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A Funeral Dirge For Phone Etiquette

Is phone etiquette lost on everyone these days? I am not exaggerating when I say that half the time when I answer the phone at my office, I get hung up on! No one even bothers to say, “Sorry, wrong number” beforehand. Just *click*. And then there are the people who actually intend to call me on my cell phone–and don’t leave a voicemail when I fail to pick up! To me that says, “Oh, I just wanted to chat, but I guess you’re busy.” Is it wrong of me to not call them back until my convenience? After all, it can’t have been too important if they didn’t leave a message. Yet my mom will call back in 20 minutes and say, “Didn’t you see my call?” It also bothers me when people send me a text message that says, “Call me.” Is it too much to ask for a little detail so I know if I need to leave my meeting for an emergency?

And then there are the telemarketers. Unfortunately, they’re not limited to land lines these days. Usually for a typical sales call I’ll say I’m not interested. If they keep talking instead of gracefully exiting the conversation, I say, “I’m not interested. Goodbye.,” and hang up. I feel rude every time, but what am I to do? Sit on the phone for hours while someone tries to sell me something I don’t want? Well, they’re not even the worst of it! I keep getting these calls from an automated system that say, “Lower your interest rates! Press one to speak to a consultant.” There is not an option to press two and be removed. I’m so sick of these calls (every-other day, at this point) that today I pressed one. A man answered and said, “So I understand you’re interested in lowering your interest rates!” And I said, “No, actually I’m interested in being removed from your call list.” Instead of removing me right away, he said, “Well, first, let’s see if you’re eligible for this!” I said, “I don’t need your services, I just want these calls to stop.” He said, “I’m sure you could use the service! I actually aim to be an executive account director so I know more about this than some other representatives you may have talked to.” (At this point, I’m only still on the line because he hasn’t removed me from the danged list yet!) He kept on and on about how it won’t hurt to find out if I’m eligible, how it will help me, how he could see by my Experian report that I’m eligible. I finally said, “Tell you what, why don’t you give me your contact information, and I’ll call you back when I am interested.” His response? “Good luck with that! Enjoy having high interest rates,” and he hung up before I could say, “Let me speak to your supervisor.” Very professional, Mr. Executive Aspirations! Unfortunately, as the call was automated in the first place, I never was able to call back and speak to that supervisor. And I doubt he removed me from the list, either. I find it extremely rude (aside from being a bad business practice) that this company offers you no real option of removing your number from their list–either press one and talk to a pushy sales-person who won’t remove you from the list, anyway, or get another call from us tomorrow! *sigh*   0713-11


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  • chechina July 18, 2011, 5:18 pm

    Oi, telemarketers drive me crazy. I don’t get them myself, but I’m often at my parents’, and they get them often. Do Not Call lists have worked quite a bit, but not for all. And because their English isn’t very good, they ask me to get the phone for them if I’m there.

    Because my dad’s name is Jose *last name looks Spanish* they often get calls asking for, “Ho-zay?” To which I reply, “I’m sorry, there’s no Ho-zay here,” which is true; in Portuguese the name is pronounced “Ju-zeh” and if you knew him, you’d know that. I’ve had some people get really mad at me, call me a liar, insist on speaking to him. To which I usually respond cheerfully in Portuguese and hang up.

    There was one occasion when I was washing the dishes at their house, so my mom got their phone for me when it rang. She listened for a few moments, looking confused, and haltingly said what I’ve taught her to say: “If it’s important, please send it in a letter.” She listened a little more, still confused, and then asked him to “hold for second”, and asked me to take over the call. “He says it’s important and it’s about my bank accounts!”

    I quickly wiped my hands and went on the line. I introduced myself by name and as the daughter and asked if I could help translate. The caller began a spiel on how my mom was qualified for a extra special credit card. I saw red.
    “Why did you tell my mother this was important?”
    “Because it is important.” (Sulkily.)
    “You are trying to sell something. It is not important. Do you feel proud of yourself alarming an old woman who doesn’t speak English?”
    *Silence* *Hangs up*
    They never called back, at least.

  • aje July 18, 2011, 8:45 pm

    When I was under 18 years old I used to have a lot of fun. I’d play along for a while and when it finally got to credit card information, I’d sweetly tell them I didn’t own one, I was only ___ years old. Then they’d hang up on me.

    One lady once called my father and said, “Hello, I’m selling magazines-” to which he cheerfully interrupted “Oh good, I’m glad you called. I’m selling easter eggs!” (it was good friday) The lady gave a hesitantly laugh and said, “Well I really don’t like easter eggs.” and my dad, ever the honest one said, “Well I really don’t like magazines.” and hung up. XD

  • bmyster July 20, 2011, 8:22 am

    It won’t help everything, but if you list your cell phone number on the FCCs Do Not Call registry (see https://www.donotcall.gov ), that legally requires telemarketers not to call you on that line. I think there are exemptions for political, charity and “businesses with whom you’ve had a relationship in the past 12 months.” But it will help.

  • Rachel (S[d]OC) July 20, 2011, 9:46 am

    Am I the only one who thinks it’s wrong to be rude or mean to telemarketers?

    These are human beings on the other end of the phone. Yes, real flesh and blood people just like you, who, just like you, have a job to do. Telemarketers are often homeless or disabled, or otherwise have a hard time finding employment. Their job might be what keeps them off the streets or puts food on the table.

    They are selling a service. It could possibly be a service you might want or need. They are calling you because of that possibility.

    When one calls and they ask for me (I can tell it’s a telemarketer because there is always a pause between when you pick up and when they connect to the call) I simply say I’m not there, offer to take a message, and leave it at that. They usually politely get off the phone and no one is hurt.

  • Michelle July 21, 2011, 1:29 pm


    Thank you! My very first job was as a telemarketer, and it was so soul-crushing that I quit after 3 weeks. I was ALWAYS polite, and we only called people who filled out forms saying that they were potentially interested in our service. But 9 times out of 10, the people were completely rude in response.

    On the other hand, telemarketers are NOT allowed to leave you voicemails — especially automated ones. It’s now actually a punishable offense; one of the fringe bills on the Patriot Act. There’s an episode of Judge Judy out there somewhere in which a man sued the telemarketer that kept leaving him voicemails and won $5,000.00. Who knows, that minor annoyance may mean a big payday for you!

  • Merriweather August 5, 2011, 2:21 am

    Telemarketers – I politely but firmly say I’m not interested, please remove my name, and hang up without waiting for a reply. Possibly rude, but most telemarketers are paid at least in some part based on results or number of calls – time spent by my waiting for a long spiel to finish, and for their response, will not earn them any money. Oh, and I really hate those who ask for my husband by first name, attempt to sound like an old friend, don’t give a company name, and when asked what the call is concerning, rather than giving their company name, quiz me on if I’m his wife, etc – I have no hesitation in telling them who I am is none of their business, and if they actually knew him socially they’d know who I was, and as they can’t be upfront about their company association, they will never be spoken to.

    Wrong numbers – I never mind as long as there’s the briefest “sorry, wrong number”. Even those who hang up are a minor annoyance. What I really hate are those who demand to know my number. Sorry, you tell me what number you think you dialed, I’ll tell you if you dialed wrong or have wrong info, but that’s it.

    As for those who say they only answer numbers they recognize, I’d rather risk a telemarketer than miss what could be a legitimate call. My cell has voice mail, but I don’t always check it in a timely manner. Home phone has a recorder, but it has been known to flake out. And some people still hate talking to machines, or are too shy if not sure they have the right person, etc. You just never know. Caller ID isn’t perfect – people use pay phones, borrow cells, use those toss away pay as you go cells for various reasons, use work phones, old friends get married & change names, etc. You never know who might be on the other end of that line. I once had a call from a cousin I hadn’t heard from since childhood, he knew from family talk I lived in a particular city at that time, he was a truck driver and passing thru, and thought he’d look me up in the phone book. After verifying I was the right person of the name, we had a great talk – he died soon after, and I’m so glad I didn’t skip that call when I didn’t recognize the number (it was a pay phone). As a military spouse, I’ve spent my life moving around, and have lost touch with many people over the years, and have also had several instances of old friends finding my current number some way and calling to re-connect, and often I don’t recognize the variation of their name that shows on caller ID. I’ve even had a couple of emergency collect calls from desperate relatives at pay phones, which of course I’d have missed if I ignored unknown numbers. Perhaps old-fashioned in this well-connected era, but I hate the thought of missing a legitimate phone call, and the few times I’ve had voices from the past get hold of me make up for all the telemarketers I have to hang up on, lol.

  • lkb August 5, 2011, 8:40 am

    What I don’t understand about telemarketing calls is what genius thinks that people would whip out their credit card information and buy from a recording. Obviously some people do or else they wouldn’t keep making them but really….?

  • See August 7, 2011, 12:32 am

    Whoever had my cell phone number before me must’ve signed up with it for every deal under the sun. They call and they call and they call. Most of the time it’s automated recordings telling I qualify for home loans or stuff of that nature but when I get a real live person i tell them that it’s my phone number, I have no idea of who they are or what they want so to please take my number off the list.

    That’s not as annoying as the friends of the guy whose name is Nicholas. No matter how many times I tell the same people at the same number that it’s not his number anymore they still call. I’ve had this number for 6 months now and they still call. They don’t speak great english so I asked my mom to tell them in spanish. Yeah when she started to talk to them in spanish they said they didn’t speak spanish. Okay then how do you know what she was speaking? Yeah I finally put their number down in my phone so I could ignore their calls when they come in.

    I don’t ignore calls on purpose but sometimes my phone gets lost in my covers or I don’t hear it while I’m asleep. Leave a message or don’t be surprised when i don’t call you back. Unless I’m waiting to hear from you if there’s no message you’re not getting a call back.

  • ShellyLynne March 23, 2012, 3:03 am

    I didn’t read the comments on this post so I don’t know if any of this has been said before. I worked as a telemarketer after high school and we were actually not allowed to hang up. If they were on the phone, we kept trying to sell them. We either got a sale or got hung up on. We were not allowed to say good-bye. Because of this I encourage people to politely say “I’m not interested. Thank you.” and hang up immediately.

    Also, make sure you are on the Do Not Call list. And if someone calls you, be sure to report it to them. I had an issue a few months ago where I would get calls three to four times a day from different numbers but the same company *supposedly* selling diabetic supplies. After researching the company to try and find someone to contact to stop the calls, I found that it was complete fraud so all I could do was report them to the Do Not Call website every single time. I told them to remove me every time and I wasn’t. I yelled at them and was laughed at and the same girl called me back immediately after I hung up. My solution? I bought a whistle and kept it next to the phone. When I answered the phone and heard the name of the company, I would blow the whistle as hard as I could into the phone. I only had to do this twice and the calls stopped. Was I rude to do that? Maybe, but this was CLEARLY a fraudulent company that was harassing me, so I didn’t lose a wink of sleep over it.

  • claire kellock July 24, 2012, 3:50 am

    Remember that around 80 cents in the dollar goes to the telemarketing company as commission. Always ask if all of the money goes to the organization and if not, what their commission is. Most telemarketers are too embarrassed to say and tell you that it is not an issue they deal with