Sunday, January 29, 2006

Tel-Sales Solutions

Back to the subject of telephone solicitors.

First off - that phrase is just too bulky to keep typing. Let's refer to them as 'phone boy', 'phone girl' or 'phone pirate'. How does that sound? Got a better idea? Let me know. Oh - add 'tel-sales' and 'evil-doers' to the list.

Solutions to the phone-pirate problem. As I said yesterday - the best solution is to have fun with them, thus reaping entertainment value and sacrificing nothing. Time well spent.

I hope to publish a book one day titled: 101 Fun Things To Do With Telephone Solicitors. Illustrated of course. I'm very serious about that. The problem is - I fear the tel-sales companies will buy up the books in order to draft counter-strategies which could make the book redundant quickly. Perhaps I could price the book at $100,000 and offer a $99,995 discount to any purchaser who can prove they are in no way associated with phone pirates. I'm not sure if that's legal. I have to put more thought into this.

In the mean time...

Solution 1: Sing show tunes at them

As soon as you identify the caller as a phone pirate, ignore what they say. Start singing 'Oklahoma' or whatever. If you want to lose them real fast, sing over them as they try to talk. If you want them to stick around longer and be tortured, stop singing whenever they talk, then, when they ask you the next question, pick up the song right where you left off.

I confess two things. One, this was not my own original idea. I think a radio DJ suggested it. Two, I don't know the words to any show tune whatsoever.

I did, however start singing Dylan's 'Mr Tambourine Man' once. Surprisingly, phone-boy's attention lasted longer than my knowledge of the lyrics could take me. So I started making up words on the spot. Something entirely idiotic came out. Something like this:

Hey Mr Trampoline Man
Bounce around for me
In the jingle jangle morning
I'll go bouncing with you...

That's where he hung up. I fell apart laughing. It was great.

Solution 2: Let someone else sing at them

Though less effective than solution 1, this is perfect if you're too shy to behave like a small child in front of an alleged adult that you hardly know (though really, there's no reason to be shy. The evil-doer doesn't know you and never will. You're just one of hundreds of voices he'll hear that day. You're just a potential meal ticket).

Tell the phone boy, "Yeah, sounds good. Let me get my credit card. I'll put you on hold."

Then place the phone in front of your stereo speaker and turn it on at a very light volume. Leave it like that for 20 seconds or so. He might be suspicious but he may be optimistic and assuming you run a hair salon business out of your home or something like that and are thus equipped with telephone Muzak. Then, start raising the volume - higher and higher and higher. He'll hang up before his ears start to bleed.

I did this. It worked. Unfortunately I don't know how long he stuck around. The first time I checked, he was gone.

Solution 3: The 1-2 punch

This is a musical combo. If you know what CD is currently in the player and what the first song is and what the first few lyrics are - start singing them at phone girl while you get the CD playing. Then place the phone in front of the speaker and let Madonna or whoever take over.

This is simply a more intriguing scenario from the pirate's point of view and it will make for a more entertaining story for her to tell her boyfriend later that night over their meal of kraft dinner and ketchup. I haven't tried this yet.

Solution 4: The excuse

This is what I most commonly resort to. I've never found a situation where it wouldn't work. No matter what the pirate is selling, there is always an alleged reason why it wouldn't be applicable to you. It usually takes about 1 second to think of one.

A fellow was pushing magazine subscriptions. I said I can't read. He sounded embarrassed and quickly ended the call.

A girl was selling duct cleaning services. I told her I had no ducts. She insisted I did and wondered if I understood what she meant by 'ducts'. I insisted I knew very well what she meant and that I lived in an igloo and there were no ducts. She didn't believe me but I insisted and she had to back down.

This is especially amusing if you live in Texas or Florida. But if you're more comfortable with a more believable story, say Tee-pee instead of igloo.

A girl called pushing family portraits. I told her I do my own portraits as I was a professional photographer and a famous one at that. "Jack Shlookums," I said, "You've probably heard of me." I told her to watch for my work at the McMichael Gallery or the Art Gallery of Ontario. She assured me she would.

The thing to remember is - the more outrageous the excuse - the more entertainment value you get out of it. A perfectly ordinary excuse will only abbreviate your victimization without bringing any joy.

Solution 5: The silent treatment

This was one of my early experiments. The results were surprising. It began as a standard solution 4. Phone-boy was offering subscriptions to the National Post newspaper. Stupidly, instead of claiming that I couldn't read, I said that we already subscribe to the National Post at the office and that I read it there. Thanks anyway.

I was shocked that he was not swayed. He said "Oh, we get it here at the office too. But I still subscribe at home. Believe me, it's great to get home and read it again when you can relax and take your time!"
I was stunned. I'd been had. I quietly placed the phone on my desk and walked away. I looked through the freezer and selected something for dinner. I went back to the phone. He had hung up. I thought that was the end of it. Oh no.

The very next day I got a call from a girl at the same place wanting to sell me the National Post. So again I said that I get it at the office already. What do you think she said?

"Oh, we get it here at the office too. But I still subscribe at home. Believe me, it's great to get home and read it again when you can relax and take your time!"

The sniveling little liars were reading off the same cue card!

Again I placed the phone quietly down.

I went and flicked on the TV and surfed to see if M*A*S*H was on. No luck. I went back to the phone and picked it up. She was still talking.

I went to the bathroom and put some gel in my hair and gave it a combing. I washed my hands and returned to the phone. She was still talking! I sat down and listened, utterly intrigued that someone could possibly deliver such a giant monologue. It didn't last much longer.

"Hello...? Hello...? Hello...?" She hung up. But oh, the adventure does not end.

Day 3. Yet another phone call re the National Post. Another woman. She sounded older than the first.

"Excuse me!" I harshly interrupted her. "This is the third day in a row you people have called me! Why are you harassing me? Why are you stocking me? There's a law against this you know!"

"Oh! Oh my!" she stammered. "I'm so sorry. It says in the notes section here that you asked us to call back the next day!"

Ah ha! I thought. So they were punishing me for my stunt by arranging for someone else to call me back. Or perhaps they were sabotaging their co-workers for reasons around performance ratings and related bonuses or what not.

"I most certainly did not!" I said. "She hung up on me yesterday!" (true but misleading). "You guys call me one more time and I'm going to the police. Have I made myself clear?"

She was very apologetic.

Well, I have dozens more solutions and believe me - they only get better from here. But five is enough for one day.

Do give them a try and post a message back to me to let me know how it went. I'd love to hear about it.


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