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Monday, April 30, 2012

The Crackpot Calls the Kettle

     Political fundraising calls are coming thick and fast, so I thought it might be time for a blast from the past. Ten years ago, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Orlando Sentinel proposing the death penalty for telemarketers. Most people who read it shouted a hearty “amen,” but the paper printed a response by someone who missed the point completely and called me “ignorant,” the all-purpose insult of the day. And notably of liberals, though I don’t know the writer’s political persuasion. I do know the person had no sense of humor. Anyway, I could never figure out how I was supposed to be ignorant of my own experience. I swear, I was not under anesthesia when I got the offending calls. See what you think.

 March 19, 2002|
By Diana Heman Morrison
     Floridians must pay to ward off telephone solicitations by listing their names with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Lawmakers just voted to keep charging for privacy. This is completely backward. People who like having their dinners interrupted should be on the list. An uninvited call to anyone else should be treated as trespassing, and the penalty should be severe. Sometimes death seems too mild.
Years ago, I passed a sleepless night with two sick children. At about 10 the next morning, I slumped over my kitchen table. The kids were finally asleep, the last load of barfed-in sheets was in the washing machine, and, having had no breakfast, I was ready for a cup of tea. I sat down with it. The phone rang. A chipper young woman tried to sell me something. Now, usually, I try to be polite; some of my best friends have been reduced to working as telephone solicitors. This time, I had no energy for it and simply hung up. The girl called back, blew a raspberry into the phone and hung up on me. Charming.
Then one day, my son answered the phone and came to tell me it was for me. I picked up the bedroom phone while he went to hang up the one in the kitchen. A young man started his spiel about some sort of meat-delivery program. The kitchen phone clicked off. Without checking whether I was still there, he intoned, "Thanks a lot, bitch," and hung up. Yes, death sounds about right.
We removed our listing from the telephone directory. (You have to pay for that, too.) It did help. We don't hear from the air-conditioner servicers, the water purifiers, the purveyors of alternative fire alarms ("Smoke detectors cause cancer!" the saleswoman shrilled at me.) or the sellers of charity light bulbs too much any more, but one group we cannot shake is the Republican Party.
We used to give enthusiastically to the party. Then the calls started. They came from local, state and national operatives, not just every month or even every week, but sometimes twice in one day. I told them we have a household policy against responding to telephone solicitations. They kept calling. I told them to remove our names from the call list. They kept calling. I even yelled at them. They kept calling. Another couple of calls came a week or so ago. I told the last supplicant that we are sick of telephone solicitations, that we have told every caller from every level of the party to stop calling us, and that we've stopped sending money because of the incessant calls. This one sympathized and said she had heard the same from others. Do I detect a pattern here? Now I make all political donations through groups that support specific conservative candidates. They never call.

In response to the March 19 "My Word" column by Diana Heman Morrison, "Consider death as punishment for phone solicitors": I was amused by her ignorance. Morrison made sure to stereotype telemarketers as rude, unprofessional people. Yes, I am one of those people she was talking about. I have been "reduced" to being a phone solicitor.
What she doesn't realize is that most telemarketers choose to sell over the phone because the pay is great. And it is a great job for retirees and college students because of the flexible hours. Morrison should ask herself why there are so many telemarketers. Maybe it's because sales over the phone are a billion-dollar-a-year business. Or maybe it is because almost 100 million Americans bought something over the phone last year alone.
Of course, it is annoying to have someone call as soon as you sit down for dinner. She forgets that the person on the other end is someone's daughter, sister or brother. If you want the calls to stop, the first step is to be kind to the person on the other end and ask to be taken off the calling list. I have been a telemarketer for more than two years, and I can assure people that demanding or being rude will not help their cause.
To be educated on this subject, I highly recommend people read "The Florida Telemarketing Act." This spells out who is exempt, as well as guidelines for telemarketing. Instead of saying death to phone solicitors, I say death to ignorance.

A few points for Teleknowledge to consider: I said I usually was polite. It didn’t help much. 

“Amused,” my foot. You were peeved. 

I “made sure to stereotype.” Uh, no. I reported exactly what happened. 

OK, people are fool enough to buy stuff over the phone. That has nothing to do with my objection. As I said at first, people who want sales calls can say so. For the rest of us, the calls are like trespassing. Do you hear me, Republican party?

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