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Food For Thought

A few weeks ago, I received a phone call that proved to be another underhanded attempt to sell me something, even though I have long been on the Do Not Call List. I have written about this problem several times during the past few years, and about a month ago, the Savvy Senior column in this paper described some of the sly methods telephone marketers use to get our attention. All the latest ploys are veiled as responses to your having initiated the contact by requesting information, participating in a survey, or having responded to some other lure that makes it appear that you had invited the call.
This particular call, initiated by a machine, began by thanking me for taking part in a recent survey. I don’t take part in surveys. If someone is interested in my opinions, they should subscribe to this paper and read my column regularly to gain an understanding of my feelings on just about any topic. Subjects not covered here are either not important enough for me to have a firm opinion, or private and nobody’s business but my own.
Because of the spate of unwelcome phone calls in recent months, I have begun listening to the messages, hoping for a chance to speak to a live person and request to be taken off their call list. Probably one out of three times, I am given an opportunity to either wait for someone to come on the line, or to press a button that will erase my number from their list. Lesson number one; pressing the button is a waste of time. Lesson number two; waiting to speak to a real person is also a waste of time. In this instance, as soon as the real person discovered I was not interested in buying their product or listening to their sales pitch, they simply hung up. I never get a chance to tell them to quit calling.
Never getting a chance to talk to a real person is especially annoying when the call is a wrong number and there is no chance of letting the machine know that they have been calling the wrong person for several months. This, being the cell phone company I got my phone from, you’d think they would have the right number!
In response to another repeated call, I’ve tried dialing the number from which the call originated but got only a message informing me that the number is for a voice mail account that has ‘not yet been set up.’ I’d like to ask how long it takes to set up a voice mail account, but they don’t give me the opportunity. It is only a recording, you see. So, I can’t also ask them why they would give a number to a voice mail account that doesn’t exist.
I have a similar problem with a repeated call from a credit card company. This company does happen to represent a credit card that I use, but they want to talk to me ONLY if I owe at least three thousand dollars on all my credit cards combined, which I don’t. I always pay them promptly and in full as soon as the bills come. Ironically, and maddeningly, the recording begins by reminding me that they have tried repeatedly to reach me and grimly warns me that this is the LAST TIME they will try. If only that were the truth! For weeks now, I have received an average of five calls per week, early in the morning, late in the evening, two in one day, weekends, each warning that it is my last chance. I wait patiently, press the number that will allow me to talk to ‘a representative.’ Then a real person comes on the line (not always the same person) and asks if I am interested in reducing my credit card debt. As soon as I mention that I have no credit card debt, they simply hang up. No chance to tell them to quit calling. These calls also come from numbers that I have attempted to phone back. No answer, of course.
How foolish of me to expect a real, live, reasonable person to pick up and actually listen to me. No, this game will continue until their recording wears out. Then, maybe, a body might just happen to be attached to the voice that answers and might pay attention and take my number off their list. By then, I’ll have become so disgusted with the whole process that I might cancel all my credit cards, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion that that wouldn’t solve my problem. I’d probably get on a new list made up of non-credit-card-holding suckers and will be subjected to relentless campaigns to get me signed up for a large number of brand-new cards for obscene amounts of available credit, a thick catalog of bonus-point ‘free’ gifts (aren’t all gifts free by definition?) and multi-page contracts that will require six and a half months to read and longer to understand. Come to think of it, I’ll probably just continue to answer the phone when it rings. Maybe I’ll even learn to simply hang up when I realize the nature of the call, even though being rude pricks my conscience. Why shouldn’t I hang up? They do.