I added my phone number to the Do Not Call registry over a year ago. In addition to salespeople, I’m also plagued by “robocalls” – pre-recorded sales pitches. I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to put a real person on the other end of the line, then I’m hanging up immediately. I’d like to complain, but the majority of these “robocalls” use a spoofed Caller ID, making it next to impossible for me to track down and identify these scoundrels.
I’m not sure what I can say or do to discourage telemarketers – other than tell each one to add my name and number to their Do Not Call list – but I have come up with a few ideas that I’m eager to try. All you need to do is place your phone close to your computer speakers and add some audio file icons to your desktop screen, ready to be clicked when your phone rings…
- After the salesperson asks to speak with you, say: “Yes, I’m his/her assistant, can I help you? Oh, I’m sorry, but no one speaks with Mr. Yewchuk without first making an appointment. The waiting list is typically fifteen months, but could be as short as nine months is there’s a cancellation.”
- Pick up the handset and say “Bob will be with you shortly, after a brief message from our sponsor [click a desktop icon, which will begin playing the audio portion of a thirty-minute late night infomercial].
- Call the customer service line of any major corporation and record the automated message that says “All of our operators are currently busy. Your call has been placed in priority sequence. Please stay on the line…”. Save this as a looping audio file on your computer, and play it immediately after lifting the telephone receiver.
- Fool them into thinking they’ve dialed a wrong number and have reached a church or a temple. Create a looping audio file of a Gregorian Chant or a Hare Krishna chant and place its icon on your computer desktop. When a telemarketer calls, launch the file first, pick up the phone, and without saying a word, place the receiver in front of your computer speakers. Let the audio file play continuously until they hang up.
- Interrupt their sales pitch and say “Wait a second – I have to go to the bathroom. This shouldn’t take long so please stay on the line… your call is important to me”. Then go shopping…
OK, in all seriousness, I shouldn’t have to do any of these things if our government’s much-hyped “Do Not Call” registry had been implemented properly. It seems to require a lot of administration and maintenance, it was very slow getting off the ground, and as I recall, there were quite a few exemptions.
In my opinion, I think the government did everything backwards. Creating a Do Not Call list is the most inefficient and costly way that this initiative could have been rolled out. A better solution would have been to do just the opposite and create an “Approved Prospect” (AP) list or what I would call a “Please Call Me” list. There are a number of advantages to this approach:
- First of all there would be no exemptions in my Approved Prospect list. I don’t care if you’re a newspaper, a magazine, a charity or a political party. The purpose of your unsolicited call is to separate me from my money, and I will not have my dinner interrupted to hear your pitch.
- Our current Do Not Call list will undoubtedly contain millions of names – hence the registration web site must be capable of handling a large amount of traffic, and a considerable amount of simultaneous user input. An AP list would be much smaller, and there would be far fewer registrations on its web site. This would eliminate the need to build an enterprise-level, scalable web site, capable of handling thousands of user requests per hour. Bandwidth costs would also be reduced considerably.
- The data collected from the millions of people registered will be substantial, and you will need to hire people collect, organize, update and backup all of it. An AP list will be a minuscule by comparison and could easily be maintained by one person. My best guess is that an AP list for all of our provinces and territories would likely fit onto a single floppy disk – with space left over!
- Our existing Do Not Call list is very valuable, and unscrupulous telemarketers would certainly lust after it. Great care must therefore be taken to safeguard the data and to ensure that the list is not stolen or copied and then sold. Secondly, it must be given only to certain organizations – presumably ones that have been vetted. An AP list on the other hand, can be freely distributed, since everyone on that list wants to be contacted.
- Giving the list to telemarketers and then telling them “Don’t call anyone on this list” will create a lot of temptation. You are essentially putting the forbidden fruit directly in their hands and telling them that they must not partake of it. It would be more prudent to give telemarketers an AP list and say “Here’s your Approved Prospect list – now go to town!”. This would also eliminate an extra step for the telemarketer – checking the list before making each call, to ensure that a prospect’s name is not on it.
To be fair, there is one disadvantage in the Approved Prospect List approach: your friends may, as a practical joke, visit the registration web site and add your name and phone number to the list. However, this could be prevented by having each person verify his or her identity by entering information that their friends aren’t likely to know – their Social Insurance Number or driver’s license number – and then validating it in the corresponding database first before a new record is added.
I find it difficult to believe that our government has opted for a Do Not Call registry instead of this less cumbersome and far less costly alternative. Surely I must be missing something obvious or crucial, otherwise our government would have implemented it this way in the first place. Have I forgotten something? If so, then please let me know.