Turning the tables on telemarketers

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 6, 2007

It’s right at suppertime. After a long, hard day at work, you finally get a chance to sit down at the table and enjoy a meal with the family. But just as you shovel that first fork-full of food into your mouth, the phone rings.

&uot;Hello Mr. Bryant, this is Billy Bob Jones with Friendly Credit Corporation. Let me tell you about our low, low introductory rate of 2.9 percent on our triple gold and platinum credit card,&uot; belts out the caller as he makes his sales pitch.

However, what they don’t tell you, at least until you ask for certain information, is that this rate only applies to balance transfers and that the introductory rate is good for only six months. After that, it soars to 20 percent, or higher, and if you don’t send the minimum monthly payment in on time, then there will be a $25 late fee.

Personally, it’s not the sales pitch that bothers me, but rather the fact that these telemarketers are interrupting what little precious time I have to spend at home. Wonder how they would feel if the shoe was on the other foot?

Apparently, telemarketers have no feelings. They call, with their scripted sales pitches, at the most inappropriate times, mostly the early evening hours when people are just getting home from work and attempting to settle in for a quiet night.

Heck, they even call during the morning hours, as I learned a few weeks back while at home on vacation.

What if I worked the graveyard shift and was just settling between the sheets when a telemarketer calls. Even if I don’t answer, just the ringing phone delays the sleep I so desire after a long night at work.

I’ve even gotten a telemarketing call on a Sunday. What’s next, calls on Christmas Day? Where will these people draw the line when it comes to making their sales pitches? Apparently, there is no line, but there are a few ways that consumers can fight back.

To launch you battle against telemarketers, the first thing to do is to treat your telephone number as it were your social security number. Telemarketers don’t thumb through the phone book in order to target their prey. Rather, they buy lists from junking firms who, in turn, have gained information from sources that are totally unsuspecting to the consumer. Those sources include sweepstakes entries, social, professional, public and private school groups, and even your own telephone company – if you call 800 or 900 numbers, those calls are &uot;captured&uot; by the phone company, given to the firm you called and are eventually sold to junking firms.

Another way to fight telemarketers is to require them to send you a copy of their &uot;Do-Not-Call&uot; policy, a written procedure required by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1992. According to that law, telemarketers must provide a copy of their policy &uot;on demand&uot; of consumers. Rather than immediately hanging up on the sales pitch, make the caller mail you a copy of that policy, thusly tying up the time they would spend making other calls.

A man in California came-up with an idea of charging telephone solicitors for the time he spends on the phone with them. After a one-time order of a service pitched by a telemarketer, he mailed his personal check to pay for that service along with an agreement that forbids the company to call him again or for the company to sell his new unlisted number to junking firms. When the company endorsed his check, they accepted the terms of his agreement – one that stated he would accept telemarketing calls on a &uot;for hire&uot; basis of $500 per call. Thus far he has collected over $3,500 in two years.

I’ve got a better idea. Let’s say that Billy Bob of ABC Company calls me pitching a fantastic deal. I tell Billy Bob that I was just headed out the door for a meeting, but his offer sounds great and I would like to get back in touch with him. I then ask for his telephone number, promising I’ll call as soon as I return home. His reply will probably be that he doesn’t give out his home number and doesn’t like to be bothered at home after work. With that, you reply, &uot;now you know how I feel.&uot;