How to Handle Telemarketers
by Michael Owen
If you're like most people, and most people are, you resent telemarketers
calling you at home trying to sell you something.
And it probably irritates you that they seem invariably to call at dinner
time. I used to wonder why they would do that, knowing they were only
irritating people who would then be less likely to buy what they're selling.
A friend of mine who once worked as a telemarketer explained it to me.
"When do you expect us to call?" he said. "At 2 in the afternoon, when
That would be nice. But I guess it wouldn't be too profitable.
Anyway, since they seem to be a fact of life these days, I thought I'd make
the best of it and try to have a little fun with them.
At first, I would just let them go through their entire spiel, then say,
"I'm sorry, I'm hard of hearing. Would you repeat that?" I'd do that several
times until they finally caught on and hung up. One of them got really
irritated after repeating his pitch three times and snapped, "You're just
wasting my time."
"I guess that makes us even," I said.
But that got old after a while. Besides, it took too long.
And in addition to that, my telemarketer friend told me that a lot of the
folks who do this for a living can't do anything else. So I felt kind of bad
for wasting their time.
(OK, I didn't feel REAL bad, but I stopped doing it.)
So that's how I stumbled upon a new hobby. It's fun, entertaining, and it's an
exercise in thinking quickly. Here's what you do. Whenever a telemarketer calls,
try to come up, on the spot, with a spiel of your own that will disarm the
caller and, if possible, maybe even entertain him or her a bit.
The following are genuine examples. (And, as Dave Barry says, I swear I am not
making these up.)
The phone rings.
"Hello, is this Michael Owen?"
"Hello, Mr. Owen, my name is Brenda and I'm with MCI. How are you today?"
Fine, and you?
"I'm fine, Mr. Owen. Does anyone in your home make long-distance telephone
"Well, do you receive a lot of collect calls?"
"You don't make ANY long distance calls or receive ANY collect calls?"
No, m'am. You see, I belong to the Seventh-Day B'nai Antioch church, and my
religion strictly forbids me from using the telephone at all.
"Uh, Mr. Owen, you're using the phone right now."
OH MY LORD! SEE WHAT YOU'VE DONE! OH MY LORD!
You get the idea?
"Hello, this is Christi with Rollin' Hills photography studio. Would you be
interested in a free family portrait?"
No, thank you.
"Not even for free?"
No, ma'am. You see, my brother is a staff photographer for National Geographic,
and he does all our portraits for us for free.
"Really? That's nice."
Yes m'am, it is. Of course, we have to take off all our clothes and squat naked
around a camp fire for him to do it -- so you can imagine what our Christmas
cards look like -- but hey, they're free.
"Hello, is this Mike Owen?"
"Mr. Owen, I am authorized to offer you a week's stay at a fabulous resort if
you and your fami ..."
Not interested, thank you.
"Mr. Owen, it's free, if you and your ..."
'Scuse me, sir, but you see, my Uncle Horatio Hilton owns all the Hilton Hotels
in the United States.
(I swear to God he then said:)
"So ... uh, I guess you get a discount, huh?"
"Hello, is this Mr. Owen?"
"How would you like to make big bucks in your spare time?"
No thanks, I'm rich as hell.
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