Telemarketing: Don't Call Us...

by Nancy Gonzalez, CFLE

One day, a few days ago, I had gotten to late afternoon and felt really sleepy. My husband George would be home soon, but I thought I would take a quick cat nap before the dog went bananas (which he always does when he hears the garage door go up. "Daddy's home!")  I was just getting into the sweet spot in my power nap and, dang it, the phone rang.

It was a telemarketer. She asked for George. I said, on sleepy autopilot, "He's not available at the moment, may I take a message?"  She said-and I'm not kidding-"No thank you; this was just a courtesy call." And then she hung up immediately. Courtesy call? COURTESY CALL? I went from cozy napper to boiling mad in 30 seconds.

I am about "that close" [picture my index finger and my thumb separated by about 3 millimeters] to dropping our land line. I've been asked if I want my carpets cleaned, and we have hardwood floors. My favorite is those who want to sell us aluminum siding when, if they drove past the house, they would see it is stucco.

Yes, we're on the federal Do Not Call list, , and this probably helps, but we still get unwanted calls on a regular basis. According to the Federal Trade Commission, telemarketers are required to search the list every 31 days and remove any of these numbers from use, but I'm not sure how often this happens in actual practice. There are some telemarketers exempt from the ruling-among them are charities, political calls and those with whom you have an existing business relationship. The FTC website also says that prerecorded messages (those annoying "Robocalls") are reportable offenders. For all of the rules-and your rights-check out the FTC consumer information here: .

Up here in Minneapolis, we are afflicted with an ailment called "Minnesota Nice." It's just about impossible for most of us to be assertive under any circumstances, even with blatant annoyances. But families should be able to control who is important enough to wake babies from a nap or interrupt their precious dinner hour.  

Telemarketers don't make a lot of money, jobs are scarce, times are tough, and the constant rejection must be brutal. I feel horrible about the whole thing. But I buy my phone service for my convenience, not theirs, and they are beholden to federal law. Calling me, when I have officially registered as "off limits," is against the law. We don't get calls from creditors, because we pay our bills. I owe these callers nothing.  I'd love to offer to help them write a resume so they can find a better job!

There is lots of advice for dealing with this such as "Get Caller ID" or "block calls from unidentified numbers." These cost me money to enact. "Don't answer your phone" doesn't help, because I have a loved one who is dealing with chronic illness, and I want her to be able to contact me. In the most ironic circumstances imaginable in this paradoxical world, this loved one of mine worked a short stint as a telemarketer. This rips my heart out.

The conundrum is how to deal with them without being abusive yet get one's point across. Jerry Seinfeld's method, from an episode of Seinfeld, is so cathartic to watch. Here it is: . One of these days, I will have a momentary lapse in "Minnesota nice," and this Seinfeld technique will slip out of me.