Turning the tables on telemarketers

It's been an annoying day here at the box factory. November 15th must be some sort of telemarketing celebration day. I've been handling three or four calls an hour from these bozos all day long. It drives me nuts.

I have little patience for spammers of any sort. Telemarketers are the worst. I have filters that can handle most of the e-mail and blog spam I receive. But there's no way to filter the telemarketers. I have to answer each and every call, have to listen to a few seconds of the lousy accents before I'm able to determine whether the call is worth taking or not.

In general, I have one (and only one) technique for dealing with these people: I hang up on them. They're not worth my time. Yes, I know that I ought to ask them to remove my name from their calling list. I try that with the worst offenders, but you know what? Nothing ever changes. I still get calls from Paper Printing and Converting nearly every day despite having asked to be removed from their list a dozen times.

Some people are unwilling to hang up on telemarketers because they believe it's rude. My sister-in-law, for example, tries to be very polite. She sits through a lot of tedious sales pitches. I have other friends who simply set the phone down and walk away. This isn't a bad idea, but it means I have to return to hang up the phone after a couple of minutes. No — for me, hanging up on the telemarketer is the most efficient course of action.

Telemarketers work off “scripts”. Especially resourceful people turn the tables on telemarketers by using counterscripts. There are a variety of counterscripts available on the internet. My favorite comes from Junkbusters:

Every time you get a call you consider junk, just ask the questions in this script. If they answer no, you may be able to sue them. Be sure to put your phone number on the National Do-Not-Call registry by visiting http://donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222.

  1. “Are you calling to sell something?” (or “is this a telemarketing call?”)
  2. “Could you tell me your full name please?”
  3. “And a phone number, area code first?”
  4. “What's the name of the organization you're calling for?”
  5. “Does that organization keep a list of numbers it's been asked not to call?”
  6. “I would like my number(s) put on that list. Can you take care of that now?”
  7. “And does the company you work for also make telemarketing calls for any other organizations?” (If they answer no, skip the next question.)
  8. (If yes) “Can you make sure your company won't call me for any other organization?”

Visit Junkbusters for more information on this counterscript (and on other ways to “bust the junk messages out of your life”).

Just now I got a call from a telemarketer who read from a script with a lot of big words, and who sounded vaguely like he might have an actual concern with our business. I listened for 20 seconds before hanging up in disgust.

A minute later, the same telemarketer called back. “May I speak with the owner?” he asked.

“I am an owner,” I said. “And you just called. I told you I wasn't interested.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said, “and you hung up on me.”

“I know I did,” I said, laughing. And I hung up on him again.


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Simon
Simon
12 years ago

Heh, yeah telemarketing is very ANNOYING!! Yet profitable and that’s why they keep doing it. Once you sit home during the day for a week, you’ll realize how many telemarketing calls there are.

When you pick up, usually there is about 1-2 seconds of silence and then comes a voice… I cut them off there.

I’m also a polite guy but I can stand it so I just save myself the trouble and time by ending it before it starts.

Sandy
Sandy
12 years ago

I signed up for the Do Not Call Registry and that has eliminated most calls. But not all, and the few that I get immediately irritate me and send my blood pressure soaring. I’ve come to the conclusion that the healthiest, least time-consuming thing for me, is to just hang up, like J.D. mentioned. And here’s what I learned from someone who worked part-time as a telemarketer. He said they are given a list of phone numbers & names and they just sit there and go down the list. They get $5-? if a person signs up for whatever it… Read more »

Erika
Erika
12 years ago

Next time you move, or otherwise change your phone number, sign up for an unlisted/unpublished phone number. I get an average of two or three unsolicited calls a year, and they’re usually surveys or some such. When I answer the phone at my parents’ house (they have a listed number) I always tell the telemarketers, “please put me on your do not call list” as soon as I can and usually the call ends right there.

Danny Tsang
Danny Tsang
12 years ago

I usually feel bad hanging up on them as well, but I actually had a friend who did telemarketing and he said he get hung up on all the time and he just moves on. So now I don’t really care anymore, I just hang up. Its not even worth your time, and its so annoying. If someone invents a way to filter out telemarketers, they will be rich.

Chelle
Chelle
12 years ago

It used to be if you told them to remove you, they’d read a disclosure, something about it may take up to 3 months to be completely removed, etc. Now they don’t even do that anymore, but once I tell them I’m on the do not call list and if they call again I consider it harrassment, they are very eager to get off the phone with me.

Mike-TWA
Mike-TWA
12 years ago

I think I actually find these calls more annoying at work. The thing is, JD, if memory serves, there is no DNC regulation applicable to businesses. My understanding is that they can call and keep selling you office cleaning, phone service, and office supplies till their heart’s content. I’m the one that generally gets them at my day job too.

Danny
Danny
12 years ago

Its great to mess with them if you are just sitting on the couch watching TV and aren’t busy with something.

When I don’t want to mess with them, I usually just say hello a couple times and when I hear it click and they say hello, then I hang up because its obvious they aren’t worth my time if a machine is dialing.

Dylan
Dylan
12 years ago

Here is a great (funny) YouTube link of someone messing with a telemarketer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5z4Vs26-TI

Ashley
Ashley
12 years ago

I don’t feel bad hanging up on them for one reason: a girl I knew in school worked as a telemarketer for a while and said she preferred people to hang up rather than to say the whole spiel and then hear “no thanks.” Because then she had to deliver a whole other spiel to that person even though she knew their answer was still no.

JenK
JenK
12 years ago

It’s also just fascinating to me that political calls are exempt from the DNC registry. Yes, it’s a case of Congress making sure it can do what it forbids others to do, but I’m not sure how harassing potential supporters is actually, you know, beneficial. I routinely have this conversation: Caller: [starts spiel] Me: Excuse me, we’re on the do not call list. Caller: Oh, political calls are exempt. Me: So your candidate (or cause) deliberately chooses to call people who they know will be offended? Are you sure you’re not REALLY hired by [opposing candidate] to make us hate… Read more »

Mrs. Micah
Mrs. Micah
12 years ago

I get a lot of recorded ones at work. Not really sure what to do about that, but I just deal. It’s not too bad, since the phone sometimes wakes me out of daydreams and it’s better for me to be alert. It can be like a zen gong. But it’s very annoying if I’m actually doing something. :-p

Dee
Dee
12 years ago

I, sadly, used to work in this industry. If someone hung up on us, we had to call them back. There were supervisors listening in and if you didn’t call back, you could get fired.

Terrible, terrible job. I was young. Forgive me.

The Other Justin
The Other Justin
12 years ago

I like playing with telemarketers if I have the time. My favorite is to go through everything, up until they ask for a credit card. I make sure they’ll ask for one by asking before hand. Something like “you take credit cards, right?” When they ask for the card, I say “Hold on, let me go get it.” I put the phone down and walk away. It’s amazing how long they’ll stay on the phone at that point.

traineeinvestor
traineeinvestor
12 years ago

Alas, there is no such thing as a “do not call” list in Hong Kong.

The best I can do is make their lives as unpleasant as possible – by swearing at them loudly until they hang up on me.

Scott Simmons
Scott Simmons
12 years ago

Ashley and Danny are exactly correct, IME. From the telemarketer’s point of view, being hung up on without a sale after five seconds of sales spiel is the second-best outcome, well ahead of being hung up on without a sale after five minutes of sales spiel. Trying to end the call politely doesn’t work; the scripts include responses to all sorts of ‘not interested’ answers, none of which are, “Oh–sorry for bothering you. Goodbye!” (Unfortunately.) And if the telemarketer doesn’t keep pushing on through the response tree, they will inevitably get nailed on a monitor. Everybody’s happiest if you just… Read more »

zfolwick
zfolwick
12 years ago

I want to kill telemarketers.

All you who are currently telemarketers. . . sorry for you. >:-)

Tired
Tired
12 years ago

Just an FYI, but the Do-Not-Call Registry had its first round of expirations recently. It only works for either 3 or 5 years, so you might need to re-register your phone number.

I feel sorry for telemarketers, but I have had to deal with so many fraudulent telemarketing incidents in business (people calling, claiming they supply you with X and sending you crap you don’t need) that I never bother with them anymore — I too, just hang up.

Better safe than sorry.

Jerry
Jerry
12 years ago

Yes, it’s true, I used to be a telemarketer, too. But, I was fresh out of college and needed a job and didn’t know what working at a “call center” meant! Now, I’m in the insurance industry and while it has its tough days it’s not like it was when I was working the swing shift in Provo, UT calling folks about mortgage loans. It would start off pleasant enough and then would usually lead to a hang up on the other end. Ahh…yes, good times.

don
don
12 years ago

I used to try to be polite, but a couple years ago I just started hanging up on them too. The way I see it, an call from a telemarketer is the same as a door-to-door salesman who just walks in your front door. I have absolutely no obligation to hear them out, or even be polite to them.

Dave
Dave
12 years ago

My best telemarketer experience: %%Ring%% **Answer phone, listen to 2 second delay and therefore conclude it’s a telemarketer** Dave’s Best Wacky Iraqi Voice: “Hello!?” TM: “Hello, Mr. Dave?” D: “Yes! Are you calling about the ad?” TM: (taken completely off guard) “Uh, no, I’m… (launches into pitch) D: (Interrupting after 1.5 seconds) “Oh, I’m sure you must be calling about the ad for the fresh goat! I have the best and freshest goat for you. I have raised it from a baby along with its two siblings and I can assure you that they will be most succulent!” TM: “Uh,… Read more »

Molly
Molly
12 years ago

You know what works for me? Screening my calls. Actually, it’s a little more complicated than that. We have a land-line that we never ever use. We have not ever given that phone number to anyone. If someone calls that line, we know it’s telemarketers. Anyone who gets the voicemail for that line gets to listen to a message that says, “Hi, we don’t answer this line so try our cell phones. If you don’t have our cell numbers, we don’t want to talk to you.” As for my cell, I never answer calls from numbers that I don’t recognize.… Read more »

Nicole II
Nicole II
12 years ago

Haha, Jerry,

I did telemarketing in Provo, UT for a time as well. So many students, so many call centers, so few decent wages in ol UT county……

The Chef
The Chef
12 years ago

Thanks for the link, initially i was like your sister entertaining them but now it irritates me when they call up in the middle of the meeting or some urgen work.

SunDevilsFan
SunDevilsFan
12 years ago

I hardly ever get calls like this anymore… Thank God… I guess only having a cell phone makes the difference….

JD, You said you have email filters….what kind do you use?? Here in the last month or so I have been getting TONS of spam….And its getting annoying..

gusgsu
gusgsu
12 years ago

The Do Not Call registry works really well.

This allows me to save my Anti-Telemarketing nastiness for the very handful of companies that try to skirt the law. I’ve had their managers begging me to give them my number so they could wipe it off their list. In fact, I haven’t had a non-legit DNC call in at least 4 years.

gusgus
gusgus
12 years ago

As for the ‘charities’ or charlatans that call asking for ‘donations’. I tend to let them do their full spiel. It wastes their time. My answer is pretty much the same. It’s either, “I don’t give money to phone solicitations.” Or for charities that I do know, it’s “I budget my giving on a yearly basis & I have already spent my yearly budget.” Speaking of which, why not do an article on charity? I really do all of my charitable giving once a year. It’s budgeted. I pick the charities I really like. And any other inquiry during the… Read more »

Faculties
Faculties
12 years ago

Remember it’s not the people on the phone you resent, it’s the people who employ them and run a business making intrusive calls. I think it’s just spiteful and mean to be awful to the poor minimum-wage folks on the phone. It doesn’t take much extra effort to say, “Sorry, no thanks,” before you hang up. I had a job once collecting information for a PR agency. We weren’t even trying to sell people anything, we were trying to put together a database of meeting rooms. Nevertheless I have never seen so much spiteful human nature in the vicious abuse… Read more »

Adam
Adam
12 years ago

Do they have a script for, “I only have a week left to live, can you help me with that?” ?

David Pinero
David Pinero
12 years ago

I understand your frustration but as I’m reading through your entry I find myself asking why are you even answering the phone? Answering anything that rings, beeps, or jangles in the context of a telephone delivering anonymous callers is so 1970s in the first place. I stopped answering the phone like 5 to 10 years ago. I have an answering machine I keep with the volume turned down. Its job is to collect the scant personal or business calls that I receive and that I retrieve later at my convenience. I’m subject to answering machine spam, but never am I… Read more »

Billy_McSkintos
Billy_McSkintos
12 years ago

I use Vonage at home (2 yrs now) and have never had a telemarketer call me. I hadn’t thought about it until now but maybe they have a filter or perhaps I don’t give my number out… Just a thought.

J.D.
J.D.
12 years ago

I think maybe I wasn’t clear: today’s conversation occurred while I was at work, and that’s where I receive all telemarketing calls now. I’ve ditched the home land line and only have a cell phone, so that thing is clear. I can see that in the entry I moved to my sister-in-law and how she handles callers at home. My complaint, though, is with the whole damn telemarketing industry. I was even willing to pay a buck to download the image I used in the entry: it’s supposed to represent hell, which is where I hope the telemarketers rot! (I… Read more »

Toneboy
Toneboy
12 years ago

My wife and I started screening calls a few months ago. One of the best decisions we’ve ever made. In fact I’d go as far as to say it is the only way to deal with cold callers.

A book called “Clutter Control” which I bought a few years ago has a great piece of advice in it. You own your phone, it doesn’t own you. Therefore you needn’t feel guilty about not answering calls when it doesn’t suit you.

Miss Q
Miss Q
12 years ago

If I have a student (or just someone who sounds young) on the line, I always try to get them to leave the Dark Side and find a different job. One time I actually pulled it off and convinced a now ex-telemarketeer to get a job at burgerking instead. Woohoo! XD

John
John
12 years ago

LOL you guys think you’re damn clever don’t you ?? Let me ask you this, when a telemarketer calls you, do you get HIS full name, address, and date of birth and phone number pop in front of you? Well he does. I worked telesales for a year, and the rude people ALWAYS got put on the most frequent call-back lists, were signed up online for MORE telesales, were signed up for mail spam, and were called at all hours of the morning from our cell phones. Its quite simple, be friendly, be polite, and you won’t get called again,… Read more »

Leslie
Leslie
12 years ago

A couple years ago when I moved & was assigned a new number for my landline I immediately contacted Bell and asked for my name not be made available to other organizations. This is different from having an unlisted number and the info is in the front of the phone book. In all that time I’ve only had one telemarketer. I hung up as soon as I heard the empty air after saying hello so I don’t know what they were selling. I had emailed Bell to make this request and a rep called to confirm the request and asked… Read more »

DanD
DanD
12 years ago

I haven’t worked as a telemarketer per se, but I’ve been asked to make cold calls before. Look, it’s an unpleasant job, but it’s a job. Many telemarketers are paid commissions. I genuinely feel the best thing is to simply state “I’m not interested” and hang up on them. It takes 5-10 seconds. A telemarketer must continue to try to make the sale even when it’s clear you’re not interested. So now you’re wasting your own time and theirs. What’s the pay off in that? You’re simply making an unpleasant job worse for people who, and I’m guessing here, aren’t… Read more »

Daniel
Daniel
12 years ago

Yeah, I hate telemarketers too. And spam. My wife and I are signed up for the Do Not Call list, and as others have mentioned it has eliminated most of the junk calls, but we still get a few. They usually hang up immediately when I tell them I am on that list. The really funny thing to me is that when I told my parents about the list (after I listened to them get several junk calls one day during a visit to their house), they said that they don’t want to sign up for the DNC list because… Read more »

Little Miss Moneybags
Little Miss Moneybags
12 years ago

Actually, the Do Not Call list DOES apply to businesses (see here). If you have a cell phone, telemarketers cannot call that number regardless of whether it’s on the DNC list if they are using an automatic dialer (political organizations might get around this if they are dialing manually; otherwise it applies to them as well). I have received exactly two telemarketing calls to my cell phone, and both times as soon as I realized what they were, I interrupted and told them this was a cell phone number, and they were required by law to take me out of… Read more »

Lynn
Lynn
12 years ago

Wow, John in #34! Please do share the name of the company whose policy is to purposefully harrass people they can’t take no for an answer from. Lovely bit about the full name/address/DOB – sounds like a true threat! Your probation officer must be so proud.

Polite goes both ways, imagine that. If you can’t be “polite” enough to take NO for an answer the first time, then I could care less what a script says and you better believe I’m going to get “rude” with you. No still means no.

Michael
Michael
12 years ago

When I had a land phone I liked those calls. I resolved to accept or reject every offer for sound reasons, never saying no or yes until either the seller was convinced I should not buy or I was convinced I should. It was a real challenge! I learned to practice Aristotlean logic under pressure, learned what people of all walks are like, and built steely resolve against belligerence. I hope I helped others too, although more than half hung up when their scripts failed them. I estimate I spent about six hours on these calls in a year, time… Read more »

Aaron Davidson
Aaron Davidson
12 years ago

Unfortunately for businesses there is no Do Not Call Registry. For violators at home, you can report them. There is a $11,000 fine (that the individual pays not the company), and a state fine, in CT it is $25,000. This is per violation.

For businesses, its just business. You can place yourself on the list, which may lower the calls but people can still call to solicit business.

The established business relationship part only last for 6 months maybe 9. After that a business can not call to solicit new business from you without your consent.

Kathleen
Kathleen
12 years ago

These calls are annoying, especially the recorded ones. But folks, telemarketing is one of the only entry-level jobs available to some people. Don’t “mess with them” or curse at them. They already know their jobs suck. Either ask them not to call you or just hang up… then thank your deity-of-choice that YOU are not a telemarketer!

John
John
12 years ago

Lynn your comment is inane.

John
John
12 years ago

As are you.

Matt
Matt
12 years ago

Sign up with grandcentral.com (now owned by Google). It’s fantastic! You get a local number that forwards to whichever phone you want (cell, home, work, etc), and has several valuable features: 1) you can have it prompt the user for a name 2) when a call comes, you can choose to answer it (after hearing the name from their prompt) or send it directly to voicemail 3) you can listen in on the voicemail in progress… and jump in anytime you want 4) you set calls from certain #s to automatically go to voicemail or to be blocked completely (when… Read more »

Dunn
Dunn
12 years ago

I use the most disgusting profanity in my loudest voice. I’ve been doing this for the last month and the calls have finally dropped off to about one every three days.

It’s completely horrible for the poor schlub on the other end of the phone, but it has cut the calls down to almost nothing.

Amazing what it takes to get pond scum to go away.

Tom Printy
Tom Printy
12 years ago

I see telemarketers as a way to make money. You can sign up for a service like Brring and earn money each time they call you. Save the number you get through this service when filling out online forms and contest entries, or give it out all the time. You will earn some money every time they call.

J.D.
J.D.
12 years ago

I want to address the “they’re just doing their job crowd”. This reasoning is bizarre. These people are choosing to take a job doing something that 92% of Americans find offensive. (This stat is from one of the linked sources in my post.) 92%!!! I’m willing to wager that you can’t find 92% of Americans who object to prostitution. I’m not aware of any President who’s had 92% of the country against him. Don’t give me the “telemarketers are just doing their job” crap. Find another job. And damn it — do not buy things from telemarketers. If they couldn’t… Read more »

John
John
12 years ago

lmfao. you just summed it up JD – if 92% of people hate telesales then how come its so profitable??

and ‘get another job’ ? PLEASE – free country much? why should anyone change jobs just cause you dont like it?

jacob Eagleshield
jacob Eagleshield
5 years ago
Reply to  John

Because they are afraid to go face to face with people at a REAL job

Leela
Leela
12 years ago

John, you’re not adding to this site by attacking guests and the moderator…that’s not what this community is about.

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