A Funeral Dirge For Phone Etiquette

by admin on July 14, 2011

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

{ 110 comments… read them below or add one }

The Elf July 14, 2011 at 11:09 am

Preach it! This is the reason I have begun to hate the phone.

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Just Laura July 14, 2011 at 11:11 am

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

It appears you haven’t researched your options:

Register at the Do Not Call Registry. I did this years ago, and never had a problem. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt107.shtm

If they still call, take legal action.
http://www.killthecalls.com/suing-telemarketers.php

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Ripple July 14, 2011 at 11:18 am

I agree. And I get my office phone number forwarded to my home phone, so I get the calls offering us a grant or other loan.

I don’t get many general telemarketers, except for the ones that are working for a fund raiser for the police/Special Olympics/fire fighters/AmVets/etc. At this point, I can’t afford to give to any of these but just telling them I can’t gets a response that “You don’t have to pay right this moment – we’ll send you information” or “We only need $15″. I’ve gotten to the point where I say I can’t help anytime soon and still get urged on to help. I also have ended up hanging up on them when they won’t take no for an answer. It’s not rude – they’re interrupting your activities, even if it’s just vegging out in front of the TV.

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Beth July 14, 2011 at 11:25 am

We recently moved and our only internet option is DSL, so we have a land line, the first time in over five years. Since we moved in a month ago, we have received at least 4 phone calls a day for the previous holders of the number from collection agencies. Most of them are automated with the direction to hang up if I am not that person. One day I held on the line to see if I could talk to someone. Nope. I have no way of removing myself from the list…unless I call the number. First, this shouldn’t be my responsibility, second, I am pretty sure that if I do call the number, I will be suspected as being the person they are trying to reach.

Thankfully, we don’t actually use our phone line as anything but a way to get internet service and the phone is in the “office” where I cannot hear it ring.

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Hemi Halliwell July 14, 2011 at 11:29 am

OP- I feel your pain.:( I have had much the same experience trying to get off those automated lists!
We have an automated call that comes into our office every couple of days- some company trying to sell cruises. I too have pushed 1 to try to talk to someone to get off the list and they never listen.
I have school age children so if someone calls when I’m unable to answer my cell and doesn’t leave a message, I spend 20 minutes calling schools to make sure my children are ok. Grr!

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LonelyHound July 14, 2011 at 11:33 am

My favorites are when people call you and you do not recognize the number. You then answer, “Hello. Who is this?” Their response? “Who is this?!” This gets me irate. I usually say, “Well, you called me.” Either they hang up or mumble an apology.

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Anon July 14, 2011 at 11:33 am

If people call and don’t leave a voice mail it usually means that they did just call to chat and are fine with you calling back at your convenience. That’s how most people I know operate.

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Serenity July 14, 2011 at 11:36 am

Register under the do not call list online, it takes about 2 seconds. After that, if the calls continue, you can actually report them and they can be fined. On a side note, I don’t comment too often, but have been sporadically commenting for over a year using this username. I noticed in the last month someone else is using the same user name, and one of my comments the other day got bumped, presumably bc “other” Serenity also made nearly the same comment, and I assume admin thought I said the same thing twice. Can I politely request that “new” Serenity, if she sees this, use Serenity2 or something of the like ?

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Lace II July 14, 2011 at 11:42 am

If I have a wrong number, I feel like every second that I keep talking to the other person is another charge to my E-Hell account. Even the time it would take to stammer a quick “sorry” before I made the line go dead might overdraft my account. I can feel my Polite-o-Meter ticking lower, threatening to completely drain my backlog of hospitality and generousity with every annoyed breath the other person takes. Even after I quickly hang up I’m always afraid that the person will call me back, demand answers, and expose me for the fraud that I am. I stay awake all night tortured by their confused hello who is this there’s no Stephanie here. I’m sorry I made the wrong number please forgive me, I plead into the cavernous darkness of my bedroom. There’s no answer except for my own tears.

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Miss Raven July 14, 2011 at 11:47 am

I may actually be able to help with this one (although not with the sheer rudeness of some folks.) A couple years ago, it became possible to add a cell phone number to th National Do Not Call list. I registered before the darn thing even went live, and I have never gotten a single telemarketing call on my mobile. (I have received a few stray texts, but generally if you text back, “STOP,” they do actually stop.)

https://www.donotcall.gov/register/reg.aspx

OP, I feel your pain. Register your mobile, your home, your work and the calls should stop. If they don’t, the company who refuses to yield can be reported and fined.

If you’re not currently in the States, I’d check and see whether or not your country has something similar… I have to assume they do. Good luck.

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AS July 14, 2011 at 11:48 am

1) Some of my friends have told me not to leave a voice message on their cell phone unless it is very important, because they have to pay to retrieve it. If someone did not leave a voice message, it must not be important, because (as far as I know) humans would like to tell if something is important. It is not wrong to call back at your convenience.
If your mother calls back in 20 mins and ask if you didn’t see her call, you might want to tell her to leave you a voice message hereafter if she wants you to call back right away.

2) Not many people have the cell phones on them in a meeting. A text saying “call me” means call back the person at your convenience, but make sure you do call them. Some people seem to think that text messages are better than voice messages, and hence they text. But it is hard typing words, and there is often a restriction on the length to send text messages. If they don’t mention it is urgent, you don’t have to leave a meeting to call them unless there is a special situation like, for example, some family member is in the hospital. Otherwise, if they needed you to call back immediately, they should have told so in the text.

3) Calls from vendors can be annoying. Even worse (and obviously dangerous) are the scam calls. But if you are in USA, there is the “Do not call list” (https://www.donotcall.gov/). You can register your phone number there, and the calls should stop. It had worked for me not only with vendors but even with scammers.
If you are in some other country, you might want to check if there is something of that sort there.

4) People hanging up the phone without saying anything is awful. I wanted to share a related funny story on the other side of the pole – I once got yelled by someone on the other side of the phone! She asked me who I was. I asked her who she was and who did she want to speak to (she called my cell phone, and I don’t share it). She said that I was the one who called her up first, so I should tell her who I was. I politely told her that she is mistaken, and I didn’t call her; in fact, I had not even made a phone call that morning, or call some number in error in more than a month. She got mad at me, and I could hear her swearing before he hung up.
I had a good laugh after I got over my confusion.

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Serenity July 14, 2011 at 11:50 am

I feel your pain OP. I get those automated systems calling too, then I press one and ask the person to remove me from their list, and they slam the phone down. Then I get the same call again in a couple of weeks. I have tried asking to talk to a supervisor and got hung up on as well. I agree that people have poor phone etiquette, and that I would also like to hear advice on this. I suggest for calls from people you know, record a voice mail greeting stating that if it is important to leave a message, and if not you will call them back when you have time.

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Angela July 14, 2011 at 11:55 am

People hanging up on you: bad
You hanging up on telemarketers: not bad
Telemarketer trying to string you along: very bad
Someone calling you but not leaving a message: not bad. There are many reasons that a person doesn’t leave a message and if they didn’t leave a message, it’s not an emergency.
Someone texting “Call me”: not that bad but not a great idea. If a person is calling about an emergency he or she will usually indicate it. You can always text back “Info pls”.
Your mom complaining about your not calling back because she didn’t leave a message: Bad, but it’s a mom, not a lot you can do other than say “You didn’t leave a message so I didn’t think it was important”.

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Wanda July 14, 2011 at 11:55 am

I can’t help with your friends and family, but for the telemarketers, assuming you’re in the US: National Do Not Call Registry: https://www.donotcall.gov/

You can list both your cell and home numbers. You will still get calls from any company you’ve done business with, for political purposes (polls and such), and from nonprofits, but it cuts out a lot of random cold calls.

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Brenda July 14, 2011 at 11:58 am

For the telemarketer complaints, sign up on the do not call registries. There is one for landlines and one for cell phones. Also, most legitimate telemarketers will not call you back if you tell them they’re calling you on your cell phone.

At home, one reason I’ve kept a landline (very cheaply bundled with my cable and internet) is so I have a number that I can hand out to people I don’t necessarily want to talk to at any time in the future. I let all the calls roll to voicemail and check when it’s convenient for me.

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Calli Arcale July 14, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Having worked (unwillingly) as a telemarketer at one time, I can tell you that you are not being rude in curtly and specifically telling them that you are not interested and then hanging up on them. They are frequently paid on commission, so ending the call quickly gives them more time to find someone who *is* interested. Plus, they get hung up on enough that they’re used to it. Simply say “I’m sorry, but I do not accept telephone solicitations of any kind. Goodbye,” and then hang up, even if they are still talking. If you wait for them to apologize or hang up, you are inviting a “second attempt” sales pitch. You can even interrupt their spiel and start saying that the moment you realize what’s going on. This script is even applicable to charities, PACs, and other fundraisers, and it gets the job done with a minimum of fuss and aggravation for all concerned. The telemarketer will forget it very quickly, likely before the hour is over, because they are already focusing on the next call. What they *will* remember is various allegedly humorous and outright hostile responses from the callees. Don’t bother trying to be funny with them; they’ve doubtless heard it before, probably lots of times, and will not think better of you for it. In fact, you cannot make them think better of you, even if you buy what they’re selling, so it’s really not worth trying. Just end the call, politely but firmly, and move on. It’s far less aggravation for all involved that way.

As far as people not leaving messages and then somehow expecting you to know you wanted them to call back, that’s just plain rude. Stupid, too, since you’re obviously not psychic. My rule is that if they don’t leave a message, it wasn’t important. I might call back anyway if I feel like it, but if you don’t leave a message, it wasn’t important.

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AMC July 14, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Amen! I never answer the phone if it’s a number I don’t know. As far as I’m concerned, if it’s important, they’ll leave a voicemail. I don’t know where OP is from, but in the US there are state and federal do-not-call registries that prevent telemarketers for calling you. https://www.donotcall.gov/

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Tyler July 14, 2011 at 12:13 pm

I’m going to play devil’s advocate for the telemarketers and say that yes, while they often display poor etiquette, 99% of the time, they’re simply doing what they’ve been instructed to do. Yes, your particular salesman’s comment about “enjoying high interest rates” was rude and unnecessary, but the rest of the phone call sounds exactly like the kind of spill they’re supposed to give while on the phone with prospective clients.

Really, the easiest way to alleviate the situation is to check your caller ID, and if you don’t recognize the number, just don’t answer it. If it’s important, the caller will leave a message. If not, you’ve merely suffered the momentary inconvenience of having to check your phone.

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Jenn July 14, 2011 at 12:14 pm

I had a problem with frequent telemarketing calls from the same company despite having asked many times to be taken off the list. Finally one day they called and I played along.

How much is your monthly mortgage payment? – $50
Wow, only fifty dollars. What is the value of your home? – $750,000
Okay, so. Hm. What are your monthly wages? – I don’t work.
Oh. So how do you get money? – I go to the bank.
Yes, but how do you get the money to put in the bank? – It just gets put there.
Hm. Yes, but how is that? – I don’t know how it works exactly, but there’s just always money there.
I see. – I guess the accountant does it maybe. When I run out early I just call Daddy, then there’s more.
Oh. Wellyouhaveanicedayma’amthankyouforyourtime.

I got a call again the next day and gave similar answers. He hung up on me without wishing me a nice day or thanking me for my time. They never called again.

I really do try to be polite and have compassion on telemarketers. They are just trying to do a job like anyone else, but sometimes it’s just too much.

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Jen July 14, 2011 at 12:14 pm

I’m always a fan of the Jerry Seinfeld method.

(On the phone with the telemarketer)
You: This isn’t a good time.
Telemarketer: When would be a good time to call back, sir?
You: I have an idea, why don’t you give me your home number and I’ll call you back later?
Telemarketer: Umm, we’re not allowed to do that.
You: Oh, I guess because you don’t want strangers calling you at home.
Telemarketer: Umm, no.
You: Well, now you know how I feel.

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jen a. July 14, 2011 at 12:15 pm

I have a question about the removing-from-the-list thing: is it true that telemarketers have to remove you from their list if you ask? Normally I just interrupt their spiel and say “No thanks, not interested, please take me off your list” and hang up. I’ve always wondered if it was an urban myth.

Another way I deal with telemarketers is by not answering the phone right away. Some of them have a few numbers they call at once, and whoever answers first gets the speech, and everyone else gets hung up on.

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Sarah W. July 14, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Why even answer those calls? In the age of cell phones, almost everyone has caller ID, so why even answer calls from numbers unknown to you? I agree that text and phone etiquette needs some work nowadays, but the behavior the OP is describing is pretty typical of the way telemarketers have always behaved.

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Alexis July 14, 2011 at 12:21 pm

There is a no-call list that telemarketers are legally obligated to comply with unless it’s something you’ve signed up for (like the time I said I might be interested in volunteering for the Human Rights Campaign… Now they never leave me alone!) I was on the no-call list, got a new cell #, was getting called constantly until I added my new # to the no-call list… The calls stopped coming in a few weeks later.

There is also a way to opt out of “preapproved credit card” offers, which I didn’t realize until I was signing paperwork for a background (&credit) check at a new job.

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8daysaweek July 14, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I’m a journalist by trade and deal with impossibly rude phone calls all the time and that’s not even considering the people who call me just to chew me out and tell me how stupid and awful I am.
Our office 1-800-number is 1 digit off from the 1-800 number of a popular restaurant chain. We get hung up on regularly when we answer, presumably when they hear “Newsroom.” But there are many, many people who stay on the line and then argue that they dialed the right number and we are lying, insisting we take their name for call-ahead seating, tell them about our menu or listen to their complaints about service.
And then there are the people who mean to call the newspaper. I have had a woman call and insist that I should schedule her dog’s grooming appointment because I wrote a story about the new grooming salon. I had someone from out of state call and ask me how they could get a popular local donut shop’s donuts mailed to her – as she had already called them and they refused, she wanted me to mail them to her and was furious when I refused. And that’s just what I can recall.

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Tracey July 14, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Wow, that was a very pushy sales person indeed! You can click this link to see a list of ways to opt out of prescreened credit card and isurance type offers. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre17.shtm

Visit http://www.donotcall.gov to remove yourself from telemarket lists.

It’s so annoying that we have to go the extra mile when we didn’t ask to be solicited in the first place. I hope these sites work better that the “No Soliciting” sign at my neighborhood entrance. *sigh*

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livvy July 14, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Also, if they are calling your cell phone, say “you are calling my personal cell phone, please remove this number from your list,” they are obligated to get off the line right away. My understanding is that there is a rule specifically for cell phones (since in that case the person accepting the call can accrue charges, not just the caller) that obligates them to get off the line immediately in such cases.

We’re on the do not call list, and generally get very few calls – but still a few from survey companies, who are apparently not bound by the do-not-call list.

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livvy July 14, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Here’s the info, law, and best yet, a place to let them know about companies that break the rules!
http://www.fcc.gov/guides/truth-about-wireless-phones-and-national-do-not-call-list

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Serenity S. July 14, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Jen, I love your comment about the Seinfeld method. I will have to try that one. Old Serenity, I will use Serenity S. I did not know there was an old Serenity, since I am a long time reader, but recent poster.

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J's Mama July 14, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I wish I could register my cell phone number on a do-not-call list for a certain collection agency that is looking for a relative of mine. Basically, this person used my number as a reference for a loan, and now that loan is in default, they call me all the time looking for her. They won’t give me any information, but the last they called, the girl was so rude, that I wound up hanging up on her.

I’ve had my number for a number of years, so I don’t really want to change it, but it’s pretty obnoxious.

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Shea July 14, 2011 at 1:09 pm

The problem with the Do Not Call registry is that non-profits are exempt and can call anyway, until you tell them not to.

I have my phone set to just not ring when certain repeat offenders call.

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J's Mama July 14, 2011 at 1:11 pm

By the way, I used to work for a company, when I was in high school, where we got paid for cold calling people from lists and doing a survey. If someone got angry or requested that we take them off their list, we would cross off their name, and go on to the next person. I’m pretty sure they were removed for good. That’s the way the company I worked for did it.

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Leslie Holman-Anderson July 14, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Having been, in a period of dire necessity, a cold-caller, I look at hanging up on them a bit differently: If you know you’re absolutely not interested, don’t waste their time talking to them. Interrupt their opening remarks with firm but pleasant “Thank you, but we don’t buy anything from phone solicitors. Please remove us from your list.” and hang up. This frees up the caller, who gets paid more the more positive calls s/he completes, to go on to the next person.

And by the way — do get yourself onto the national do-not-call list. You’ll still get calls from ‘charities’ and it’ll take a while for all the old lists containing your name to stop circulating, but it will get you a lot more peace and quiet.

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Leslie Holman-Anderson July 14, 2011 at 1:26 pm

@AS — good story! Here’s another, from about 1960 when I was in my early teens: Mom’s in the kitchen, several of us kids are hanging around the breakfast bar talking to her. The phone rings, she answers it with the usual “Hello?” There was a moment’s silence and then she very politely said “I’m sorry, you have the wrong number.” Another moment’s silence, she got a very odd look on her face, hung up and started laughing. We all of course wanted to know what was so funny, and said told us “It was an old lady, and when I said she had the wrong number she said ‘Well then, why did you answer the phone?’ “

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alli_wan July 14, 2011 at 1:28 pm

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.

It cost money to obtain an Experian report that is not your own. He does not have your Experian report. He would not bother to obtain your Experian report until you had agreed to sign on with his service. He is cold-calling you and if you stayed on the line you would have soon been asked to ‘confirm’ your information.

This is a phishing scheme, not a telemarketer.

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whiskeytangofoxtrot July 14, 2011 at 1:37 pm

This is why I screen my calls. If they don’t leave a message, it isn’t important enough to call back. If I answer and it’s a solicitor, I don’t evn bother further, I just hang up.

My late FIL used to tell them that he had all his money in securities- social security. :D

FWIW- Ever notice that pause when you do answer the phone, and when you say hello again, the recorded message starts (or it switches to the boiler room call center)? That second hello confirms to the autodialer that they’ve got a “live one”. If you wait out the pause after the initial hello, you’ll hear the call disconnect.

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ellesee July 14, 2011 at 1:45 pm

“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”

I believe they are instructed to be aggressive that way…..their supervisor would probably care less.

Whenever I see a number I am not familiar with and not expecting, I assume it is a a telemarketer/phisher, and then I have fun with them. Usually I pretend that I can’t hear anything on the phone and keep asking “Hello?!” into it or I pretend not to be the person they are calling–when asked what’s the best time to call back, I reply with “oh, about 2 in the morning when she comes back from work.” Then they hang up on me :o)

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A.J. July 14, 2011 at 1:52 pm

I have some sort of weird luck with both cell phone numbers I have had, that I get repeated phone calls for whomever had the number before me and the person calling just will not stop believing that one day, the person they wish to speak to will get the number back and talk to them!

The first instance no amount of my “sorry, wrong number,” “sorry, they don’t have this number anymore” or flat out ignoring the calls would get this same person from calling my phone. Finally, on Christmas Eve, as I’m spending time with my family, the phone rings and I check, thinking its one of my relatives. Nope! It’s Wrong Number again. This time, I answered and yelled at them to stop calling me. They never did.

The second instance, I started getting text messages in the middle of the night. Since I didn’t know the person, I figured they were drunk dialing/texting and ignored it and they would sober up and figure out they had the wrong number. I finally got one that said, “Happy Birthday. I miss you so much. Why won’t you respond?” I finally texted back, “It’s not my birthday and I don’t know you. Whoever you want doesn’t have this number anymore. Please stop texting me.” And got an “Oops, sorry,” in return. More than a year later, in the middle of the night, I get another, “Hey, how are you doing?”

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Psyche July 14, 2011 at 1:54 pm

I have made it a policy not to answer the phone if I don’t know the number. That’s because once I got called two days in a row by a woman who, apparrently didn’t get it the first time that it was THE WRONG NUMBER! I don’t know many people, and those people know to leave a message. If they don’t, I know it’s a wrong number.

I also noticed that the solicitors never seemed to know the differenc

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Just trying July 14, 2011 at 1:55 pm

We have been on the Do Not Call list for years, and we still get telemarketing calls. We get the recorded messages, and I hang up on those instantly. Sometimes I recognize the number on the Caller ID, so I just click the phone on, then off without even bothering to answer. There is no such thing as rudeness to a recording.

We get tons of contractor calls wanting to estimate “home improvement” jobs.

I live in California where contractors are required to be licensed. I have a link in my “Favorites” for the official State of California look-up for contractor numbers. As soon as I hear the spiel about home improvement estimates, I immediately ask for a contractor number. Many (unlicensed I assume) hang up immediately. Some give me their license number, usually after trying to avoid doing so. I look up their license and confirm their name and address. Then, I tell them that I will be reporting them to the FTC Do Not Call list.

It’s mean, it’s rotten, but I see no other way to get these calls to stop.

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Twik July 14, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I think part of the problem is that telemarketers are not entitled to what I would call social etiquette, that you extend to friends and family. You must not start by being rude to telemarketers (most of them are honest people trying to make a living), but at best, their calls are business calls, and you are free to say you are not interested in their services, goodbye and hang up. The worst of them are not even honest business people, but con artists out to get your money by any available means. It is not rude to hang up on *them,* or high-pressure sales artists, as soon as they show their colours, any more than it is rude to slam the door in the face of burglar.

Let’s face it – the companies that employ telemarketers aren’t interested in manners, they’re interested in making money off the calls. So they may train their staff to twist etiquette to their advantage, or go entirely beyond it.

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Kitty Lizard July 14, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Back when I had a landline for my Internet only (before I got wireless), I had a neighbor’s child record
a new answering machine message. The child, who was actually quite nice, had a horrendously whiny
voice, and left a VERY long message. No friends ever called that number (they had my cell number,
but I loved knowing that telemarketers would call and get that answering machine message. After putting that message on, I got very few messages.

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Edhla July 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I too have once worked as a telemarketer. It was that or starve.

Two helpful things I can say:

1. There are (in Australia and I suspect elsewhere) just TWO magic phrases to get them to stop calling you. “(Please) do not call me again” or “(Please) take me off your list.” If you just say “not interested” and hang up, however nicely you may phrase this, or if you scream or swear or hang up without a word, the telemarketer’s job requirements mean they MUST put your number back in the queue. The “logic” here is that we “don’t know” if you screamed “@$%# off!” and slammed your phone down because (duh!) you want us to quit calling, or you were “just having a bad day.” Similarly “I am not interested” is taken by higher management as “I might be persuaded if you keep calling.”

2. The people who work as telemarketers are, 99% of the time, either college-age kids or mothers who have returned to the workforce after a divorce/when their children grew into a more independant stage. They pretty much all hate their jobs, but are desperate, and as much as it sucks to have callers interrupt dinner, it also sucks to be screeched at for four hours straight. The places I have worked (one was an NPC and warm calling) had a time of calling from around 4-8pm… right over dinner time. It’s done on purpose. Call any earlier, and too many people are at work. Most telemarketing places buy their data lists, so having an unlisted number won’t help unless you’re careful who you give it to. These places also generally use an automatic dialler. It means that if you talked to Bob yesterday, told him to “f off” and he was forced by policy to put your number back in the queue, I have no idea. I don’t know if you’ve been called before, or what happened, and I, personally, did not make the decision to call you.

So yes, a polite “please take me off your list” or “do not call me again.” Magic words :)

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Wink-n-Smile July 14, 2011 at 2:49 pm

We have a family plan with our cell phones – the cheapest plan we could get. Quite frequently, voice mails go into limbo for a month or so before we even get notification that we have a message. When the phone finally beeps at us, and the option to listen to messages comes up, the message is moot.

We regularly call each other, then hang up without leaving a message, because we know it won’t be delivered any time soon. If it’s important, we call back, or call another family member on the chance the person we wanted might be with the other family member – fortunately, we’re close and visit with each other A LOT, so this tactic works.

Back in the days before voice mail, if the line was busy, or there was no answer, you just called back. It worked then, and it works now. It’s also more reliable. If the call is important to you, you’ll keep calling until you get the person online. On the other hand, not everyone returns their messages in a timely manner, nor do they know the priority of the calls.

My habit with my family has led me to adopt the same behavior with others. I rarely leave voice messages, if I don’t have to. If I do leave a voice message, and it’s important, I call back in a few minuts, anyway, because who knows when they’ll check their messages? If it’s my emergency, then I’m responsible for getting the communication going.

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Xtina July 14, 2011 at 3:00 pm

To the poster who doesn’t call back collections agencies: I would advise you to. My husband shares the same name with a fellow who apparently owes all over our town, so we get collections calls all the time. I always call them back to (1) verify that someone hasn’t credit-jacked us (I’ve heard of cases where that’s how unfortunate victims find out, whether these agencies ask for a specific name or not), and (2) confirm that we are NOT the person they’re seeking—I have always had good success with them removing our name because they’ll usually ask me to confirm a middle initial or ask me if xxxx are the last 4 digits of his social security number. Can’t be too careful these days in the age of credit fraud. Besides, I have also heard that collections agency, by law, have to stop calling you if you request it, EVEN if you are the debtor in question.

For rude or persistent telemarketers, always ask for or take note of their company name and the caller’s name, if you can get it, up front (tell them you don’t do business with companies that won’t give you this basic information). This way, if they are rude and hang up on you, at least you can have a way of contacting the company to complain. Aside from that, I tell them no, I’m not interested, thank you, goodbye, and hang up. I don’t worry about being rude—if they’re rude enough to try to speak up over me, then I’m not being rude hanging up on them since they won’t end the call otherwise. When asking to be removed from their call lists, add the phrase, “per federal law”—sometimes this carries a bit more weight with getting them to comply, in my experience.

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Jess July 14, 2011 at 3:14 pm

I don’t think there is anything at all rude about calling a cellphone and NOT leaving a message. A lot of times when I make a call (rather than texting) it’s because I wanted to talk or ask a quick question that’s time sensitive. (Like, I’m shopping and need to be reminded if we already have something, or want to ask a friend’s opinion quickly. You know, serious stuff like that…) Or I might be trying several methods to reach someone – didn’t answer cellphone, I’ll try their home or work number instead. Why bother leaving a message?

It does cost to retrieve a voicemail and it takes time – I much prefer texts. If I do call someone and they’re not there, I’ll often quickly follow up with a text saying something like “Was just calling to ask about X, it’s not important! :-)” This way, if they are able to call back they will, otherwise they know it wasn’t an urgent call.

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Calliope July 14, 2011 at 3:20 pm

I’ve never had an automated call with no option to press a number to remove myself from the list. Sometimes they’re sneaky about it, though, and they’ll put a long pause between the recorded spiel and, “To be removed from our list, press 2.” Or they’ll make you listen to the spiel twice before getting the option. I used to work in a field that required me to take well over a hundred phone calls a day, so I’ve had more than my fair share of those automated calls, and, like I said, every single one of them had a “remove from list” option in the message somewhere.

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Seabasser July 14, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Just to add my 2 cents- among people my age (20s) leaving a voicemail is seen as somewhat annoying. To retrieve it, you have to call the number, listen through the menu options, and then finally get to the message. In fact, I’ve heard a lot of ranting about people leaving voicemails that just say “Oh, just calling to chat- give me a call back”. The general rules for cell phones for people around my age seem to be

-If it’s something short/non-urgent, don’t call. Send a text, as it’s less intrusive. The receiver can check it and respond at their leisure, rather than having to stop what they’re doing and take a call. Otherwise, give a ring.
– If you see that a person you know has called, you call back when you can. There seems to be mixed opinions about what to do about numbers that are unknown to you. Some people I know will call back, others don’t. I tend not to- if it’s not someone I know, and they didn’t leave a message, then it probably was a telemarketer/not important.
– Leave a voicemail only if it’s important/urgent someone call you back (we’re talking death in the family level) or the person is not really known to you, or if it’s a business call.

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AlwaysQuizzical July 14, 2011 at 3:23 pm

The national do not call list is great, I’m on it. However, I’ve heard if you give a company your phone number then you have given them permission to call you. Permission which they sometimes sell to other companies. That’s why you can be on the Do Not Call List and still get sales calls. So, when you buy things at stores and the cashier asks for your phone number, decline.

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Suzy July 14, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Be careful – most of the ‘Lower your interest rates’ calls are scams. They are trying to get your bank or credit card info. The number on your caller id is bogus so it is useless to report it the Do Not Call website.

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Library Diva July 14, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Yes, it’s OK to just tell the telemarketer you’re not interested and hang up. I worked as one too. It never hurt my feelings at all. It was my job to keep trying to get you to buy something. I did it because I wanted to pay my rent, not because I enjoy bothering people so much. You were supposed to have rebuttals for their objections.

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