'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

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Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Tea time phone calls

The scene:  Rushing to get dinner for hungry family, or just sitting down to a hot meal.  Phone goes and it begins "Good evening Mrs insert name here.  How are you today?"
Of course it's no-one you know, no-one who cares a fig how you are, except as it will relate to the chances of you buying, signing or donating tonight.  

Most people have a way of dealing with this, with varying degrees of politeness, assertiveness or plain rudeness.

  When I was in the USA about five years ago, the 'man of the house, income over yadda yadda' would never answer calls before nine at night.  Weird, and sad, that people are driven to such lengths.  Every evening, telephone bots (robocalls) would make between 2 and 5 calls to this American household.  Apparently these calls are made randomly and in brackets of at least ten.  However if you are so unwise as to lift up your phone, the chances are high that you'll get silence anyway, as the call goes to the first answerer.  
Ok, so that's in the States.  A sad situation that means most people have codes when they want to phone a friend or relative... let it ring for three rings then phone back again etc. 

Do Not Call registers.
The USA, UK (Telephone Preference Service) Canada and Australia have them, and telemarketers must, by law, check, and not call someone who is on the register.  Some countries DNC registers expire, others are for ever. 
To date New Zealand has a 'Name Removal voluntary register' , that telemarketers do not have to consult, nor take into account.

Unfortunately the trend toward off-shore (India and Phillipines, especially) - based calls makes internal registers redundant anyway.

 Here in my home it was gathering momentum.  Up until a year ago I was beginning to get a couple of calls a week. Or at least I was until I invented my own special way of dealing with it.
I'm a polite person.  I hate being rude.  I know the telemarketers are just doing a job.  

So I just say pleasantly "I don't respond well to unsolicited phone calls."  

I usually get dead silence for a moment.  Sometimes, due to the caller having poor command of English, I might have to repeat my words again.  But the message gets across quickly and I have never yet had to actually 'respond badly'.  
It seems to have stopped the surveys too.  

But the other month I did a silly thing.  There was some flashing statement on a website and, for some reason I had a total aberration and clicked on it .  It said that I would be guaranteed a free trip to Florida.  I believed it.  I filled out a form, including my cell phone number.  Then I clicked send.  Yes yes stupidity upon stupidity.  I know.  Then I forgot all about it.  Two weeks later I began to get strange phone calls on my cell phone.  Luckily my cell phone battery is in the last throes of death and, on receiving anything other than a text (and sometimes even for a text) it immediately turns itself off.  But I could see someone with a huge phone number was desperately trying to get hold of me.  Being the absent-minded naive sort, I immediately thought it must be my friend Bobby in Germany, and went through agonies before finally getting the call.  It was from someone in an American travel agency who was going to give me 'two night's accommodation in Orlando Florida for you and a friend-isn't-that- wonderful-ma'am?!!'

 Provided I booked my flight from New Zealand to Miami with his company 'at a really amazingly good cheap rate that would be cheaper than if I hired my own private jet!!!' (Uh?).  I said that I was indeed terribly interested, but as it was 5 in the morning, would they please text me all the details and I would read them all later.  (See, too nice.)
Immediately he became very distant and stopped talking with exclamation marks and said he would 'try and get the text sent, and goodbye Ma'am.'  And I have never had another unsolicited cell phone text or call since then.

But I've learnt my lesson.  I'll never click on any flicking thing on a website.  Even if it is saying I'm the 458,204th visitor to this site and am already a winner!!!!!  


  1. I have found that when you say "I know who you are and I know where you live and if you ever, ever phone me again I will burn your house down!" you are not normally bothered by calls from the same source again.

  2. ah...yeah...well, that would do it too, I guess.